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learn to crochet

  • Learn to Crochet: Blackberry Stitch

    It's no secret that I'm not a particularly masterful crocheter.  Obviously.  But I find it interesting and I like to learn more about it all the time.  I'm not sure why, but I don't mind professing my ignorance in this field.  It really bothers me when I don't understand a knitting technique, or if I'm unfamiliar with a stitch.  Knitting is my main method of yarncrafting, so I guess I feel like I "should" know more about it.  It's odd how we develop hangups about things that were intended to be enjoyable pastimes, but that's probably another post for another day.

    But crocheting?  You can't find someone more willing to advertise her obliviousness across the Interwebs.  I have to check books for explanations of the most basic stitches and I Google nearly every word in a crochet pattern.  Repeatedly.  And then I tell you about it.  If I ever tried to post anything to the contrary, you'd see right through me.

    But!  At least when I tell you that the crochet blackberry stitch is simple, you know it really must be.  When I first heard of it, I was expecting something wildly complicated that would result in a bobble that realistically resembled an actual blackberry.  But that was apparently just my very literal imagination running away with me after taking advantage of my awe at some of the designs in Baby's Diagonal Aran Afghans--which features the crochet blackberry stitch in the Blackberries and Crosses pattern.  

    Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that the blackberry is a bit like working a picot stitch!  It's a simple and easy way to make a cute little embellishment. The blackberry is worked by chaining 3 stitches and then crocheting a single crochet as you typically would in between 2 single crochets.  See for yourself!

    See?  Easy as (blackberry) pie. Sorry.  I had to.  (Yes, I know blackberry cobbler is more common.) This stitch just seems like one of those neat little tricks crocheters sometimes pull off that add so much to a project.  And while Baby's Diagonal Aran Afghans may as well be sitting with the sci-fi and fantasy books on my shelf because of how impossible its patterns may seem to me right now, I'm learning.  Slowly and surely I'm learning.  I've got the book, I've got access to video tutorials for every technique called for, and now I know how to work the crochet blackberry stitch.

    It seems like a good place to start!

  • Learn to Crochet: Crochet Cross Stitch (Left-Handed)

    I tried it!  Like I said earlier, I wanted to make a second try to learn the crochet cross stitch this weekend.  So I did!

    Yup. That is a crossed stitch right there!

    I didn't start off with the Crisscross pattern from Dishcloths this time.  I just crocheted a swatch and started the crochet cross stitch once I was a few rows in.  The crochet cross stitch calls for crocheting a stitch one space ahead of your last worked post, and then crocheting in the skipped space.

    See?

    Whenever I'm learning a new technique, I like to watch a video tutorial several times before trying it out.  It doesn't seem to matter what the technique is--winding a bobbin, crocheting a new stitch, swaddling a baby (impossible!), or switching yarn colors in knitting.  I like to try new things, but only after seeing someone else do them successfully. 

    And now I'm successful!  Or something.

    Hey, this victory feels pretty sweet.  The crochet cross stitch makes a nice V-looking stitch that's a bit twisted.  It's a nice look, and I like looking at it.

    Yay for crochet!

  • Learn to Crochet: Crochet Cross Stitch

    I tried to crochet the Crisscross dishcloth from Dishcloths one time.  It's the bright green one:

    It didn't go that well.  But I think I'll try again this weekend.  It's a cute pattern, and I'd like to master the art of crocheting the cross stitch. I like dishcloths for trying out new stitches because it gives me plenty of opportunity to practice new techniques and the project is quick enough to keep me from getting tired of it.  I'll definitely be trying out the cross stitch technique on this pattern.  I like the look of it, and I want to know more about this weird, crisscrossed stitch.

    Maybe I didn't watch this video enough times for my last attempt to be successful.  It helps me to watch a video tutorial 3 or 4 times before trying a new stitch, and then watching the video a few more times while I'm trying the new stitch.  I tend to go through a lot of trial and error(s) whenever I try something new, but once I understand something it tends to stick in my brain after that.

    Even if I wasn't motivated to make an ungodly number of dishcloths, I still think I'd want to learn how to do the crochet cross stitch.  This is just icing on the motivation cake.  I know that didn't make much sense.  I'm sorry, but I'm a little distracted.  And if you'll excuse me, I have a video to go watch.

    Over and over again.

  • Learn to Crochet: Beginning Ring

    If you've ever wanted to crochet a granny square, and I hope and pray that you do, you'll want to know how to crochet a beginning ring.

    I dearly love granny squares.

     A lot.

    It weirds me out a little, but I'm pretty sure my granny square numbers are somewhere in the low thousands by now.  And every last one was started with a beginning ring.

    Such a simple thing, but it can be a little tricky to get the hang of when you're first learning about the wonderful and glorious world of those magnificent crocheted squares.

    Luckily there's a video for that. 

