Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When is a Crochet Stitch Pattern Not a Crochet Stitch Pattern?

Recently, there has been some discussion on-line, and in my crochet classes, about the names of stitches and stitch patterns. One teacher posted on a message board that a student came to class with a pattern that listed a stitch pattern as a "seed stitch", but it wasn't the "seed stitch" she knew, so she was totally confused. The stitch that the student brought in was "sc in front loop, sc in back loop". The teacher was also confused - because she knew the "seed stitch" as "sc, *ch 1, skip a stitch, sc in next, repeat from *" and in the next row, sc over the ch-1 spaces, and ch-1 over the scs. Then someone else chimed in with another stitch that she knew as the seed stitch. And then I got curious. What do these stitches look like when they're placed side-by-side? So I made a swatch, using all thoses stitches, and more - because they reminded me of the knit "seed stitch". If you knit, you'll know that the "seed stitch" in knitting is Knit 1, Purl 1, across the row. On the next row, you Purl over what looks like a Knit stitch, and Knit over what looks like a Purl stitch. This creates a bumpy fabric. Almost like a miniature basket-weave. It's bumpy, then smooth, then bumpy, then smooth, etc. The next row is smooth over the bumps, and bumpy over the smooth part.
On my swatch, I crocheted first the "seed stitch" that i know - sc over the ch-1 space, ch 1 over the sc. Then 2 rows of plain sc to separate the stitches. Then, sc in the front loop, sc in the back loop. Then, 2 rows of plain sc. Then what's called the "Grit Stitch" (and "Alternate Stitch" and "Griddle Stitch"), which is "skip a stitch, 2 sc in one stitch, skip a stitch, and 2 sc in the next st, repeating across". Then, 2 rows of plain sc, and then the "Up/Down" stitch (*sc, dc, repeat from * across. Next row, dc in the scs, sc in the dcs), also called the "Cobble" stitch.
I'm sure these stitch patterns have other names, because names for stitch patterns are not standardized.
But, I can see, by looking at the stitch patterns worked in one swatch, like I did, that they look similar, and probably can be interchanged, if done with caution.
Here's the swatch:

So, why would you have to proceed with caution if you were switching stitch patterns? Take a close look at the swatch. I made it in one sitting. I was relaxed from the beginning. I used the same hook, the same yarn. I didn't have to add or subtract stitches to make the stitch patterns come out to the same number. It all worked like a dream - and yet, the swatch is wider at the top, the part that was done last. If this would happen to you, and you wanted to substitute the "Up/Down" stitch for the "Seed Stitch", your gauge would change.

Here are close up pictures of the 4 stitch patterns I used, on the order I worked them. The directions for these stitch patterns can be found in most stitch dictionaries. The directions I gave to describe the stitch patterns are just short-hand directions.

Here is the "seed stitch" as I know it:

Here is the "sc in the front loop, sc in the back loop" stitch pattern:

Here is the "Grit Stitch" stitch pattern:

Here's the last one - the "Up/Down" stitch pattern:

What did this experiment tell me? Lots of things.
1. Most important - names of crochet stitches and stitch patterns are not standardized! What one person calls Stitch A, another may call Stitch B. So - when you are working a pattern, and it calls for you to work a stitch pattern, but there is no explanation of the stitch pattern, that's not a good situation. If you are a designer, as I am, you should describe any and all stitch patterns that you use and name.
2. If you are a designer, and think you have designed a new stitch pattern, you should do a little research into it- find out if the same stitch pattern has already been "discovered" and named. You can find out from some stitch dictionaries, and/or pattern books. If it already has a name, don't rename it! That just causes confusion.

I know that there are many more stitches that are different, but that have the same name. And many stitches that have 2 or more names. Foundation sc and chainless sc are the same stitch with 2 different names. And often, bobbles, puff stitches, popcorn stitches, berry stitches, clusters, knots, and shells are interchanged by mistake. I'm teaching some special Tunisian classes, and in my research on Tunisian crochet stitches, I've discovered, so far, three different Tunisian Purl stitches. I bet there are more!

