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!
As for my test swatches, here’s what I learned. Too much to write here! Some quick highlights though.
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.)
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.
I’m crocheting these festive bangles for quick holiday gifts (Hanukkah, solstice/yule, Christmas), hostess gifts (I have five holiday parties to attend), and for myself. It’s relaxing now to make them. I’ll wear some to the parties.
Each completed bangle is costing me about 50¢ (not including labor, a.k.a. the love in every stitch ❤️).
“Solstice Bangles” Free Pattern
Below is the complete pattern for what I’ll call “Solstice Bangles” because tomorrow morning is the Winter Solstice (first day of winter). I contemplate this sometimes as I crochet around the bangles; it’s a satisfying “full circle” feeling. I’m completing another sparkly “wheel of the year”.
The starter pattern is Beginner-friendly. So many ways to get fancy with it. Add some challenge with wire or beads.
This section looks long because it includes tips for substituting with items you have on hand.
Bangle “blanks”: Look for thin, narrow, permanently closed (not hinged or locking) metal bangles. They’re often sold as a group to be worn stacked, meaning all at the same time. If they are labeled with a size, choose only “large” because any crocheting you add will reduce the final inner circumference. I don’t want any tarnishing or chipping, so I prefer to buy them exposed to air without a package wrapper. If they have soldered seams, check them for strength. This is especially important for gifts because you don’t know how much force someone will use to slide it on over their hand. I only buy them locally so that I can test the seam and finish of each one. Over the years I’ve kept an eye out for them in places like Claire’s, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. The quality varies wildly. I can recommend the ones in Wal-Mart now (pictured). They come in bunches of 15-18 bangles for $4.88.
Yarn, if you’re not adding beads: Here’s where you can use the interesting embroidery braids, flosses, and fine novelty yarns languishing in your stash. My first choice is a fancy metallic Kreinik braid type if I’m not adding beads. My little 5-meter spool can cover two, possibly three skinny bangle blanks. Some fingering and lace weight yarns would work, and any crochet thread size. Beginners: start with a sock yarn or size #3 or #5 crochet thread, and no beads. Then graduate to a fancy metallic floss/braid type, then try very fine wire without beads first (30ga to 32ga thickness).
Yarn if you’re using beads: I’ve had the best luck crocheting with wire. The wire holds the beads in place the best for me. Wire is a unique crochet experience. If you’ve never tried it, please see my newsletter issue on it, or the Embracelet pattern.
Crochet hook: This is easy. Use whatever hook size that makes it easiest for you to crochet tightly and evenly.
Beads (optional): I like very small beads for this. I don’t go much larger than “e-beads” (size 6 seed beads). Beads with small holes also work better for this so that they don’t jiggle and shift around. This means gem, chip, and pearl beads are great! You can use a larger accent bead for a tassel finish.
Sealer, stiffener, adhesive, fine yarn needle, etc. (optional): You might wish to use a fabric protectant such as Scotchgard if your yarn is an absorbent fiber. I used three coats of clear nail polish to secure a tassel of metallic embroidery floss because it doesn’t hold knots well. I may use this, or some clear fabric paint, on the inner surface of a bangle to keep the stitches from twisting around the bangle.
ch = chain stitch
sc = single crochet (UK/AUS: dc)
ss = slip stitch
Crochet a Basic Solstice Bangle
Step 1: Leave a 4″ yarn end that you can crochet over it, weave in later with a needle, or leave hanging with a bead or tassel. Crochet all stitches tightly. Slip stitch around the metal bangle tightly, *ch 1, ss, repeat from * until bangle is covered.
This is up to you: use fewer stitches to cover the bangle by stretching them taut around the bangle. They’ll be less likely to twist and shift around the bangle, and you’ll see more of the metal. Or, use an excess of stitches for a different look: I love the wavy zig-zag texture of the (ch 1, ss) combo. You’ll see much less of the metal this way.
Step 2: When you’ve crocheted the number of stitches around the bangle that you like, join the last stitch to the first one. I remove my hook from the stitch loop, insert the hook in the first ss, and pull the last stitch loop through it with the hook, then fasten off.
Step 3: Decide what you want to do with those yarn ends. Weave them in. Or, string an accent bead onto both ends, knot them, and trim ends close to the bead. A third option is to tie the ends together, cut more yarn lengths, then add to the yarn ends and tie into a bundle to make a tassel.
Step 4, optional: If you add a fabric protectant, test a swatch first. You could coat the inner rim with a glue or sealer to prevent stitches from twisting around the bangle. Add a drop to knots if they might loosen with wear.
The basic Solstice Bangle pattern is crazy simple, right? Add just one variable and it’s a different experience. For example:
Add other stitches or change them completely. You could try all sc. I used such a fine red wire for a beaded bangle that I had to use sc instead of ss to make them more visible. Embracelet is an example of using love knots.
