Wednesday, August 20, 2008

wrong side, right side, which side is which?

One question that I frequently get asked is "How do you determine the wrong side from the right side of a crochet piece?" Well, remember how the designer determines the gauge? It's the designer's choice, essentially. So is the wrong side and right side of a crocheted fabric. Some fabrics look "better" on one side, some stitches have "right sides" and "wrong sides", but generally speaking, it's a design decision!

So the RS and WS of fabric is determined by the designer. That's not the case, though, with stitches.
Let's look at what I just wrote about stitches having a wrong side and a right side. Most stitches, when you make them, you will be working them on their "right" side. You may be on the "wrong" side of the fabric, or you might be on the "right" or "public" side of the fabric. But the stitches have a slightly different look if you turn the fabric around and look at the other side. Certain stitches, however, like the loop stitch, or a popcorn or bullion stitch, have a definite difference between the front and the back of the stitch. Usually, when you work a loop stitch, you work it on the wrong side of the fabric, because you want the loops to be on the front side of the fabric. So you can say you are really working the loop stitch on it's "wrong" side. The "right" side would be the side with the loops.

Are you confused yet? That's probably because "right" side and "wrong" side have many different meanings. You have "right" and "wrong" side of the fabric (abbreviated RS and WS in directions), "right" and "wrong" side of stitches, "right" and "left" side of the piece as you are working it, and "right" and "left" side of the garment as you are wearing it.

When the directions say: Row 1 (RS) ............ , that means that the row you are working on (Row 1), as you are working it, will be the "right" side, or public side of the fabric.

How do you tell the "right" and "wrong" side of stitches? If you look at the fabric as you are making it, you can see the top of the stitches. They look like they form a chain. That's usually the "right" side of the stitches. Turn the fabric over, and you can't see the tops anymore. That's usually the "wrong" side of the stitches.

Right side of the piece as you are working on it will be the side by your right hand. Left side is the side by your left hand.

But right side of the garment as you are wearing it means just that - the side that's on the right when you wear it. Ditto for left!

How do you know which row to end with, if the directions say "End on a RS row."? If Row 1 is a RS row, then all the odd numbered rows are RS rows. So if the directions say "end on a RS row", you'll finish with an odd numbered row. If the directions say "end with a WS row", you'll finish with an even numbered row.

I know pictures will help with this discussion. So, I'll be working on some samples today, and post them asap! If you have any questions about all of this, please ask me - post a comment.

And, know that you're not alone in this - this is a confusing part of crochet patterns!

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Else Affects Gauge?

I recently got back from The Knit and Crochet Show and CGOA/TKGA Conference, where I taught 7 classes in 4 days, went to a CGOA board meeting, attended the CGOA members' meeting, went to the Fashion Show and dinner on Saturday night, visited with lots of friends, and had an all around wonderful time! Read more about it on my blog: notyourgrannyscrochet. I'm back now, and trying to get my act together for the next conference, in less than 3 weeks! This one is in Portland, Oregon - I've never been there, and I'm excited about going. I'll be teaching 7 classes again - one of them though, Crocheting on the Edge - may not have enough students before pre-registration is over (August 21). So if you're planning to go to the TKGA/CGOA conference don't wait to sign up for classes. Sign up now, by Thursday afternoon at 4:30 Eastern time!

I did promise you that I would tell you more about what affects gauge. I had an interesting discussion about that this morning in the class I teach at a lys. One of my students made a very pretty vest - that was humongous on her. She checked her gauge with one yarn, then decided she didn't like that yarn, changed to another yarn, and thought that it was the same weight, so she didn't check her gauge again. She learned! If you're going to change yarns, even if it is the same weight, or same yarn but a different color, check your gauge! Repeat - check your gauge!

Another student, who came back for her second lesson, said she was really nervous and tense for her first class. And her crocheting was really tight. Today, I showed her how to relax, how to make her stitches higher, and her crocheting loosened up a bit. (To make your stitches a little higher, lift the hook above the top of the row you worked into. Just a little, maybe 1/8 of an inch. But that will help if your row gauge is off - if you have too many rows to the inch. I do this at the end of the stitch - just pull up on the hook.)

The first baby afghan I made for my son was a nice ripple pattern. I started out really tense, but loosened up as I figured out the stitch pattern. I had never worked a ripple stitch, nor had I ever made an afghan. (This was MANY years ago.) The sides of the afghan slope out. The bottom is narrow, the top is wide. Because I got more relaxed as I went on.

So gauge is affected a lot by your tension. If you're mad at someone, your gauge might be off - too tight. If you're really relaxed, your gauge might be off - too loose. And if the designer crochets tight (she or he might have been tense, trying to meet the deadline!), and you're relaxing out by the pool, your tension might be loose and your gauge may not match the designer's gauge!

