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Tall Stitch Circles

Six crochet circles in graduated sizes of tall stitches from half double crochets up to quadrupel trebles.

Have a look at these simple flat circles I swatched last month. This is research for my Tall Stitch Virtuosity crochet class. Each circle has a closed center and just two rounds of a tall stitch. The yarn is my own Lotus yarn. Lots of things to notice.

Formula for Tall Stitch Circles

A consistent mathematical pattern developed, and I’m going to trust it from now on. From left to right (see above):

  • Purple circle: chain 7 to begin each round; 36 quadruple trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 72 in round 2. For a US quadruple treble (quadtr), yarn over 5 times to begin stitch.
  • Magenta circle: chain 6 to begin each round; 30 triple trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 60 in round 2. For a US triple treble (ttr), yarn over 4 times to begin stitch.
  • Red circle: chain 5 to begin each round; 24 double trebles in round 1 (see Closed Centers note below), 48 in round 2. For a US double treble (dtr), yarn over 3 times to begin stitch.
  • Orange circle: chain 4 to begin each round; 18 trebles in round 1, 36 in round 2. For a US treble (tr or tc), yarn over 2 times to begin stitch.
  • Peach circle: chain 3 to begin each round; 12 trebles in round 1, 24 in round 2. For a US double crochet (dc), yarn over once to begin stitch.
  • Pink circle: chain 2 to begin each round; 8 half doubles in round 1, 16 in round 2. For a US half double (hdc), yarn over once to begin stitch.
Six different tall stitch circles in a stack

It’s thanks to the really tall stitches that I understand where I’ve gone wrong with crocheting circles (of any stitch) in the past. I couldn’t actually tell if they were going to come out alright while I crocheted these. They didn’t seem like they were going to lie flat, but they did, beautifully and consistently, once I gently blocked them.

This means the ol’ 1970’s advice to wing it (instead of using a formula)— to add stitches when it looks like you need to as you crochet each round? That way lies madness, for me anyway.

Closed Centers (note)

I used the magic ring (PlanetJune has good explanation) for all of them. I was unable to fit more than 18 stitches in the ring and still be able to close it completely. So, when the tall stitch circles are made with double trebles or taller (the red, magenta, and purple ones shown), I put 18 stitches in the ring plus the necessary amount of Y-stitches distributed evenly around.

This means the red circle of double trebles required 6 Y-stitches, for a total of 24 stitches in Round 1 (18 dtr + 6 Y-sts = 24). The magenta circle of triple trebles needed 12 Y-stitches in addition to the 18 ttr to total 30 stitches for Round 1 (18 dtr + 12 Y-sts = 30). For the purple circle, Round 1 needs to have 36 stitches in it, so 18 quadruple trebles plus 18 Y-stitches (18 dtr + 18 Y-sts = 36).

Y-Stitch? Huh?

I don’t have step-outs at hand for showing how to do a Y-stitch for this. Have a look at Tamara’s over at Mooglyexcept that I don’t chain between the tall stitch and the Y-stitch that is linked to it.

Why Really Tall Stitch Circles?

They’re surprisingly beautiful. A simple architecture that you somehow never see. I found no circles of really tall stitches anywhere. You could accent them with surface crochet in contrast colors, or alternate with rounds of shorter stitches. That would make for nice future blog post.

Tirple treble circle and Quadruple treble circle shown in a window with rainbow light filtered through them
Tirple treble circle and Quadruple treble circle with rainbow light filtered through them.
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Crochet Retreat Idea

Editor of Theresa Capuana describes Shanie Jacobs' crochet retreat; book cover design is crocheted.

It’s Day Thirteen of my self-quarantine from the pandemic. One of my favorite ways to use this time is to reduce my large collection of crochet books. As I mentioned recently, my husband and I plan to move. Fewer books will make moving easier.

I discovered an interesting bit in the Foreword of Shanie Jacobs’ Crochet Book published in 1979. I’ve bolded the part that I can’t stop thinking about!

