Friday, December 12, 2014

Musings on Crochet Techniques: Beginning a Double Crochet Row

Earlier this year, I acquired Lily Chin's video, Crocheter's Toolbox (on sale today at the Interweave store at a fantastic price!) and I have been listening to it in the afternoons as I work on my current pattern project.  Today, I was listening to her describe an innovative technique for starting a row of double crochet without the gap produced by the standard ch-3 beginning.  Her technique involves working a loose single chain instead of the ch-3, and working the first dc into the first st, instead of counting the ch-3 as the first st.  (Not intending to be a the video or the book, she has lots of great techniques and ideas to help you crochet more efficiently!)  I had done this before in working dc rounds, but had not tried it when working rows before.  I will illustrate the usual technique, then Lily's technique, and finally my adaptation to her technique.

First of all, the normal technique uses a ch-3 to raise the yarn to the level of the dc st:

Chain 3 to begin row

Skip the first st and dc into the second one.

See the holes created by the starting chain?

I was curious to see how the beginning of the row would look with just the single, loose chain at the front, so I put down my work and picked up a hook and yarn.  I tried a swatch, and liked the no-gap look.  Here is how you do it:

Pull up on the loop till it is about the same height as the dc

Yo hook and draw through loop to form a very loose chain

Turn work; dc in very first st.

At end of row, dc into top of last dc but ignore the loose chain.

This creates much less of a gap between the stitches!

The edge is a bit wavy, and the chain looks a bit sloppy.

No gap...I loved it!  One little thing bothered me, though.  That first stitch with its accompanying loose chain looked pretty bulky, and the chain stuck out to one side of the fabric a bit; and because the chain was loose, it looked as if it might catch on things.  I wondered if I could make that edge a bit smoother?  I tried a few different ideas, and here is what worked best.

Work a loose chain about the same height as a dc, as above.  When it is completed, before wrapping the yarn around the hook to start your dc, swivel the tip of the hook counterclockwise two full turns (see arrow in photo below).  This puts two twists into the loop on the hook, and seems to give the yarn in the chain a little elasticity, so that it pulls together a little bit more than the chain without the extra twists (or at least that's my theory).  Then work your dc in the very first stitch, as usual.  Here are the illustrated instructions for my adaptation:

Rotate the hook twice counterclockwise after making the loose chain.
Dc in the very first stitch as before.

The completed seems just a tiny bit less bulky to me.
 Here is a photo of my swatch.  I placed a yarn marker where I started my revised version of Lily's technique.  It's not a huge difference, but I like the more compact, less wavy edge.  And the chain at the edge is less likely to catch on something, because it is pulled a little tighter.
Lily's method below the blue marker...mine above.
I hope you will enjoy this technique.  I love "hanging out" with great crocheters, because their innovative ideas spark my own explorations.  Thank you, Lily! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Variety is the Spice of Life

I recently published a new pattern.  It took quite a long while to get the pattern written up, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the yarn I had made the original prototype from (a couple years ago) had been discontinued.  Secondly, I wanted to include several sizes in the instructions, and wanted to actually knit them up and make sure they worked.  And thirdly, I had made a number of similar tams which were variations on the theme, and wanted to include these ideas as possible variations for the pattern. 

This particular tam was inspired by some beautiful, bright, rainbow-colored yarn with long color repeats.  The tam is constructed using kite-shaped wedges for the top, and I thought it would be fun to make a tam in which each wedge would be a different color of the rainbow.  I tried it with Bernat Mosaic yarn, and it worked pretty well.
The tam was colorful...really colorful.  I knitted the body of the tam, then worked a section of ribbing with a couple rows of bobbles.  It looked pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.
But when I found out the yarn had been discontinued, I had to find something else.  I settled on

Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable, which not only had a long color repeat, but also a lovely sheen.  I loved the Dragonfly colorway, and quickly worked a tam up.  It worked!
The yarn fairly glowed.  And the bobble rows turned out different colors, just like in the other tam.

I made tams in a couple of other colorways, and then faced a new decision.  I had made a very similar tam in this modular technique, using two colors of yarn.  Should I include the directions for this as a variation to my pattern?  Or should I publish it separately, on its own?

