Staring at crochet projects

I’m convinced, that one of the reasons I haven’t taken to crochet in the same way that I’ve taken to knitting is that I’m unable to do it without looking. In fact, no matter how simple the project, I’m also convinced that I’ll never be able to. This isn’t to discount the hours I spent practicing knitting without looking at my stitches, it’s to point out that knit stitches live on a live needle. Whether or not you’re looking at them, feeling the stitch is part of the process as you move them around your needles. Since you don’t have live stitches in the same way while crocheting, it’s hard to imagine a time when I won’t need to look at my stitches in order to properly create the single, double, or triple crochet.

This is a critical thing to note because, as I, unfortunately, learned, looking at crochet while in the car is one of the fastest ways for me to get car sick. Second only to looking in the back seat. Crocheting is also a difficult activity to partake in while watching anything you need to pay attention to the visuals of. At the moment, crocheting is the equivalent of attempting to work colorwork or cables. You need to be aware of what you’re doing in order to do it, but you can also read your stitches enough to know what you’re supposed to be done.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy crocheting. Nor is it to say that I won’t continue to attempt to improve my crochet skills. It’s just to say that I don’t see myself retiring my knitting needles in the foreseeable future.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a few crochet patterns I’ve been thinking about this year.

  • Afternoon Tea Sweater by Emilia Johansson: I’m not sure why, but peplum sweaters are really speaking to me at the moment. I’ve spent a little too much time looking at patterns (knit, crochet, and sewing) featuring this design element and at some point, it has to happen.. right?
  • Waterlilies Bonnet by Nomad Stitches: Our kiddo is slowly outgrowing the bonnet phase (or is she?), but I still find myself with a lot of baby heads to cover. Barley by tincanknits is my current go-to pattern and it would be nice to try something new.
  • Cande Kids Pullover by Nomad Stitches: I’m actually in love with the adult version too, which begs the question.. who gets the pullover? Do I have the stamina to crochet two?
  • Prism Block Stitch Blanket by Jess Coppom: I love the subtle use of a gradient in this one and feel like it’d be a good crochet and chill projects.

I also have grand plans of crocheting toys (think kitchen items), but can’t bring myself to start collecting various colors so I can use a yard or two at a time.

No idea if or when I’ll give the above a try, just enjoying the inspiration of a different craft for a little while.

Beyond single and double crochet dishcloths

A medium pot sitting in a lavender and charcoal colored crochet bin. The colors form a horizontal diamond stripe pattern . Next to the pot is a milk jug filled with water and porthos cuttings bring propagated.

Like many other fiber artists, I’m not satisfied with only one craft. If only to understand them, I have in my soul a desire to learn about and try everything from spinning to sewing my woven fabric. True, some of these plans are more romantic than practical, but there’s still something beautiful about having the desire to learn and dream. Something inspiring about trying new things and having the willingness to fail spectacularly.

As many of my friends already know, I’ve been sitting on my grandmother’s crochet hooks (and her sewing notions, but that’s not what today’s post is about) since she passed in 2007. There is no uniformity to this collection, it’s clear she ran out to the store and grabbed hooks as she needed them for various projects. I also don’t have any memory of her using these hooks, nor any crochet items I fondly curled up with as a child. Despite this, I have been seriously flirting with crochet since I took a class at Gather Here in 2016. A date I’m only aware of because I have a Ravelry project page for the dishcloth I made in class.

Many many years have passed between my grandmother’s death, this initial crochet class, and today, yet here I am, stubbornly holding on to the crochet hooks in case the day comes that I want to start crocheting. At first, my reason for not sticking with it was speed and being in grad school (I was learning enough and didn’t have the bandwidth to learn a new craft on top of it). Then the reason was I wanted to learn other things (weaving). Finally, I found a few crochet designers on Instagram and they’ve been slowly convincing me that I need to crochet often enough to be able to make the things that inspire me as they pop up.

The first step in this process was to take on something that wasn’t a square. It was a lot of fun to work the Grist Shawl as part of Gather Here’s crochet along. The next class I signed up for was the Willoughby Nesting Bins, this allowed me to practice crocheting in the round as well as crocheting so that stitches stacked on top of each other. I used Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky instead of the pattern’s recommended linen yarn and then felted the bin. In hindsight, I should have made it just a bit bigger so that it wouldn’t be misshapen by the pot I put in it, but overall I love the colors and the way it turned out. I don’t think I would have liked it as much if I had used the linen yarn, which is naturally a pleasant surprise when making substitutions. TBD on whether or not I reach for this pattern again, perhaps a small version for bits and bobs?

