Why crochet?

I don’t mean why crochet as opposed to knitting or any other craft. Although there’s probably a post in there somewhere too. I started crocheting because I had a hook and some yarn and a spare evening and an internet connection. I never started knitting because… well probably out of some sort of pigheadedness I think. Until it’s as easy to find attractive contemporary crochet patterns as knitting patterns I will not knit. Huzzah for the underdogs!

Someone really ought to remind me of that saying about noses and faces and spite and knives.

Anyway. That wasn’t the point.

The point was why do any of these things? What’s the appeal of sitting implement and material in hand for hours manufacturing a garment which may or may not live up to the beautiful dream in which it was conceived. Why put oneself at the mercy of inept pattern writers*, unreliable colourways and fibres that don’t drape the way you thought?

Why not, as non-crafters occasionally say with a patronising smile, simply buy the blasted things?

I’ve come to realise that actually the reason why not is, and I do know how unlikely it seems as I say it, the reason why not is because we’re hooked on the risk.

The very reason why I crochet is because it might go wrong. 

It seems frankly bizarre but there you have it. The very possibility that I may be wasting my time and money, that I may reach the end of my project and with it the end of my tether and find that I have in my hands an object destined for Ravelry’s celebrated Ugliest FOs thread, is what keep me going.

Because that risk means that every time I make a stitch that is in the right place, every correct yarn choice, every tricky bit of shaping or cabling that I can pull off feels like a massive achievement. The whole thing borders on the mystical. I’m never entirely convinced that I am genuinely responsible for what emerges from my hands.

Every time I look down and think “I didn’t just utterly piddle £40 and 150 hours of my life up the wall. I have in fact used them to make a very passable sweater.” I could do a little dance. (And sometimes I actually do.)

Yes, yes, there’s all that stuff about being able to make what you want to your exact specifications and yes, if you’re any good you can. But for those of us who are still very much learning (and I hope never to stop learning) the truth is that the real appeal of crochet isn’t about the control you have over what you’re making. It’s the lack of control that’s exciting. Crochet is all about risk.

*Ahem… looks bashful.


We all fall down part 2.

When it comes to unfinished projects I have several that eye me from their bags and fill me sometimes with joy and sometimes with dread.

Pretty cardigan is too small for me.

Oops! Too small!

There is the top down cardigan that was too small when I first made it and had to be frogged back to above the waist. It’s almost done only the ribbing and buttons to go. It’s a very cute little garment made of hand dyed DK weight in shades of lilac, mauve, pink and grey. It’s also nowhere near going to fit me now. I’ve had to stop running due to an ankle injury and I’ve been working long hours and keeping my energy up with cake, chocolate and takeaways with inevitable results. I don’t mind getting fatter… much… but I do mind finishing a project after all this time only to find it won’t wrap around me. There’s little incentive to do the last bits of fiddly dull finishing work.

Then there’s the much more promising slouchy teal sweater. This is a simple two piece short sleaved layering piece with a boat neck and probably some decorative buttons on the shoulder which I have yet to find. I am in love with this project which I just know will be stylish and wearable and exactly what I need for the spring. But it’s all in plain slip stitch stockinette equivalent. There’s enough counting that I can’t really do it at knit night (and I’ve been too busy for knit night anyway recently) but it’s also too dull really to want to do at home. I need to just pick it up and do a row or two a day and then it’ll jog along nicely. Soon, soon.

There’s the Neverending Shrug of Doom which started out as a way to show off some gorgeous hand dyed silk yarn and has morphed into something rare and terrible with a life of its own. Nothing about this project has gone right. I have started off and frogged the silk itself several times. Then I got the silk right by deciding to use it as a collar for the shrug and bought some plain black wool for the body. Now the body is being a nuisance! I gave it an initial shot and got half way through before trying to pin it all togerther an see how it looked. Disastrous! The wool pulled on the silk and the collar looked mishapen and the torso hung away from my body in weird directions. This was not the glamourous vintage-inspired Hollywood diva-esque garment I had envisaged. This was a mess.

