Tag Archives: linda permann

Book Review: Crochet Red

Today is National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association‘s annual event to bring attention to women’s heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.  This year, Jimmy Beans Wool founder Laura Zander is bringing her Stitch Red campaign to crochet, with Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health, a collection of 31 patterns. Since I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, I thought I’d spread awareness by reviewing Crochet Red, instead.  (A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support The Heart Truth campaign.)

crochet red

The book opens with a stunning image of a stack of red crocheted items, and then shares a thumbnail of each of the designs in the table of contents.  Not surprisingly, the book then launches into a series of notes, forewords, and prefaces (by the director of the Heart Truth, Deborah Norville, Vanna White, and Laura Zander), each of which discusses women’s heart health.

The next section of the book, Projects and Profiles, includes 30 patterns.  Each pattern includes a designer profile.  In many of these, the designer shares their own story related to heart health.  Most patterns also include a health tip from the designer, such as their favorite heart healthy foods or exercise.  Most patterns, especially the wearables, include multiple views of the project.  The exceptions are the two wraps, neither of which is shown on a model, and the smaller projects, like the mitts, which just include one picture.  The garment patterns also include schematics (in red, naturally).  All patterns are written in U.S. crochet abbreviations, and five patterns also include international stitch symbols.

The next section, Heart-Healthy Living, includes a variety of information about heart health, such as self test, exercise recommendations, tips for staying motivated about healthy lifestyle changes, and nine recipes.

The Crochet Know-How section shares the standard “back of book” information like a glossary of abbreviations, hook sizes, yarn weights, and a US to UK abbreviation conversion chart.  It also includes short photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches (chain, single, slip stitch, half double, and double crochet) and the adjustable ring for crocheting in the round.  The book ends with a bonus pattern, a list of yarn suppliers, and an index.

Throughout the book, images of mountains of red yarn, piles of red crocheted fabric, and models in red garments are presented against mostly white backgrounds.  The contrast creates a really beautiful effect and you just want to keep flipping through the book.  The layout is particularly helpful in the Heart-Healthy Living section because it contains a lot of text.  The contrasting colors and the images break up the wall of text and keep the book visually interesting.

Overall, the book includes 31 patterns.

Pattern Type

  • Women’s top (cardigans, tunics, shrugs, pullover, etc.): 9
  • Women’s coat or jacket: 4
  • 3 each: cowls, scarves, bags
  • 2 each: hats, blankets, wraps
  • 1 each: pillow, mitts, sachet


Difficulty Rating

  • 13 easy,
  • 13 intermediate, and
  • 4 experienced.


Three of the designs – the Tunisian Chevron Scarf by Sharon Silverman, the Tunisian Shrug by Kristin Omdahl, and the Vintage Tunisian Shell by Rohn Strong – are Tunisian crochet patterns.

My favorite designs are the Flower Garland Cowl by Robyn Chachula, the Gingham Afghan by Tanis Galik, the Heart Shaped Coat by Nicky Epstein, the Petal Cabled Hat by Linda Permann, the Slouchy Cowl by Edie Eckman, and the Sweater with Cowl by Marly Bird. Ravelry members can see the 30 main patterns on the book’s source page here.  (The bonus pattern, Kristin Nicholas‘ Heart Sachet, is visible on the book’s front cover.)

Although this book has a stunning layout and a great collection of patterns by many of today’s most popular designers, there are a few things I wish were done differently.  I would have liked to see the wraps on models, particularly since they can be challenging to style.  I think many crocheters would want to see more patterns with international stitch symbols.  Most of the garment patterns are in 3-4 sizes and some crocheters will be looking for more.  The Heart-Healthy Living chapter is a bit lost at the end – putting it up front would have made everyone look through it and would probably have a greater impact on awareness.  I wish there was more information about how much of the proceeds were going to The Heart Truth.  (Is it a percentage?  A fixed amount per book?  Is there a maximum donation? etc.)

