Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Free Fall Crochet Color Charts: Acorn, Tree, Owl, Pumpkin, and Mushroom

I've been getting in to the autumn mood. I'm smelling the crisp air, getting cozy in warm clothes, and drinking warm beverages. To celebrate fall I've decided to share a few crochet color charts that I made on Stitch Fiddle. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Learn to Crochet Lesson Five: How to Read a Yarn Label

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts dedicated to teaching you to crochet! Crochet has changed my life and I know it can change yours as well, from the calmness it brings to the pride of creation. If you're just now joining us on our journey, keep in mind that you should be comfortable with Lesson One: How to Tie a Slipknot, Lesson Two: How to Work a Chain Stitch and Base Chain, Lesson Three: How to Single Crochet, and Lesson Four: How to Half Double Crochet before beginning today's lesson.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, and one of my goals for these lessons is to bring you information that I wish I had had when I was starting out. You're almost ready to begin your first complete project. Wahoo! Before you do, let's talk about yarn labels.

Yarn labels are full of information that will help you select the right yarn for each project. Some yarns are thicker or thinner than others. Some skeins have more yards of yarn and some have less. Different yarns work best with different sizes of crochet hook. Yikes, it can all be a little overwhelming can't it? Not to worry! Today I will address each part of a common yarn label and tell you why that information is useful to you. Let's get started!

Our first example is Lion Brand's Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool blend. This is the yarn I am going to be using for the project in Lesson Six, a potholder. Let's take a look at the symbols and text on the label and decode them one by one.

First we have the brand and the yarn line. The major brand here is Lion Brand and the sub-brand is Martha Stewart Crafts. Other examples of yarn brands are Berroco, Cascade, or Bernat. At the bottom we see the yarn line, in this case Extra Soft Wool Blend. Each brand makes many different lines of yarn that are different thicknesses and are made of different things. Other yarn lines by Lion Brand include Vanna's Choice, Wool-Ease, and Fisherman's Wool. Yarn lines by Berroco include Comfort, Captiva, and Marmot. The brand is the major yarn company and the yarn line is one type of yarn among many that the company produces.

Here we have the fiber content. The fiber content tells you how much of each different kind of fiber is in the yarn. This yarn is made of acrylic and wool. It's important to know what your yarn is made of because it helps you decide how to use it and how to launder it. For example, nylon gives yarn strength and gloss, so you may choose to use a yarn with nylon for a hat that will be worn all of the time. Alpaca is very soft but also a bit fragile, so you may want to use it to make a special scarf for your sister for her birthday. A 100% wool yarn shouldn't be washed in the washing machine in warm or hot water or it will change shape and size, making it a bad choice for a dog blanket that will need to be washed often. The yarn store employees can help you select a good yarn for your project as you start out, though most patterns suggest a yarn for you to use. I chose this yarn for our Lesson Six potholder because acrylic is very washable and wool is self-extinguishing in case of fire. Plus, I love the crisp finished product it creates.

The "4" symbol on this yarn is telling us the weight of the yarn. The weight refers to a yarn's thickness. This yarn is medium weight, also called worsted weight. Not all yarns fall perfectly into a weight category, but for now just know that yarn generally comes in 0/Lace weight, 1/fingering weight, 2/sport weight, 3/DK weight, 4/worsted weight, 5/bulky weight, and 6/super bulky weight. If you are following a pattern they will tell you what yarn weight to use.

Here we see the needle and hook size recommendations as well as the suggested gauge. The hook size that is recommended for this yarn is 6mm, but that doesn't mean you have to use that size. Staying close to that size is a good idea. If you are following a pattern they will tell you what hook size to use. The gauge tells us how many stitches and rows we can expect in a given area. In this case, a 4"x 4" square should be 14 stitches across and 18 rows tall when using a 6mm hook. We will talk about gauge in depth in another lesson.