I got some yarn in two colors (solid colors this time), and tried working up the new pattern in two colors.  I figured that I could write it up as a variation to the pattern.  I did this, but called it by a different name (The Zigzag Tam) to distinguish it from the original (The Victoria Tam).

 I began thinking about other possible variations.  The tam could be made in just one color, for a textured effect, or in two colors with one for the tam top and one for the body.
 And what about using a variegated yarn with a shorter repeat?
 Finally, I remembered that I had made a modular tam several years ago in which each kite-shaped motif was a different color.  So I included that as well, for inspiration.
After making multiple tams in several sizes and variations, I finally got the pattern completed.  And here it is...Ta Da!!  It's available on Craftsy, Ravelry and in my Etsy shop.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Floral Celebration in Irish Crochet

After the success of my framed monogram, I decided to play around with some Irish Crochet motifs.  When I bought the frame for the monogram, the frames were on sale, Buy 1 Get 1 Free.  How could I resist?  And there was a perfect square frame that would be perfect for framing a piece of crochet.  I have long been fascinated by the highly textured lacy exuberance of Irish Crochet, and had played around with it off and on for years, and having recently downloaded Maire Treanor's video on Clones Lace, which clearly demonstrates the techniques, I was freshly inspired.  I pulled out a couple of favorite books, and began crocheting.

Irish Crochet is not for the generally utilizes fine thread and tiny steel crochet hooks...and it uses more complex techniques like crocheting over a padding cord and more difficult stitches, like bullion stitches and clones knots.  I often find myself ripping out a stitch that didn't work right, and doing it over (and over!)  so that it looks right.  But though it can be frustrating at times, the finished product is well worth the effort.

After I had a selection of flower and leaf motifs completed, I tried arranging them in several different ways.  I chose the following arrangement:

This photo was taken before I actually had the flowers sewn onto the backing...and sadly, it is the only decent photo I have of this sold the day after I got it framed!  I need to make more of these...

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Unique Wedding Gift

In anticipation of my son's upcoming marriage, I wanted to make something special for a wedding gift for him and his bride.  In the past, I have sometimes made a crocheted doily with the initials of bride and groom worked into the fabric, generally in filet crochet.  But somehow, I couldn't really envision my new daughter-in-law using a doily in her decor.  I debated whether to even try to make a wedding gift...there was not much point if they would not be able to use or enjoy it.  Then, I got an invitation to Anna's wedding shower.  It had a monogram with their initials entwined together...very lovely!  I didn't quite think I could reproduce it in filet crochet, though.

I mulled it over, keeping the invite close at hand so I could study it.  Maybe I could just do the letters in crochet?  That meant I would have to find a way to frame them, but it was a possibility.  I picked up a hook and thread, and started playing around, trying to create an "H" out of crochet.  It took several tries, but eventually I came up with something workable, based on the shape of the "H" in the monogram.

The uprights of the "H" were constructed of a crocheted mesh stitch, and I created the curlicues using an Irish Crochet technique which involved working single crochet over a padding cord, which could be drawn up to create curves.  On some of the curves, I worked a second row of padded single crochet, which allowed me to make curves in the other direction by increasing where I wanted the curves to be.

I wasn't totally pleased with the result, but I thought it might do.  But for the smaller initials on either side, I decided to try something different.  There is a technique that I came up with several years ago, a kind of chainless foundation, that utilizes cluster-type stitches stacked on top of each other.  I found that, if I worked this foundation row, I could work single crochet along one edge to shape it into the letter shape I wanted.  This worked quite well, and I was very pleased with the smaller initials.

Things were coming along with the crocheting, so I made a trip to my local crafts store to get some tips on framing a piece of crochet.  I brought a swatch along, just to be sure.  Amanda was very helpful and had lots of tips and suggestions for me, and even helped me find the least expensive options for the little bits and pieces that I needed to finish my framing project.  She suggested that I glue my velvet fabric backing onto foam core using a fabric-safe spray adhesive, and then stitch my crocheted pieces in place on the fabric-covered foam core using a needle and thread.  I ordered some spacers cut to fit the frame I chose, so that the crochet wouldn't be mashed up against the glass.