This is a surprisingly affordable collection of patterns, particularly since there are so many garments.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who likes pattern collections and who enjoys crocheting projects for women.



Full disclosure: A free review copy of Crochet Red was provided by Sixth & Spring Books. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Book Review – Crochet Noro: 30 Dazzling Designs

Yay, it’s my first book review of 2013!  (I actually read this book back in December, but life got in the way of me posting a review earlier.)

The book I’m reviewing today is Crochet Noro: 30 Dazzling Designs, and the publisher, Sixth & Spring Books, was kind enough to send me a review copy.

Crocheters who are fans of Noro Yarns – or of Sixth & Spring’s two prior Noro books, Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color and Knit Noro: Accessories: 30 Colorful Little Knits - have been waiting for this book for a while.  The concept is simple: 30 crochet patterns that are perfect matches for the color combinations found in Noro yarns.

The book is made up of patterns by 21 designers (including 8 by Kazekobo/Yoko Hatta and 2 each by Mary Jane Hall and Linda Permann).

There is a range of skill levels and project types included.  All patterns are written in U.S. pattern abbreviations, and several also include charted stitch symbols.  Here is a breakdown of the patterns in this book:

Skill level:

  • 12 Easy
  • 16 Intermediate
  • 2 Advanced

Project type:

  • 7 Garments (2 Cardigans, 1 Pullover, 1 Skirt, 2 Tunics)
  • 7 Scarves/Cowls
  • 5 Shawls/Capelets
  • 4 Hats
  • 3 Bags
  • 2 Mitts/Wristers
  • 2 Home Decor (1 Throw, 1 Nesting Bowl)
  • 1 Necklace


  • 8 Motif projects (5 assembled using join-as-you-go methods)
  • 3 Beaded
  • 1 Felted
  • 1 Short Rows

Stitch Symbol Charts:

  • 13 charted in pattern
  • 3 charted in back of book


I had the opportunity to see a trunk show for the book at the December, 2012 meeting on the New York City Crochet Guild.  I was looking forward to seeing the samples for Doris Chan‘s Bias Mini Skirt and Yoko Hatta’s Flower Blossom Purse and Lacy Capelet.  (Warning: Keep in mind these pictures were taken in a church basement.)

Bias Mini Skirt.
Flower Blossom Purse.
Lacy Capelet.

I wasn’t disappointed.  I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the Chrysanthemum Shawl by Anna Al.

Chrysanthemum Shawl.


All of which brings me back to my book review.  My overall reaction to this book is virtually identical to my review of Knit Noro: Accessories.  To my eyes, this book is presented as an artsy tribute to Noro yarns and not as a crochet pattern book.  While I can attest to the fact that the designs are, in fact, quite beautiful (because I’ve seen them in real life), there is so much going on visually in this book that it is often difficult to see the projects.

Most projects are photographed against walls with floral wallpaper, on models with clothing in bold colors with elaborate patterns or adornments.  It’s almost as though the entire layout is competing with the projects for your eye’s attention.  Nonetheless, the projects overall are quite lovely (and would probably work well in other yarns, if you’re not a Noro fan).

This is a hardcover, and it does lay flat while you crochet.  Crocheters who enjoy working with thinner yarns or colors will definitely enjoy these projects.  The range of skill levels make this book appropriate for all but beginners to pattern reading.  As with all pattern books, your enjoyment will be closely related to how much you like the designs.  Ravelry members can view images of all but one design on the book’s source page here.

My overall rating is 4 out of 5 stars.  Though I have concerns about the presentation, the patterns I’ve looked through are clearly written and the projects I’ve seen are beautiful.  If you were hoping for a giveaway, you’ll have to look elsewhere because I’m keeping my review copy.  I’m hoping to make at least one of these projects in 2013.

FO Friday: Baby legwarmers and Winner: 30 Min-Knits

For the second week in the row, I’ve finished a quick project from stash yarn for my friend AW’s new baby.

This is my version of the Cozy Crawlers Leg Warmers from Linda Permann‘s Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers.  (The pattern is also available as a free download here.)  I used about half a skein of Bitsy Knits Bitsy’s Sock in the Quite a Party colorway.