    And once you get started with that one little ring, you can crochet any number of things.   Amigurumi, hats, bags, my preferred squares, or anything else crocheted in the round.  The world is your yarny oyster.  I don't even care that that sounds nonsensical, and somehow gross.  Learning the first few techniques of anything new thing--beginning rings in crochet, the first few rows of knitting, learning scales in piano--can be so foreign and strange that it's sometimes more difficult than any of the complicated things you learn after that.  It's not completely hyperbolic to say that once you can do this, you can do anything.  So do it!

    No really, go try out a beginning ring right now.  Go forth!  Crochet all the things!

    I think you'll be great at it.

  • Foundation Stitches: Single Crochet

    Whenever I crochet something, I tend to gravitate toward projects that start with a beginning ring.  This is partly due to my deep and abiding love of granny squares, but my preference can also be attributed to the fact that crocheting a chain of eleventy billion stitches is one of my least favorite tasks ever.  I should be more clear: keeping count of the eleventy billion stitches is usually where my problems start. 

    Enter foundation stitches.  Foundation stitches take a little more time, but they're the equivalent of crocheting your first row as you're beginning the row itself.  Foundation stitches are a little bit like the cable cast-on of crochet, and this is a good introduction to the concept if you're not familiar with it.

    Okay, so now that you're a little more familiar with what foundation crochet stitches mean are you ready to learn how to actually do it?

    Please say "yes."  Otherwise we have nothing to talk about.

    No worries, I'm going to talk about it anyway. I'd never be so cruel as to let you know that foundation stitches exist and not post a video showing you how to make this magic happen.

    (At least I don't think I would.  If I have, I'm sorry.  I'm pretty sure I'm not depraved enough to withhold crafting information, though.  I've been told I have quite the mean streak, but that seems beyond the pale to me.)

    Like I mentioned when I was talking about the cable cast-on in knitting, this is just one of those things that seems like it shouldn't work until  it does.  I was playing around with it this weekend and it was fine.  It took a little getting used to, but that's true of any new craft thing.  And when I was done, it looked like this:

    See?  Just a row of single crochet stitches.  It's much easier for me to track my stitches like this, instead of a row of little chain stitches that tend to roll around and make me lose count.  Plus, I think I like how this looks better.  The edge is a little more flexible than when you start with a foundation chain, and I think it's a good thing.

    I watched this 4 or 5 times before I tried it out for myself and then I watched it 2 or 3 more times as I was crocheting, but I really liked it once I got a little more comfortable with it.

    Try it for yourself!

  • Learn to Crochet: Working in Free Loops in the Row Below (left-handed)

    I thought about crocheting up a sample swatch to show what crocheting in the free loops looks like, but then I panicked because I can't crochet left-handed and this is a left-handed tutorial.  By the time I came to my senses, it was too late to do anything with yarn and this post isn't going to write itself.

    I may be blonde (and feeling it at the moment), but even I know posts don't write themselves.

    I mean, right?  There's not some sort of way to get posts to write themselves and I don't know about it because I'm blonde and not as good at the Internet as I like to think, right?

    Let's think about something else.

    So, let me type out with my very own two hands that this is how you crochet in the free loops in the row below when you're a left-handed crocheter:

    I'm pretty sure I say this every time, but I really enjoy watching crochet stitches being formed from another angle.  Working in the free loops adds an extra ridge to your work, creating a textured pattern. 

    Like I mentioned last time, this technique is called for in the book Baby's Diagonal Aran Afghans--a book that's giving me wild delusions that now would be a good time to embark on some crochet adventures.  What I didn't mention was that the Chevrons and Diamonds pattern was really grabbing my attention and grounding those delusions into a more practical stage where I start trying to envision actually trying this out.

    I know this one in the picture uses variegated yarn, but I really like the idea of all this patterning in a solid color. I think it would make a really beautiful baby gift.  A cream or a brown yarn would give it more of an heirloom feel, and if I used some Vanna's Choice the blanket would stand up to everyday usage and regular watchings.  If I could remember when Michaels sale schedules.....well.  We can see where this may be headed.

    These video tutorials always give me so many ideas for how I'd use the techniques.  I also just like having all this knowledge at my disposal.  I can only assume I'll be using these powers for good.  Or afghans.  Same difference.

    Only time will tell.  But until then, I'm going to be planning and practicing some new stitches.

    How about you?

  • Learn to Crochet: Working in Free Loops in the Row Below

    I don't remember when I first read the phrase "work in the free loops in the row below," but I do remember feeling a little confused and sarcastic.  Um, it's crochet.  There are no loops above your working row and everything below you is free.

    But I knew it probably wasn't that simple, and it turns out that it's not--even though it doesn't seem too intimidating when you see it worked out.

    See?  Odd, but not difficult.

