Posted on Leave a comment

Flat Bead Crochet Tests

Four swatches of two-color flat bead crochet
Flat bead crochet of slip stitches in two colors, seamed into a tube shown fitting nicely to the wrist.

These four swatches test beads, threads, and stitches for my upcoming jewelry class, “Bivector Bangle, The Class”. I’ve specified flat bead crochet in this blog post for two reasons.

First, I photographed them flat before seaming into a stretchy tube. Slip stitch crochet makes it easy to slip it on the wrist with a good fit; that’s the “bangle” part.

Not the Rope Kind

Second and maybe more important, they’re not crocheted in the round. I’ve learned that this is unusual. Crocheted ropes of seed beads, a.k.a. “tubular bead crochet”, are the most common kind of crochet jewelry I’ve seen; my Candied Pony Beads pattern is a humble example of the art. Slip stitches are the preferred stitch, but some use single crochets.

Crocheters in English-speaking countries have enjoyed making bead ropes for a long time. (Oddly, this hasn’t prevented crochet how-to books from claiming whole projects shouldn’t be made from slip stitches.) In the world of Slip Stitch Crochet “Bosnian” distinguishes slip stitches in the round from the ones crocheted flat, in rows.

Instead of crocheting in constantly spiraling rounds, I crocheted these swatches in rows, and turned to begin each new row. So, flat bead crochet!

Other Kinds of Flat Bead Crochet?

Here’s another curious thing. Although bead crochet ropes are popular examples of Bosnian crochet, plenty of other Bosnian crochet items aren’t beaded at all. Compare this with flat slip stitch crochet: I almost never see beaded examples.

I crocheted these beaded slip stitches flat:


Test Results of Swatches

As for my test swatches, here’s what I learned. Too much to write here! Some quick highlights though.

Threads

Four swatches of two-color flat bead crochet
Here’s the photo again.

For the yellow wedges (middle row) I used cotton embroidery floss. It worked fine even though I used all six strands. It could have been too thick.

Six strands of floss are roughly equivalent to sport weight yarn and to size #3 crochet thread. I need it to be closer to fingering weight yarn and size #5 crochet thread. It felt a bit thick while crocheting it, but it was ok. It comes out slightly more raised than the orange wedges, in an interesting way.

I tested two strands of size #10 thread held together throughout. (This is the small heathered sample in the top row.) It works fine. Two strands of size 10 are equivalent to one strand of size 5 for this pattern. (For a full project I’d use two strands of the same color so that the beads stand out well.)

Beads, Stitches

I tested different wedge widths. The green and purple one (top row) is the only one that matches the way I crocheted the wedges of the original two Bivectors I made ten years ago. I still prefer them. In class I’ll explain wedge variations.

Lastly, I tested different ways to add the beads. I also revisited doubling them up in wee stacks, which I’d flirted with doing years ago. You can see some bead stacks in the bottom row. The major lesson for me here is, Japanese seed beads for this design are a shortcut to easy happiness, as a general rule.

Posted on 1 Comment

Crochet Bunnies Flat or Puffy

2 flat crocheted bunnies (sihouette), 2 stuffed ones, in different slip stitch crochet textures.

This past month I used Tunisian and slip stitches to crochet bunnies flat, rather than in the round. Make two, seam together, and stuff for 3D bunnies. Leave flat for appliqué!

Compare all the shapes in the photo above and below: there are some side-view silhouettes (the yellow wool bunnies) plus several marshmallow candy style bunnies in light blue Lotus yarn.

Two are stuffed, but all started out flat. The stuffed white wool bunny (above far right) uses the square method: I crocheted a flat square of inverse slip stitches, and then seamed and stuffed it. (I followed this tutorial for a knitted square bunny.)

Five marshmallow-candy-shape bunnies lined up from shortest (3 slip stitch) to tallest (2 Tunisian crochet)
From left to right: Three slip stitch bunnies (front-loop slip; inverted back loop; inverted front loop). Two Tunisian crochet bunnies, flat: TSS (simple stitch), TKS (knit stitch). I also added a simple slip stitch outline to all bunnies except the TSS one.

My informal and rather obsessive online research tells me that 95% of all the crochet amigurumi (stuffed toys) are single crochet stitches in the round. The other 5% are single crochet flat, in rows. It’s easy to know which were crocheted in rows because the texture is very different from rounds with no turning. Crochet designers Donna & Michaelene rock the flat method with single crochet.