Shanie Jacobs was already an outstanding designer when she first came to my office in 1973 to show me a wonderful bias-striped poncho she had crocheted and which we subsequently presented in our February 1974 issue. She had just returned to New York City after six work-filled months of communal living with two friends and their seven children in an old wood-heated house in upstate New York. The three women had set up a rotating daily schedule that enabled one woman to carry out the household duties and care for the children while the other two crocheted. It was here that Shanie, who had never crocheted before joining the commune, really learned the basis of her craft in an environment of shared experiences where each gave of her specialty.

Theresa Capuana, Needlework and Crafts Editor, Woman’s Day Magazine 1979.

So Many Questions!

Shanie Jacobs, from her website.

I have many questions for Ms. Jacobs! (Unfortunately she recently passed away.) Who were the other two friends and how did this crochet retreat plan come about? It sounds like the other two already knew how to crochet different things. Did Shanie come up with the idea as a way to hone her crochet skills?

What about the seven children: have they stayed in touch with each other? How did they get along? How do they remember those six months? Was anyone else there besides three women friends and seven children? Whose house was it?

A rotating chores schedule among three moms seems workable. I’ve done some long solitary days of marathon crocheting to meet design deadlines for publishers. After crocheting for two days straight, I’d welcome a day of simple routine tasks. What fun to be able to listen in on what the other two crocheters are talking about!

How Did Her Schedule Work?

I’m still thinking this through. Say the three participants are named A, B, and C. A crochets clothing and uses Tunisian and Hairpin lace sometimes; B crochets a lot of motifs and amigurumi and home decor; C is new to crocheting, having only learned how to make rectangle shapes with simple stitches.

A week’s schedule could go like this:

  • Monday: A & B crochet, C doesn’t (she’s doing everything else—cooking, cleaning, shopping, and keeping the kids entertained/homeschools them or takes them to and from school).
  • Tuesday: B & C crochet, A doesn’t.
  • Wednesday: C & A crochet, B doesn’t.
  • Thursday: repeat Monday.
  • Friday: repeat Tuesday.
  • Saturday: repeat Wednesday.
  • Sunday: If everyone takes Sunday off, they can repeat the same work schedule from Monday to Saturday.

For each week, each person has four days of pure crocheting per week, plus two days of chores. Everyone has Sunday as a free day. Every Monday and Thursday, A and B would share what they know about crochet with each other. On every Tuesday and Friday, B would help C learn more about crochet. And on Wednesdays and Saturdays, A would help C with crochet.

Crochet Retreat, 1970’s-Style

After several days of daydreaming and reminiscing about my own (much shorter) crochet retreat experiences, I started noticing the language Ms. Capuana used. She called it a commune and mentioned an old wood-heated house in upstate New York (away from the big city). Just three friends and their kids. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? I wonder if it was.

Six Months Long?

Six months is a long time! Did she plan to take six months? (According to a 1998 profile of her in the Miami New Times, it was three years.) What goals did each of them have and did they meet them? What were the costs and how did they budget and pay for it? Do they think back on that time fondly? Are they still in touch with each other?

Two crochet designers and I met up for a crochet retreat eleven or so years ago. There were no children around and it was nowhere near six months long.

Crochet Retreat 2009 in Longboat Key, Florida: Marty Miller, Vashti Braha, Drew Emborsky
You can see more of my photos of Marty Miller on my Facebook profile for February 4, 2020.

It was heaven! And, as I recall we tended to get restless after a few hours. Maybe the longest we could crochet for was about four hours at a time? I didn’t time it, but I do remember at least one of us getting restless on a given day and coming up with tempting ideas for going out for dinner or visiting a new yarn shop. We all needed to deal with meals every day, and that’s a significant difference from Shanie’s commune, and from crochet conferences. We didn’t do the rotating schedule of one person cooking and shopping for the day.

The Queen of Angora

“The saga of Shanie Jacobs, Miami’s angora queen, is a curious weave of glamour and feminism” –Judy Cantor, Miami New Times (read full 1998 article)

This is how Shanie is described at her website: In 1970 at 30 years of age and a lifetime of unexpressed creativeness inside of her, Shanie learned to crochet. Four years later she took a bundle of original crochet designs to Woman’s Day magazine. Her patterns would repeatedly appear in the magazine for more than a decade.

