“What Is Crochet, Really?” was first published as issue #103 of Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter. I sent it to 8,043 subscribers on October 9, 2020 with the title, “The Big Picture of Crochet”. I’ve updated the third paragraph (“This idea for a newsletter topic…”) as of Nov. 2, 2020.
I have a fresh big picture of crochet to report.
I’ve worried about whether you’d be interested in my “what is crochet” thoughts, but you know what? It’s crochet theory, which we don’t have enough of, so I’m probably not alone in pondering it.
For help in my quest I turned to national libraries, big crochet sites, encyclopedias, and academia. How does crochet fit into the larger world? How is it defined by and for non-crocheters, versus crocheters? Within the subject of crochet, how is its huge variety organized into subtopics?
This idea for a newsletter topic grabbed hold of me thanks to three writers (I’ve listed all mentioned sources at the bottom): Cary Karp, Rachel Maines, and Sue Perez. Cary’s Loopholes blog has several thought-provoking posts and published articles about crochet history and structure; his “Defining Crochet” article had me mulling “what really is crochet” for weeks. It turns out that my “how does crochet fit into the larger world” question is addressed in Rachel’s book. Sue’s new category-crossing crochet book was an indirect trigger (see Links at the bottom).
There’s a new crochet technique book you need to know about: Live Loop Cables in Crochet by Sue Perez, ISBN 9780578720678. This is Sue’s first crochet book, and she’s been writing about crochet for a long time on her blog, Mr. Micawber’s Recipe for Happiness. (Link goes to her post about the book where you can see lots of great photos.) We’ve connected on other geeky stitch tech things over the years, like limpets and weird foundation stitches.
I’m excited about live loop crocheting (I’ve had a newsletter issue in mind about fun with live loops for years), so I bought this book the moment I found out about it. It’s my first Amazon print on demand purchase. The book arrived quickly and the print quality of the full color photos, and detailed diagrams, is great.
A live loop is a simple and unique thing in crochet: it’s a loop that could unravel. It’s in a transitional state. It needs another loop to be pulled through it to secure it.
I’ve also heard the term working loop used for this special loop that’s on your crochet hook as you crochet. If there’s more than one loop on the hook, they’re all working loops or live loops.
I think of “working loop” as referring to the loop(s) on the hook. I think of “live loop” as a working loop that is not on the hook and so it needs to be watched (kind of like a “live wire”).
One of the things that excites me about Sue’s book is that it explores what crochet loops can do while in a prolonged live state. It’s like a science fiction story where a little stream of time splits off from the main river of Time. The live loop cables are running on a separate little stream. You can even unravel some cable loops to fix an error without disturbing the background stitches.
A Hybrid Technique?
Knitters seem to recognize something about this technique. I’ve seen a few people associate it with i-cord. I can’t speak to these associations with knitting because I haven’t knitted since I was ten years old. I wouldn’t be writing this review on this blog if any knitting knowledge were needed to understand or enjoy the book.
It’s written with crochet language for crocheters. In fact, there are many little ways that I see a crocheter’s touch in the book design. I also see a crocheter’s understanding of what it’s like to learn a new crochet technique. Sue even developed a way to chart the cables for people who are spatially challenged (“like herself” she says). I also love the guidance she gives about overlooked basics like distinguishing the right side and wrong side versus the front and back. There is so much more than this too.
I mention this for two reasons: first, if you do also knit, something about this technique may be familiar to you. Second, it doesn’t have to be a hybrid technique for you. It isn’t for me. I just experience it as crochet. Theory wise, live loops/working loops are a simple crochet fact, so a technique exploring them holds up as crochet for me. Live loops have been used in other little pockets of crochet for a long time. (Hence the newsletter topic on the back burner.)
Plenty of Projects
This is a large-format 173-page book. The first 32 pages are thorough step by step explanations of the technique. THEN, patterns for twenty-five cable blocks take you to page 100. Each block has a color-coded chart, color photo, and often a helpful little diagram of a special step, or a design tip.
For the remaining 73 pages there are eleven projects, plus some reference material at the end. There are hats, mitts, cowls, a scarf, shawl, tea cozy, bag, bowl, and headbands. (Scroll through this blog post to see them all.) They would all make very useful gifts. This is an important new crochet technique.
Congratulations, Sue! It’s a remarkable book that raises the standard for crochet technique book publishing. I know you must have given it your all because it is so finely word-crafted and illustrated. Thank you for your contribution to the field of crochet.
