Friday, February 25, 2011

Crochet Primer: Double Crochet Stitch

Hello and welcome back for Part Four of our little crochet tutorial. If you're just joining us, please go back and recap with part one, part two, and part three. If you already know how to set up, do the chain and the single crochet stitch, then you're in the right place.
Going one step more can yield great benefit in any craft. With crochet, you might wish to take your new craft to the next level by adding the double crochet stitch. This stitch can speed up your crochet projects, because with just a bit more maneuvering you can increase the expanse of your fabric exponentially. The double crochet stitch is taller than the single, which is taller than the chain stitch.

Whether you are working flat or in the round, you will need to set up the double crochet stitch by working three chain stitches. If you are working from a chain, you will begin your first double crochet stitch in the fourth chain from the hook. This brings your stitches up to the appropriate level for working the first double crochet stitch. Sometimes a three-chain counts as one double crochet stitch. Refer to the instructions in the pattern you are working for whether this is true--it varies from pattern to pattern.

The next step in the double crochet stitch is to take the hook under the working yarn and wrap it around the hook, creating a loop.

Insert the hook into the next stitch (here we are working into a single crochet stitch), take the hook over the working yarn and draw the yarn through the stitch below, creating another loop. Now there are three loops on the hook--the one you began with, the one you wrapped before inserting the hook into the stitch below, and the one you made by drawing the working yarn through that stitch.

Take the hook under the working yarn and draw it through the first two loops on the hook. Now there are two loops left on the hook. Take the hook under the working yarn once more and draw it through the remaining two loops on the hook. Your stitch is complete.

Your new double crochet stitch should look like this. In this picture the new double crochet stitch is standing beside its matching three-chain. Now work another double crochet stitch in the next stitch below. For this swatch we are working one double crochet stitch into each stitch in the row below.

As I've been telling you all week, these lovely photos were taken by my daughter Natalie and are from the Learn to Crochet Cowl. Because of that, they show working these stitches in the round. You can certainly work these same stitches as a flat swatch for practice, but why not go ahead and make an accesory that you could wear when you're done? I hope you'll try the cowl pattern. After all, it's free and it's a great way to not only learn crochet but to get some good practice while you're doing it. I designed the cowl to teach some basic stitches and to show how the single and double crochet stitches work differently. The cowl is made up of a series of alternating single and double crochet stitches, which perfectly illustrates how they each behave differently, yet compliment one another.
If you decide to make a LTC cowl, I would love to see how it turns out. Please show your results on Ravelry or send me a picture at
This last lesson admittedly skipped a couple of maneuvers, so let me know if anything wasn't quite clear. I'd love to have Natalie photograph more steps for you!
Best Yarny Wishes and Happy Crocheting!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crochet Primer: Single Crochet Stitch

Thanks for coming back for Part Three of our crochet lessons. If this is the first one you've happened upon, please first go back to part one and then part two to catch up. If you already know how to set up and do the chain stitch, then stay put. Let's talk about the single crochet stitch.

Just as with the knit stitch, you can go quite a long way knowing only one crochet stitch: single crochet. This is the easiest and most useful of the full-on crochet stitches, in my opinion, and actually might just be my favorite. The single crochet stitch may certainly be used alone to produce a sweet, fine-textured fabric, especially in lighter weight yarns. You could easily work my Clockwise Cap knowing just chain and single crochet.

Let's start with working the single crochet into a foundation of chain stitches. These photos (taken expertly by my daughter Natalie) are from our Learn to Crochet Cowl, so we are working in the round. You need not be working in the round to learn this stitch, however. Just work a few chain stitches, turn, and go in the other direction. At this point you would have a loop on the hook and are looking at a few chain stitches stretching out before you, ready to be worked into. If you are working a flat (not in the round) swatch like this, you will work your first single crochet stitch in the second chain from the hook. The first one right next to the hook is needed to give space for the next stitch.

Notice that each chain has three parts--the chain on top has a thread nearest you and a thread farthest from you, and there lies the little bump underneath. For now, let's work into the top single thread of the chain.