In issue 88 of my newsletter I wrote, Ever wonder what Shanie Jacobs was up to after she wrote the 1979 Shanie Jacob’s Crochet Book? I Googled her when I dipped into her book for this issue. She was dyeing her own angora yarn to crochet and knit trendy cropped tops for fashion magazines and her website customers!

At her daughter in law’s Facebook page you can scroll through photos of her angora designs and magazine covers. Visit her Etsy shop for angora items and yarns.

If you liked this kind of blog post, I expect there’ll be more of them as I comb through more of my crochet books.

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New-to-Me Size 5 Crochet Thread

Pattern of short row wedges in alternating colors separated by beads shown flat

I’m excited to learn that Handy Hands now carries a size 5 crochet thread called Elisa. Like Lizbeth (the thread that Handy Hands is known for), Elisa is 6-cord gassed, singed mercerized cotton. If you don’t understand all of these terms, just know for now that they indicate improved strength, durability, and appearance. In other words, Elisa is a good choice for crocheting heirloom items, and in my case, jewelry.

This excites me because it’s the kind of thread needed for my Bivector Bangle class. Finding size #5 cotton thread for jewelry (roughly equivalent to fingering weight/sock weight wool yarns) is not always easy. I’ve tested Lizbeth for jewelry and it would be great for its color range, but size 5 is pretty much the only size it doesn’t come in.

Initial Elisa Test

Elisa differs from Lizbeth in more ways besides its size 5 weight: Elisa is made in Austria, in a limited number of colors. (In addition to the five pictured above, a yellow and white are available.) Lizbeth is made in China and the color range is unbelievable. The two threads feel slightly different: Elisa has a softness and slight bounce whereas Lizbeth has the crisp feel that is more typical of this very hard wearing, hard twist thread category. Lizbeth’s “bounce” is a bit more wiry.

My quick Elisa swatch (blue) came out slightly larger than the purple Opera one. I think this is due to the added bounce of a 6-cord thread; the loops want to stand out from my hook a bit as I crochet. I’ll try being more aware of this when I swatch it again, with beads added.

Bivector Bangle Threads

For my first Bivector Bangle I used size 5 Coats Opera thread in burgundy and teal (pictured at the top). It has since been discontinued. Opera is a 3-cord (meaning 3 plies), not a 6-cord thread. This enables it to have a silky, supple feel. Many widely available crochet threads in the USA are 3-cord; some are even 2-cord and may be called perle or pearl.

Crochet Thread Quality

When you’re using a crochet thread with a low number of plies and/or a low amount of twist for crochet jewelry (as well as heirloom items), the quality of the cotton fiber itself matters even more. The longer the fibers, like Pima or Egyptian (“mako”), the better. Mercerizing also adds strength to any cotton fiber.

For me the closest thing to Opera nowadays is DMC’s Cébélia. It’s an elegant mercerized 3-cord with a good color range for its size 10 and 20 weights. Unlike Opera, Cébélia was never a size 5 crochet thread, to my knowledge. I’ve seen it here (USA) in the big chain craft stores for years.

L’il Bivector

2nd version, less wide (smaller wedges): light and dark blue with pinka nd red glass beads.

My second Bivector is a narrower bracelet in two blue threads and glass beads in alternating pink and red. For both colors I used a 6-cord size 5 crochet thread by Manuela. Its dense, wiry-crisp texture is very similar to Lizbeth thread. Maybe you can get a sense of its texture from its photo.

I crocheted both Bivectors about eight years ago. For a third one I tried a sock yarn of loosely twisted silk and merino wool in yellow and green, with pairs of stacked beads.

Understanding Thread Sizes

There’s plenty more to know about crochet thread. It takes a surprisingly long time to understand how the thread and yarn weight categories work (longer than it takes to progress from one crochet skill level to the next!).

Size 5 crochet thread is thicker than Size 10 and thinner than Size 3. Perhaps Size 5 is less common because by traditional Victorian standards even Size 10 was considered “coarse”. Nowadays crocheters use a lot of Size 10. Within each size, there is some slight variation in thickness among brands. Sound familiar? Crochet hook sizing is like this too.