Madeline Tosh shawlette

So pretty but I'm halfway through the first skein already...

I found a fix for now. I am using measurements from a shrug I own that fits to make the pieces up in slip stitch. Except that at some point my tension changed and I made the second half of the front 1.5 times the size of the first half with the same yarn and hook. I may be the only person in the world who crochets even looser when she is stressed! Rip it, rip it and I’m trying again. I will succeed!

I have  the Sirdar Big Softie cushion covers to do. Just big spirals to sew together and fill. These will be lots of fun but I need to buy an extra ball of each colour first and as I bought the original balls in a shop on the other side of London I will have to phone up and order them to be sent over. I have started one of these.

I started a shawlette with the Madeline Tosh that Greentrianglegirl of A Playful Day gave me for my birthday then realised I needed another two skeins. Do they sell merino light in London? I should be so lucky! I will probably end up trading on Ravelry with someone in the States.

Crochet shawl motif pattern

Crochet shawl motif pattern

I have two lace shawls in process. One is a 1920s style shawl based on this square motif pattern that I have extended outwards and outwards.  The other is the final product that I am making with the recycled yarn I talked about in this post. I decided in the end to throw most of it out because winding it all without a swift and ballwinder would have been hellish. What I’ve got left will make a nice semicircular shawl and I’m using a doily pattern with a leaves and flowers theme to do that.

I’m making a cowl type neckwarmer for my sister in beeeeaaaaauuuutiful soft alpaca. This is a copy of the one I made for my mum for Christmas and should actually be done really soon. I can do this one on the train so it’s getting along nicely. I hope to post a joint celebration of both versions soon.

Finally there’s the fab handbag that I am storming through and need to find handles for. In my mind I’m thinking dark bamboo or semicircular wood. The yarn, not my usual taste, is a gift from lovely, lovely Rachel. (Cf the photos of my glazed carrot dish.) It’s Rowan Colourscape in the eye-popping Candy Pink colourway. Between the brightness and the chunkiness though it’s turning into a rocking handbag and the combination of self-striping yarn with tweed stitch is a winner.

I think that’s all my current UFOs. Of course I have two unstarted projects, a cardy for my sister and a lace scarf for a friend. The yarn is there, the will is there, but I feel that would be a new quantum leap in start-itis. I have decided that until at least one of the big projects is gone I won’t get going on another. Wish me luck though. I feel I have many miles before dawn…


Sweet Eleanor Scarf/Wrap

Sweet Eleanor

Sweet Eleanor


This pattern was inspired by the Octoberfestdoily by Denise Owens. I wanted to make something special for my sister’s birthday. She likes simple elegance and warm tan/neutral shades so this was a natural choice.

The thread I used is quite a heavy thread from the Handweaver’s Studio and Gallery and it’s 50% cotton 50% linen. It is quite soft and has a nice rough texture that adds interest to the simple pattern. About 400m of similar weight thread should get you somethign a similar size. I used a 2mm hook.

Thanks to Lilacia on Ravelry for testing this for me. She used fingering weight yarn and suggests a size G hook i.e. 4mm from which I would conclude that she has a tighter tension than me (almost everyone does).

British notation is used. EDITED TO ADD: British double crochets are the same as American single crochets. Tension is not important.

Ch167.

R1. Dc in 2nd ch from hook. Dc in each remaining ch. Ch1 turn.

R2. *Dc5, ch6, sk 6st* rep from * 15 times. Dc in final dc. Ch1 turn.

R3. Dc in 1st st, *ch6, dc2 in loop, dc in next 4dc, sk1dc* rep from * 15 times. Do not ch. Turn.

R4. Slst in next dc, ch1, dc in same dc, dc in next 4dc, dc2 in loop, ch6. * Sk1dc, dc in next 5dc, dc2 in loop, ch6* rep 14 times. Dc in top of dc. Ch1 turn.