Marjoram Hat crochet in light pink and turquoise. Granny squares are connected to make up the band of the hat and the brim and cap are made utilizing double crochet stitches.

My crochet adventures ground to a halt after taking crochet 2 at Webs, not because of the class but because I have a few knit sweaters queued up and waiting to be made. Crochet 2 taught me that I can read crochet stitches and forced me to sit down and master the granny square. Now that I know how easy they are, it’s hard not to want to make all the granny squares.

The first project we took on in Crochet 2 was the Marjoram Hat and Mitts, I actually think this could have been my style if I liked the colors I ended up with more. Since I purchased my cascade 220 online and in person, I misjudged my colors and had to swap things around a little bit. These were lovingly donated and will keep someone warm.

The next project we worked on was the Simple Seed Stitch Pillow. It was nice to learn that I can do seed stitch without much trouble, but no matter how you swing it this one isn’t my style. It did make me add a linen stitch sweater to my favorites though.

I love learning fiber arts because it gives me a safe space to feel uncomfortable and make mistakes. Though knitting will always be my main craft (crocheting in the car makes me carsick), it’s nice to finally be flexing my crochet muscle a little and to be using my grandmother’s old hooks. Time will tell how much use they get, but there are a least a few blankets in my future.

Grist Shawl

A purple and pink striped crochet shawl laying underneath a owl russian doll yarn bag.

I was in high school with my paternal grandmother passed away, which means that I inherited my grandmother’s crochet hooks and sewing basket at a time in my life when I wasn’t intently crafting. I wasn’t looking to learn new skills and I didn’t have regular access to craft supplies. My aunt was regularly encouraging me to knit by gifting me nice yarn and needles when my birthday rolled around and I had enjoyed sewing during home ec, but otherwise, I’m not sure why I was thought of when it came to finding a home for the crochet hooks and sewing basket filled with notions. They aren’t things I grabbed for myself with the intention of thinking of her while I used them, these things were items that someone else thought I would enjoy having.

The interesting thing is that they weren’t necessarily wrong. These hooks and sewing notions have moved from apartment to apartment with me, patiently waiting until the day I decided to take up a new craft. Sewing reentered my life when I bought a $20 vintage machine in 2018, earning the notions a permant location on my craft table. Crochet and I have a more tentative history, one where I bring the hooks out every couple years determined to actually learn how to use them. The last time I opted to try learning was back in 2016, where I made my first dish cloth, scarf and baby blanket. In 2020 I tried again, making up crocheting in the round to make a couple of coasters. Setting my sights on a few crochet projects that popped up in my instagram feed, I signed myself up for a few classes this year. Thinking perhaps 2022 would finally be the year I switch my ravelry filter from only knitting to knitting and crochet, I signed up for a few project based classes at Gather Here and one at Webs Yarn.

Grist, by Victoria Myers, was my first attempt towards this goal. It’s the first project I’ve completed using a pattern, as well as the first one I’ve attempted that manipluated increases and decreases in order to create a shawl shape.

One of the tricky things about learning something new is that you have to anticipate the project not looking perfect at the end, which means it’s hard to justify spending a lot of money on nice yarn. The flip side of this, is that once you’ve worked with nice yarn, it’s hard to justify forcing yourself to work with lesser yarn. To combat this dilema, I used leftover yarn and converted the shawl into a cowl when I ran out of yarn.

The final result is a finished object I will never wear! I probably would have been better off blocking the shawl and enjoying a mini Grist than working a cowl that looks funny. Oh well, you live and you learn. At least I learned how to read a pattern and am ready to move on to more complicated crochet things :]

On going off the beaten path

94404582_725926194612925_8566214286488109056_nIt’s that time of year, there’s mud everywhere and people are remembering that it’s nice to go outside. For those of us who hike through the winter, this means getting up a little earlier to beat crowds to trails and having a backup plan in case everyone wants to hike the same trail you do. COVID-19 seems to have caused an increase in the number of people looking to get out. This is awesome and we’re excited to see so many people enjoying nature, minus the few people we’ve run into that don’t respect the trail (Don’t light fires in the middle of the brush! There’s a lot that can burn right now! Also, please clean up your trash.).