Internal or External Shaping?

5 slip stitch roses of different colors and petal shapes
Slip Stitches are fabulous
for shaping flower petals

When you crochet bunnies flat, all the shaping happens at the beginning and/or end of a row; never in the middle of a row. This is external shaping. I’ve liked this kind of crochet ever since I swatched lots of shaping techniques for my Slip Stitch Shapes and Special FX class.

External shaping should be an elementary challenge, but it depends on the stitch and the shape. Each row might be different from the rest. I bet crocheters rarely do it constantly for a whole project, though. See my free heart pattern. It’s an easier shape than a bunny because you’re adding or subtracting no more than two stitches at a time.

New to external shaping in every row? Use the short stitch you’re most familiar with: single crochet (sc), slip stitch (sl st), or Tunisian simple stitch (TSS). You need to be able to easily count your rows and stitches. For most people it’s single crochet.

Crocheting any shape in the round (other than a straight tube) requires internal shaping. It kind of depends on the crocheter how basic that is. It’s probably easier for those who started early on with granny squares, flowers, and other motifs in the round.

Slip Stitches, or Tunisian Crochet?

I found no examples of TSS or sl st crochet bunnies, flat or otherwise, except this sweet one in Tunisian knit stitch (TKS). (You’ll need a Ravelry account to view it). I decided to do side by side bunny comparisons. Yes, I went down a rabbit hole.

Surprising Differences

I used the same chart size for each blue bunny. The Tunisian bunnies are much bigger! After making several sl st bunnies, the forward and return passes of Tunisian felt like double the work for the same bunny. Compared to sl st fabric, the return pass seemed to add padding and height to the stitches. The TKS one also feels heavy. It has so much more yarn in it than the others.

Two flat crochet bunnies and a stuffed one, all "marshmallow peeps style" in light blue Lotus yarn
Three slip stitch amigos. See more in progress
on their project page.

Of the three blue sl st bunnies, the inverse front loop one (far right) has the most height. I used it for two bunnies in the first photo above too: the smaller yellow silhouette, and the white bunny from a square.

TSS is similar to using sc. Besides being of similar height, it’s easy to count rows, especially the TSS rows. Both prevent stuffing from showing through (so does sl st). Unlike sc and sl st, Tunisian stitches do lean, but more weakly than it appears. The lean readily blocks out.

Tunisian crochet has a few strong advantages over sc and sl st. There is no turning, so following a charted shape is the easiest. Another big advantage is when edging the shape. I like to edge flat shapes with a round of slip stitches before I seam them together. Crocheting into Tunisian row ends is a joy. “Joy” isn’t the word that comes to mind when crocheting into row ends of sc or sl st.

Happy Easter 2020 everyone!

Posted on Leave a comment

Moleskine Crochet Fix

Three half-flowers in antique gold and silver colors attached to spine of large Molestine crochet notebook.

I have a pack of three large Moleskine notebooks. They started out identical and very plain. I use two of them for crochet work. How to distinguish them all from each other? Hmm.

Moleskine + crochet go together so nicely. I see folks using the notebooks for crochet journaling, and crocheting covers for them. They’re great for me too except in two ways.

I can’t wait to show you my new crochet solution. The spine of my crochet notebook now sports a title in a universal language.

Pre-Crochet Prep

Moleskine crochet notebook completed: 3 crocheted half-flowers sewn to the binding and the cover is a protective coating.

I mention this because I needed to try a paper-coating idea before adding the crochet to its spine. This is why its cover color ends up differing from the other two in this image.

First, about the cover. It’s plain cardstock. (My old design notebook was a fat spiral-bound graph paper pad with a durable plastic cover.) I like this slim one better, although its rather absorbent cover retains every scuff and stain. Its medium gray color is also fading.

First, I lightly spray-painted it with fine silver glitter. Then I used a fat metallic silver paint marker to add random speckles of different sizes, and a border. These cover up spots and marks.

Unfortunately, even though it’s spray paint, the glitter rubbed off. After I took the next photo below, I lightly sprayed a few layers of glossy sealer on it. It works on the glitter and adds a durable feel to the cover. It also darkened and changed the gray color of the paper, even more than the spray paint did.

Moleskine crochet hook fit: find the steel hook size that fits in the seam stitch without stretching it.
This steel crochet hook is very small, about 1.10 mm. A larger one would be hard to insert without fraying or stretching the thread. I don’t want to weaken the binding!
You can also see how the upper notebook has faded and yellowed a bit compared to the unused one under it.