R5. Dc in 1st dc, *ch6, dc2 in loop, dc in next 6dc, sk1dc* rep from * 15 times. Do not ch. Turn.

R6. Slst in next dc, ch1, dc in same dc, dc in next 6dc, dc2 in loop, ch6. * Sk1dc, dc in next 7dc, dc2 in loop, ch6* rep 14 times. Dc in top of dc. Ch1 turn.

R7. Dc in 1st dc, *ch6, dc2 in loop, dc in next 8dc, sk1dc* rep from * 15 times. Do not ch. Turn.

R8. Slst in next dc, ch1, dc in same dc, dc in next 8dc, dc2 in loop, ch6. * Sk1dc, dc in next 9dc, dc2 in loop, ch6* rep 14 times. Dc in top of dc. Ch1 turn.

R9. Dc in 1st dc, *ch6, dc2 in loop, dc in next 10dc, sk1dc* rep from * 15 times. Do not ch. Turn.

Continue this stitch pattern until the scarf is the width that you are looking for.

EDITED TO ADD: Lots of people have asked in the comments what I mean by this and I apologise for not have clarified sooner. Each row you’ve worked so far has involved dc sections and chain sections. The chain sections stay the same length, the dc sections each get one stitch longer every row.

So on odd numbered rows you are working two dc stitches into the beginning of each chain loop on the row below and then skipping a stitch at the beginning of the next dc section. On even numbered rows you skip a dc before each chain section and work two dc into the chain loop on the row below after it. Using this pattern you continue to grow the dc sections as long as you want. I hope this helps.

Be aware that every row increases the length as well as the width. I did 35 rows.

Sweet Eleanor scarf detail

Sweet Eleanor detail

Final row should be an odd numbered row.

Final row: Dc in 1st dc. *Dc6 in loop, dc to next loop* rep from * to 1st from end. Sk final st. Bind off and weave in ends.

I chose not to block this scarf as I liked the way it was hanging already. You may decide yours needs blocking but I imagine the spiral shape  may make blocking tricky.

I am more proud of this pattern than anything else I’ve done. It feels like a big step up from some of the other things I’ve made.

As ever comments and questions are welcome.

EDITED in response to a question:

dc2 in loop = 2dc in loop created by the six chains not in any particular stitch. Sorry for lack of clarity!


An quick update and a new FO!

I am so sorry not to have been posting lately. I have had personal reasons with which I won’t bore you all. However I have a cake recipe sat in storage waiting for me to finish tweaking and get some decent photos taken.

I also have some lovely FOs to share one of which I will put up today. My red shawl is complete!

Look! Pretty innit?

Red wool thread shawl

Red wool thread shawl

I am really happy with this. I had to frog and re-work the last three rows about four times in order to have enough thread but in the end it’s worked out nicely.

Blocking this made a huge difference. It increased about a third in size and the lovely open texture of the single crochets made itself clear. (Yes I have the world’s loosest tension.) I also finished the grey cardigan in my WIP Weds post and frogged the blue one. I know some people will be disappointed but as I said in the post I do actually already have one like it and it was really a second attempt. I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I have steam blocked both cardies now and will put up photos soon.

Blocking red thread shawl

Blocking red thread shawl

Red thread shawl close up

Red thread shawl close up


Picnic Bag

This is the notorious picnic bag which started me off crocheting with string. Look at it.

AKA the heavily adapted Mothers Day Bag

The finished picnic bag

It looks so innocent! Don’t be fooled. This blessed thing had me tearing my hair out before I got it right. You however get to learn from my mistakes and make a third of the time.

First though you should understand it’s in no way the fault of the original pattern designer. I take full responsiblity for my own stupidity. I wanted to make this but in string and slightly bigger than the original pattern. To work the string I had to use a 6mm hook. Each stitch came out roughly 1cm sq. I couldn’t understand how to check the gauge from the pattern properly. I am a newbie at crochet and had no idea just how much bigger my version would be.

