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What IS Crochet, Really?

'What is crochet' issue: Unusual mesh of two-color very tall stitches

“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).

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How I Crochet Two Rows at Once (Lacy)

Crochet two rows at once of this lace stitch pattern by using X-stitches and shells of linked taller stitches. One-row version is on the right.

There’s more than one way to crochet two rows at once. You can also crochet three or more rows as one. I’ve only seen other people combine two rows with plain and fairly dense stitches, like rows of all single crochet or double crochet (in UK & AUS that’s doubles and trebles). I’m going to show you how I did it with a lacy stitch pattern.

The green swatches below are from my newsletter, issue #102: “Wild Whys of Y-Stitches”. I didn’t have room to include the lavender ones shown above. That means this post also qualifies as newsletter overflow, woo-hoo!

Crocheting two rows as one is a tall stitch “hack” that I stumbled on while researching X- and Y-shaped stitches with my upcoming online class in mind, Tall Stitch Virtuosity. In this post I’ll break it down, ending with actual row-by-row instructions for a 2-row stitch pattern, and for my one-row version of it.

Linked Stitches: Classic & Beyond

First, we all need to be on the same page about linked stitches if we’re going to crochet two rows at once.

A world of special effects with linking opens up when you can identify the individual strands of a tall stitch. I’m surprised how long it took for my eyes to distinguish what goes on in tall stitches, structurally. I used to think they were like bundles of muscles and ligaments.

So, let’s dig in to what each strand is doing in the post (a.k.a. stem) of an astonishingly tall 2-color stitch. I loaded yarn overs onto my hook with blue yarn. Then I worked them all off the standard way (two by two) with brown yarn. I crocheted it loosely so you can see through the stitch:

Close up of a very tall crochet stitch. The yarn overs are done with a contrasting color to show that intiial yarn overs are a separate strand that wraps around a series of chain stitches. Together this creates the post of a basic tall crochet stitch.
I used this image in issue #94 of my newsletter, “Stitch Parts: Where We’re At” to compare Tunisian crochet similarities.
Close up of stitch pattern with tall stitch clusters; the yarn over strands have been tinted to highlight them within a cluster.

Find the Yarn Over Strands

Here’s a row of 6-dtr split clusters (dtr = double treble; in the UK/AUS it’s ttr). I yarned over 3 times to begin each dtr. The tinting shows where the three yarn overs end up in each stitch post.

Tip: Just count the yarn overs in a stitch post and you know which tall stitch was used…as long as it’s not a variation, such as an extended stitch.

Linking the Classic Way

A classic linked stitch is a tall stitch that is linked all along its post to the yarn over strands of the stitch just before it. I call this “classic” because it seems to be the default or expected way to do a linked stitch, even though in actuality the ways to link them are infinite.

The classic method welds them together from top to bottom. In photo A below, all of the tall stitches are linked in three places. The right cluster is “classic”: all 3 yarn overs link to the 3 yarn overs of the previous stitch. In photo B, this is what you get when you link the yarn over of each double crochet of every row.

In photo C, I forgot to link the clusters in the middle row. The clusters in the bottom and top rows are linked only with the middle yarn over. Can you see the horizontal strands where they’re linked? It causes the cluster to flatten just a bit and to move as one unit, almost like a coin. I like their surface texture. They’d probably become stiff and a bit concave if I linked them the classic way, with all three of their yarn overs.

I’ve used classic linked stitches as borders for Tunisian designs like Liebling and Graven. The pros and cons of classic linked stitches resemble those of Tunisian simple stitch (Tss):

  • It eliminates gaps between tall stitches. This may be its most common use. It also tightens the gauge a bit. It’s a great fabric for a bag (Sterling).
  • It changes the surface texture to the flatter woven look of Tss.
  • The fabric feels thinner. It has less stretch and less drape. Stitch fronts may bend slightly inward in a concave way. (Akin to the “Tunisian curl”.)
A dtr that is linked in only one of its 3 yarn overs.

Selective Linking

Here’s a row of 3-dtr clusters in progress; I’m linking only their middles. The 3 initial yarn overs of each dtr are tinted. See how the middle pink and blue yarn overs are linked? The other blue and pink ones are not.