I'll post soon on the Tunisian Purl stitches. Keep in touch!

Oh - the answer to the question - When is a Crochet Stitch Pattern not a Crochet Stitch Pattern? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crochet Tote Bag

The Project: You want to make a round, bucket-type tote bag. You want the bottom worked in a solid stitch - like a single crochet. You want the top worked in a lacy stitch pattern, like shells.
The Problem: How do you figure out how many rounds of the solid stitch to work for the bottom? How do you figure out how many shells to work, and how to space them?

The Answer: Decide how wide you want the tote, when it's folded flat. That will be the approximate diameter of the bottom circle. (For those of you who were dreaming of your boyfriend or girlfriend during your high school geometry class, the diameter of a circle is the line drawn from edge to edge through the center of the circle.) So, crochet a circle that will be approximately that diameter. You can end each round, or crochet in a spiral. This is up to you. But if you're crocheting in a spiral, and not ending each round, you still should end the last round. Do this: when you get to the last stitch of the round (you did mark the last stitch of each round, didn't you?), do your stitch in the last stitch, and then slip stitch in the next stitch. Of course, I'm assuming you're working in single crochet. If you worked your circle in double crochet, you should end your last round with 2 half double crochets, and then 2 single crochets. That should get you to the last stitch. Then do a slip stitch in the next stitch. If you worked your circle in half double crochets, then end your round with 2 single crochets. Then slip stitch in next stitch.
Okay, are you with me so far?
Next step - decide the stitch and stitch pattern you want to use for the sides of the bag. Once you have that, figure out the repeat count. How many base stitches does each repeat take? Divide that number into the number of stitches in your last round of the bottom circle. Hope it divides evenly. If it does, then you can space the stitches so that one pattern repeat will take up the same number of stitches as the answer to the above division problem.
Here's an example.
I have 90 stitches in my last round. I want to work a shell pattern that uses 4 base stitches per repeat. Here is the pattern:
*sc in first stitch, skip one stitch, (2dc, ch 1, 2dc) in next stitch, skip one stitch. Repeat from * around.
Do you see where the pattern takes up 4 stitches per repeat?
"sc in first stitch" - that's one.
"skip one stitch" - that's two.
"(2dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in next stitch" - that's three.
"skip one stitch" - that's four.
Okay, you have 4 stitches per pattern. And 90 stitches all together. 90 divided by 4 = 22.5. Oh oh - it's not even. So my pattern repeat will not be able to repeat the full pattern at the end. So I have to do something.
I need to change the pattern repeat to some number that goes into 90 evenly. Like 6. If I skip 2 sts between the sc and the (2dc, ch 1, 2 dc) shell, on both sides of the shell, that will add 2 more stitches to each pattern repeat, giving me 6 stitches for each pattern repeat. And 90 divided by 6 = 15.
I might have to do one more thing to the shell, so it doesn't get too stretched out trying to spread over so many stitches. I may have to add a ch-1 on both sides of the dcs.
Here's my new pattern:
*sc in first stitch, skip 2 stitches, (ch 1, 2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc, ch 1) in next st, skip 2 stitches. Repeat from * around.
There - that should do it. My stitch pattern takes up 6 stitches.
Here is the breakdown.
"sc in first st" - that's one.
"skip 2 stitches" - that's two and three.
"(ch 1, 2dc, ch 1, 2dc, ch 1) in next stitch" - that four.
"skip 2 stitches" - that's five and six.

Here's a picture of the bottom of the bag - a circle - with the first row of the side shells. You can see that there are 15 shells around the perimeter.

And here's a close up picture of some of the pattern repeats. You can see that each repeat uses up 6 sc stitches along the last round of the bottom.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yarn is yarn? Worsted is worsted?