I bought this yarn at the 2011 Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival.

It's the yarn in the front.

Once I wound it up, I realized it wasn’t going to work for an accessory for me since it was too… lively for my tastes.

I was also a bit worried about pooling.  (If only I had read this post from Le Tissier Designs then — I would have known exactly what to do with this yarn!)  I’m not too stressed by pooling in infant legwarmers, though ;).

I may have time to make another quick project, but I might just mail these out with the booties, a card, and some children’s books.


In other news, according to Random.org, the winner of the giveaway for my review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less? by Carol Meldrum, courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series, is number 5…


Congratulations, Jane, and thanks to everyone who entered!  You can read my review of the book here.


For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis!

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Handmade Gifts to Make

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) signifies the official start of the holiday shopping season.  In the spirit of keeping the holidays a little more handmade and small business and a little less mass produced and corporate, I’m sharing several holiday gift guides today.

Handmade gifts to make

This time of year, many crafters are using every spare moment to make holiday gifts for their loved ones.  Tracie Barrett‘s Gift Giving Guide on the Fibers by Tracie blog gives some great suggestions for quick-to-make holiday gifts and Fearless Leader recently posted a teaser for the Crochet Liberation Front‘s upcoming Official Guide to Super Awesome Gift Giving.

My personal favorite last minute crochet gift projects are scarves made with bulky yarns (or multiple strands of yarn), hats, and cotton washcloths.

For scarves and washcloths, I turn to my stitch guides for inspiration.  Don’t have any stitch guides?

Not sure how many stitches to start with?  This post in my Crochet 101 CAL explains how to use your gauge to figure out how many stitches to start with if you want to make a project of a specific size.

Some of my holiday 2011 washcloths.

Hats make wonderful, quick holiday gifts.  Some of my favorite crochet hat patterns:

Stocking Caps. (Photo (c) House of White Birches.)

I just reviewed 60 More Quick Knits, which has some great knitted hat patterns, as well as patterns for mittens and scarfs.  My favorite crochet mitten pattern, amazingly available in 8 sizes from infant to XL adult, is Heart Strings by Cathy Pipinich.

Amigurumi can make a fun gift, too.

Filled with great gift ideas!

Speaking of books I haven’t had a chance to review yet, there are three great patterns in Little Crochet: Modern Designs for Babies and Toddlers by Linda Permann that would make speedy children’s gifts: Cozy Crawlers Leg Warmers (6 mo – 2 years, and available here as a free excerpt), Tiny Tee Appliques to add to store bought or hand sewn clothes, and Beanie and Bonnet (in baby, toddler, and child sizes).  (Beanie and Bonnet errata available here.)

handmade gift bag can be a wonderful addition to a handmade or store bought gift.  These bags can be also reused, unlike conventional wrapping paper, making them more eco-friendly.Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence has a great list of crochet patterns for bags in this blog post.  The Mel Stampz blog has a list of 50 templates and patterns for papercrafts gift bags.

Deborah Atkinson from Snowcatcher has excellent crochet patterns and tutorials in her Snowflake Monday posts.   (It would be great if you could contribute to her charity of choice, Bike MS, so that she can send you a PDF of her 20 most popular designs.)  These snowflakes would make great holiday decorations or embellishments for gifts.  Some of the patterns would also work well as a set of holiday coasters.

With all of this holiday crocheting and knitting, you may be running low on yarn.  So why not stop by your Local Yarn Shop to celebrate Small Business Saturday?  You can even register your American Express card in advance to get a $25 credit on your statement if you spend at least $25 at a small business on Saturday, November 26.  Your LYS employees are guaranteed to have some additional project ideas and maybe even a few new patterns or yarns for you try out.  (If you’ll be yarn shopping in NYC, check out my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops.)