That's the story about gauge. And that's one reason I started designing my own fashions. I could never meet the designer's gauge! :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to read Crochet patterns, Part 2

In Part 1, I stopped when we got to "What is gauge?" You can also ask - "Is gauge important?" And what about "Why does my gauge change when I'm in the middle of a project?" And "Does yarn of the same weight have the same gauge?"

I know I'll think of other questions to answer, so let's just get going.

What is Gauge?
Gauge is not some mysterious number that the yarn companies come up with. No - gauge is the number of stitches per inch, and the number of rows per inch. So how do the yarn companies determine the gauge for their yarns? Probably, someone knits or crochets with them, and counts how many stitches and rows per inch. Then, that's the gauge of that yarn, using the hook or needle that was used to determine the gauge. However, it may not be the gauge that the designer gets when she/he uses that yarn to design a project. The designer may use the same size hook or needle, or a different size - depending upon the look that she/he wants to achieve with the fabric. So the designer determines the gauge for the project. Is that important? Well, depends upon the project. If you're making a sweater, or garment that is to be worn, the answer is YES! Gauge is important! If you're making a scarf, dishcloth, purse, tote, shawl, etc., where size doesn't really matter, then gauge doesn't really matter. EXCEPT you will maybe need more yarn if your gauge is not the same as the given gauge. So, gauge is what someone gets when they crochet or knit, and counts the stitches in an inch. Although, gauge is usually written as over 4". For example, 16 sc = 4", and 12 rows = 4".

Does yarn of the same weight have the same gauge? Not always.

This picture shows 3 examples of "kitchen" cotton yarns. Labels on the yarns say they are worsted weight. To make the samples, I used the same hooks (more on that later), and the same number of stitches and rows (I did run out of yarn on the middle swatch before the rows were complete.) On each swatch, I started with a G hook, and went to an H, an I, and a J, so you could see the gradual change in stitch gauge as I used different size hooks. You can also see that the row gauge changes. You could successfully use any of the 4 hook sizes, or even other sizes, with these yarns, depending upon the look you want. If you want a tight fabric, use a smaller hook. For a looser fabric, use a larger hook. And if the pattern is written for one yarn, and you use another equivalent yarn, and the same size hook, you may not get the same gauge or fabric.

One thing that I see more and more now. On the ball bands for the yarns, many companies are noting the hook size to use to get a certain gauge, along with the knitting needle size. That is really a positive move! But beware. Often, the given hook size is the same as the given needle size, and even though your gauge may be right on the mark, remember that the size of the hook (and the size of the needle) is just a recommendation. You don't have to use that size with the yarn! Also remember, knitting stitches are different than crochet stitches. Knit stitches are more like weaving. Crochet stitches are more like knotting. So the crochet fabric made with the same size hook as recommended for knitted fabric will be thicker! Knots are thick!

Whew! That's a lot to remember! But there is one other important thing about gauge you need to know! Hook sizes are not always standard. One N hook from one manufacturer may not be the same size as an N hook from another manufacturer. So if the directions call for an N (or any other "lettered" size), you need to know the millimeter (mm) size before proceeding.

Sometimes, two different hooks from the same manufacturer, with the same letter designation and the same mm size, will also be different. I found this out recently! I picked up a bag with a sweater that I had started about 6 months ago. I wanted to finish it this past weekend. I always leave the crochet hook that I've used with the project in the bag with the project, because I know that sometimes, crochet hooks can be different. When I first started the sweater, I was using a regular Susan Bates Silvalume hook. But I've recently changed to the Susan Bates Silvalumes with the bamboo handles. So, I took from my hook case the same size bamboo handle hook. And then I looked at both hooks. They really looked different - in the head and throat and finger rest. Here is a picture:

The hook on the left is the one with the bamboo handle. They are both marked with the same letter size and the same mm size. But you can see a definite difference between them. I'm not complaining about this, I'm just noting it here. I do know that as much as I love my regular Susan Bates Silvalume hooks, I absolutely ADORE the new ones with the bamboo handles. And whenever I recommend them to my students, whether they have been using the regular Bates Silvalume, or another brand, they fall in love with these new ones, also. So I think that the subtle change in shape and size is a plus! A definite improvement !

So, to make a long story short, changing your crochet hook can also affect gauge. Even if you use the same brand. That's why I keep the hook with the project!