Suffice to say I didn’t make a bag. I made a small hammock. I could have tied it to an overhanging tree and the little girl downstairs could have played in it merrily all summer.The slimmer of my friends could have curled up with a book in it. But I stubbornly persisted to the end. Then I held it up against myself, laughed myself silly and ripped it right out back down to the row 22.

If you look on the pattern you’ll see that row 22 is where the first vertical side section with no increase ends. I did another row without increasing and then started back on the pattern with one significant difference. Where the pattern gave three non-increase rows between each increase row I did four. ‘That’ll do it!’ I thought.

Wrong!

I got to about row 40 and realised I was still making something in which I could smuggle small children or large dogs if necessary. I have no children or large dogs. I have no intention of borrowing a small child or large dog and carrying it around in my bag. Time for a more radical re-think.

I made the handles in the meantime. That took a  good few goes to get right as well. Honestly gauge is a tricksy thing.

So, back to the body of the bag again.

This summer had better be sunny.

I ripped it back down to row 15 this time and started to make the sides with 5 straight rows between each increase row. This time it worked. I made the bag up to row 44 the fastened off and sewed on the handles.

I should probably mention that I had been into my local corner shop twice to buy string in three days. And that I had bought a total of fourteen balls of string in that time. And that my local shopkeeper was a little confused. And that I now have three enormous balls of string in my house from the unravelled hammock.

I will never need to buy string again.

OK so the adapted pattern I used goes like this. I am aware that I may get into copyright trouble and have to take this down. I will edit if I do.

Make a magic loop in ordinary parcel string with a 6mm hook.

Rnd 1 (RS): Work 6 sc in loop; join with sl st in first sc – 6 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 2: Ch 1, 2 sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc – 12 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 3: Ch 1, *sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 18 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 4: Ch 1, *2 sc in next sc, sc in next 2 sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 24 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 5: Ch 1, *sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 30 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 6: Ch 1, sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 3 sc, sc in last 3 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 36 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 7: Ch 1, *sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 42 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 8: Ch 1, sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 6 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 4 sc, sc in last 4 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 48 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 9: Ch 1, *sc in next 7 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 54 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 10: Ch 1, sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 8 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 5 sc, sc in last 5 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 60 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 11: Ch 1, *sc in next 9 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 66 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 12: Ch 1, sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 10 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 6 sc, sc in last 6 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 72 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 13: Ch 1, *sc in next 11 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 78 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 14: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 12 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 7 sc, sc in last 7 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 84 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 15: Ch 1, *sc in next 13 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 90 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnds 16-20: Ch 1, sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 21: Ch 1, sc in next 6 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 14 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 8 sc, sc in last 8 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 96 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnds 22-26: Ch 1, sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 27: Ch 1, *sc in next 15 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 102 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 28-32: Ch 1, sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 33: Ch 1, sc in next 7 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 16 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 9 sc, sc in last 9 sc; join with sl st in first sc – 108 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnds 34-38: Ch 1, sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc.
Rnd 39: Ch 1, *sc in next 17 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 114 sc at the end of this rnd.
Rnd 40-44: Ch 1, sc in each sc around; join with sl st in first sc.

Fasten off and weave in ends. Make handles according to directions in original pattern. As I used the darker, softer, thinner string which I also used to make the band on my 1950s hat I had to double this string up to make the handles. I used a 6mm hook to make the handles too.

I sewed the handles with their ends at the top of row 33 and approximately one third of the way across each side. I tried to measure accurately but measuring accurately is not my forte. It looks alright and with the lovely hat I made earlier and a light cotton dress it will make for a pretty outfit for a sunny day.

The bag matches, the hat matches...

 


1950s-style wide brimmed hat

EDITED TO ADD:

This is an old pattern. It’s the first one I wrote up and looking back on it I’m not sure it’s that great. If you want to make it please do go ahead but I’m kind of embarrassed by it nowadays. I apologise for my poor pattern writing skills.
I was stuck on another project which I will write up very soon. A bag made out of string which I refer to as the picnic bag because it’s summery and cream coloured and makes me think of going on picnics. So while I was going thorugh my third attempt at this bag which had got me properly peeved I decided to cheer myself up with something creative and fun on the side. Hence this matching hat.

