Monday, October 12, 2009

New crochet tricks

Well, I was planning one of my Christmas gifts, a sweater for my mom. I had thought of her when I first saw the pattern last December, kept it in the back of my head, and when she asked me to make another sweater for her, I showed it to her and she loved it. She even ordered the yarn!

So, anyway, the yarn came this weekend. It is Patons Classic Wool in Peacock, which is lovely. I decided to play with it a little, and work a gauge swatch. It felt so nice, and while working with it, I tried out a few new tricks I had read about this last week. Boy, do they work well!

The first was standing double crochet, which can be modified for any tall stitch. It simply allows one to eliminate a chain to bring the yarn up to the height of the stitch. In place of the chain, fasten off the yarn, place slip knot on hook, yarn over and double crochet into the appropriate stitch. Easy, huh?

Then the author of the blog where I was reading about it issued a challenge. Figure out a way to do the standing double crochet with no slip knot on the hook. So I did! I've always hated slip knots in my work, because they look terrible and are hard to work around. This method allows me to start any project, or add yarn, without the horrible knot. If you want more information on how I do this, leave a comment and I will update. It's too late at night for me to work it out in words; I have only visuals in my head of what to do.

The last little trick has to do with getting a decent tension on the yarn. Usually I wrap the working end of the yarn over my index finger, under my middle finger, over my ring finger, then finally under my little finger. This worked fine, but at times became a little unwieldy. The solution? Run the working yarn through a ring on my ring finger, then over the top of my index finger to control it. It's the slickest thing. The one caveat: I can't do this with my wedding ring unless I am going to cut the yarn when I need to put my work down, and I typically don't wear any other ring. I suppose I could get something cheap to wear just when I am crocheting, that could be taken off my finger and left on the yarn when I am not? I'll have to give that one some thought.


On to the real triumph of the weekend!

The sweater pattern for my mom has two different stitch patterns. One is alternating single and double crochet for a textured pattern, the other is a lace pattern. In the pattern notes, instructions are given for each. The seed stitch one is very easy, no problems. I work up a gauge swatch in no time. However, I get to the end of the 3rd row of the lace pattern, and the end of the row is really goofy. I mean can't make sense of it no matter how many times I read it, try to crochet it, rinse and repeat. It's the weekend, so I doubt I can call the magazine publisher for details, errata, etc., so what do I do? I decide I will try to chart it out with crochet symbols to see if I can find the problem and work a fix on my own. Here's the problem with that: I don't chart well with pencil and paper and I don't know all the correct symbols anyway (or even some of them, for that matter).

WELL! I just got out the old internet and started searching. First for the symbols; I needed a chart that was as complete as possible. I found the craft yarn council of america's website, which had not only the chart I needed, but size charts for all kinds of apparel for all kinds of people. WOOT!

Then I got the bright idea that I would use the computer to chart the pattern. I have a drawing application, so I opened it up and got started creating each of the stitch symbols I would need. Hours later, I am still working with this, but I have a cursory working model, so I stop and take a look at it. I hate it. The drawing and copying and rotating all takes waaayyy toooooo looooonnnngggg! So, I started a new search: a software download that would let me do this chart quickly. After all, I only need to clarify the end of a row of pattern stitch, not solve the mysteries of the universe!

Anyway, I found several items of interest and downloaded them (the free ones or the demos), and NOT ONE was any good to me. Even if they were really good programs, most would only work in the round, as if working a doily or motif of some kind. The others were for filet crochet, which I do not do. None of these would help me.

I was getting pretty frustrated. Then I read a post somewhere that talks about fonts. AHA! I say to myself, "This is what I should have been searching for in the first place!" It took a little bit of digging, but I certainly found one worth having, and it only cost $3.

I played with it in a word processor, but decided a graph look was more what I needed, so moved to spreadsheet. I made all the cells squares and got to work with the new font. It took a couple hours, but I charted the six rows I needed to find the problem. I got pretty good at typing out the symbols without looking at the keyboard layout that came with it (capital O is a chain st; + for single crochet; capital D for double). I only wish I would have thought of this when I first decided I needed to chart the pattern!

"Okay, so what was the problem with the pattern?" you ask. Well, it turns out there was an extra multiple in there that, by leaving it out, everything worked fine.

All in all, a lot of effort this weekend that payed off BIG TIME! I zipped through the new gauge swatch quicker than you can say, "Frogging is my favorite past-time".

Remember, it's better to love than to be right!

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