There are a few more things that can affect gauge, and I'll talk about them in the next installment!
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TNNA Report Part 1

Check out my other blog NotYourGrannysCrochet for some info about the yarns I found at TNNA, The National Needlearts Association Trade Show, last week. The ultimate yarn shop, and more!
And I promise I'll post some more info about how to read a crochet pattern, and gauge, and whatever else you want to know. Soon. I promise! :-)

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to read crochet patterns

I teach crochet classes at a lys, and this morning, one of my new, beginner students, asked me to show her how to read a crochet pattern. I had showed her how to chain, single crochet, and double crochet, and she wanted to know more. Another student who was working from a pattern, offered to let me use her pattern as an example, so that she could learn some things, too. As I was going over some of the beginning information, I thought it would be helpful to talk about some of it here, because I get questions about reading patterns all the time.

First of all, I suggest reading the pattern all the way through, before you start crocheting. Mark places where you have questions.
Then, here are the usual parts of the pattern:
SIZES. These are usually written like this: XS(S, M, L, XL) But what does that mean? What measurement is an XS? You'll need to look at the numbers next to these letters. They might look like this: 32"(36", 40", 44"), and be under the heading: FINISHED MEASUREMENTS.
What does that mean? Well, it means the measurements of the finished garment. Not your body measurements, but the GARMENT measurements. So if you had a chest size of 32" and you want to make a sweater with "positive ease", your finished measurement might be 36" or 40", or however much "ease" you want. Which leads to - what is "ease"? "Ease" is the amount of room you have between you and the garment. "Positive ease" is roomy - bigger than your body measurement. Some patterns, however, require "negative ease" - smaller than your body measurement. These garments could be meant to be worn tight, or they could be very lacy and loosely crocheted, so that they would stretch quite a bit. If you need to be concerned about "negative ease", very often it will be mentioned somewhere at the beginning of a pattern - the Notes section, probably.

Okay, we know the garment comes in 4 sizes, and we have to choose which size to make. All of the directions from here on will have choices for different sizes. You might have a direction that says: Ch 25(41, 57, 73). If you were making the XS (extra small) size, you would chain 25. If you were making the L (large) size, you would chain 57. It's a good idea to go through the pattern and highlight the directions for the size that you want to make.

Somewhere, after FINISHED MEASUREMENTS, there will be a section for MATERIALS. (It may be separated from the directions.) This section covers yarn, hook size or sizes, and anything extra that you may need.
I'll talk about yarns and hooks in another post - there is a lot to say about each!

The next part is usually GAUGE. This is measured, usually over 4", but sometimes over another inch measure - it depends on the stitch pattern and how long it is. A simple gauge description is: 16 sc and 8 rows = 4".
But what if you have a pattern stitch. Then this would be how it is designated: 4 pattern repeats and 4 rows = 4".
Sometimes, patterns don't give you the row gauge, just the stitch gauge. And remember, this is figured using the hook size that was in the MATERIALS section along with the yarn that was listed there.
Now, this is all just simple math, but my student asked me "What is gauge?" So, I'm asking you. What is gauge?

I'm going to talk about it in my next post! Think about it until then, and if you think you have an answer, post a comment, please!

The next part of a pattern is usually the stitches used, and any special stitch pattern. In this section, the abbreviations for the stitches and stitch pattern are given. We used abbreviations so that we don't have to write out the stitches each and every time. "Dc" is a lot easier and quicker to write than "double crochet". And it saves space - really important in print!

Then, there are the NOTES. This is a section that will tell you things that you need to know about the pattern. Perhaps that it is worked in the round, or side to side. There may be a note about crocheting the pieces in the correct order, and then connecting them. There is all kinds of information in the notes - don't forget to read them!

So - I've taken you through the first part of reading a pattern. I'll be continuing this, with the answer to the question: What is gauge? And I'll talk about hooks and yarns. Then, I'll go through the typical pattern, line by line.

'Til next time!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Felting Crochet - how to do it!

Whenever I work in public on a crochet project that I am going to felt, inevitably someone will ask me what I am making. When I answer, and add that I will felt it when I'm done crocheting, the next comment is, "I didn't know you could felt crochet." Well, yes you can. It may not felt just like a knitted piece does, but crochet does felt!

What you need to felt something is yarn that felts, hot water, and something that will provide agitation.

To felt something by machine – put the piece into a zippered pillowcase (this will prevent the felt lint from getting into the washing machine and gumming up the works). Use a small amount of hot water – you don't need much. Add something like an old towel, old jeans, or rubber flip flops. Something that the piece can bump around with. Add just a touch of laundry detergent, and start the machine. You might want to add some boiling water, too.
You should check your project every few minutes. Then, when it's felted enough, take it out. DON'T let it go through the rinse and spin cycles – this could put creases in the felted piece. If it doesn't felt enough in one wash cycle, drain the machine and start again. When the piece is felted enough, take it out, rinse it in cold water. Do not wring the water out of it (see above about rinse and spin cycles.) Roll it up in a towel to squeeze water out of it. Lay it flat to dry, and if it needs shaping, pull it into shape. If it needs stuffing, stuff the inside with a towel or some newspaper to wick the water away.