Hold two different glittery strands together as you crochet, or use 6-strand embroidery floss. (Managing multiple plies as you crochet so tightly around a bangle does get tricky.)
Just add beads. That’ll keep you busy! I like to add one or more beads to the ch of the (ss, ch 1).
Use wire as the yarn. A thicker wire such as 26ga may be difficult for some people to crochet with, but it sure shows up well, and makes a statement even without beads. It also holds up nicely and is less likely to twist around the bangle. Finer wire is great for showing off beads.
Try to crochet the wire as tightly as you can. (It will still be looser than you intend.) When you’re done, tug on each bead a bit while also giving it a half-twist. This will tighten the stitch around the bead and bangle. I also compress everything by pressing and scrunching the stitch loops together into the bangle. I guess you could consider this a “blocking” method for wire jewelry?
…for the five classes I teach next month! This started months ago. It never stops, actually.
I have other new crochet ideas in progress for this year’s classes too. For Tunisian Eyelet Meshes I have a draping collapsible “Leanin’ Loopholes” wrap to finally start when the new Lotus colors arrive. Another project in motion for the Stitch Games class is an argyle (only a few rows done, no photos yet).
When CGOA puts out a call for class topic proposals in the fall, I send more than enough: all the topics that I’ve enjoyed teaching in the past, plus interesting variations on them, plus new ones. Designing new crochet examples starts the moment I find out which ones I’ll be teaching. (Not on purpose, it just happens.)
Meanwhile I stand ready (with camera) to receive a giant new lot of Lotus yarn. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new colors. Doris has her designing cones already so I know UPS will be here any day. Once the yarn arrives–on giant cones–I get some of it turned into Z-Bombes (1-pounders). A lot of it will be “pull cakes” ASAP.
I also stand ready to design with it. I’ll need some new crochet for the road trip up to the conference, right? Doris got started immediately with a new design in emerald green. This reminds me that I also need to lock in the new color names for the ball bands and snip cards.
I’m on Day 35 of my 50 blogging days of crochet conference prep and I’m feeling behind! I still need to get some crochet patterns reformatted into print versions (for some of my classes and for kits in the market booth).
I love preparing to teach crochet classes for the big CGOA conferences every year because I try things I’ve been meaning to for months. Like yesterday. Today I’m testing instructions in my class handout for Steeked Tunisian Lace. I figured while I’m at it, I might as well throw in some beads.
I haven’t used this swatch for a project because the beads would shift around a bit with use. A larger project could also get heavy. I would need to use tighter stitches, or larger beads, or a different yarn (or all of the above) to make the beads stay where they are.
Beads aren’t part of the class, but I’ll have the swatch handy if someone asks.
Like our general-purpose slip knot, the Buff version offers a slip loop that you adjust by tugging on the longer yarn end. Unlike many other knots I tested, the longer yarn end is waiting for you up where the slip loop is rather than down at the bottom of the knot near the short yarn end. Stays tidy-looking this way.
Tying it is like tying a basic slip knot that has more wraps. A crochet beginner might wish to come back to this one later. Follow the four steps shown above. (View the high-resolution image).
I listed ten possible functions crocheters might need from the starting slip knot in yesterday’s post. The Buff Slip Knot variation is an especially good candidate for advantages #6 and #10 on the list. Try it when you need or want a visible crochet slip knot that is nice looking. It’s symmetrical in more than one way. It’s also beefier if you wish to start with a large-holed bead accent.
The Three-Loop Slip Knot
This one may seem odd. Why would anyone want a crochet slip knot with three starting loops? This one is a great way to start right off crocheting with a finished, usable button loop, hanging loop, or other handy use for a secure loop. Think jewelry, cords and straps, and how about potholders?
Normally we’d start with a basic slip knot, crochet some chain stitches, then slip stitch them together to form a loop of chains. These work great for most things. Occasionally, chain stitches are too thick or textured for what I need. This tends to happen for me with jewelry projects. I’d like a slim loop to fit under a button clasp. The chained loops of these Puffpearl necklaces look unnecessarily chunky to me.
Another example is when a crocheted charm or pendant is designed to dangle. I’m thinking the Three-Loop one would have been a sleeker choice for the tops of the Lovebud Vines.
Three-Loop: How to Do It
The Three-Loop Slip Knot variation is similar to making a basic slip knot except: take the first 16″ or so* of your starting yarn end and fold it in half first. Use the fold to make the slip knot. Don’t pull the folded end all the way through.
*Use a longer length than 16″ if you’ll be crocheting both ends together throughout, like I did in image #6 below. It’ll depend completely on each project. (It’s a great way to avoid weaving in the end.)
Adjust and tweak the final desired size of the loops first before tightening completely. Then, pull the knot tight enough to give it a streamlined look.
Here again is a feature I appreciate: the long yarn end is waiting close to the loop that goes on the crochet hook. This means you won’t have to see a stringy strand of yarn traveling over the knot, which would look messy, asymmetrical, and unnecessary.