Updates October 20, 2020: I expanded the Timeline entries for 1977, 1982, and 1991.
The limpet stitch crochet topic evolved dramatically in the ten years since I wrote my third newsletter about it. As of September 4, 2020, this greatly updated version is now my ultimate resource page for crocheting limpets, limpet variations, and more reasons to crochet with half hitches. It even has a timeline and a table of related terms.
“Limpets, those cheery, little-used sideways shells.”
Sue Perez (a.k.a. Mrs. Micawber)
Issue #003 went out to just over 370 subscribers in 2010. That’s about 70 more than for issue #002. I remember feeling very encouraged by that. One of my early goals was to find likeminded crocheters. Back then, the only folks talking (enthusiastically!) about the limpet stitch, like Mel, Myra, Barbara, Margaret, and Pippin, were members of FFCrochet, the International Freeform Guild (INTFF) yahoo group. Limpet stitches have expanded their reach, as you’ll see below.
I’ve been looking forward to writing up a little love letter to the Limpet Stitch. It’s not like any other crochet stitch because it is a fundamentally different way to add loops onto the crochet hook. (September 2010)
The first thing a crocheter learns, after making a slip knot and putting the loop on a crochet hook, is to yarn over (wind or wrap the yarn around the crochet hook). We can’t make any basic stitches without it. Strictly speaking there’s only one way to do it. If you wind the yarn around your hook the opposite direction, it’s a yarn under. (Read all about yarn overs, yarn unders, and reasons to use both.)
There are other ways to add new loops to the crochet hook beside yarning over (or under). The one we use for limpet stitch crochet is challenging at first only because changing how you yarn over feels very alien! It’s actually simple, easy, and quick to do. The limpet stitch has an avid fan club.
Beyond the Standard Yarn Over
From a crocheter’s point of view, limpet stitch yarn overs have an added half-twist in them. In the photo at right you can see how the two loose loops on the hook have a little twist at the bottom of them. Adding the half-twist as you yarn over is a neat trick.
This simple little twist is powerful. It is the basis of all needle lace, macramé, and tatting. It’s fundamental to sewing and embroidery. Latch hook rug making requires it, and bobbin lace starts with it. It’s the simplest cast on in knitting.
Making room for it in our crochet toolbox means reclaiming the DNA that crochet shares with these other string arts. You may wish to make room for two more, like I have. The little half-twist can turn in two different directions: to the left (counterclockwise), or to the right (clockwise). The two loops in the photo turn to the left, as if a cursive letter “e” is written backwards: “ɘ”.
Tall Stitch Virtuosity is a new crochet class for 2020. I’ve discovered more than I imagined is possible about tall stitches! In fact, the official class graphic above is about six months old and already seems out of date.
Originally scheduled for the July 2020 Chain Link conference (an annual national event of the CGOA), Tall Stitch Virtuosity is now virtual. The traditional in-person conference is postponed until next summer. The virtual version is split into one-hour sessions over three consecutive days.
This is the first resource page I’ve created for a virtual class. At first I thought a virtual class wouldn’t need one. I started these pages back in 2012 to make online links easy to visit for an in-person event. I’m finding that I don’t want to load up the class handout (a PDF in this case) with what I think of as miscellany. Also, members might have a chance to visit this page over the three days of the class.
Jenny Guldin: “Most lists of the basic crochet stitches end with the triple crochet. Call it a new technique, or call it breaking the rules: I’m tired of being limited to the height of a triple crochet, and I’m not going to take it anymore! Why isn’t there a taller stitch? I’ve received varying answers from many crocheters, but I’ve never heard the suggestion “try it”. There are two basic points of view I’ve heard about the subject: It doesn’t exist, or, there’s no purpose for it. With all due respect, I have two responses: I’ve made it exist, and there is a purpose.”
CrochetSpot’s Amy Yarbrough: “These stitches are not very well known today because most modern crochet patterns do not use them. This begs the question, when are they used then? Perhaps the most I have seen these taller stitches used would be in patterns with crochet thread. Such as Irish Crochet Lace, crocheted Antebellum Dolls, and crocheted Doilies.”
Issue 102: Wild Whys of Y-Stitches
Crochet Inspirations Newsletter sent to 8,600 subscribers on June 13, 2020.