I’ve been blogging about crochet thread types for a long time. For more details on the basics, see Cotton Crochet Thread Sizes and Equivalents and Choosing Cotton Thread for Crochet Jewelry. Also Plying and Spinning Cotton Crochet Thread. See my more recent posts tagged with crochet thread.

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DesigningVashti Update 2020

I’ll be blogging most days of this Great Quarantine of 2020. Some posts will be short check ins, all will be crochet related.

Newsletter Update

Vashti wears her crocheted angora "Orbit Halo" cowl in a stone-walled breakfast cafe in the old part of Paris
Lots of travel happened, more on that below. I’m sporting an angora Orbit Cowl at a cafe in old Paris (Le Marais district).

I sent out issue #100 of my crochet newsletter to over 8,000 subscribers on September 1, 2019. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on issue #101. I haven’t sent it yet. There was a big disruption in the newsletter-sending force. The service provider I’d used for nine years revamped their pricing for legacy accounts like mine. (I’d already been paying too much!)

I’ll be using a new email service provider starting with issue #101. I’m mulling the topic now. It’s thanks to this corona virus quarantine that I powered through the technical steps needed to switch to the new service.

Just before CGOA issued their call for teaching proposals (October 2019) I was updating early newsletters to republish on my blog. Here is a completed one: Issue #2, Stitch Equivalents. I tried a few blog templates, a few new swatches. I’m pleased with it.

What, only issue #2, you say? CGOA‘s teacher call came out while I was working on #3.

New Classes for CGOA

October was a blur of class topic testing, research, and photo optimizing. The submission process becomes arduous when the topics you submit are new ones. I had a lot. It’s so worth the extra effort. What crocheter doesn’t want new class topics to choose from?

I tapped into an endless fountain of new class topics, it seems. It took me by surprise. This was the bulk of October for ol’ Designing Vashti. Maybe I should expand the October update a bit and blog about this behind-the-scenes activity.

The grand outcome: CGOA’s Class Selection Committee chose seven topics. This means I’ll be teaching a class in every time slot of the conference. (Note that this summer’s conference will likely—not 100% certain yet—be postponed or canceled. The chance that by July it could commence as planned does look slim right now.)

Three views of a Parisian yarn shop: inside, outside, and my souvenir purchases with tote bag
The first of two yarn shops I visited in Paris. This one carried gorgeous locally dyed French yarns. I chose Mamy Factory’s cashmere Archiduchesse for my mom, partly because grandmothers on her side of my family are called Mamie.

Wow the Travel!

From November to January I was either traveling, or preparing for the next big trip, or recovering from jet lag. I didn’t recognize my life; I’m not a big traveler. Usually I do weekend road trips and one long distance domestic flight, at most (often to a conference).

Souvenir yarn and 3 crochet hooks (size 2mm, 2.5mm, and 7mm) from Phildar yarn shop in Paris
Souvenir purchases at the second yarn shop I found in Paris. It offered only Phildar yarns. These are my first Phildar crochet hooks. I chose 2 mm, 2.5 mm, and 7 mm.

November 2019 was all about Sedona, Arizona. It was work-related for my husband, and I fully enjoyed the resort room provided to us. It had a fireplace omg. There was a cool-looking pomegranate tree outside our window.

December was all about Paris, France. I love just being able to say that. It was an early surprise birthday present! My husband, son and I spent almost three weeks there. It was epic.

Crochet-wise, I expected to crochet a French market bag I designed, but didn’t get far enough on it. I did visit two delightful yarn shops where I bought yarns and crochet hooks made in France.

Imagine being in Paris when you find out which class topics you’ll be teaching in 2020. (I didn’t even know until a month before that I’d be going.) Not only does it alter the course of your days and months to find out whether your classes were picked for the conference. It also matters which and how many classes.

Some class topics take more preparation and testing than others. Others coordinate with each other so that prep for one also applies in some helpful way for another. A few are unique head trips that require gear-switching. One requires perfect text instructions, while another needs extreme close up photos or giant floor models. This is some of the stuff I thought about on the flight home.

Jetlag January

I began January blissfully jet-lagged and facing the big messy room I used for creating the topic proposals in October. Back then I’d closed the door on it until I knew which ones CGOA chose. Now I could clear away all the materials for classes that were not picked. That’s a perfect task while jet lagged.

