#Crochet #TipsTuesday: Take Your Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These Seven Tutorials

Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesdayAs this year’s celebration of (Inter)National Crochet Month starts winding down, I reached out to several other crochet designers to ask what skills and techniques were most helpful to them in building their crochet skills. I got back some great answers that I’m sharing with you today. These tutorials and tips include things you may not have learned along the way. (I know it took me over 20 years of crocheting before I even heard about some of these skills.)

This post contains affiliate links.

1) Starting with a magic ring

The magic ring (or magic adjustable ring) is a great way to start projects that are crocheted in the round. It’s particularly helpful for making top down hats without a little “air hole” at the top. It also helps keep the stuffing inside of your amigurumi projects. Kristine Mullen from Ambassador Crochet shares her magic ring tutorial here.

Ambassador Crochet: How to Make a Crochet Magic Ring | Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday
How to Make a Crochet Magic Ring Tutorial. © Ambassador Crochet and used with permission.

If you’re ready to try that magic circle on a project, here are some of my free crochet patterns that start with a magic ring.

2) Using invisible decreases

Most crocheters are not in love with decreases. While they can be necessary for your project, sometimes they just look terrible. Rebekcah Ferger from Rebeckah’s Treasures shares her tips for making invisible decreases in this video tutorial.

If you’re ready to try out your invisible decreases, try my free amigurumi pattern for the Gift Pocket Bear. It uses the single crochet version of an invisible decrease.

Craftsy

3) Smoothly increasing in the round

If you’ve been crocheting circles in the round, you may have noticed that when you consistently increase in the same spot, you end up with a hexagon rather than a circle. Jess Mason from Screen to Stitch shares her method for crocheting a smooth circle in this video tutorial.

Try out staggered increases in my free amigurumi pattern for the Chubby Sheep.

4) Building your confidence with freeform crochet

Many crocheters work exclusively from patterns because they are worried about “doing it wrong.” Patrice Walker from Yarn Over, Pull Through shares 3 ways freeform crochet boosted her confidence.

3 Ways Freeform Crochet Boosted My Crochet Confidence by Yarn Over, Pull Through | Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday
A freeform crochet project. © Yarn Over, Pull Through and used with permission.

I did my own exploration of freeform crochet back in 2012 and I completely agree with Patrice. I took a wonderful freeform crochet and knitting class with Margaret Hubert. If you’d like to start your own freeform journey, Myra Wood offers both Freeform Crochet and Modern Irish Freeform Crochet classes on Craftsy.

 Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday

 

 

5) End your projects invisibly

Hmmm, invisibility seems to be a theme here! But those finishing details can really make your crochet projects look fabulous. Kristine from Ambassador Crochet shares a tutorial for fastening off your projects invisibly.

Ambassador Crochet: How to Invisibly Fasten Off Your Crochet Project | Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday
How to Invisibly Fasten Off Your Crochet. © Ambassador Crochet and used with permission.

6) Lining your crochet bags

We continue the finishing theme with a tutorial from Maria Bittner at Pattern Paradise for lining a crochet bag with fabric. Another great way to make your crochet bag more sturdy is to felt it. You can find my felting tutorial here, and try lining or felting my free Tunisian crochet pattern for the Basketweave Mini Messenger Bag.

7) Blocking your projects

I’ll admit it, I was as (or more) resistent to blocking as most crocheters. But once I actually tried it, I found that it makes my finished projects look a lot better than they did before. You can learn the blocking basics in this post.

Blocking Basics | Take Your #Crochet Skills Up a Notch with These 7 Tutorials #TipsTuesday
Spray blocking my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl.

If you’d like to try out blocking, here are several free crochet shawl patterns that will just bloom after blocking.

And, a few bonus tips

What crochet skills and techniques have helped you out the most?

Interview with Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm

While at Vogue Knitting Live in January, I was introduced to a local, New York State Capital region yarn vendor, Yellowfarm.  The Yellowfarm booth had an interesting display featuring “long locks” art yarns.  The display really highlighted the beautiful fiber from Yellowfarm’s longwool Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep.

Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

Today, I’m interviewing Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm.  You can find Yellowfarm on their website, Etsy, and Facebook.  All farm pictures are (c) Yellowfarm and are used with permission.