Insert your hook into the chain. We already have a loop on the hook, so the next maneuver will add another loop.

Once the hook is inserted into the chain, take the hook over the working yarn and draw the yarn through the chain. Now you have two loops on the hook.

Take the hook under the working yarn and draw the yarn through both the loops on the hook.

There you go! You have a single crochet stitch. Here is what it looks like when you have few of them in a row. So pretty.

That shows how to work single crochet into chain stitch. To work single crochet into another single crochet below, insert the hook into both sides of the chain that lies at the top of the single crochet stitch. That is, for now. Other more decorative stitches are made by working into either the front of the chain or the back of the chain. To practice, just work into the entire chain.
I must mention, by the way, that this lovely blue yarn in all the pics is Malabrigo Worsted in Blue Surf and the hook is Brittany bamboo.

Have fun practicing single crochet. Tomorrow we double it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crochet Primer: Chain Stitch

Welcome to Part Two of our crochet tutorial here at figknits!

Even if you learn no other crochet techniques, even if you tune out everything about crochet that I tell you after today, please learn the chain stitch. This one crochet technique can aid in your knitting. It can help you make a pretty edge on your knitted fabric, as its twin sister, the slip stitch, it can help you seam knitted pieces, it can be used as a provisional cast on, and it can even help you bind off a knitted edge of fabric.
This is what I was telling you last time about wrapping the yarn around your index finger. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Let's do the chain stitch. Holding your hook securely in your right hand and your working yarn wound around your left fingers as instructed in yesterday's post, hold the bottom of your slip knot with your left thumb and middle two fingers. Take the hook under the working yarn, held taut, and pull the working yarn through the slip knot.

You did it! Now let's make another chain stitch. Take the hook under the working yarn and draw the yarn through the chain you just made.

Keep doing this maneuver until you have a line of chain stitches, which should look like this.

This is the top of the chain.

This is the underside of the chain. You'll need those little bumps on the underbelly to do a Crochet Provisional Cast On, a very useful technique.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crochet Primer: Tools & Setup

Even though figknits is primarily a knitting blog, I think it's good for every knitter to know how to crochet at least a little. Today we begin a series of posts about crochet. I hope this week's posts will help you become interested in learning about this very worthy craft!
One disclaimer is needed: I apologize to all lefties who will probably now leave me (don't go away mad!), but I am a rightie and all instruction afterward is shown in rightie style. I love lefties, but am severely right-handed. Here's a great site for lefties who want to crochet.
Crochet actually requires fewer tools than knitting, and you can go far with just a hook, some stitch markers, and a yarn needle. Just as with knitting needles, there are hooks made in almost every conceivable material. I'll show you just a representation of the ones in my hook case.

From left to right, you see a plain bamboo hook, a Kollage Square hook, an aluminum hook, a ChiaoGoo bamboo-handled hook (which are still woefully hard to find), a rosewood hook, another bamboo hook but with a fancy turned handle, and a rosewood hook also with fancy turned handle. Whichever you choose to use depends on what's comfortable and pleasing for you. As far as I know, there used to exist only the aluminum hooks, and I crocheted for many years with these. Now, however, I'm more likely to choose one of the wooden ones, especially the ChiaoGoo ones. I've already told you how ga-ga I am about these in earlier posts, so I won't go into that here. If you know a retailer that carries these hooks, please let me know. As far as I know ChiaoGoo is the only company making hooks like these.
You may notice that I do not include steel crochet hooks. These usually come much smaller for making fine crocheted lace and doilies. I am confining this tutorial to crochet with yarn. Steel crochet hooks are for use with thread. To choose which hook to use with which yarn, please consult the Yarn Standards guide.
Back to the picture above--you can also see my favorite locking stitch markers* from Clover and my favorite Chibi set of yarn needles also from Clover. You can get these with either bent or straight tips. I love the bent ones--great for getting into the fabric.
*I send you to Angelika for some markers--she has all kinds. Scroll down to see the locking ones like in the picture.
Okay, enough about products. Let's get started!
Just as in knitting, once you've chosen your yarn and an appropriate hook, you will make a slip knot to secure the yarn to the hook (needle) and to form the first stitch.
With the yarn end facing you and leaving at least 6" to work in later, make a loop.
With your thumb, poke the yarn end up through the loop. Insert the hook into the loop, from right to left.
Pull down on the yarn end and then the working yarn to snug the knot up against the underside of the hook, but not too tightly. Now let's talk about how to hold the hook.
Every crocheter holds his or her hook differently. I hold my hook like a pencil. Some people hold theirs under their hand, like you would if you were holding a wooden spoon to stir cookie dough, or what's called the knife hold. Here's a site that shows both. You choose what works for you.
The last part of today's message is about wrapping the yarn around your left fingers to create an even tension. The way I was taught by Granny Kate was to wrap the yarn around your little finger, behind the ring and middle fingers and up over the top of the index finger. Then as you crochet, you will work a variety of loops around your index finger in accordance with how much "leader" yarn you have or want to have available. This all comes more naturally, of course, the more you practice.