I gave each chosen topic its own pocket folder. These seven pocket folders start out as in-bins. If I have a thought about what would work great for a topic’s class handout, I drop a note in its in-bin. If I see a relevant design in a magazine, I tear it out and toss it into an in-bin.

This update is almost complete: we’re at February now. That’s when I created this Mindbender Mobius class information page. February was a big prep month for two of my newest class topics: Tall Stitch Virtuosity and Return-Pass Hijinks. I remember it as full of eurekas. (I’m mulling whether any would make a good newsletter #101 topic.)

Aside from crochet, January and February were also about realizing it was time for us to move—to get our house ready to put on the market. I think the France trip helped give us the refreshed headspace to admit this and get going on it. We’ve lived here for 25 years so it’s a big change. We started renovating the kitchen…and…it’s still a construction zone. Just in time for a quarantine.

Quarantine Crocheting

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. I need to continue preparing to teach classes even if the event is postponed or canceled, but it feels weird. I need to share and connect with crocheters, especially everyone I’m used to seeing at conferences. My crochet inspiration is erratic. I wonder if that’s the case for you too, lately?

I’m just going to be blogging my quarantine crocheting. Please pop in and say hi. Check in directly at https://www.designingvashti.com/blog/ or subscribe to this blog, or to my newsletter. You could also sign up for alerts from my Facebook page or from my Twitter feed. I announce every new blog post in these places.

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Crochet Stitch Equivalents (Issue 2)

Close up of seam that joins two crochet motifs with stitch equivalents: linked bent tall stitches match chains and slip stitches.

I seamed with stitch equivalents in this 2019 image. It was not in the original newsletter issue #2, A Super Crochet Maneuver. It’s explained at the end.

A screenful of the original2-column newsletter with teal border, pale teal background, logo in header.
How it looked in 2010.

First, the original newsletter issue, below. It went out to a little over 300 subscribers in September 2010. That’s nine years ago! I’ve removed the original two-column formatting, colored backgrounds, and especially the outdated links. I’ve refrained from revising the original text, except for light edits.

This stitch equivalents topic looks different to me now. See my current (September 2019) thoughts at the end.

From the Archives: A Very Different Crochet Stitch

Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter, Issue #3 (September 2010)

Welcome to issue #2.

Subscriptions have doubled since the first issue was sent out 14 days ago, so welcome to all of you new subscribers!

The “super crochet maneuver” I’ve been thinking about lately is not only a big problem-solver for designers, it can single-handedly put the “free” in freeform! It’s not a big secret, but I get the feeling it’s not common knowledge either.

Crochet stitch equivalents hinge on the basic principle that the chain stitch is crochet’s unit of measure. Measuring the height of a tall stitch with chains gives you the keys to the kingdom. For example, a half double crochet (UK/AUS: half treble) is the same height as two chains, while the height of a double crochet (UK/AUS: treble) is—theoretically—three chains.

Perhaps this much is nothing new. After all, any crocheter working in rows needs to know how many to chain for their turning chain, right? For example, to begin a row of those really tall triple trebles (abbreviated trtr, or in UK/AUS, quadtr), one would chain six, because a trtr is six chains tall.

Equivalent Stitches

What if one trtr and six chains are 100% interchangeable? Then you get to decide where you want to end up after making a stitch. You choose which stitch gets you there.

My Stitch Equivalents “Aha!” Moment

Vashti models a mesh poncho crocheted of a mauve-pink silky angora-like medium weight yarn called Gedifra Micro Chic.

This is the mesh poncho mentioned below that gave me a crocheter’s “Aha!” moment.

I’m wearing it at the 2004 CGOA Chain Link Conference. It was my first experience of being in a “fashion show”, and maybe you can’t tell but I was incredibly nervous up there.

A local longtime crocheter wanted to recreate the lattice-as-you-go edge of my Islander wrap and couldn’t get it to work. She had an “Aha!” look when I told her that first you decide where you need your hook to end up, then you choose whatever gets you there—it might be a tall stitch, the equivalent number of chains, or a combo.

Continue reading Crochet Stitch Equivalents (Issue 2)