 

Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.
Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started with yarn crafts?

Virginia: I started knitting as a child.  My mother and grandmother both knit, and of course I wanted to be just like them. I was never a very good knitter, but always enjoyed the process. Later on I learned to crochet, but just the basics. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really delved into fiber arts.

I love to knit, and somehow seem to go through periods of no knitting, and then I reacquaint myself with my needles, and really enjoy remembering how much I love the process. Right now I am playing with some Wensleydale lace weight yarn and working on a lace shawl. I have done some weaving on a triangle loom, but never attempted the real thing with all its intricacies. That is something that I have on my list of things I want to spend some time learning.

I also find freeform crochet extremely appealing, and hope to be able to concentrate on learning more crochet stitches and techniques to perhaps enable me to play with that too!

Yellowfarm sheep closeup

UC: Tell us about how you became involved with Yellowfarm.

Virginia: Well, our two girls were grown and we decided to look around to see if we could find an older property that would offer us the country lifestyle we have always yearned for.  We saw this farm and fell in love with it.  It has served us well so far. Both our mothers came here to live out their last years on the farm and now we have two granddaughters that relish coming to visit the farm.

Yellowfarm double sheep closeup

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm.  Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working (the good and the bad)?

Virginia: My husband grew up in the Bronx, and I grew up outside of New York City.  My first career was riding and teaching hunter seat equitation, show hunters and jumpers. I have worked on farms and managed stables just about all of my life, but never owned one.

A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

You are absolutely right about the plusses and the minuses involved. Once you involve yourself with keeping animals on your property, you assume a responsibility that must never fail. No days off, no skipping work, or heading off on a spur of the moment whim. There are animals that need you to feed, water, check for any health issues, administer medications, treat wounds, give shots, or call a vet if the situation warrants. Not to mention the physical necessities of farm life: the fences that need fixing, the fields that need tending, manure that needs spreading. There is ALWAYS a list of things that you just can’t quite finish that are waiting for you to do.

The flip side is that you get to watch lambs being born and help them to stand and nurse for the first time, see stars that you didn’t know were there, and appreciate the seasons with the amazing changes they bring to the farm.

Yellowfarm Stanley

 

UC: Yellowfarm raises American Wensleydale and Teeswater luster longwool sheep. Can you tell us a bit about the yarn properties from each of these animals?

Virginia: The Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep produce long lustrous ringlets of fiber. The breeds are quite similar and stem from the same long wool lines as the Lester Longwool and Cotswold breeds. What distinguishes their fiber is the silky handle, the intense sheen and the fabulous curl. We are breeding both as we have yet to discern which fiber is superior. If processed in a traditional way, the fiber results in a strong, silky yarn. Worsted yarns have an incredible drape, and a bit of a halo. Hand spinners adore these fleeces as they can be used to create amazing textured art yarns. The longer locks from animals allowed to grow for a longer period are perfect for tailspining. The integrity of the lock is incredibly unique.

Yellowfarm Gunner closeup

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your “yarn locks” art yarn. Can you tell us about the difference between your standard and art yarn?  What are the processes they go through?

Virginia: More traditional yarns start with raw fiber that is then washed, picked (fluffed to open the locks and allow vegetable matter to drop out), carded (or combed), and spun by hand (or commercially at a mill) into strands which are then plied together to form various weights of yarns. This is what you are used to seeing as a skein of yarn. In this form of processing the fibers have been made smooth, and lie next to each other forming a uniform strand.

Yellowfarm locks closeup

Art yarns and textured yarns are hand spun yarns. They allow the spinner to create unique and individual yarns with all varieties of textures and colors using an array of techniques. The yarn may be spun directly from the lock of wool in a way that retains the characteristics of those amazing fibers. It also can be lightly carded with a wide range of add ins that give special texture and glitz to the finished yarn. Each skein is completely individual and a reflection of the spinners imagination and spinning prowess.  A work of art.

From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.
From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: Where else can people buy your yarns and meet with Yellowfarm?