I now leave you to gather some tools, practice your slip knot, decide how you like to hold your hook, and try wrapping the yarn around your left fingers. Have fun!

Also, have a look at the pattern I have up for free that teaches you how to crochet: The Learn to Crochet Cowl.

Next time, we learn to chain!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Knitting Group Day

One of my New Year's resolutions was to get a neighborhood knitting group going, so at the end of last year I called on my good friend Kelli to help. Thanks to Kelli, we now have a great little group of five and we had our second monthly meeting yesterday. Last month our guest was my mom, and this month it was my daughter Natalie's dear friend April, who flew in Wednesday from Arizona to check out the PNW.
We noshed and knit and enjoyed deep belly laughs over some really good story-telling. This bunch is full of the funny.

Three of the group came straight from Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat market in downtown Tacoma and had bags and bags of goodies to show.

April learned to knit with some bright yellow Lopi. She did a great job! I think she's hooked.
Later that afternoon, April agreed to model the Global Cable Coat for me. Natalie took the great photos, and April is a gorgeous model. Much better than I would have done, believe me.
And I just couldn't resist having her model the Lauren. I knew it would look perfect on her.
And it does, doesn't it? Thank you April and Natalie. Just to add--April stood around like this in chilly weather for us. She's a pro! And word has it she may be moving up here soon. I sure hope so, and not only because I'd love to have her model for me again. She's a treasure.
As for the Madrona, Fred and I will be going to the market tomorrow afternoon. I hope to see you there! I'll be wearing the Global Cable Coat. That is, if my recent internal thermostat will be still long enough to let me keep it on.
Happy Friday--I hope you have some good belly laughs today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Local Luxury

Lately we've been seeing a resurgence in what companies like Brown Sheep and Marr Haven have been doing for years...sourcing farms here in this country for fiber to make yarn. Quince & Co is doing it. Just recently Shelter has started. How would you like to also obtain some domestic luxury yarns to knit with?
Well, now you can! And I am so happy to be a part of it. I've been on pins and needles to make this announcement for over a year now. This post and this post were just part of the story. As those posts told, I have been working with Delia and Reed Rasmussen of Ravenwood Cashmere, growers of cashmere right here in Washington State, to create patterns for sale with their 100% naturally processed cashmere yarn. Well, guess what! They are finally ready for you!

Presently we have three kits ready for you to buy, which Sophie (and her dad) model so well.

and coming soon...Cable & Lace Beret

We will have more to offer later in the year. Also, Delia plans to have yarn on her site for sale as well so that you can try it out with any project you wish. For now, we hope you'll try these kits, which include the pattern booklet and yarn to complete the project. The yarn is so soft and warm and you can be sure the fiber was grown with love and care. I know first hand because I met the goats myself!

This is Emily and Lucy, happy Ravenwood residents, just hours old.

Oh, and while you're visiting the Ravenwood site, be sure to have a look at Delia's Goat Milk & Honey Cream and her Goat Milk Soaps. I love them! I especially love the Coconut Lime and the Orange Lemongrass scents.