If you aren’t in the mood for knitting, crocheting, or papercrafting, handmade food gifts are another option.  I like to make jar mixes:  I don’t exhaust myself with last minute baking, the mixes last longer and can be used after the holidays end, and the jars can be reused in the kitchen or for craft storage.  Nestle‘s Very Best Baking is a good site for finding classic gift recipes.  My favorite jar mixes to give are the classic Toll House cookies mix, the chewie brownie mix, and the hot cocoa mix.  For those who don’t like chocolate (and there are some of them out there), I like the pumpkin cranberry bread mix or the oatmeal chip cookie mix (substituting butterscotch chips, raisins, or craisins for the chocolate chips).  You can also check out the Best Cookie Mix in a Jar Recipes and Dry Soup Mix Recipes pages at Allrecipes.com for more ideas.  If you can’t find canning jars in your area, there are many online options for ordering these days.  Just remember that if you are shipping jar mixes, you need to be careful about packaging.

Enjoy the first gift guide, and feel free to share your favorite gifts to make in the comments!

Interview with Tanis Gray, review of Knit Local, and giveaway

Today, I’m interviewing Tanis Gray about her new book, Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns.  Her publisher, Sixth & Spring Books, sent me a copy to review, and I’ll also be hosting a giveaway for my review copy.

Tanis is an accomplished knitwear designer.  She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and was the former Yarn Editor at Soho Publishing.  Like many yarn crafters, she shares her love of the craft through her volunteerism, and teaches knitting at a women’s shelter and also donates Snuggles to pet shelters.  She can be found at her website or her Ravelry designer page.  All photographs are used with Tanis’s permission, and credited appropriately below.

The Interview

Tanis Gray


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?

Tanis: My mother taught me when I was 8 years old with the help of a family friend. Both my grandmothers were knitters and crocheters. I can’t wait to get knitting needles in my son’s hands! I think everyone should knit and am a big believer in knitting being taught in schools. I’d love to see it taught in every single school in America. It teaches concentration, basic math, self confidence, a sense of accomplishment, color skills, and the simple act of being able to provide for yourself. If you’re cold, make yourself a hat! (UC comment: This is so true!  I’m always impressed when people tell me they learned knitting and crocheting at school “back home” before coming to the U.S. – and they all seem to have a better understanding of math than our students here!) People are too plugged in nowadays. We need to break that cycle with the new generation and knitting could be instrumental in that.

Knitted Gift Box, published in Vogue Knitting on the Go: Quick Gifts.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Tanis: I had always designed my own mittens, hats, and scarves. I was in a serious mitten phase for many years and pretty much anyone I knew got a pair at some point. I started looking for certain things in stores and could never find exactly what I wanted. That led me to start designing, but I didn’t get serious about it or have the confidence until I worked at Vogue Knitting to try designing beyond accessories. Seeing my first sweater design published was a thrill. I still get a tingle of excitement when I open a magazine or book and see something I designed and knit on the page.
Atelier Gloves, published by Lion Brand Yarn. The pattern is available as a free download on their website.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Tanis: Everywhere! There are so many museums where we live in Washington, D.C., and my mom and I spent so many weekends at the art museum growing up. Looking in magazines, reading books, seeing something on the street, in a dream… Inspiration is all over, you just have to keep your eyes open.
Cabled Belt, published in Vogue Knitting.
UC: Your new book, Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, has just been published.  What was the design process like for this book?
Tanis: I had worked on so many books for other people while working at Soho Publishing. Being in charge and working on every single aspect where it was all on me was interesting. I wrote the entire thing on my kitchen table and at a few local coffee shops and it was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and last thing before I went to sleep. It was so much writing, talking on the phone with the yarn companies, emailing, fact checking, photo gathering, and patience.
My husband is a green mechanical engineer and he was a big inspiration. When we first started dating he changed all of my lightbulbs to energy efficient (long before it was trendy), investigated my recycling, and opened my eyes to living a more enviormentally-friendly lifestyle. Getting a bunch of designers together to design for this book who understood what it was I was trying to convey was a tough process, and I think the end result speaks for itself. The designs are beautiful and I am so proud of everyone who contributed.