The Crochet Fix

Here’s what I said when I started swatching the first of these three flower pieces:

The 3 half-flowers in pewter and antique gold colors before sewing Molestine crochet notebook seam

I’m trying out a tall-stitch flower motif but as an edging, and alternating an old gold color with an old silver color of thread I bought in Paris to see what happens with a glass of wine, to then see if this is the way I want to spruce up a Moleskine notebook. If it is, I shall blog it.

I’m wondering if this Scheepjes Maxi Sweet Treat crochet thread might satisfy my longing for the discontinued Opera thread ?

I adapted these flower pieces from flowery motif patterns in old Duplet magazines in my Tall Stitch Virtuosity class prep pile. The color changes made it easy to cover yarn ends, so weaving ends wasn’t an issue.

The second of the three notebooks is for slip stitch teaching thoughts. It will be fun to crochet a spine trim for it with slip stitches.

Crocheting Into Non-Crochet

I’ve blogged before about crocheting along the edge of a greeting card, a t-shirt, and foam sheets. (Crocheting a wide border onto a plastic-coated tablecloth is an adventure I thought I blogged; link goes to its Ravelry page.) I’ve even crocheted pages of a book together. I don’t recall ever wanting to stick a crochet hook into the saddle-stitch binding of a simple notebook before.

My Plans Changed as I Swatched

I figured I’d pick a half-flower I liked and then create a whole repeating strip of it to form an edging. Instead, my Moleskine crochet ended up being 3 flower fragments that I attached one by one. I so love it.

The other thing I assumed was that I’d crochet right onto the notebook binding. This was the original inspiration! I worried more and more about weakening the binding string. Ultimately, I fastened off the third flower piece with a very long yarn end. I used this to sew each crocheted piece to the binding with a sewing needle and simple overhand stitches.

Moleskine’s no-frills design is easy to find in other brands too. I love Moleskine’s rounded corners and the paper quality.

I’m not sure this Moleskine crochet idea would have occurred to me if it weren’t Day 27 of the Great Quarantine! Maybe it would have, but would I have followed through on it? Or blogged about it?

Posted on Leave a comment

Crochet Advice for Yarn Shops

I used a CGOA column to provide crochet advice for yarn shops in six Yarn Market News issues - five covers from 2007-2009 shown

From 2006 to 2009 I wrote six half-page “News From the CGOA” columns for a trade publication called Yarn Market News. It was mailed free of charge to all industry professionals. Its focus was on helping even the smallest yarn shop succeed.

Scroll to the end of this post for the linked list to all six full-text articles.

Crocheters nowadays might not know how CGOA professionals have worked for decades to make crochet visible in the minds of yarn shop owners and the rest of “the industry”—the yarn industry. It started with the founder, Gwen Blakely Kinsler. She and Nancy Brown, an early guild President, had a CGOA booth at annual industry events. They persisted.

When Crochet Was Sidelined

CGOA professionals spent long hours in CGOA booths at trade shows and markets, served on task forces and committees of other organizations, provided crochet for displays, and invited members of the wider industry to serve on CGOA’s board.

Maybe we need less of this kind of work nowadays. Crochet is no longer sidelined as much in favor of knitting. (Nancy Brown used to say crochet was treated like a “red-headed stepsister”.) Meanwhile the internet is a big factor in declining attendance at trade shows, and in overall ad revenues.

I have fond memories of performing this free labor with Marty Miller and with many more designing friends! Marty and I helped check in fashion show items at the The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) trade shows, for example. Truly, folks: every fashion show entry was knitted except for approximately two crocheted things.

In that climate, you can imagine that yarn shops needed crochet advice badly. I met many yarn shop people at industry events who wanted to attract and satisfy more crocheting customers, but didn’t know how. I drew on these experiences when I wrote the six “News From the CGOA” columns for Yarn Market News.

The Crochet-In

At peak exasperation we staged a crochet-in, as a result of a Crochet Summit, in the middle of the 2007 TNNA show floor. It was a gentle and upbeat protest. Isn’t it weird that it was necessary?