Back home again, I carefully wet-blocked the initials, trying to get the curves as smooth and round as possible.  That done, I laid it out on some dark fabric, to see how the crocheted pieces looked together.

I played around with the arrangement a bit, and someone suggested that I place the left side of the "H" higher than the right side.  As I prepared to sew the initials onto the backing, I decided to see if I could intertwine the letters, somewhat like Anna had them in her monogram.  Here is the finished design:

Even though it is not quite the monogram that Anna used for her wedding, she loves the piece and it is proudly displayed in their new apartment.  Here's a photo I took of the framed monogram before I wrapped it:

The exciting thing about this project (other than creating something special for loved ones!) is that now I know how to frame a crocheted art piece.  What next...perhaps some Irish crochet motifs? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Brioche Rib Scarf Pattern Now Available!

I have been playing around with the Brioche Stitch for several years now.  In fact, you can check out these  blog posts from 2011, when I began my explorations:

The scarves I made using this technique were similar, with some variations.  At a recent meeting of the Tigard Knitting Guild , I taught a mini class on the Brioche Rib technique, with the instructions for the basic scarf for my handout.  I thought I would post the material as a free pattern in my Ravelry shop and my Craftsy shop, for anyone who might be interested.  The pattern creates a cushy, warm scarf from chunky yarn, in one or two colors.  The scarf begins and ends with brioche rib in a single color, and if you like, you can join a second color after you have knitted the initial border.  The two-color rib is somewhat like a corrugated rib,  but thicker and more "ribby".  One color is predominant on one side, and the other color is predominant on the other side of the knitting.

This 4-page pattern download is a photo tutorial which will give you the basics of the Brioche Rib stitch in one or two colors.  If you would like to make a narrower or wider scarf, cast on an odd number of stitches to whatever width you like.  I hope you enjoy the pattern! 

Visit Mountain Mist's Craftsy Pattern Store »

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering the Yarn Garden...End of an Era

I recently got an email from a favorite yarn shop in my old neighborhood, the Yarn Garden.  The subject line said, "Goodbye from Yarn Garden".  What??  Though I hadn't been over there in quite a while, since we moved to the other side of town, I was filled with sadness.  After almost 15 years in business, they were getting ready to close their doors.  I decided to go down to visit one last time, and see if I could find some goodies at their Goodbye Sale (50% off everything!).  I decided to bring my camera along, to document this historic event.

Approaching the shop
It was a gray day, to match my somber mood.  

The shop looked so empty by the time I got there, but there were still some good deals left.

A few last shots of the old girl...

I paid for my purchases, took a last look around, and left.  We will miss you, Yarn Garden!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Weathering the Storms of Outdoor Venues

When one does a craft booth at an outdoor event, one must be flexible…one must accept the unique challenges of that specific venue, and find a way to display one’s product to its best advantage.  One must always take weather into account in preparing for outdoor events, and one must be prepared for the worst.
After over a year with no outdoor events, we approached the Country Life Fair at the Pomeroy Farm with some trepidation.  Not that we were anxious about the event itself; this has always been one of our very favorite places, as our kids grew up volunteering on their Living History Farm, and our family has spent many happy hours there.

The thing was, we had purchased a new canopy that we had never set up before, and we also had updated our display from homemade wooden racks to a more professional gridwall system, which we had not used at an outdoor event before.  On top of this, we had to set up both booth and display the morning of the event, since we had opted not to make a separate trip the night before, in order to save on gas.  Complicating the whole situation further was the fact that I had injured my back that week, and was still having some pain and needing to be careful not to re-injure it.