My soul is in this book and I hope people love it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Caprica, published by Be Sweet Yarn.
UC: You have held many roles in the yarn industry, including working as a designer, editor, and now author.  What advice do you have for aspiring needlearts professionals?
Tanis: Never give up. Designs get rejected all the time but it’s not necessarily because the design was bad. It may not have fit into the issue or been what they were looking for that time around. Keep trying and keep designing. Don’t be married to a certain idea. I’ve seen people submit the same design over and over again because they loved it so much but it wasn’t what the magazine was looking for. Self publish it on Ravelry, get it out of your system and start again. Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before being published! Where would we be without Harry Potter? That’s a fantastic example of determination and not giving up.
Hat and Scarf Set, published by Knit Simple.
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Tanis: I have so many knitting books. When another one comes in the mail, my husband always asks “do you really need another knitting book?” The answer is YES! I especially love older knitting books that are very straightforward. There are no bells and whistles, just the knitting. But on the other hand, I love glossy, full-color, beautiful books also. It’s interesting to have books from the Victorian era that are falling apart next to the most popular of today sitting side by side on my shelf. I’m a big fan of historical knitting books because I think it’s so important to know the history of a craft if you love it, especially if you do it as a career.
Over and Out Scarf, published by ArtYarns.
UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?
Tanis: I’m an equal opportunity fiber lover. I love cotton, which many people don’t like knitting with, but a nice springy wool, a soft alpaca, a beautiful hand dye… I love it all! I think you should try every fiber at least once. Sometimes I’m surprised at how much I’ll love a yarn that I may have been unsure about.
Thanks, Tanis, for taking time out for the interview!

Book Review

I was very excited about reviewing Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, and for the most part, my high expectations were met.

The concept of Tanis’s book is great.  The target audience is confident knitters in the United States who are environmentally conscious and/or interested in knowing more about how the yarns they love are produced.  Tanis encourages you to learn about where your yarn comes from, and introduces the reader to U.S. based companies who produce yarn in an eco-friendly manner.  By promoting these companies, Tanis aims to encourage us to be more environmentally conscious consumers, who buy products locally to reduce the carbon impact from transportation.  To this end, the book is arranged regionally, and includes a profile of twenty-eight yarn companies.  Each company’s profile is followed by a pattern using one or more of its yarns.

What I like about this book:

  • As someone who has always live in an inner-city, and who occasionally fantasizes about living on farm, producing my own super awesome yarn, I was thrilled to read about people who’ve actually lived this dream.
  • The stories of the different companies are really interesting. (Full disclosure: I find entrepreneurs and their stories interesting – if you don’t, this could bore you to tears.)
  • It was helpful to read the business philosophies of the different companies and to know more about their products.  I learned a lot about the philosophy behind some of my favorite yearns.
  • I enjoyed learning about new yarns, and especially about those produced by small, independent yarn companies.  The profiles feel more intimate than reading about the yarn company on a website – almost like being introduced by a friend.
  • The resources section in the back includes information about knitting notions made in the U.S., as well as information about the yarn companies profiles in the book.
  • The book is graphically attractive and has excellent photographs.  It definitely qualifies as “eye candy.”
  • Unlike many books, which have no defined target audience and include beginner tutorials along with advanced patterns, this book aims squarely at the experienced knitter.  Two patterns are done in crochet, and the rest are in knit.  About half of the projects are advanced difficulty, with the rest being mostly intermediate.  There is one easy pattern.
  • There is a broad range of projects by many different designers.