Okay, so you've figured out what weight you need (4). Now you need to figure out how many skeins, balls, or hanks of yarn to buy. Pretend your pattern calls for 250 yards of medium weight yarn. Well, since this label tells us that one skein of Extra Soft Wool Blend has 164 yards, we know that we will need to buy two and that we will end up with a little extra. Some patterns list yarn requirements in ounces or grams rather than yardage, so that information is available as well. Weighing yarn on a scale by the ounce or gram is also useful if you've got some yarn leftover from an old project but you aren't sure if you have enough left to use on your new project. It would certainly be inconvenient to unwind all of the yarn, measure it by yard, and then wind it back up again! Thank you mathematical conversions <3

Here we see the color name, color number, and lot number. The color name for this yarn is gray pearl. The number assigned to that color is 550. This will make it easier to find if you need to buy more skeins online, etc. So what's a lot number? Yarn is dyed in lots, aka batches, in big vats. Some lots/batches are large and some are small. Even though the company tries to make the color look as similar as possible every time they dye a new batch, the very nature of dye means that it isn't always possible. Some lots end up just a touch different in color, maybe a bit lighter or a bit darker. It's important to buy each of your yarn skeins from the same lot whenever possible so that your project will turn out uniform and not have weird stripes of off-color. The lot number of this skein is 032.

Finally, we have the laundry recommendations for your finished project made with the yarn. Here's a reminder of laundry symbol meanings.

Wow, that was a lot of information on one piece of paper, wasn't it? Never to fear. You will be practicing your yarn label reading skills when you select your yarns for upcoming projects in this series. Before we go, let's look at a boutique yarn label and compare it to our Lion Brand example.

Our above yarn, Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend, would likely be found in a craft store like Joann's or Michael's. It is what is known as a craft store yarn or widely available yarn. This next type of yarn would be found in a local yarn store that caters to somewhat higher quality yarns. These types of yarns are called specialty yarns, boutique yarns, or even indie yarns. Both craft yarn and boutique yarn can be bought online and both are useful for crochet. However, their labels will often be different, with boutique yarns providing less information. Let's look at this label for Madelinetosh (that's the brand) Tosh Merino Light (that's the yarn line).

Some of the info is the same. We can see that the color is Chamomile, handwritten on the side. It is 100% wool. It is a fingering weight yarn (1), and each hank has 420 yards. It also tells you how to wash it. However, the weight in ounces isn't listed. There isn't a dye lot, which means you will have to look at each hank carefully to make sure it matches the others you are buying. The gauge and needle recommendations given are only for knitting, not crochet. What are we to do? One way to discover answers is to use the internet, particularly Ravelry. You could also ask the yarn store employee for help. Finally, you can do the math yourself.

Yay! You have learned so much today! Get ready to use everything we have learned together for Lesson Six. I can't wait! If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Slim and George Make A New Friend

It was my friend Jodi's birthday recently and I decided to gift her an octopus for her cats to play with. She sent me some cute pictures of Slim and George investigating their new friend, and I'm going to share them with you!

It's always nice when a crochet gift is appreciated, whether by humans or cats or both!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Creating Crochet Charts in Stitch Fiddle

Have you heard of Stitch Fiddle? It's a free new stitch charting tool from the Netherlands that serves knitters, embroiderers/cross stitchers, and crocheters! You can use it to make traditional stitch charts, filet charts, and color charts. It seems really versatile. I played around with it a bit recently and have decided that, for me, it is probably most useful for its ability to make color charts. You can even set the gauge for your chart, as well as the dimensions. Here are a few screenshots of my experimentation. Be sure to try it out for yourself, and thanks to Toni for introducing me to it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer Sprigs Lace Scarf in a Special Colorway from A Good Yarn Sarasota

It's done! It's done! It's finally done! Can you tell I'm excited? The lace weight shawl that I have been working on is blocked up and aired out. I made this shawl to test out a special colorway, Cabbage Patch, produced by Dream in Color for A Good Yarn Sarasota. I think it was perfect for this project and I was very pleased with the yarn.

