Thursday, May 30, 2013

10 Crochet Tips I Wish I Had Known From The Start

This list is essentially everything I wish I knew when I started out. It is largely inspired by an email I received asking for tips and advice for beginners.

1.  Right and wrong sides
For an item worked flat in regular stitches it does not really matter. There is technically and right and wrong side but they look exactly the same and it has never made a difference in any patterns I’ve done. If I’m missing something here let me know. If you are doing many complicated stitches or lace work it does matter, but the pattern should clearly state which side is "right."

When crocheting in the round there is a right and wrong side, and it makes a difference. Look at the stitches, if they all go vertical and make little V’s that is the right side. If there is a horizontal bar at the bottom of the stitch, that is the wrong side. Some people prefer the wrong side.

If you are still confused, watch this video

2.  Use a stitch marker when working in the round
You are going around in a spiral. You will lose count of which row you are on if you don’t insert a stitch marker into the last stitch of each row. Once you get back around to it, take it out, do the stitch and place it in the new stitch. Continue to move it up each row so you can easily keep count.

3.  Color changes when working flat
Color change when working flat: On the stich before the color change, yarn over in the new color. Now continue crocheting in the new color.

If you are switching two colors back and forth frequently, then you don’t have to cut the yarn every time. Just crochet over the color not in use. Hold the yarn not in use against the top of the stitches that are unworked and crochet as normal - with the unused color hidden inside the stiches.

When you are ready to switch to the other color just drop that yarn back and pick up the other one. Continue to crochet over the color not in use.

4. Color changes in the round
To fix the strong jagged line when color changing in the round: On the stitch before the color change, yarn over the new color. Now sl st into the next st. Continue to crochet around as normal. Awesome.

5. When you do have “tails” crochet over them.
Again hold the tails against the top of the unworked stitches. Crochet normally and the tail will become hidden inside the stitches. Now you don’t have to sew them in and they won’t come undone! Awesome.

*EDIT* - This technique doesn't work for all projects, so use your judgement here. See the following comment:

Anonymous: "I agree with all except #5. If you are doing, for example, an afghan and you are cutting and attaching a new color ever 2 rows or so. You DO NOT want to crochet over the ends because it effects the gauge and you will have one side of your afghan with thin edges and the other will eventually be taller and thicker making a lopsided rectangle. Weaving ends in is an unfortunate/not so fun part but sometimes necessary part of a project. It is a part of finishing. I promise - after 40 years of crocheting I know. Do you want homemade and uneven looking or neatly finished looking as possible."

6. Hook size Basics.
Amigurumi dolls are usually done with worsted weight yarn and between a 3.5 and 4.5 mm hook. This creates a sturdy fabric that won’t show the stuffing. If you choose thinner yarn use a smaller hook. If you use thicker yarn use a larger hook. For a regular (ie non-amigurumi) project, the yarn should have a hook size on the label. You can always go down a hook size if you want your fabric stiffer/tighter or up a hook size if you want it looser with more flow and drape.

These are all 10 stitches of single crochet for five rows, using the exact same worsted weight yarn. All I changed was the hook size. The 6.0mm hook is the recommended size on the yarn label. The top fabric is very stiff and sturdy, almost cardboard like. The bottom one is soft and flexible, with lots of “holes.” Each one could be useful depending on the project.

7.  When sewing Pieces Together.
 Pin first. No seriously, go invest in some sewing pins. Pinning makes sure things get sewn where you want them to be and eliminates problems like crooked ears. Dedicate some serious time to sewing pieces together. Once you have all the parts made it's tempting to feel close to the end and rush the sewing. Do not do this. Great parts sewed together sloppily will immediately negate the quality. 

Make sure your sewing is sturdy and you have gone all the way around the object to be sewed on.  Below you see that you stick the needle through the front of a stitch on the head, then down through a stitch on the ear. You repeat that process all the way around. Don't change needle directions (ie going up then down then up then down.) 

See how the needle is always facing the same way whether the stitch is going into the head or the ear?

8. Steady Gauge
 Meaning all your stitches are the same size and tension. This takes time and practice. Eventually your gauge will even out. Everyone is all over the place at the beginning. In the meantime bust out some practice projects. After one or two of those your skills will improve and your gauge will even out. I wish I had known this originally because when my first project looked awful I about gave up.

 It is also directly affected by your mood and stress levels. Even seasoned crotcheters notice a difference when they are very stressed.

9. Organize your yarn
It’s a very good idea to invest in a yarn winder. It makes clean, stackable yarn "cakes" very quickly. You will use it all the time. You'll spend a week winding all your yarn just for the fun of it. You can find good deals for them on Amazon.

10.  Gauge swatches.
       For some things, where size is not a huge issue you don’t have to make them. Example: most amigurumi, dish rags etc. For items where size DOES matter you can usually make a gauge swatch. Patterns will generally have information for the gauge. For example, 2" x 2" = 8 sts and 2 rows. At this point you would grab the recommended hook and yarn, make a swatch based on that information and measure it. If it's bigger than the size stated (in this case 2" x 2") then you need to go down a hook size. If it's smaller try moving up a hook size. Keep making swatches until your gauge swatch matches the guage measurements. Now you can be sure that your project will come out the right size.

Sometimes patterns won’t provide you with gauge information. In that case watch your project closely and if possible, try it on the desired recipient often. That way you don’t get all the way to end and realize it’s way too small or large. Also keep in mind that crochet does have a stretch to it and some yarns are stretchier than others. That means some things will initially looks too small but due to the stretch actually be perfect. I personally prefer patterns based on measurements rather than gauge or # of rows. (ie crochet until it is x inches).

11. Bonus tip! Yarn types

Cotton yarn holds its shape and does not stretch. It works well for items like amigurumi and dish rags.