(Side note: My favorite knitting patterns were the Big Man on Campus Hoodie in Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance by Josh Bennett, the Cabled Car Coat in Farmhouse Yarns Andy’s Merino by Sauniell Connally, the Maritime Hat and Mittens in Swan Island Yarns Worsted by Jil Eaton, the McEnroe Diamonds Scarf in Juniper Moon Farm Fire Wool Worsted Weight by Ben Walker, Farmhouse Gloves in Solitude Romney by Kristin Nicholas, and the Winterthur Beret and Cowl Set in Hazel Knits Artisan Lively by Elspeth Kursh.  It might be my crochet bias, but I really liked both crochet patterns too, the Wildflowers Scarf in Buffalo Gold Lux by Linda Permann and the Random Harvest Afghan, photo-styled like a shawl, in Brown Sheep Company‘s Lamb’s Pride Worsted by Randy Caveliere.)

On the other hand…

Like some works of conceptual art, the book doesn’t come together exactly as you would imagine based on hearing about the concept.  For example:

  • After Tanis convinces us in the opening pages about all of the benefits of buying local to reduce environmental impact, the back cover flap proudly declares that the book was manufactured in China.  It is hard to believe that Sixth & Spring couldn’t find a location in the Western hemisphere to publish this book, especially given the subject matter.
  • It is wonderful to see a book with so many different designers represented.  However, I’m not sure that any one knitter would actually be interested in making this diversity of patterns.  There are baby/child garments, men’s and women’s clothing, all manner of accessories, a pair of socks, and a sprinkling of home decor – in quite a few different styles and using a range of techniques.  The book doesn’t look as cohesive as most books with a limited range of designers or a project theme.  I think many people look for themes in their books – either a project type (e.g., socks) or emphasis on a certain technique (e.g., cables), so this aspect of the book may limit its appeal.
  • While the back cover declares “30+ Gorgeous Knits!,” I keep counting and only get 30 projects.  I actually think 30 projects is plenty for a book of this price – but since the back cover has me thinking there are more projects, it seems like something is missing.
  • I can’t help but wonder why the companies with only 1 yarn produced in the U.S. are included (though their stories are just as interesting as the rest).

The verdict

I don’t knit nearly as much as I crochet, and if you read the blog regularly, you know that I don’t tend to follow patterns, so I’m not in the target audience of this book. However, it does stand on its own as an introduction to some of the small, independent yarn companies in the U.S.  I think an environmentally conscious knitter who likes at least five of these patterns would be quite happy with the book.  (And it would be easy to find 5 patterns you like, since the patterns on the whole are really great and represent a variety of techniques and styles.)  If you are not persuaded by Tanis’s case for buying local, eco-friendly yarns, you may still be swayed by the 30ish designs included in the book.  I do think you are likely to rate the book higher if you are interested in the environmental issues Tanis presents, or prefer to shop local for other reasons.  I would rate the book as a 4 out of 5 stars for the experienced, eco-conscious knitter.  It is an attractive exploration of diverse projects with interesting, well written tales of independent yarn companies.  This is not a book for a beginner knitter, and will probably have limited appeal to eco-friendly knitters outside of the U.S., or knitters who aren’t particularly concerned with how their yarn is produced or its impact on the environment.

The Giveaway

I’m giving away my review copy of Knit Local: Celebrating America’s Homegrown Yarns, courtesy of Sixth & Spring.  In the spirit of the book, this giveaway is only available to those with U.S. mailing addresses.  (Don’t worry, my international peeps – I have another giveaway coming up for you soon!)

You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, October 30, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Crochet Lyceum: Crochet 101 – Class 3/6: More Stitches, Gauge, and Pattern Reading

Welcome to Week 3 of Crochet 101, the first CAL/class in the Crochet Lyceum with Underground Crafter series.

Visit this post for the full course outline and more information about how to participate.

Week 3: More Stitches, Gauge, and Pattern Reading

This week, we will learn two more stitches and will begin exploring gauge and pattern reading.  Here is our outline for today’s post:

  • Review homework and questions
  • Half double crochet stitch
  • Working into the back loop and the “third loop”
  • Slip stitch
  • Introduction to gauge
  • Basic pattern reading using a two stitch pattern
  • Homework

Today’s post includes text and video.  As with last week, I recommend that you read through the text first before watching the video.

Review Homework

How do your single crochet stitches look?  Here are some typical problems you might see with the cause and solution.