Thanks for having a look and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finishing the Global, Part 2

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!
I'm back, as promised, to show you the completely finished Global Cable Coat from Brave New Knits by Julie Turjoman.
First, I laid her out on the guest bed and pinned like crazy. I was very pleased with the way the Kerry Woollen Mills yarn eased out into a pliable fabric when washed. I put the fan on her and left her to dry completely. I ended up leaving the coat on the blocking board completely pinned out for three days. Nothing like making sure. Fred helped me ceremoniously remove the pins and try it on. Perfect!I have to say that I am the most pleased with this project of any I've ever done. The yarn made it turn out just as I wanted. And I even found these clasps from Twin Roses Designs that exactly matched the image I had in my head of how I wanted to place the closure on this coat--literally. I'll show you a close-up of these beautiful Celtic pewter clasps.
I'll try to model it for a picture soon, so you can see how well it fits. I tried that self-portrait-in-the-mirror thing and it just didn't turn out well. I'll ask Natalie to snap a picture when we have our knitting group this week. Wish us luck!

Also, as promised, here are my notes on improvements to the pattern as it appears in the book.
  • BO center back neck stitches in pattern, even if it means turning cables as you BO.
  • When returning to front stitches after finishing back section, left front piece begins on RS, but right front begins on WS. The book says both begin on RS.
  • In right lapel shaping, the third "next row" should state, "K1, M1, k1, pick up...." instead of "knit to last st," which conflicts with the next direction to work the M1 after the first stitch on RS rows.
  • The pattern should tell you to increase the lapel until you have the required number of stitches, and then to continue working the lapel in pattern without increase until you reach the shoulder join.
  • You can place one set of lapel stitches on scrap yarn while you work the other lapel. It makes it easier to handle the piece, in my opinion.
  • The first 8-row section on the back part of the collar is called the "stand," by the way. That is a part of the Cowichan collar construction.
  • When coming to the end of the sleeve pattern repeats and just before starting the garter stitch cuff, stop the cable pattern on row 1 or row 11. The book adds row 13, but there is no row 13 in the pattern repeat.

Yep, I know some of this is picky, but that's my job. Knitting pattern writers have to be extremely detail-oriented.

That's all for today--gotta run to the store for ingredients for Fred's yummy Valentine's dinner, which include Cognac. Mmmmm.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finishing the Global, Part 1

Last night I bound off my second Global Cable Coat, designed for Brave New Knits. Hurrah!!!
And here she is, before blocking, looking like she will fit a 10-year-old girl. I am not, nor am I the size of, a 10-year-old girl. But I am not worried! I know that a good blocking will do the trick to make this baby just my size.
I give you the closeup of just the sleeve cuff to show you how much in need of blocking this coat is. It will come out with a bell-shaped sleeve--not this wavy gravy thing that's going on presently.

And I only used half the yarn I had set aside for this. I have had this six skeins of Kerry Woollen Mills Jacob wool that I bought from the Harp and Shamrock here in town for over a year. It didn't know it was waiting to be a GCC. And to think I could make an entire other one with all this yarn. But I think not. I think it might want to be something new. A shorter Aran jacket, for instance? I've been imagining a cabled pea coat. Hmmm....Okay, back to the task at hand.

As I type this post, GCC is soaking in a cold bath with the last of this bottle of baby shampoo that I have been using in very small increments for a couple of years now. How fitting that this project took the last bits of it. It's been so long since I bought this now empty bottle that Kroger brand has completely remodeled the label and added chamomile to its already heavenly lavender scent. I hope they didn't muck it up, because, folks, this is one of the nicest smells in life. All my finished knits have had this lavendery scent for so long now that it's going to be quite an adjustment if this new one is not as nice. I haven't even cracked the super-safe seal on the new bottle yet for fear I'll find some putrid "new" aroma urging forth from it. Okay, I'm bearing up and with the support of all you bloggy friends I will go and check. Hold on and cross your fingers.
Okay! We can all breathe now and take a big whiff! The new baby shampoo smells different, indeed, but not putrid at all! I can live with this. Nice-smelling finished knits will abide.
It must have been all your knit-loving support that brought me luck.
I'll be back next time to show you the result of this coat blocking today and give you my list of adjustments to the pattern as it appears in the book.
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 07, 2011