    Working in the free loops below helps crocheters create ridges on top of their crocheted fabric and results in some beautiful textures for projects.  It's called for in the patterns in Baby's Diagonal Aran Afghans, and you can just tell by looking at the cover that there's a lot to love when it comes to textured surfaces.

    When I look at books like this, it's typically just for inspiration or research--not necessarily because I think my crochet skills are up to the level where I can read the patterns without feeling a little panicky.  But now I know about working in the free loops of the row before, and that counts for something!  I feel like it's a good place to start.

    A good place to start counts for a lot.

    Happy crafting!

  • How to Crochet a Double Crochet Stitch

    I know I've talked about this before, but I'm going to talk about it again.

    This is how you crochet a double crochet stitch:

    Maybe I should just talk about the double crochet (dc) stitch every couple of months.  It's incredibly common and it's usually the first real bit of crocheting a new crocheter learns.  It's so ubiquitous I kind of forget about.  I made my sister a cowl once, that was just a wide swatch of what I thought of as granny square stitches worked flat.

    She said someone at her church admired it and asked to see it in order to see if she could copy it for herself.  When my sister said the woman declared, "Oh, I think I could do that.  That's just a nice, simple bit of double crochet," I froze and desperately tried to remember what that meant.

    Stitch names get me sometimes. 

    But the double crochet stitch truly is everywhere!

    This:

    is double crochet in shell form (from the book Crochet Cowls).

    This:

    is double crochet in its standard worked-back-and-forth sort of way.  (It's the Fast Favorite pattern from Dishcloths.)

    Even granny squares:

    are double crochet stitches bunched together for shells with some chain stitching thrown in for good measure.

    If you want to lazily fall back on sweeping generalizations (and boy, do I!), you can claim that pretty much everything is made up of double crochet stitches.

    Blankets?  Yes.

    A sweater my grandmother made me that hangs in my daughter's closet?  Yes.

    Amigurumi? Totally.

    Little baby hats? Yes.

    Bags and purses?  Absolutely.

    Rugs?  Doilies?  Scarves?  Cowls?  Slippers?  Oh my goodness gracious, of course!

    The Statue of Liberty?  Well, no.

    BUT!  If someone were to crochet a replica of Lady Liberty, you can bet your amber waves of grain and sweet aqua-colored yarn that the pattern would totally call for yards and yards of double crochet stitches.

    If you're just learning this stitch, bless you.  You're off to a great start.  And if you're so moved to then attempt to crochet your very own Statue of Liberty, then I really bless you and hope you'll send me a picture because Google has let me down on that one.


  • Crochet Cast-On: Tunisian Crochet

    Since Tunisian crochet has been on my mind a lot lately, I've been reading about it a lot lately.  It's a nice diversion from the other noncraft-related things that are on my mind lately, and I find this to be such an odd and interesting way to yarncraft.

    The patterns in Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Crochet and Short Row Tunisian Fashion were designed to look like knitting even though they're crocheted.  Not all Tunisian crochet designs look like this, but I think it's so amazing that some do.

    Here's one way to add stitches in Tunisian crochet:

    I was told that if you can work a single crochet stitch, then you can learn to do Tunisian crochet!  Now, I can sometimes trip myself up with fairly simple crochet techniques and patterns, but statements like that give me hope.  And if you're a crocheter who is considering knitting, but who doesn't feel quite ready yet, then maybe taking your crocheting to the next level is for you!

    Or maybe you don't know much about crochet at all (aw) and you want to try this (whoa!).  That's amazing!  Maybe you're even a knitter and this is how you think you want to ease into crochet!

    I have now made myself incredibly curious about the kinds of people who want to try out crochet, and what their motivation could be.

    Whoever you are, and whatever you like, I hope this helps.  Tunisian crochet is a weird and wonderful thing. 

    Happy making!

  • Crochet Cast-On: Tunisian Crochet (Left-Handed)

    Remember when I talked about Tunisian crochet?  That was cool.  Kim Guzman, Tunisian crochet extraordinaire (probably her official title) explained to me that it was like crocheting a row with all your loops building up on your needle.  Then you crochet back through them all all again!

    But how do you get started with all those loops on that needle?

    I'm so glad you were wondering!  Because I was too, and it turns out you do it like this:

    It's so strange to me that you can crochet knit stitches.  But you can!  I was just thinking about some of the weirder things you can do with yarncrafting and Tunisian crochet is just one of those things that pops up in my brain every now and then. 

    Weird?  Yes.

    Pretty?  Yes!

    Difficult?  Apparently no more than any other yarn craft.

    The description of the video explains that this technique is used in the book Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which means I'm going to probably give it another look again very soon.

    Like I said, Tunisian crochet is just one of those things that drifts around in my mind every now and then and then I think "Hey, maybe I should try that."  And hey, maybe I should.  Maybe I will, and very soon!

    How do  you get yourself ready to try new things?

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