Virginia: I sell online via Etsy, but to be truthful, don’t get a chance to update very often. We are highlighting the luster long wool sheep, the Teeswater in particular, at STITCHES East this fall. NYS Sheep and Wool is the granddaddy of fiber festivals in the East. We bring sheep to show there, and are unable to also man a booth. We always welcome people to come up to the sheep barn and say hello, and see where their fiber comes from!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Virginia!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Crochet Workshop by James Walters

VintageNPotW 400

This post contains affiliate links.

This week’s pick: Crochet Workshop by James Walters.

Source:  Amazon.com

Publication date: 1983 reprint of a 1979 publication.

Status: Out of print, but available online (sometimes, for exorbitant prices)  Update: Thanks to PlanetJune for letting me know that Crochet Workshop will be republished by Dover next year.  You can order it on Amazon here.

Condition: Good.

Craft: Crochet.

Crochet Workshop cover

I first learned about this delightful book from Crochetbug.  (You can learn more about James Walters in this post on Crochet Concupiscence.)  Unfortunately, the book’s condition is such that it is difficult to enjoy.  You see, it reeks of smoke.  One day, I hope to air it out enough for me to actually want to read through it, but until then, I am limited to brief moments of picking it up until the smell is unbearable, and then washing my hands profusely.

I did take some time to photograph it so I could share some of it with you.

Crochet Workshop 8 suit
A freeform crochet body suit.

You can almost immediately feel the sense of whimsy, creativity, and joy that Walters has to offer.

Crochet Workshop 67 shaping

The book includes all kinds of information that you would rarely see in a crochet book today.  As a freeform pioneer, Walters shows you how to create your own projects, rather than rely solely on patterns.

Crochet Workshop 105 swirls

There are many great illustrations, and I can’t tell if these are by Walters or someone else.  Here is one showing the progression of various spiral crochet pieces

Crochet Workshop 156 motif2Crochet Workshop 157 motif1

These are part of a section that explains how to construct motifs of different kinds.

Crochet Workshop 207 freeform

There are examples of several freeform garments included in the book…

Crochet Workshop 214 hairpin

as well as explorations of specialized techniques, like hairpin lace.

Crochet Workshop 215 hairpin lace risque

Most of the projects are displayed artfully, rather than functionally.

Crochet Workshop 248 thigh highs

I really wish I could bear to read through this book, because I am sure I would learn a lot and be completely inspired.

Crochet Workshop 225 gown

Hopefully, one day it will come back into print (or be available as an ebook) and I will have the chance to read it cover to cover.  Until then, does anyone have any tips for removing foul odors from books?

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: The Crochet Sweater Book by Sylvia Cosh

VintageNPotW 400

This post contains affiliate links.

This week’s pick: The Crochet Sweater Book: Over 30 original designer patterns by Sylvia Cosh.

Source: PaperbackSwap.com.

Publication date: 1987.

Status: Out-of-print but widely available online.

Condition: Very good with protective library-type plastic cover.

Craft: Crochet.

Crochet Sweater Book cover

The Crochet Sweater Book is the first true crochet fashion design primer that I’m aware of in the modern era. (Notice I qualified that with “that I’m aware of.” Those of you with fantastic vintage collections, please feel free to jump in with suggestions to correct me.) Written by the extremely talented Sylvia Cosh (with, according to the inside but not the cover, James Walters), this book basically translates runway fashions onto your hook.  (Ravelry members can see 12 of the designs from the book here.)

In her introduction, Cosh describes crochet as “one of the easiest and most versatile forms of fabric making” and reminds us that it’s “surprisingly easy, and very satisfying, to create different textural effects, unusual color combinations, original stitch patterns or an indvidual garment shape.”

This book highlights Cosh’s favorites from her collection of “hand-dyed crochet sweaters and cardigans…exported to Europe, the United States, and Japan” and shares the patterns in “yarns readily available in the shops.” In addition to her shop fashions, she includes

a range of complimentary, but rather different, designs, to ensure greater variety. However, one of my aims in preparing this book was to offer inspiration and to encourage experimentation… I hope you will use my patterns as a starting point for individual interpretation and eventually for creating your own crochet designs.

A woman after my own heart!