An (entirely self-directed) Education

My blog post days usually begin with a speedy perusal of the blogs on my list (see lower sidebar), which I have recently revamped to include only blogs that inspire me both for their beauty and for their really good use of words (i.e. masterful writing). It's a growing list, to be sure. I am giving myself time to become a regular reader of this short list before I add more. This is just a part of an ongoing quest for knowledge. My formal education is in English and music, not in fashion design nor any of the visual arts nor in fiber production. However, these are the subjects that I now find myself soaking up on a regular basis.

I want to show you some of the amazing books and magazines that have been helping me lately.

Mostly library books, unfortunately. Bottom to top, we see first The Principals of Knitting. This makes about the third time I have checked this "textbook" out of the main library here in town. If only I could find one to buy for less than 250 bucks, I could study it at leisure. I call it a textbook because, as you can see from the size of it, it could certainly be the text of study for an entire course on knitting. Some ancillaries would be Vogue Knitting's "Ultimate Knitting Book," Barbara G. Walker's Treasuries, Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook, and many others. Let me know what books you think should be added to this list of college-course-worthy study.

The next couple of books up are all about garment construction, whether for the study of ethnic garments or for period costume. Then you see a book that I just had to buy recently, and that's saying a lot since I am really working on a tight budget these days. Nancy Marchant's book Knitting Brioche is packed with beautiful projects for learning this intriguing form of knitting. Here--read Clara Parkes' review if you don't believe me. I recently made a brioche hat (badly) and have started another one to try and grasp this technique. I'll show you those efforts in another post.

Just on top of that book is a beautiful magazine that I have passed over many times at the newsstand because I mistakenly assumed that it was just a sewing mag. So wrong I was! Selvedge is not only a feast for all types of fiber enthusiasts, it is very artfully done. Very inspiring. I'm trying to find room in my budget for a subscription.

Then at last you see on top of the pile a couple of books about hand sewing, garment construction, and the like. I am trying to give myself a little instruction in these things in order to design better hand knits. So much to learn.

Meanwhile, I'd better get back to work on trying to finish up my Global Cable Coat. I am on the second sleeve, which is the last part. I figure I have at least eight hours of knitting ahead of me, but I get to spend those hours with the fragrant, rustic Irish wool of Kerry Woollen Mills. Nice.

Thanks for the comments last time! Drop me a note and let me know of any other books and periodicals I should be studying. I'm not comfortable unless there are stacks of them "junking up the place."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

More BNK

Last fall I got into a sort of hat frenzy by working up four new hat patterns for Figheadh and making a couple of dozen hats in the process. Some are hidden away, because they were just too strange. I have a couple that look like Hobbit helmets. I'll tell you what I am not hiding, though, and that's this hat designed by Woolly Wormhead for Brave New Knits, the Lenina Cap. Boy, what fun. If you get into a hat frenzy, make sure it includes some Woolly. She knows hats.

I was immediately smitten when I saw this hat because of its pieced construction. I liked it even better when I started reading the pattern and saw that it was made with short rows because I need to learn a lot more about how to use them. They just have me kinda stymied.
I chose Malabrigo Merino Worsted (the yarn Woolly used) in Vetiver #607. It's a lovely sage with bits of soft pink. The pieces went very fast.
I joined the sections together as I knit them up, choosing to make the large depth but the medium circumference.

After I finished, I loved how this thing looked before I blocked it, so I had some fun photographing it. Looks like some kind of sea vegetation.

Or a jaunty bowl. But then I blocked it of course so I could wear it, which I love to do. It's so cozy.
You should try one.
Still waiting for some of you to let me know what you've loved knitting lately. I know you're out there...I can hear your needles clicking. Put down your knitting for a second and say hi!