1950s style wide brimmed hat on table

The hat is made out of normal string from the corner store. The kind of stuff you use in the garden for tying back the honeysuckle or to send a parcel to your auntie. It’s stiffish stuff which leaves you with a bit of cramp in your hook holding muscles if you work with it for too long at a stretch, but also means it holds a shape well.For example making a reasonable brim.

I also used a second type of softer cotton string to make the decorative band although I think any cotton yarn would also be good. I think this could look very chic with the band done in black.

I couldn’t say how many balls of string went into this because what with all the balls I bought for the bag and the amount of hooking and ripping I had to do to get the bag right I lost track. I think you’d need between two and three small balls and less than 50g of the cotton for the hat band.

So… here’s the pattern please comment if anything’s not clear:

This pattern is worked in the round. I am using American notation. sc= single crochet, sl st= slip stitch, ch=chain

R1: With string and a size 6mm (size J) hook make a magic loop and sc into the loop six times. Join with a sl st in 1st sc. Pull tight.

R2: Ch 1, 2sc in each sc around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R3: Ch1, *sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc, repeat from * around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R4: Ch1, *2sc in next sc, sc in next 2sc, repeat from * around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R5: Ch1, *sc in next 3 sc, 2sc in next sc, repeat from * around. Join with  a sl st in 1st sc.

R6: Ch1, sc in next sc, 2sc in next sc, *sc in next 4 sc, 2sc in next sc repeat from * around until last 3sc, sc in last 3sc. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R7  & R8: Ch1, sc in each sc around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R9: Ch1, *sc in next 5sc, 2sc in next sc repeat from * around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R10 & R11: Ch1, sc in each sc around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R12: Ch1, sc in next 2sc, 2sc in next sc, *sc in next 6sc, 2sc in next sc repeat from* around until last 4sc. Sc in last 4sc. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

R13: Ch 1, *sc in next 7 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R14: Ch 1, sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 8 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 5 sc, sc in last 5 sc; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R15: Ch 1, *sc in next 9 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc – 66 sc at the end of this rnd.

R16: Ch 1, sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 10 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 6 sc, sc in last 6 sc; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R17: Ch 1, *sc in next 11 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R18: Ch 1, sc in next 5 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 12 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 7 sc, sc in last 7 sc; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R19: Ch 1, *sc in next 13 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in 1st sc.

R20: Ch 1, sc in next 6 sc, 2 sc in next sc, *sc in next 14 sc, 2 sc in next sc; rep from * around to last 8 sc, sc in last 8 sc; join with sl st in 1st sc.

Fasten off and weave in end.

Make a loop with string. Inside hat find row 13. Pass new loop through a loop of row 13 and sc around inside hat attaching to loops in row 13. Join with a sl st in 1st sc. Ch1 sc in all sc around. Join with a sl st in 1st sc.

EDITED TO ADD: Try the hat on to check whether the crown is deep enough. If not add another row or two of single crochets at this point.

Fasten off.

You should have something that looks a bit like this:

Inside 1950s style wide brimmed hat

Now for decoration. You will notice that there is now a pronounced ridge in the hat where you’ve attached the section inside. We don’t want that now do we?

So let’s make a band to cover it up. Using your cotton and a size 3mm hook make a chain long enough to wrap around that section of the hat and leave a couple of neat little tails. If you want to tie a bow in the band make it long enough for that. To be honest this is up to you so  no need to count stitches here just eyeball it!

Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch to end. Ch1 and turn, sc in each sc to end. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Wrap band around hat on top of ridge at row 13. Pin in place and sew down. Remove the pins and hooray, your hat is ready to wear!

I wear my pretty retro hat

Modelling my 1950s wide brimmed hat