To prepare for the sale, we decided to set up the canopy in our back yard, to make sure we knew how to do it properly.  We were so glad we did this, as we discovered that the new canopy was much more complicated to set up than our old one.  Some of the features we had liked when we bought it, turned out to be quite a pain when setting up and taking down the canopy…such as the  8 screws that keep the edges of the canopy roof in place.  These all had to be carefully unscrewed and then re-screwed after the roof tarp’s grommets had been placed over them, which took much more time and effort than we were used to.  We then found that we could not get the canopy raised to full height…we simply were not strong enough to force the telescoping leg pieces up far enough, with the full weight of the roof tarp on the roof frame.  After much effort, and almost despairing of ever getting the roof raised, we finally discovered that if I crawled under the framework and pushed up with all my might on two of the roof ribs at once, my husband could just barely force the telescoping leg piece into position.  After we had completed the feat of getting the whole roof and legs raised to full height, we put a couple of the side walls up, and decided to call it quits for the evening.  We disassembled the canopy and stowed it away.

The first day of the sale arrived, and we headed up north to set up.  The weather report had indicated showers for both days, but we were able to set up dry, which was a blessing.  We struggled to get the canopy up, but were thankful that we had already figured out how to get it to work!    Getting the walls to all zip together was a bit of a bear, but after re-doing it several times, we finally got it all put together.  We hadn’t really made a firm decision how to set the gridwall up before we arrived, but were able to come to a consensus fairly quickly and get to work on the setup.

We really like the gridwall, and wish we had invested in it years ago.  It takes a little longer to get all the fixtures in place, but it makes a very nice display, and can be set up and configured differently for different spaces, which is great for doing shows in different locations.  Over the years, we have had spaces as small as 4 x 6 feet, and as large as 10 x 20 feet.  Each venue has its own specifications and space sizes, and it is good to be able to change the setup according to the space available.

Part of our gridwall display

Our booth area sloped all the bags hung crooked.

We got everything set up, and were able to relax and visit with customers the rest of the day.  My husband, who often does a spinning demo during our sales, brought out the wheel and began to do his thing.  

Some of our products, and my handsome husband doing a spinning demo

 The weather varied from partly cloudy to rainy, but we were warm and dry inside the canopy for the most part (though I did go home and curl up under an afghan that evening).  At the end of the day, we packed our product in bins and stacked them in the middle of the canopy, to protect them from any moisture that might accrue during the night.

The second day of the sale did not start out well.  First, we got a late start; then, on the freeway heading north, we hydroplaned several times on water that was standing in ruts on the roadway.  We prayed for safety, and pressed on.  Arriving way later than we had intended, we found standing water on our tables and bins, and water droplets on all the racks.  We had brought a roll of paper towels along, and used up the better part of it drying things off.  We then scrambled to get the product set out before opening time.

The sun did break through a few times during the day, but mostly it rained…heavy rain that hit our canopy hard when the wind would gust.  We discovered that our canopy was water resistant, not waterproof, as we began to feel thick drops hitting us.  There wasn’t much we  could do, though I did shift my chair to a slightly different position after I noticed that I had a sopping wet spot on my clothing where the water kept dripping from the same spot in the roof.  Thankfully, most of the drips seemed to be on our side of the canopy…the other side, where the product was displayed, seemed quite a bit drier.  We were grateful for this, as we really didn’t relish the thought of drying out 10 bins of textiles at the end of the day!

Towards the end of the day, we heard a rumble of thunder nearby.  The sky turned dark, and it began to hail.  Soon the grass outside our tent was almost covered by ¼ inch hailstones! 

Views of the storm from our canopy
By this time, we vendors were just standing around gaping at the weather, as pretty much all the visitors had left for dryer, warmer climes.  

About an hour before closing time, Bob, the man in charge, came around and let us know we could leave early.  No one seemed to have a problem with that, so we all began packing up.  Our product usually takes longer to pack up than most other products, so we were not surprised to find ourselves the last vendors to take down our canopy.  As we lowered it and began to take off the tarps, it was a steady downpour.  It continued to pour as we unscrewed the roof tarp and peeled it off the framework, and as we folded up the frame and packed it into its case.  But just as we were getting everything loaded into the van, the sun broke through, and there was a beautiful double rainbow arching over the valley beyond us!   

A few moments later, the sun showed up in all its glory, casting its glow on a sweet little snowman someone made of the hailstones.