Yarn is yarn, right? And cotton yarn is cotton yarn. And worsted weight yarn is worsted weight yarn. So if you have a pattern that uses cotton worsted weight yarn, you can just substitute another cotton worsted weight yarn in that pattern, and it should be okay. Right? Well, no. That's not right.
Let me tell you what a designer does when she or he thinks up a design. I'll tell you what I do, at least. If I can choose the yarn I want to use, I think of the design. Is it a tote? It needs a sturdy yarn. Is it a scarf? It needs a flowing yarn. Is it a sweater? It needs a yarn that will drape the way I want the sweater to drape, and that won't be so heavy it will stretch out of shape. Sometimes, the editor of the book or magazine will choose the yarn, and most of the time it's the right choice. When I get to choose the yarn, I can swatch with different yarns, and see which swatch works the best for the design. Now, when the pattern gets published, I often hear about people making the design using a different yarn. And I encourage that. To an extent. You have to be very careful when you change yarns, if you want to get the same feel, effect, etc., of the original design. I thought I would do a little experiment to show you what I mean.
I crocheted two swatches - one in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, the other in LionBrand Recycled Cotton. The Cotton Fleece label says the yarn is 80% cotton, 20% Merino wool. The skein weighs 3.5 oz, (100 grams), and has approximately 215 yards. The yarn weight is 3, which is a little lighter than worsted. They suggest you use a needle size 6, which is 4mm, and is comparable to a G-6, 4.00 hook. The Recycled Cotton, which is a new yarn that I was eager to try (and I like it tremendously), is 74% recycled cotton, 24% acrylic, and 2% other fiber. The skein weighs the same as the Cotton Fleece, 3.5 oz, 100 grams. But it has only 185 yards, because the yarn weight is 4, which is worsted weight. They suggest you use an I-9, 5.5mm hook with it. So - you can say these yarns are not really equivalent. Oh, yes, the gauge for the Cotton Fleece is 5 stitches per inch, or 20 stitches for 4 inches, using the recommended knitting needle. They don't give a crochet gauge. For the Recycled Cotton, the gauge is 13 sc, or 18 stitches (knitting) to 4 inches. You can see the gauge is not the same with these yarns.

I crocheted 2 swatches, one in each yarn. One right after another, so I was relaxed for both of them. (Gauge can change when you are tense, or relaxed, or pick up your crocheting at different times.) And, instead of using a G hook, or an I hook, I used the one in the middle of these two, an H hook.

I got interesting results. But first - which yarn do you think would be thicker? The #4 weight - worsted - or the #3 weight - light worsted or dk? You'd think the worsted would be a heavier yarn, right? Check this picture out.

The beige yarn is the #4 - Recycled Cotton. The turquoise is the #3, Cotton Fleece. The Cotton Fleece looks thicker than the Recycled Cotton, even though it's a #3, and the Recycled Cotton is a #4. Hmmm? Interesting.

Now, what about the swatches? Do you think one would be longer and wider than the other? Check this picture out.

They are both about the same size. If one is wider, it looks like the Cotton Fleece is a little wider than the Recycled Cotton. I used a larger hook than called for on the Cotton Fleece swatch, and it is at least as big, maybe bigger, than the Recycled Cotton swatch - on which I used a smaller hook than called for. And finally, I wish you could touch the swatches through your computer. When you want to crochet a fabric that drapes, one way to do it is to use a bigger hook than called for - which is what I did with the Cotton Fleece. And when you want to make a stiff fabric, you usually use a smaller hook. Which is what I did with the Recycled Cotton. So, the Cotton Fleece is nice and drapey; the Recycled Cotton is nice and stiff. I would definitely use the Recycled Cotton in a purse or tote, or something that I want to have some body. I would defiinitely use the Cotton Fleece in something that I want soft and flowing and drapey. Like a sweater. Plus, because the Cotton Fleece is so soft, I don't think it will stretch much when worn. However, the Recycled Cotton may.

So, what does this all mean? Well, when you substitute yarn in a design, be sure you substitute yarn that will give you the same look as the original; yarn that will behave the same as the original. That is so important! If you use a different yarn than one that's called for, but use the same hook size, you may end up with a tote that has no body, or a sweater that can stand up by itself! (It may even happen with a different size hook.)