Two versions of the Basic Sweater, made with sport weight yarn.
Two versions of the Basic Sweater, made with sport weight yarn, from the Simple Beginnings chapter.

The book begins with a section on Crochet Design, where Cosh describes some of her inspiration from nature and shares how she uses crochet stitches to interpret these themes. She also mentions her preference for “[l]arge batwing sweaters” that “seldom date.” Um, I’m not totally sure I agree with that assessment, but it is good to know what her preferences are! Cosh also explains that her garments are also predominantly made in the round to eliminate the dreaded seaming issue.

The next section, Before You Begin, reviews materials, measurements, and working in the round, and refers you to other section of the book for reference on colors, charts, pattern abbreviations, and techniques. She spends a full page on gauge, and includes a detailed insert on making a gauge swatch.

The next several sections focus on yarn and color section. Selecting Yarn has some great pictures of different weights, types of yarn, and colors. Yarn Texture shows swatches of double crochet and bobbles/dimensional stitches in a variety of textured yarns and explains different fibers and yarn textures. In Selecting Color, Cosh enables all of us stash horders by providing tips for “Building Up a Yarn Collection.” In Sources of Inspiration, Cosh shares pictures of yarn (in balls and wrapped) next to various inspirations including shells, pottery, flowers, mushrooms, and beads. It is a really interesting way to look at yarn colors and textures! For Understanding Color, Cosh provides a basic overview of color theory.

A fashion sketch of Silver Linings in blue.
A fashion sketch of Silver Linings from the Simple Beginnings chapter.

The next chapter, Simple Beginnings, shares four simple patterns, including the Basic Sweater with two variations, Simple Stripes and Color Blocks, and Silver Linings, with a turtleneck and bobbled center panel. Many of the sweaters have a simple shape so the patterns are a page or two at most (including pictures!).

The Bobbles and Diamonds chapter is where Cosh starts exploring her wild textures and colors. The five patterns in this chapter combine yarn and color with stitch texture to create bold projects. My favorites are Hydrangeas, a vest with bobbled floral motifs, and Crunchy Creams, which looks like a totally radical ‘80s fashion fantasy come to life.

Stone Circles cardigan.
Stone Circles cardigan from the Circles and Stripes chapter.

In the next chapter, Circles and Stripes, Cosh plays with a Catherine Wheel pattern (the “circle”) as well as stripes. Her Midnight Circles and Stone Circles cardigans and Balloons child sweater use the same stitch pattern with different sleeves and colors for completely different looks. In her Gilded Pinks cardigan, Cosh shares tips for combining many colors for a stashbuster project while avoiding “a rag-bag look.”

The Geometrics chapter is where Cosh uses color blocking, highly contrasting stripes, and charted color changes to create exaggerated color effects.

City Squares, from the Geometrics chapter.
City Squares, from the Geometrics chapter.

 

Cotton Jazz (left) and Jazz Lines from the Geometrics chapter.
Cotton Jazz (left) and Jazz Lines from the Geometrics chapter.

The Chevrons chapter makes use of ripple or chevron motifs, often with added texture from post stitches.

The dramatic Butterfly Blues, from the Chevrons chapter.
The dramatic Butterfly Blues, from the Chevrons chapter.

The final chapter, Celtic Cables, makes use of bold cabled diamonds with encased bobbles.

Kids Cables from the Celtic Cables chapter.
Kids Cables from the Celtic Cables chapter.

In the back of the book, Cosh has a Crochet Techniques section with illustrated instructions and/or descriptions for basic crochet stitches, increasing and decreasing, working in the round, joining and working with multiple colors, and finishing. She also has a small gallery of textured stitch swatches.

Swatches from the Crochet Techniques section.
Swatches from the Crochet Techniques section.

Throughout the book, you get a sense of Cosh’s warmth and creativity, and you can tell that she is a passionate freeformer. You have a feeling that even if you follow the pattern exactly, you will have a uniquely individual creation each time. I enjoy that feeling of freedom and whimsy that she shares in her writing – it doesn’t seem that you can do anything “wrong” with your crochet when reading this book.