We heaved our weary bodies into the van, and headed home, reveling in the warmth and beauty of the sunlight after a dark, wet, dreary day. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Story Behind the Diamonds Twined Knitted Cap

Some years back, I acquired the book Twined Knitting: A Swedish Folkcraft Technique, by Birgitta Dandanell and Ulla Danielsson and translated into English by Robin Orm Hansen.  I was intrigued by the rich texture of the mitten-in-progress on the cover, and wanted to see how this technique was done.  I love learning new techniques, and applying them to my own knitting.  So as I read through this book and swatched some of the stitches, I dreamed of a hat in my own design in this technique. 

Twined knitting is a fascinating technique, which uses two strands of yarn (generally both ends of a center-pull ball) alternately throughout the knitting, which is typically done in the round.  To knit each new stitch, one must let go of the yarn used for the last stitch, and pick up the yarn from the stitch before it, bringing it over the yarn last used (for a knit stitch), or under the yarn last used (for a purl stitch).  This twists, or twines, the yarns  together on the back of the fabric, for a knit row, or on the front of the fabric, for a purl row.  The fabric created is somewhat thicker and firmer than a regular knitted fabric.

Knit diamond with Chain Path
Purl diamond with Chain Path

The twined knit stitch creates a smooth surface on the front of the fabric, while the twined purl stitch creates a horizontal ridged texture.  But the real fun (and rich texture) begins when one works a Crook Stitch.  A Crook Stitch contains three or more stitches with the two yarns held on opposite sides of the fabric.  When working Crook Stiches, the front yarn stays at the front and works only purl stitches, and the back yarn stays at the back and works only knit stitches.  For example, many patterns are worked with three-stitch groups, as follows:  p1 with the front yarn, k1 with the back yarn (leaving the purled yarn at the front of the work), p1 with the front yarn.  The front yarn is returned to the back of the work and the twined knit stitch is resumed until the next crook stitch is to be worked.  On the next row of the Crook Stitch pattern, the same three stitches would be worked as follows:  Bring the yarn to be purled to the front of the work,  k1 with the back yarn, p1 with the front yarn, k1 with the back yarn, then bring the front yarn to the back of the work.  This creates an O-shaped design on the front surface of the fabric, formed by the strands between the purl stitches, and it contrasts beautifully with the smooth surface of the twined knit stitch. 

A Column of Crook Stitch "O's"
Crook Stitch Diamond Pattern

If you work two entire rounds of crook stitches, keeping the purl yarn always at the front and the knit yarn always at the back, and working k1, p1 around on one round and p1, k1 around on the next, you will have a Chain Path.  Working several repeats of this Chain Path pattern creates a honeycomb-like pattern (see the backgrounds of the diamond patterns above).

I decided to use both Crook Stitches and Chain Paths in my cap design.  I used some lovely, buttery-soft yarn from Cascade Yarns, Cash Vero, to create my prototype cap.  The cap turned out beautifully, and I was very pleased with it.  I submitted a photo of this cap to the book 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats, and it ended up being used in the book, along with some of my other hat photos.  The cap was a hit with my local customers, and the original prototype soon sold.

The Original Twined Knitted Cap in Cash Vero

After a couple of people had inquired if the cap pattern was available, I decided to write up the pattern for publication.  After all, it was one of my favorites.  I went to order more of the yarn, and found that it had been discontinued.  I asked Cascade if they had anything similar, but the options they suggested somehow didn't seem quite right.  I finally decided to use their Alpaca Lana D'Oro, which is a soft and warm alpaca/wool blend, but a little thinner than the Cash Vero.

Using my notes from the original prototype (which were not complete, but did contain charts of the pattern elements from the original cap), I was able to knit another cap using the same number of stitches.  The cap seemed just a little bit small for an average sized head (Truthfully, the original was a bit on the small side, too).  I upped the needle size from a 7 to an 8, which made the cap slightly less dense and a little larger.  I also decided to try designing a medium and large size in this pattern.  Since I have not published multiple-size patterns before, this took extra time, as did writing instructions for the techniques needed to knit this cap.  After making a number of these caps in different sizes and yarns, I finally solidified the pattern and got it ready to publish.

So here it is, hot off the press!!  It is available for sale on Craftsy ( ), on Ravelry (, or in my Etsy shop (, whichever is more convenient for you.