Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chameleon Cowl

My Chameleon Cowl is now available as a download for $5.00. 
You can purchase it from Ravelry by clicking here:

You can also purchase it from Craftsy and Kollabora.

Like a chameleon, this cowl changes its look depending on the colors you choose. The interlocking stitches make a unique  texture and leave fewer holes for warmth to escape. Wear it draped or fold the extra and secure it with a pin for extra warmth and drama.

Yarn: Any fingering yarn, approximately 520 yards (see Yarn Notes). Model shown in Dragon Faery Dyeworks Gradient Yarn Kit, 80% Merino, 20% Nylon (6 hanks, 90 yds each, 520 yards/pkg); colorway: Outlander.
Supplies: Size G-6 (4mm) crochet hook, Yarn needle, 2 Locking stitch markers
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 27” (68.5cm) in circumference and 10” (25.5cm) tall.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Things Designers Do To Sabotage Your Project

We don't do it on purpose, but designers sometimes sabotage the people trying to make our patterns.

Designing for publication isn't as easy as it might seem. After the initial spurt of inspiration and excitement about a new idea, comes many hours of hard work. I'm going to give you the process from the designer's point of view and indicate where the unintended sabotage can happen.

1. As we create a new design we need to make notes about how we did it so that we can do it again.
We designers often write out our notes in a shorthand that makes sense to just us. It's very abbreviated, often jumping over the hard parts to figure out how to write it down later.

2. Then....we have to rewrite that pattern in a way that follows some sort of standards that someone other than ourselves can figure out.
Sometimes a pattern is fairly straightforward, but often there's some special way that something is done in order to get a unique result. That is a place where we can easily get hung up and fail you.

3. We have to decide what the difficulty rating is. Just because it's easy for us doesn't mean it's an easy pattern for the general public.
Everyone has their own ideas about what makes a pattern more or less difficult. What stitches were used, any special way those stitches were used, and what yarn is the pattern sample worked in. So even if the designer is only using basic crochet stitches, how they use those stitches can take it from beginner, to easy, or even intermediate in a heartbeat. But sometimes, once you know the trick, the pattern goes back to being easy.

4. We have to make sure to include all the details that help the maker do it right. The yarn details, what hook was used, if it needs other things like buttons and stitch markers, what size the finished project should be, and the gauge.
This is where the sabotage seems to happen a lot.
Example 1- Assuming everyone will get the same results with the same size hook: I had found a delightful pattern for a baby cap. I don't have any children and don't see newborns very often, so when I realized the designer hadn't included dimensions or a gauge I was dismayed. I had no idea how to make sure the finished hat was the right size. She listed the hook and yarn size, but I couldn't be sure that it would come out right since the thickness of worsted can be varied, I didn't know what specific yarn she used, and my gauge might have been tighter or looser than hers. Because she failed to give me the most basic information I needed to successfully make her pattern, I couldn't even attempt it.
Example 2 - Mixing up gauge with dimensions: I recently helped a friend figure out a shawl pattern that she wanted to work on. This designer had rated it as being at her level of experience but had not offered a gauge or dimensions for the finished project. The dimensions were embedded in the pattern to be figured out as she went. I spent a lot of time helping my friend to figure out the gauge from the pattern dimensions embedded in the pattern so that she could find out if the yarn she had would work. Even then we had to keep checking along the way, not completely certain that we had it right.

5. Once we've written up the pattern in a way that is readable, we have to photograph the sample...
The pattern photograph(s) has(have) at least two purposes. One is to show people what the pattern makes. The second is to help the maker get a sense that they're doing it right. A pattern is type of puzzle and it helps to have a photograph to reference.

Photographing the sample for a pattern takes some training, experience, planning, and time. Whatever we do, it needs to make it clear to the viewer what it is and what is special about it. If it's something to be worn it is beneficial to have it on a body, whether it's a person or a manikin. The lighting has to be just right to show off the whole thing as well as any special stitches or textures. In addition, the photograph has to be in focus, have an appealing composition, and a background that complements and doesn't distract. Needless to say, getting a good photograph can be quite difficult.