  • Stitches are all different sizes: Your tension is changing.  The hand controlling the yarn (left hand if you are a righty and right hand if you are a lefty) needs to get a more even grip on the yarn.
  • Very small stitches that are hard to get into: Your tension is too tight.  Before making the next stitch, run the loop on your hook over the thumb rest to stretch it a bit.  Relax the hold on the yarn in your yarn hand.
  • Huge, sloppy looking stitches: Your tension is too loose.  Before making the next stitch, pull the yarn more firmly so that the loop on your hook fits very snuggly.
  • You have fewer and fewer stitches as the piece grows: You are decreasing the number of stitches.  This is generally because you have forgotten to make your turning chain and then skipped the first stitch of the row.
  • You have more and more stitches as the piece grows: You are increasing the number of stitches, usually by working more than one stitch into each stitch from the row before.

I saw some nice pictures posted on Ravelry, so I know a few of you have even completed your first projects!

There were two questions about going into the front loop and whether or not it is “required” for single crochet.  With most crochet stitches, you will have the option of working the stitch into the front loop (which we did last week), into the back loop (which we will do today), or into both loops (which we will do next week).  Each option will produce a different texture, so you will probably develop a favorite over time.  Also, sometimes a pattern will specify which technique to use.  (True beginners: If your eyes are glazing over at this point, it is ok!  Just keep moving through the lesson :)!)

Half Double Crochet Stitch

The half double is another one of the basic stitches of crochet.  It is a bit “chubbier” than the other stitches and it also is the only stitch which has a “third loop.”  Because of that third loop, you can do some very interesting textural things with the stitch.  (Side note: I first learned about using the third loop in 2007 from Helen Jordan‘s wonderful book, Textured Crochet.  In my opinion, it is the only crochet stitch guide which makes wonderful use of this feature.)  The half double crochet has more drape than the single crochet stitch, and it is a bit taller, so your work will “grow” faster than with the single crochet.  It is actually my favorite stitch, and you will see it a lot in many different types of patterns.  I personally love using this stitch with hats.

Several rows of half double crochet stitches. You can see that there is more texture on this stitch than the single crochet.

Download this handout to learn how to form a half double crochet stitch.

Working into the back loop and third loop

After reading through the post and watching the first part of the video (below), you are ready to get started.  Last week we talked about the front loop, and this week we will explore the back loop.

(c) 1984, The National Needlework Association.
This is a view of a row of stitches highlighting the back loop. (Working into the back loop is demonstrated in the video, too.)

In the video, I will also demonstrate how to use the wonderful third loop of the half double crochet stitch.

Slip Stitch

The slip stitch is a very interesting and underutilized crochet stitch.  We will learn more about it in weeks to come, but here is how you form the stitch.

(c) 1984, The National Needlework Association, Inc.

Insert your hook into the stitch (in this picture, the slip stitch is being worked into the chain).  Bring the yarn over.  Draw the yarn through both the stitch and the loop (through both loops).

(c) 1984, The National Needlework Association, Inc.

You will be left with one loop on the hook. If you are working entire rows in slip stitches, you will make one turning chain before starting the next row, just like single crochet.  Tip: Make your slip stitches loose, or they will be very hard to work into once you get to the next row :).

Watch the video and practice

Now that you have read about the half double crochet stitch and slip stitch, check out the video.  Practice by making at least 10 rows of each stitch.

Introduction to gauge

Now that you have some swatches of your half double crochet and slip stitches, let’s talk about gauge.  If you still have something you made with single crochet, bring that out, too.  For this part of the lesson, you will also need a measurement tool.

Illustration (c) 1984, The National Needlework Association. The text is my modification.

For some crocheters, gauge is a bit of a curse word, but it need not be.  Your gauge tells you the size of your stitches.  In the U.S., gauge is generally measured in stitches or rows per inch.  Across the row (horizontally, in the picture above), you can measure your stitch gauge.  Across the height of your project (vertically, in the picture above), you can measure your row gauge.  Not all patterns include row gauge, so for today, let’s focus on stitch gauge.