Yellow-tinted yarn overs for a new dtr are on the hook. See that the 2nd yellow one is linked to the 2nd pink one? Here’s how:

Yarn over (counts as 1st of 3 initial yarn overs in yellow); insert hook down through the top of the the 2nd (pink) yarn over of the previous dtr, yarn over and pull up a loop in it (counts as 2nd of 3 initial yarn overs); yarn over (counts as 3rd of these yarn overs). To complete stitch, insert hook in same stitch of row as the previous two dtr, *yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through two loops on hook, repeat from * twice. In this case for a cluster, yarn over and pull through the remaining loops on the hook.


Crochet Two Rows at Once, Creatively

I hope you’ll explore what you can do with linked stitches. Here are some that need future blog posts.

  • X- and Y-stitches are very much like linked stitches; the main difference is the next stitch is started in the side of the stitch post, not just linked to it. For an X or Y shape, the next stitch is shorter, like a branch crocheted onto the “trunk” of a taller stitch. I needed X-stitches for the lavender swatch (top of the page) to be able to crochet two rows at once. The two-row version has a V-stitch crocheted into an inverted V-stitch. Isn’t that a two-row X?
  • I’ve discussed where to link, and how many times to link in the same stitch. What about how you might link. The equivalent of a slip stitched link is where you insert your hook in a strand of the previous stitch and leave it on the hook (don’t yarn over and pull up a loop in it). The opposite would be to start a taller stitch there: it worked for me when I crocheted a letter A-shape.

A Sample Two-Rows-as-One Pattern

  • Pattern abbreviations: ch = chain stitch, dc = double crochet (UK/AUS tr), dtr = double treble (UK/AUS ttr), sc = single crochet (UK/AUS dc), st(s) = stitch(es), yo = yarn over hook
  • Special Stitches:
    • Shell = [2-dc cluster, dc, 2-dc cluster] all into designated stitch
    • 2-dc cluster = *yo, pull up loop in designated stitch, yo and pull through two loops on hook, repeat from * in same stitch, yo and pull through all loops on hook.
    • Split Cluster = [*yo, pull up loop in first st of Shell, yo and pull through two loops on hook, repeat from * in same stitch], [yo, pull up loop in 2nd st of Shell, yo and pull through two loops on hook], [*yo, pull up loop in 3rd st of Shell, yo and pull through two loops on hook, repeat from * in same stitch], yo and pull through all 6 loops on hook.
    • Coin-Cluster = Yo 3 times, insert hook in next st, *yo and pull up a loop, [yo and pull through 2 loops on hook] 3 times, yo, insert hook in 2nd yo strand of previous st, yo and pull up a loop, yo, insert hook in same st of row, repeat from * four times, [yo and pull through 2 loops on hook] 3 times, yo and pull through all 6 loops on hook.

Original Two-Row Stitch Pattern

Chain 20 for a swatch. (Multiple of 6 stitches + 5.)

  1. Row 1: Dc in 8th ch from your hook, *ch 1, skip next 2 sts of row, Shell, ch 1, skip next 2 sts of row, dc in next st, repeat from *. Ch 5, turn.
  2. Row 2: Skip next 2 ch, *dc in next dc, ch 2, skip next ch, Split Cluster over next 3 sts of Shell, ch 2, repeat from *, dc in next dc, ch 2, dc in 2nd ch of turning ch.
  3. Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for pattern. Or, for Row 3 put Shells where the dc are, and dc where the Shells are to stagger the pattern.

The One-Row Version

Chain 23 for a swatch. (Multiple of 6 stitches + 7.)

  1. Row 1: Dtr in 11th ch from your hook, *ch 2, skip next 2 sts of row, Coin-Cluster, ch 2, skip next 2 sts of row, dtr in next st, repeat from *.
  2. If you don’t mind having the wrong side of Coin-Clusters facing every other row, repeat Row 1. To have them all face the right side, work this pattern in the round with no turning. Or, use this Row 2 as shown in the swatch: Ch 1, turn. Sc in first dtr, *ch 2, skip next 2 ch, sc in next st, repeat from * to the end of the row, placing last sc in the next turning ch after you skip 2 of them.
  3. Repeat Rows 1 and 2 for pattern. Or, for Row 3 put Coin-Clusters where the dtr are, and dtr where the Coin-Clusters are to stagger the pattern.

So I’d like to hear from you if you’ve had linking adventures, or troubles.

Want to crochet two rows at once of a favorite stitch pattern? I think some probably can’t be done, while with others there could be several ways to combine rows.

I’m eyeing a pattern right now that has 3 rows of single crochet, then 1 row of clusters. I’m mulling how I could turn its 4-row repeat into 2: turn a sc row + cluster row + sc row into one row, and have the sc row that separates them be the one row that faces the wrong side!