These semi-circles are crocheted of Y-shaped stitches. In each case I started with a quadruple-treble stitch (quad; in the UK and AUS I do believe it’s a quint). Yarn over 5x to begin one. After each completed quad I chained 2, then crocheted a shorter stitch into the side of the quad to turn it into a Y-stitch (Y-st).
I’m going to call the shorter stitch a branch that is crocheted into the taller one, or host stitch.
The Y-sts in these semi-circles vary from very deep (farthest left one) to very shallow (upper right). The longest branch, a triple treble (I yarned over 4x to begin it), is crocheted close to the base of its host quad. The shortest branch is a half double (hdc in the US, htr in UK/AUS). I crocheted it up close to the top of the quad.
Don’t you love how the lacy look changes just from this simple difference?
I also really love how Y-sts look when they radiate from a center. It’s what lured me down a rabbit hole of new delights.
Every stitch you see in this newsletter is my own new stuff.
Branched? “Rune” Stitches?
I searched 34 crochet books for these stitches (16 are stitch dictionaries and the rest are guides to crocheting). Of the 34, 14 at least mention X-stitches. Very few include Y’s and inverted Y’s, or really run with with any of them.
When I think of “Y-stitches” I picture a category of stitches that remind me of runes and ancient symbols!
The list above is about half of some old letters I’d like to try crocheting with branchy tall stitches. See my swatch of a few modern letters in Instagram. (These crazy B’s are for Braha and for Black, as in Black lives matter, and for Because of course they do.)
The first blue wheel above was inspired by ancient wedge-shaped cuneiform strokes. I see the green motifs as being Druidic wheels of seven “trees”. In fact, lately I see Y-stitches all over the place in nature!
My three favorite sources on these stitches: James Walters, Duplet magazines (Irene Duplet), and Sheruknitting videos (Elena Rugal). It’s not a stitch shape. It’s a way of thinking. Thank you so much James, Irene, and Elena!
I need to blog that. I have ideas for how to sort out the yarn overs, and make the most of them for motifs. Until then, I mention Y-stitches with a how-to link in my tall-stitch circles blog post. Also try some Sheruknitting videos.
Can you spot the Y-sts? And X-sts in the upper-right blue circle? Y’s are fabulous for reducing the number of tall stitches in round one AND for suavely doubling every stitch as required in round two.
Using tall stitches for circles is how I got here. I had no idea how practical and problem-solving Y-sts could be for crocheting circles—the taller, the better. They offer creative solutions and pretty options for tall-stitch circle crocheting!
OK One More Y-Why for Today:
Convert Two Rows into One
[This section got its own blog post a few weeks later; the light green swatch referred to is also pictured there.]
Sometimes, two or even three rows of a stitch pattern can be turned into one row, using using taller into-the-side stitches. Here’s a two-row shell-and-cluster stitch pattern (upper swatch) turned into one-row one lower swatch).
You can get more stitches to face the front this way. It also removes a “grid” effect caused by the connections between every stitch across a row. It fits in the “clever substitutions” category which is the topic of newsletter #92.
That grid effect adds structure to the fabric. Removing them adds more drape. So it depends on the yarn and project.
This clickable list of slip stitch crochet resources is mainly to aid students of my classes in exploring more about Slip Stitch Crochet at their leisure. (If you have not yet taken any of my slip stitch classes, I hope someday I’ll meet you in one of them!) You’re welcome to enjoy the links below whether you’ve taken the classes or not. They represent the extra information that doesn’t fit into a standard three-hour class. Some are the names of designers, books, other types of slip stitch crochet, etc., that I may have mentioned in a class.
Dee Stanziano’s “Pushmi-Pullyu“: Pushmi Pullyu: Coined by me (Dee Stanziano) in 2008, Pushmi Pullyu is the crochet technique of making crochet stitches forwards (Pushmi) and backwards (Pullyu) within the same row, or by alternating hands for each row without the need to turn work. This creates a unique look in the fabric, almost like Illusion Crochet. In 2011 Hazel Furst coined this as “Back to Front Crochet.”
Slip Stitch Crochet Books of Interest
Tanja Osswald’s Kettmaschen (in German)
Nancy Nehring’s Learn Slip Stitch Crochet and Slip Stitch Caps
Bendy Carter’s Knit 1 Purl 2 in Crochet.
Dora Ohrenstein’s designs and articles inInterweave Crochet magazine, Fall 2010 and Winter 2011 issues.
Vashti’s Crochet Shop
Get the Newsletter
Sign up to receive Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter in your inbox monthly.