I followed this pattern by Esther Chandler. I have followed one of her patterns before, something I just remembered. I was a touch confused in a few places, so I fudged and hoped for the best a few times :) Overall the pattern is a good one, and the finished product is delightful. Plus, I am super grateful for free patterns, especially since I know what goes into writing one.

Without further ado, here's my Summer Sprigs!

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Contribution to Mandalas for Marinke

In another post I talked about Mandalas for Marinke, a collaborative project that is being organize by Kathryn Vercillo. Her goal is to raise awareness about depression and to honor Wink, a crochet designer who recently took her own life.

I decided to use an unlabeled, vibrant, variegated yarn for my contribution in the hopes of inspiring happiness. Though I know all too well that one can't just simply choose to be happy, especially in the grips of depression, surrounding oneself with beauty and light can take the edge off for a while. I started with one of Marinke's patterns and then branched off and did a bit of freehand to finish my mandala.

If you are interested in participating in the project, keep in mind that your mandala needs to be postmarked by October 15th.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Learn to Crochet Lesson Four: How to Half Double Crochet

Hello! Welcome to Lesson Four of my Learn to Crochet series. To prepare yourself for this lesson you should already be familiar with the material in Lesson One: How to Tie a Slip Knot, Lesson Two: How to Work a Chain Stitch and Base Chain, and Lesson Three: How to Single Crochet. Today you will learn to do the half double crochet stitch. It is very similar to the single crochet stitch but has a few extra steps in the mix. Remember, when learning something new it's easiest to work with a light color, as well as worsted weight yarn and a 5mm, 5.5mm, or 6mm hook. Let's get started!

Start with a slip knot on the hook just as you did when making a base chain for single crochet.

Chain 16 stitches. This will be the width of your swatch. Now, chain 2 more stitches. Half double crochet is taller than single crochet, so instead of simply chaining 1 extra stitch to add more height, this time we need 2 stitches. Our base chain is now 18 stitches wide.

Before we insert our hook, we will be doing a yarn over. This is different from single crochet, where you insert the hook without yarning over. We are basically adding an extra loop to our hook. Now, insert your hook into the third chain from the hook.

Why the third chain? Remember, those first two chain stitches are needed for height. They won't count as a stitch in half double crochet. Also note that I am inserting my hook into the back loops of my chain stitches on my base chain. You can insert your hook into the back loop, front loop, or both loops of the base chain. However, when you start working into actual stitches, be sure to insert the hook under both loops.

After you insert the hook, draw up a loop just like in single crochet. I now have three loops on my hook -- the original working loop, the loop we made with our yarn over, and the loop I just drew up through the chain stitch.

Yarn over again. The stitch is almost complete.

Now pull through all three of the loops on your hook. Congratulations! You have now completed your first half double crochet stitch. To the right of my stitch you can see the two chain stitches that were used for height. 

Repeat this process for every remaining chain stitch. Yarn over.

Insert the hook and then yarn over again.

Draw up a loop. You now have three.

Yarn over once more.

Finally, pull thorough all three loops.

Here I have reached the end of the first row by working into all of the remaining chain stitches. It's time to chain and turn so that I can begin the next row.

I need 2 chain stitches. This is just like those extra two chain stitches on our base chain. I need them for height. When working other, taller stitches in the future we will be counting our turning chains, or chains used for height, as stitches. However, in single and half double crochet the turning chain is not generally counted as a stitch.

Now we turn our item so that the back sides of the stitches from the previous row are facing us. This will allow us to continue working from right to left. Remember not to crochet into those two chain stitches!

Working under both loops of each stitch, work 1 half double crochet into each stitch. 

Here I have reached the end of my second row. Notice that I am not working a stitch into the chain 2 from the previous row because it doesn't count as a stitch in half double crochet.

Here I have chained 2 once more and I'm ready to turn my item and start my third row. See the height that the chain 2 adds? 

Practice your half double crochet until you feel comfortable with it. Next in our series will be a simple project that will teach you how to read a simple pattern and how to mix basic stitches. You're on your way, baby!