Now – how do you know how much your piece will shrink? You don't. :-)
You can make a swatch, measure it before and after felting, and get some idea. But it won't always be accurate. Small pieces felt differently than large ones do. Different yarns felt differently. Different colors of the SAME yarn felt differently. If the water is not as hot, if the agitation is not as strong or as long, your piece will felt differently. There are so many variables! And, crochet pieces felt differently than knit pieces. Crochet felts more in the width of the piece than in the height. Knit felts more in the height then in the width.

Look at the above example. Two bags, the red one is knit, the violet one crocheted. Both are worked in Berroco Vibe. Both were worked to the same initial size. Both were felted in the same machine, but not at the same time. See how the knit bag is not the same size as the crochet bag! It's shorter than the crochet bag, and the crochet bag is a little narrower than the knit one. If you look close, you can see the different width in the handles too.

I like to tell my students that felting is not an exact science. But it's fun to do, and you do get "hooked" on it!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Ch 3 and turn, or turn and ch 3 ? That is the question!

I have been crocheting for ages, and writing directions for almost as long. I also am a tech editor, and I work with individual designers, yarn companies, and book and magazine editors. Each person or company usually has their own guidelines for writing patterns, crochet or knit. I know I have my own guidelines for pattern writing, based on what I would like to see in a written pattern. I also know that crochet patterns are written differently than knitting patterns are. I can usually tell when a knitter has written the crochet pattern, by the way it is worded - "cast on" is used in knitting patterns, and it's often used when a knitter writes a crochet pattern. Same with "bind off". We don't usually cast on and bind off in crochet. Knitting patterns also say "k4, p4, k4, p4". In crochet we would say " *sc through front loop only in each of the next 4 sts, sc through back loop only in each of the next 4 sts, repeat from * across." Crocheters need to know where to put their stitches, so we have to tell them "in each." Otherwise they may put 4 sc in one st.
When I teach my new students how to read a pattern, they seem to grasp this concept quickly. But one thing they have a problem with is the difference between "ch 3, turn" and "turn, ch 3". I've have told them it really makes no difference in what the chain stitch looks like. Just be consistent in what you do. However, my students don't always believe me! So I ask them to make a swatch. You can do this too.

Chain 12.
Row 1: dc in 4th ch from hook, and in each ch across. Ch 3, turn. (10 dc, counting first ch-3 as a dc here and throughout)
Row 2: skip 1st dc, dc in next dc and in each dc across. Ch 3, turn. (10 dc)
Row 3: skip 1st dc, dc in next dc and in each dc across. Turn. (10 dc)
Row 4: ch 3, skip 1 dc, dc in next dc and in each dc across. Turn. (10 dc)
Row 5: ch 3, skip 1 dc, dc in next dc and in each dc across. End off.

Now, look at the ch-3 that you worked at the end of the 1st Row. (It's at the beginning of the 2nd row.) Compare it to the ch-3 you make at the beginning of the 4th row. (You can see these chains in my picture. The first one, made at the end of the 1st Row and appearing at the beginning of the 2nd row, is labeled with a "1". The 2nd one, at the beginning of the 4th Row, is labeled with a "3". ) I know, you're wondering WHY I labeled them that way. Well, I'll tell you ..........I really don't know! :-) But now, look closely. There really is no difference between the chains. (The picture shows the bottom chain of the first ch-3 turned on it's side - but that's just because I didn't straighten it out when I took the picture!)

You can try this with a hdc and a tr, and the results would be the same.
There is one thing, though, that I would caution you to do, just as I caution my students - be consistent! If you chain at the end of the row, and then turn, do that all the time. If you turn, and then chain at the beginning of a row, do THAT all the time! :-)

Any questions?
The Crochet Doctor is in!

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Crochet Doctor is In

I've wanted to do this blog for a long time! I am a crochet teacher, both locally, (at my lys), and nationally (at the Crochet Guild of America's conferences). Whenever I teach, whenever someone finds out that I'm a teacher, they invariably ask me a "crochet" question. "How do you get rid of the space between the turning chain and the first stitch? How do you join rounds in a Granny Square? How can you tell which is the right side and the wrong side? Why is my piece more narrow at the top than it is at the bottom, where I started? Is gauge really important? Why doesn't this pattern make sense to me? How does "ch 3" differ from "ch-3"? Or does it? Is it important to use the same yarn that the pattern calls for? It's been discontinued. What should I do?"
These are just some of the questions I plan to answer in this blog. There will be more. I am a member of a couple of on-line discussion groups, and there are always questions posted on these groups. I will try to answer them here.
But - most important! If you, my loyal readers, have any questions, please send them to me. You can email me:
or post a comment/question here.