Wearing Crochet Matters

When I re-read this 2008 blog post it does sound like we were starting to make a difference. Even just showing up with crochet on helped at a time when crocheters were under-served by this industry that we share with knitters. I wrote about the Minuet Vest prototype during this time. Doris and I had a blast doing this! Here’s a comment she left on this 2008 post about a TNNA show:

Wearing your stuff in public at events and in your everyday life does help raise the level of crochet consciousness. I used to get annoyed when the typical response was “Oh, did you knit that?”. Can’t fault anyone for not readily discerning the differences between some knit and some crochet stitches. Nowadays I treat such comments as teachable moments…There will come a day when I won’t feel the need to do this, either! 🙂

Yarn shop owners stopped to ask us about the crochet we wore on the trade show floor and displayed in booths. The crochet classes offered at TNNA shows may have been meager at times, but they were well attended by yarn shop staff. I directly experienced yarn shop owners seeking crochet advice. The only source I knew of was the Yarn Market News column. Isn’t this also weird?

Crochet Advice for Yarn Shops: Today

If improving crochet – industry relations were all CGOA did, the annual membership dues I pay it would be worth it for me. Shop owners still need business advice about crochet and I don’t know where they can get it nowadays. Soho Publishing ceased publication of Yarn Market News with their January 2020 issue.

CGOA has offered to help local stores succeed with crochet since our founding in 1993. CGOA members have always shopped in their local yarn shops and craft stores, looking for inspiration and new products with crocheters in mind. Yarn Market News offered a way for CGOA to speak directly to yarn shop owners and I’m grateful for it.


Full text of Vashti’s “News From the CGOA” columns in Yarn Market News:

This might also interest you:

Posted on 1 Comment

An Advanced Tall Stitch Pattern

I swatched a fancy tall stitch pattern recently. It’s actually a section that I isolated from a larger all-over pattern in issue #187 of Duplet magazine (September 2016). Each of its nineteen rows is unique. This is a first-time-puzzling-through swatch, so please ignore the uppermost rows which need re-doing. I worked exclusively from the symbol diagram because I don’t know how to read Ukrainian or Russian.

I added turning chains and opted to link the first tall stitch to them. It’s easier to see this in the extreme close up further down. Also, the first row of very tall stitches (quadruple trebles) along the bottom is not in the Duplet pattern; I started off by testing very tall foundation stitches.

Arch-shaped swatch of a framed folk-style heart with a flower at the center, all in very tall crochet stitch combinations.

Tall Stitch Pattern Symbols

Something I love about symbols for very tall stitches is that the initial yarn overs required show as small lines crossing the long vertical line of the stitch post. You just count the wee hashes. Even nicer for UK and Australian crocheters, the number of them also tells you the name of the stitch. (American crocheters: just use the name for the next shorter stitch.)

Below is a sampling of Duplet’s symbols for the very tall stitches. Notice the four longest vertical lines at the far right edge, with five little hash marks: it means you yarn over five times to begin the stitch. These are quintuple trebles in the UK & AUS, or call them quadruple trebles in the US.

According to the symbols, crochet these four very tall stitches into four tall stitches that have only two hash marks: they are double trebles in UK/AUS or just trebles in US terminology.

An Upside Down Y-Stitch

Cover of Ukrainian Russian Duplet magazine issue 187 (shows yellow sunflowers, and model wears summery Irish crochet top)
Duplet 187

See that symbol in the upper left that looks like an upside-down Y with hash marks ? See how its right leg stands over a sort of horizontal line? That line is some number of chains (4 in my swatch). The other leg skips some stitches that are mostly outside of the picture. This symbol means you begin with five yarn overs, then insert the crochet hook into a chain or the chain space. Work two of the five yarn overs off of your hook, as if to make a treble (UK/AUS dtr). Then, yarn over twice to begin the other leg of the stitch while the 3 unused yarn overs are still waiting on the hook. Work the treble of the other leg into another chain space, and then finish working the remaining 3 yarn overs off of the hook.

A variety of clusters and shell stitches flow into each other to give the crocheting an undulating feeling. It’s exciting to see it take shape, and it kept me on my toes. I’d do a few things differently if I swatch it again. Duplet and Zhurnal magazines offer many expressive patterns and innovative ways to use very tall stitches.

As Class Material

This particular tall stitch pattern is mainly research for me. It’s too involved for the Tall Stitch Virtuosity class, but of course I’ll bring the swatch and magazine with me. When there’s time in class we can take a closer look at examples like this.

It’s not too involved, however, for…my Pinterest board called Tall Stitch Artistry!