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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBsY71HGbbY

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. Even your husband will think it's cool. 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
Pros/Cons
Best Used For
Cotton
Holds its shape and does not stretch, natural. Fewer colors.
Amigurumi, scrubbing Rags, some garments
Wool
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
Acrylic
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!

25 comments:

  1. Usefuel tips, thanks for sharing.

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  2. So helpful! Thank you for posting!!

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  3. 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.

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    Replies
    1. You're right! I don't crochet many afghans so I didn't even think of that! I'll add your comment into #5. Thanks!

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    2. I don't know the answer to this comment you made above: "The cheaper versions can be scratchy and stiff but we’ve already solved that problem."

      How do you solve that problem? I think I need to know. Washing with fabric softener is my guess. Thank you. GrammyBez

      Delete
    3. Thank-you for your helpful tips. I read your status and I have to tell you that at 52 I feel the same way. We come to expect so much of ourselves that we forget, or put aside our basic happiness. Only in comparing our elves to others can we feel that way. As an old broad I now know that life is cool and worth every effort on any level.Compare and compete all you like but remember where your happiness comes from.

      Delete
    4. Thank you! I am making an afghan right now with many color changes and thought I was so bright to crochet over the ends as I go - guess I will go back and pull those ends out now!

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    5. My problem is that I don't trust anything I make not to fall apart. Plus I really enjoy the sewing part; it's like a reward where I don't have to count!

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  4. Great tips. I sort of disagree with #1. There is a right and wrong side even when crocheting flat through the whole stitch (as opposed to through just the back or front of the stitch). The stitches will lean towards the front. Its most noticeable at the top of a stitch. The tear drop will be more noticeable on the front. When working in the round compare your front and back to see the differences. I agree that when working flat it doesn't matter, because front/back changes with every row. Use the side that looks the best. To create ridges on just one side of flat work, crochet in the back of the stitch for one row and the front for the next row (or visa versa)

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  5. I have a question about gauge swatches. Mine are NEVER right. I can get it right one way, but not the other way. For example, if the gauge information on the pattern says "14 dc and 4 rows = 4 inches", I can get 14 dc to equal 4", but I'll have more rows than suggested. I can also get 4 rows to equal 4", but then I'll have way more dc than suggested. What is wrong with me??? Seriously, this is why I don't crochet garments. Because I can't seem to get my gauge to work out horizontally AND vertically. Any suggestions???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Generally you make a gauge swatch for one of two purposes: to either match your tension with the pattern writers OR to adjust the pattern to your own tension.

      For example if the pattern says 14 dc and 4 rows = 4 inches but when you do a swatch it takes you 20 dc and 6 rows to make four inches, you could either move up a hook size or you can do the math to find out how many stitches and rows you will need to make it the same size with your own gauge. In this case if the pattern said the first row is 42 sts you can calculate that out to mean 12 inches (because for them 14 dc is 4 inches. 42 divided by 14 is 3. So 3 x 4"=12".) Then take your own gauge which took 20 stitches to make 4" and multiply that 20 stitches by 3 (remember 3 x 4"=12") and get 60 stitches. That is how many stitches you have to do to make it the same length.

      Delete
  6. Will you tell me which yarn winder you bought? There are several options on Amazon.

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  7. When changing colors in the round, do you cut the yarn or leave it connected to use in a later row? I'm a beginner and just finished a hat that used 3 colors in a wave pattern. I left the yarn attached but it could bunch up on the inside if I used too much tension. Thanks for your tips!

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  8. Lots of great tips here.
    Katie from http://KatieCooksandCrafts.blogspot.com

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  9. great tips for amigurumi - however in tip #11, beware of using cotton yarn for a bathing suit. it WILL stretch and it will not return to its shape. poor choice for that. otherwise, very useful info.
    jd in st Louis
    crochet.craftgossip.com

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  10. I use the Russian Join. Easiest way to color change on bigger things!! No weaving or sewing ends except the first and last!

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    Replies
    1. The Russian join it the best. learn it here: http://twistyarnshop.blogspot.com/2009/05/russian-join.html

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  11. Even though I've been crocheting for a while I found some helpful tips here - thank you!

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  12. Very helpful site even for someone who has been crocheting for awhile, enjoyed it.

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  13. Just found your tips. They are very helpful.

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  14. Thank you very much, Katie Stevens, for sharing your tips. God Bless and Keep You.

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  15. Thank you very much, Katie Stevens, for sharing your tips. God Bless and Keep You.

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  16. I'm just learning how to crochet I want to make a baby blanket my question is when I'm doing the first row should I let you be the same size or does that not not as long really big or very tight

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