6. ...and then choose a way to get it proofed for errors.
As our writing teachers told us, always proof your work. And that often means having someone else go over it who has never seen it before. We get so familiar with what we've written that we can no longer see our errors. The same is true of a crochet pattern and this is where a lot more of the sabotage can happen.

The two most common ways of checking the pattern for errors are tech editors and testers. Tech editors check your math, the way a pattern is written, errors in spelling and grammar, as well as making suggestions as to how parts might be worded more clearly. Testers are people who actually make the pattern and give the designer feedback on things that don't make sense, they had to fix, or need to be worded better. Both are good ways of proofing a pattern as long as they are quality people who are good at what they do.

That said, no one is perfect and errors can still be missed. Sadly, some people either skip this step or don't use someone who knows what they're doing.

7. Sometimes diagrams or charts are needed.
These are the additional bits that help to complete the written pattern. They can include diagrams of the object with dimensions, visuals to show assembly, graphs for color work, symbol diagrams showing the stitches, and anything else that needs explaining with a visual.

These can require special skills, special tools, and just as much time as writing the pattern. If they're done well, they're a great resource for the maker; however, if not, they can actually confuse things.

8. Finally it all gets laid out on paper and published.
This is another area that can require special skills, instincts, and even special tools. It's not a requirement to have an attractive layout (although nice), but it is important that the layout makes the pattern easy to read. I'd say that the only sabotage I've encountered here is readability or having trouble finding what I need. As with anything, breaking things up a bit and putting in a good amount of white space for the eye to rest is always a good thing.

If you encounter a pattern with problems I hope you will consider sending the designer a KIND note letting them know what you experienced. I know I like to hear about things that don't make sense or are incorrect because I want your crochet experience to be a good one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Using Stitch Markers to Keep Track of Your Row End/Turning Chain

I often have a newer crocheter come to me in frustration and self-recrimination because their work is getting wider or narrower and they don't know why. It's usually because they're having trouble keeping track of that elusive turning chain at the beginning of the row and/or forgetting to skip the first stitch when the turning chain counts as a stitch.

First, I always tell them to stop beating themselves up. Everyone has this problem when they're first learning to crochet. Second, I let them in on a secret. Even experienced crocheters have trouble keeping track of the ends of the row. Especially when the yarn has color or physical texture that makes it hard to see your stitches. Third, I give them the tip I'm going to give you.

1. Buy or find a pair of locking stitch markers. If not locking ones, at least ones that are easy to get on and off and will stay in place, not falling out before you need them to. Like the spiral kind. They're not expensive and well worth adding to your tool stash.

Spiral stitch marker is on the left and the locking stitch marker is on the right.
2. When you work your turning chain for the next row, place your stitch marker in the last chain worked. When you work the last stitch in the row, put a stitch marker in the top of it, too.

The stitch marker it in the top stitch of the turning chain on the right and in that top of the last stitch of the row.
3. When you start the next row, the first stitch marker you encounter will tell you which stitch to skip and you can move it up to the last stitch in the turning chain.

You can see where the first stitch marker showed me to skip the first stitch (ideally you would move it to the top of the turning chain) and I'm about to work the final stitch where the stitch marker is placed in the top of the turning chain.
4. When you get to the end of the row, the stitch marker will not only show you where your turning chain is, it will show you exactly where to place the final stitch in the row. When you've worked that last stitch you can move the stitch marker up to the top of it.

My stitch markers have been moved up to the last row worked.
It's a bit fiddly but if it helps you achieve your goals of having a perfect edge, why not?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sanctuary Scarf

My Sanctuary Scarf is now available as a download for $5.00. 
You can purchase it from Ravelry by clicking here:
You can also purchase it from Craftsy and Kollabora.

The rich, earthy colors of this scarf are perfect for a princess living in the woods waiting for her prince to appear. It's made as a continuous, möbius loop which gives you flexibility in warmth and also keeps it from getting lost. The chunky yarn means it works up fast and soft.