Specialty fibers like alpaca and mohair  are mostly for garments and have very specific care instructions on the label. I've never used them mostly because im poor haha.

Wool is soft and stretches, is a natural fiber and warm. It is good for garments and things to wear. I also think it has the best drape. However, if you use pure wool it will felt in the washing machine. That means it’s going to shrink and turn into felt. When done purposeful it can create some very neat items. On accident it’s heart breaking. Certain wools are washable due to certain treatments but it will say so on the label. The biggest downside of wool and other natural animal fibers is that they are not as forgiving. If you have to pull stitches out at any point it's a bit of a wrestling match. It likes to stick, knot and split.

Acrylic has stretch, is washable and can be found at affordable prices. It was the widest variety of colors and will last forever. The cheaper versions can be scratchy and stiff but we’ve already solved that problem.

Here is a table for quick reference.
Type of Yarn
Best Used For
Holds its shape and does not stretch, natural. Fewer colors.
Amigurumi, scrubbing Rags, some garments
Soft and stretchy, natural, warm. Will felt in the wash!
Felted items, projects that do not need to be washed, things you don't mind hand washing
Superwash Wool
Same as above but will not felt. Not as forgiving if you mess up.
Garments, blankets
Lots of colors, lasts forever, stretchy, washable, and affordable. Cheaper ones can be scratchy, but we’ve already solved that problem.
Anything. Good for someone with a wool or cotton allergy.

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tea Finger Mitts Crochet Pattern

It was my first mother’s day yesterday! For the occasion Matches got me a cast iron teapot! Isn't it lovely? Even the cups are cast iron.

The best things about cast iron: it retains heat easily and keeps the tea warm for hours. Plus is makes the tea taste amazing. I love it.

So here’s my problem, it heats up so easily that I burn my fingers anytime I try to drink from the cups or touch the pot. Once the cups are cool enough to handle, the tea is too cold. Matches' solution was to tell me to toughen up, what a jerk face ;). Instead I made these little finger mitts! Now I can drink my tea without burning my poor fingers.

If you flip it over it also makes a good finger guard for protecting against yarn burn.

I know fingerless gloves are all the rage right now among the fiber crafters… well these are fingers-only gloves - totally ahead of the trends ;)

Everyone’s fingers are different shapes and sizes so try them on frequently and adjust accordingly. This pattern was written for my fingers which are long and skinny.

These are very quick - less than an hour start to finish.

3.5mm Hook
Sock yarn

Index Finger
R1: 6 sc in magic ring
R2: 2 sc in each st around (12)
R3-11: Sc in each st around (12)
R12: Sc 6, ch 1, turn
R13-17: Sc 6, ch 1, turn (6)
R18: Sc 6, ch 8, join with a sl st to the other end of the tab. It should make a ring.
R19: Ch 1, sc around (14) – Make sure you are inserting your hook into the outside of the piece on each stich. If you find you are inserting your hook on the inside, then you need to turn after the ch 1.
R20-21: Sc around (14)
Sl st, finish off, weave in ends

R1: 6 sc in magic ring
R2: 2 sc in each st around (12)
R3-6: Sc around (12)
R7: 2 sc, sc 5, 2 sc, sc 5 (14)
R8-9: Sc around (14)
R10: Sc 6, ch 1, turn
R11-15: Sc 6, ch 1, turn
R16: Sc 6, ch 8, join with a sl st to the other end of the tab. It should make a ring.
R17: Ch 1, sc around (14) - Make sure you are inserting your hook into the outside of the piece on each stich. If you find you are inserting your hook on the inside, then you need to turn after the ch 1.
R18-19: sc around (14)
Sl st, finish off, weave in ends

Enjoy! If you have any questions please email me

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Guide to Amigurumi Doll Proportions

When working with proportions everything is measured by heads. The average human male is 7-8 heads tall. This means if you measured the height of their head and multiplied by 7 you’d get close to their total height. Different art styles have different proportions. This chart shows some common types.

Height in Heads
Adult Male
Adult Female
Anime Character
Chibi Character

Obviously these do vary from artist to artist.

But what if you want to make a specific character? In that case you will measure the individual character. Find and print a picture where they are standing up relatively straight and you can see from their head to their feet. Take a ruler and measure the head. For my example I will use the Onceler. Here is the picture I printed out of him:

Cute right? Measure the head of the character and write it down. Onceler’s is 1 inch. Now get a piece of yarn and a marker. Cut the yarn the same height as your character in the picture. Now put a mark on the yarn every head height, like so:


You will use the string to measure all his parts. Start by finding out exactly how many heads high your character is.

Onceler is six heads high. His legs are 2.5 heads (pants being 3 heads), Torso is 2 including the neck, while the vest is 1. His arms are 2.

Now crochet a head. Measure it and write down it’s height. The head I made was 1.25”. If you want to know the specifics like hook size and # of rows click here.

Math! Don’t be scared, it’s very easy. You can even use a calculator, I won’t tell. Write out equations for the length of each part of your amigurumi. The equation will be your ami's head’s height x how many heads high that part is supposed to be. For example:
The head I made was 1.25”

So that means…
The legs: 1.25” x 2.5 = 3.125”
The pants: 1.25” x 3 = 3.75”
The torso not including neck: 1.25” x 1.5 = 1.87”
The shirt: 1.25” x 1 = 1.25”
The arms: 1.25” x 2 = 2.5”
Total height: 1.25” x 6 = 7.5”

That makes your life a whole lot easier and takes your dolls to the next level. Just keep a ruler or tape measure handy and start crocheting, you’ll know exactly when each part is the perfect length.

If you have any questions please comment or email me!
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