Posted on Leave a comment

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).

Continue reading What IS Crochet, Really?
Posted on 1 Comment

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!

Posted on 2 Comments

Crochet Survey Results

I conducted a quick quarantine crochet survey about two weeks ago when I sent out a test issue of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter to 8,185 subscribers. It tested a new delivery service for the newsletter, as mentioned in another blogpost. Ten percent (802) responded. he crochet survey results offer a fascinating snapshot of this time in crocheters’ lives.

I’ll show you three screenshots from the crochet survey report. Here is what little I know about my subscribers: 90% use Gmail, and Safari is the most used browser at 3.13%. Almost 40% of subscribers (39.23% or 3,170 subscribers) opened the newsletter in their email inbox. Of this subset, 2,318 are in the USA, 100 in Canada, 74 in the UK, 58 in Australia, 35 in Ireland, 16 in the Netherlands, 14 in New Zealand, 7 in Italy and in Germany, and 5 in Denmark. Cool!

The survey was at the very end; perhaps some readers didn’t see it. In this first screenshot, the gray numbers under the first question, “How has quarantined life been for you lately?” may show that some people had trouble getting the survey to work. Although 856 wanted to start it, 46 didn’t or couldn’t answer the question. I did hear from a few subscribers that it didn’t work. For example, a few saw only a blank screen.

How is Quarantined Life Lately?

For "how has quarantined life been for you lately?", almost 45% of 10 respondents chose the neither happy nor sad face (third in a lineup of 5 from very happy to very sad).

It’s nice to see, at least on the surface, that the majority of respondents feel overall neutral to upbeat about it all. That’s a total of 707 out of 810. Perhaps for some folks a neutral face is expressing extremes, which is not a comfortable place to be. I got this impression from some of the free response comments at the end.

Crochet Inspiration Level From 1 to 10

The next screen of the crochet survey results is about the question, “What is your crochet inspiration level?” Choosing 1 means it is at its lowest ebb, and 10 is inspiration to the max! I didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, a crocheter could make a lot of progress during a quarantine; on the other, it also means a lot of worry, and disruption of the simplest routines.

Crochet survey results re: the scale of 1 (lowest inspiration level) to 10, fully half of the 803 respondents chose a level of 6, 7, or 8. Twenty crocheters chose 1, 74 chose 10.

Overall, these crocheters’ inspiration levels are pretty buoyant. Levels 6, 7, and 8 received the most votes. Together these total 402 out of 803 responses. Crochet really is a positive skill and outlet to have during times of adversity.

Quality of That Inspiration?

I wanted a fuller picture than just a simple numerical amount. My own crochet inspiration has been distorted, not just a matter of “am I inspired or not”. I’ve felt like a different crocheter and I struggled to get to know her better, especially during the first three weeks of the quarantine.

Crochet survey results: the most respondents of 787 (28%) said their crochet inspiration during this quarantine is "erratic. Comes and goes. Cuts out on me".

The first two descriptions account for over half of all votes. (Respondents could select all that applied.) The first two, “Having trouble focusing/easily distracted”, and “It’s erratic. Comes and goes. Cuts out on me” are based on my own experience. The third one, “Frustrated. I don’t have what I need to make what I want” is one that I’d heard others say.

Open Field Responses

I ended with an invitation to describe what you’ve been crocheting lately, or to write anything else in a text box. I’ve been going through 652 of these crochet survey results. It has been a very moving experience. Many subscribers thanked me for asking how it has been for them, or for doing the newsletter. I also appreciate all the well wishes!

I heard from nurses and others on the front lines of the pandemic. They don’t have much time or energy for crochet, understandably. Thank you for all that you’re doing and sacrificing. Several subscribers are making face masks. They’re sewing as many as they can instead of crocheting anything, or crocheting the masks, or struggling to.

Something I didn’t expect is the burden of sudden full-time homeschooling that several respondents mentioned. The impression I got from some is that it saps the energy to be able to crochet or get inspired about it. Those who are learning new work processes from home also sound quite stressed. My heart goes out to you.

Specific Crochet Projects

The sheer creative range of project types and materials is an unexpected wonderland for me to read about! Some are creating by knitting or sewing. Rough counts of a sampling of projects:

  • 80 are making face masks, ear savers, and other things for essential workers; about as many are making blankets and afghans. One person said, “Blankets as they sooth my soul.”
  • 11 are making amigurumi. One person reported making 75 toys! About as many are doing CALs, Christmas crocheting, and Tunisian crochet. One person used the quarantine to start Tunisian crochet for the first time.
  • 100 are making shawls. About 75 are crocheting sweaters, cardigans, and shrugs; 60 or so have been making hats and scarves.

Finally, here’s a partial list of specific patterns named:

Teatime Shawl, Sophie’s Universe, Sweetheart Soiree Doily, Winter’s Song, Slip Slope Scarf, Wind Chimes scarf, Not Your Granny’s Jammies, GroovyGhan, Seafarer Scarf, Leaves Shawl, Magnolia Shardi, Boxie Shawl, Meandering Cat Paws, Persian Tiles, Jo’s Market Bags, Rainbow Sprinkles Crescent Shawl, Q-Star Coverlet, Rozeta, Dandelion Mandala.

Add your own responses to these survey questions in the comments. I will read them all.

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on 3 Comments

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 2011 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 few more than 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. I’ve added my current (September 2019) thoughts at the end.

From the Archives: A Super Crochet Maneuver

Vashti’s Crochet Inspirations Newsletter, Issue #2 (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.

Continue reading Crochet Stitch Equivalents (Issue 2)