Yarn: Any bulky weight yarn, approximately 130 yards of the main color and 70 yards in each of two secondary colors. Model shown in Tahki Yarns Juno, 97% Alpaca, 3% Acrylic, (1.75oz/50g, 84 yds); colors: Lavender (008), Paprika (007), and Chestnut (009).
Supplies: Size K-10.5 (6.5mm) crochet hook and a yarn needle.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 6.5" (16.5cm) wide and 50" (127cm) in circumference.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Learning to Crochet with Lace Weight Yarn: Part Four

This is the fourth part of my series on crocheting with lace weight yarn. The first part was about getting comfortable using smaller and smaller hooks, the second part was about managing your tension and gauge, and the third part was about the importance of developing a good rhythm and practicing tall stitches.

Start small. Don't start with a shawl, start with something smaller like an edging. Find a pattern with a simple repeat. When you've gained some comfort at that level, then you can start enlarging your projects.

Here's a simple edging you can start with. I used a lace weight alpaca and a B/1 2.25mm hook.

Row 1: Ch 4 (counts as dc), dc in 4th ch from hook, ch 4, sl st in same ch as dc, turn.
Row 2: Ch 6, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), dc 9 in ch-4 sp, dc 2, turn.
Row 3: Ch 3 (counts as dc), sk first st, dc 1, ch 4, sl st in base of dc just made, turn.
Row 4: Ch 6, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), dc 9 in ch-4 sp, dc 2, turn.
Continue by repeating Rows 3-4 until you have your desired length.

Now, try it with treble crochet:
Row 1: Ch 5 (counts as dc), tr in 4th ch from hook, ch 5, sl st in same ch as dc, turn.
Row 2: Ch 7, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), tr 12 in ch-5 sp, tr 2, turn.
Row 3: Ch 4 (counts as tr), sk first st, tr 1, ch 5, sl st in base of tr just made, turn.
Row 4: Ch 7, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), tr 12 in ch-5 sp, tr 2, turn.
Continue by repeating Rows 3-4 until you have your desired length.

Having finished your edging you may find that it is curling out of control and that can be alarming and even disappointing. But here's what you can do, and it's easy.

• Get some soap. My preference is Eucalan and you can get it at your local independent yarn shop or online. I like it because you only need a tiny bit and you don't need to rinse it out.

• Mix up a little in a bowl with tepid water. Put in your edging and get it thoroughly wet. They recommend soaking it for 15 minutes.

• When time is up, remove the edging and gently squeeze out excess water. A great way to do that without worry is to wrap it in a towel and squeeze. The water will be absorbed into the towel.
• Now lay out your edging on that towel, gently untwisting and straightening it, teasing out picots to a point. Then just let it lay there and dry. When it's fully dry you'll find that it lays flat and behaves nicely.

So, have some fun and try out crocheting with lace weight yarn. You might be surprised where it leads you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mountain Top Spats

My Mountain Top Spats are now available as a Ravelry download.

You can wear these for all to see or discreetly tucked under your pant legs. Either way, they’ll keep your ankles toasty warm. The buttons down the side are both functional and a stylish design detail.

Yarn: Any light worsted yarn, approximately 260 yards. Model shown in Mountain Colors Twizzle, 85% Merino, 15% Silk, (100 gms/250 yards); color: Hummingbird, 2 skeins.
Supplies: Size F-5 (3.75mm) crochet hook, yarn needle, 16 buttons that are 1/2” (1.25cm) in diameter, sewing needle and matching thread.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 8.5” (21.5cm) wide and 9.5” (24cm) long when unbuttoned and laid flat.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Banana Leaf Shawl

My Banana Leaf Shawl is now available as a Ravelry download.

Inspired by sun-dapples banana leaves, this shawl is a little bit of Aloha spirit to take home. Worked tip to tip in both Tunisian and regular crochet, it's just right for cool island breezes or an early fall walk on the mainland.

Yarn: Any fingering-weight yarn, approximately 800 yards. Model shown in Hanalei Strings Hand-dyed Bamboo Merino Fingering, 50% bamboo, 50% merino (100g/435yds), color Banana Patch, 2 skeins.
Supplies: Size F-5 (3.75mm) Tunisian crochet hook with an 11" cord and yarn needle.
Finished Dimensions: Approximately 12.75" (32.25cm) deep at center and 62.5" (158.75cm) wide across top edge.

It's also available on 

Craftsy, Kollabora, and Patternfish.