Your gauge is determined by four things:

  • Your tension (how loose or how tight you form the stitches),
  • Your choice of hook (with a larger circumference making larger stitches, so fewer stitches per inch),
  • Your choice of yarn (with a thicker yarn making larger stitches, so fewer stitches per inch), and
  • The stitch.  (You may have noticed that even if you keep your tension, yarn, and hook the same, the single crochet, half double crochet, and slip stitch will all be different sizes.)

Changing any one of those four things will change the number of stitches per inch.

Lay your swatch down on a flat surface, and place your ruler above it, towards the center of the swatch.  Why? You want to measure where you will have the most consistent tension, so that would be once you get comfortable and “into your groove.”

Measure across the row, for two inches.  Then, divide the number of stitches by 2, to get the average number of stitches per inch.  In the picture above, there are 6 stitches in 2 inches, or 3 stitches per inch.

Well, this is all very exciting, but what does this number have to do with anything?  When you look at a pattern, having the correct gauge ensures that your project will turn out the same size as the one in the pattern.  Having the wrong gauge means your queen sized blanket could end up a baby blanket, or your baby sweater could fit a teenager.  Linda Permann recently had a great example of what happens when you don’t check your gauge in this blog post.

What do you do if your gauge is different than the pattern’s recommended gauge?

  • If you have fewer stitches per inch than the pattern recommends, it means your stitches are bigger than those of the pattern writer.  To make your stitches smaller, you can use a smaller hook, a thinner yarn, and/or a tighter tension.
  • If you have more stitches per inch than the pattern recommends, it means your stitches are smaller than those of the pattern writer.  To make your stitches bigger, you can use a larger hook, a thicker yarn, and/or a looser tension.

Basic pattern reading using a two stitch pattern

The first big hurdle in reading a pattern is understanding the gauge.  Now that we are past that, what about the rest?  For today, we are going to talk about pattern abbreviations.  Most patterns in the U.S. are written, and use a system of abbreviations.  Reading patterns is kind of like learning a secret code language :).  This handout gives you the key to the secret code.

Let’s try a simple two stitch pattern, using the half double crochet and slip stitch that we learned today.  This stitch pattern is usually called the crunch stitch.

This picture shows the crunch stitch over many rows. The combination of half double and slip stitches, with their different heights and textures, produces a really interesting crocheted fabric.

Start with any multiple of 2 chs, plus 1 for the foundation ch.

(Side note: If you have a project in mind, start with a small swatch of about 15 chs, then check your gauge!  You can make the piece as large as you need by calculating the number of inches you would like the project to be and multiplying it by the number of stitches per inch in your gauge.  Add 1 chain to that total number to get the number of chains you should start with for your project.)

Row 1: Sk 2 chs.  *Sl st in next ch.  Hdc in next ch.*  Repeat from * to * across to last ch.  Sl st in last ch.

Row 2: Turn. Ch 2.  Sk t-chs and 1st sl st.  *Sl st in next hdc.  Hdc in next sl st.*  Repeat from * to * across.  Sl st in t-ch.  Turn.

Repeat Row 2 until your project is the desired length.


For next week:

  • Practice reading patterns by making the crunch stitch (as a swatch, or as part of a project).
  • Explore different textures.  Make one sample swatch where you make at least 2 rows of single crochet in the back loop and then at least 2 rows of single crochet in the front loop.  On the same swatch, make at least 2 rows each of half double crochet in the back loop, in the front loop, and in the third loop.  Look at the differences in textures.  What method (front, back, or third loop) do you like better for each stitch?
  • If you are feeling adventurous, alternate going in the front or back or third loop within the same row.  For example, in a half double crochet swatch with 15 stitches, work 5 in the front, 5 in the back, and 5 in the third loop.  With just a few stitches, you can make things that look very different!

You can post a reply here, on Flickr, or my Ravelry group if you have any questions or want to share your pictures of your stitches and projects.