With everyone looking to hike, we’ve taken to seeking out trails that require all-wheel drive and some grit to get to or generally harder trails. We actually drove up to one mountain, only to turn around and attempt to access it from another side! It would have been an amazing story if we had been able to locate the trail and walk on more than an old logging road. Not that I’m complaining, it was absolutely gorgeous back there.

img_20200422_113123It seems as though our hiking habits have leaked into my knitting again; I’m currently working on another Flax Light by TinCanKnits and couldn’t help but deviate from the suggested “fingering” weight that the pattern calls for. For all of the sweater’s ribbing, the plan is to hold a skein of Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Lace-Garn that’s been sitting in my stash double. For the rest of the sweater, I’m holding the Lace-Garn with Stacy Charles Fine Yarns Luna Effects. The result is this fuzzy (and a little tacky) sweater that makes me feel like I belong on the original set of Full House. I can’t help but get excited as I set the sleeves aside and begin to take on the body, good thing I live in the mountains and might get to wear it on a cool summer night.

The crazier undertaking has been converting Azalea from a thin strap tank-top into a short-sleeved sweater. The body of the tank is simple enough, minus some cool lace at the bottom, and knits up relatively quickly. Once those pieces are knit, you’re supposed to pick up stitches and knit 3 rows or so to make straps. In other words, once you’ve knit the body it shouldn’t take much longer to complete the project. But I’m a knitter and what’s the point of knitting something if you can’t make it what you really want?

Using the yarn I bought in Spain, I enthusiastically knit the front and back pieces. Then I took a deep breath, picked up the side stitches and knit sleeve caps. Sleeve caps are really cool! I’ve never done them this way before, but I knit a different sweater that has you seam them on at the end and really like the way it makes the sweater fit. After knitting the sleeves, I seamed the sides and tried it on with my fingers crossed.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200422085305802_cover-3It fit! The armholes weren’t too small and the lace bottom hung nicely despite my first attempt at the single crochet seaming technique. Then I looked up and noticed how low the neckline was. I cannot stress how deep the v on this v neck was.

The problem with knitting is that you begin to run out of ways to fix problems as the problems appear closer and closer to the end of your project. At this point, I wasn’t going to pick up stitches and work a few decrease rows to make the neck smaller because I wanted the seam to line up with the ribbing. So I held my breath and picked up the many stitches required to start the neckline ribbing… only to be excited when it worked!

Overall, I’m happy with the way this tank turned t-shirt turned out. There are a few things I would do differently – like lengthen the body and skip the 6 rows of stitching before starting the sleeve caps — but it was a great experiment!

Dyeing Experience with Smooth Rock Tripe

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It finally happened, I caught the natural dye bug. As I hike through the woods, I find myself wondering what color different things would bring to my yarn. Spending hours thumbing through beautifully illustrated natural dying books (Wild Color, The Modern Natural Dyer, and Harvesting Color, to name a few) piqued my interest, but it was not until my coworker started showing off her hand-dyed yarn that I started to become invested.

Fast forward almost a year, my coworker created a bath of Smooth Rock Tripe that she picked up while in Rhode Island and soaked for three months. The resulting dye bath looked very similar to grape juice, a dark rich purple, a color that our yarn sucked up happily and willingly.

This time around, I dyed three skeins: two of 100% wool (worsted weight) and one that began as a golden yellow. The color of the yarn post-bath and rinse is different from the dye color and the color of the yarn while in the bath. The smooth rock tripe created a cooper color when mixed with the golden yellow and a matte purple when allowed to sit on the 100% wool skeins — a very different color from the initial bath and my expectations. In other words, not exactly the look I was going for on the worsted yarn, but I’m still happy with the results.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of the cooper yarn. It will have to be used as an accent color or in a very small project. 440 yards of worsted weight is a good amount, however, I foresee at matching hat/mitten set in my future (or perhaps a wide woven scarf).

My coworker left behind some cooper water, which should create a green dye bath, and some dahlia water, which should create a yellow-orange color. I’m leaning towards dying over the worsted yarn to see if I can create a warmer color, or perhaps something with a bit of variegation. (If I end up dyeing over the worsted weight yarn, I’ll make sure to document what it looks like.)

All in all, I still feel the same way about dyeing (and spinning, when I think about it); I don’t have enough control of what I’m doing to provide me with the results I thought I was going to get. While this isn’t a bad thing and experimentation is fun, it would be nice to be in a place where I do have control and can plan out my projects.