My one gripe about this book is the subtitle.  There are exactly 31 designs, and, as I mentioned, several are variations on other designs.  Yes, technically over 30 but really right on the line.  But this is a relatively minor complaint for a book with so much going for it.  The Crochet Sweater Book has great, stylized photography that shows the details of each design.  The patterns are frequently charted in addition to the abbreviations.  Cosh shares design tips throughout and the layout is easy to follow and attractive to view.  And, it’s a hardcover so it lays flat and you can crochet while reading.

Confession time: Way back when, I bought this book online for a few bucks. When it arrived, my inner-teenager had a fashion attack. (Parents/teachers, you know what I mean. You’re trying to show an important image or film from the past, and all the kids can talk about is how stupid everyone’s hair looked back in the day.) I looked through the pictures and many of them screamed ‘80s to me. I decided I would never use this book and ended up selling it to someone else online. Years later, I learned about Cosh and discovered she was a crochet genius so I probably needed to give this book a second chance.  I ended up searching for it again and finally brought it back into my collection.

I’m telling you this story because if you were overwhelmed by bright colors or over-sized sweaters in the ‘80s, too, you might have this gut reaction. I urge you to work your way through the book anyway, because what you will find is exactly what Cosh promises in the introduction, a starting point for your own creativity to flourish, aided by her expertise as a designer and teacher.  If you can get your hands on a copy, I strongly recommend that you do.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Year one finale in Bruges lace

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

I am having great fun with Bruges lace, which I’m learning from the master herself, Tatyana Mirer, in a three-week class at Knit-A-Way.  I’m the only person in the class at the moment, and it is a fabulous experience to spend the time with such an amazing teacher and designer.  Last week, I mentioned that I had bought a skein of Lamb’s Pride Worsted at the shop for the class, and it was more or less a disaster.  The yarn is actually quite nice, but it is really just not a good fit with Bruges lace swatches!

My Bruges lace square in Victorian Pink (which looked lavender to me when I bought it).

After the first class, I decided to use some Galler Yarns Parisian Cotton that I have on hand from some designs I have done for them.  I don’t use crochet cotton thread that often, but it is absolutely perfect for Bruges lace.  It was also just about the only yarn I cared to touch during the two days last week which were well over 95 degrees and extremely humid!

I should mention that I haven’t blocked any of these swatches.

A Bruges lace circle.

 

A Bruges lace curve.
A Bruges lace oval. I had a lot of fun with this one.
The first part of a Bruges lace wave.
A Bruges lace square in progress. I lost my trusty 00 crochet hook on the subway shortly thereafter :(.

My favorite technique was adding an insert to the Bruges lace square.  I see a lot of interesting possibilities for granny squares.

Bruges lace motifs are join-as-you-go, so I could avoid at least some of the yarn ends…

On Thursday, I’ll have the last class.  Tatyana will be showing me some tubular techniques, and I’ll also be starting the Sparkling Wave Scarf from The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.  I plan to make it as a holiday gift for my friend, OB, as part of my Holiday Stashdown Challenge.

I’m surprised that it has been almost a year since I joined in on the Year of Projects through the Come Blog-A-long group on Ravelry.  Even though I had been planning to work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters anyway, I had a wonderful time joining in with other crafty bloggers along the way!  Next Sunday, I’ll share my plans for year 2 of the Year of Projects (which I’m still formulating in my head).  You might want to join in, too!

This year, I had a chance to try out many techniques from Crochet Master Class that I had never used before, like hairpin lacesingle crochet entrelacpainted crochetfreeform, and Bruges lace.  I experimented a lot more with techniques I had used before, like woven crochetTunisian crochetfilet crochetdouble-ended crochetIrish crochet, and the bullion stitch.  I so wanted to be like Minding My Own Stitches, a YOP blogger who faithfully completed every project in one book.  Alas, I found that I wasn’t inspired to work with some of the techniques from the book.  And there are other techniques that I didn’t cover that I definitely want to return to, like overlay crochet and tapestry crochet.

I’m very grateful to harleagh from When Did I Become a Knitter for hatching up the idea of blogging through a book, and, of course, to Rita Weiss and the late Jean Leinhauser for compiling a collection that really inspired me to push myself creatively and to further develop my crochet techniques.  I look forward to more exploration in the next year!