Monday, September 26, 2016

Making Plarn

  Since I've been cutting bags again and making plastic yarn using the loop method, I figured I'd share another plarn-making tutorial. I just did a quick example of how it was made for the Giant Plarn Rug, and the photos didn't come out the best. I'm still experimenting with my new tripod and an auto function on the camera, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try again.


  After many years of making plarn, I've learned a few tricks. Although I still prefer cutting it in one continuous strip, this "loop method" is so much faster. When you first start out making plarn, you might find it fun, interesting, and occupying. After your first project requiring 500 bags, you'll realize how occupying the creation of the material can be. The tricks I'll teach you in this tutorial will show you the best way to hold the loops to join them the fastest, and how to make those knots a little prettier.


plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet


Here are a few points I think we should cover first:
- My goal (this time) is to make mats for the homeless, so I'm trying to find the perfect width that makes a squishy material, but not so thick to make the mat difficult to transport. My project is still in the experimental stage. The width of your material will depend on what you will be making and your hook size.

- I've found I can crochet with plarn faster using finger crochet, so I need thick material to fit the larger gauge of my finger. If you want to work up your plarn using a smaller hook, then you should definitely cut your material thinner than what you'll see here.

- And for those who are here for the Giant Plarn Rug, the material for that was created by making only two loops from each bag; I'll be making three loops in this tutorial.


plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet

  And there's what I made with my 4"-wide loops: A two-round granny square that measures 10" (25 cm) across. The material for that square feels perfect, but the corner holes of the granny are too big for a sleeping mat, so you can see I have more experimenting to do. Now that you know the madness behind my method, you can judge the width to cut your own loops... I'll leave that up to you. But to learn one of the best ways to join those loops, follow me:



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 It doesn't matter whether you're cutting your plarn with scissors, a rotary cutter, or a paper cutter like what I'll be using this time. If you don't feel comfortable cutting more than one bag at a time, then don't. I might cut through 20 bags at a time with my rotary cutter, but it gets wobbly and I go through blades like crazy. Do whatever is the safest for you.
 I'm cutting 5-6 bags at a time with this paper cutter. However, stacking bags can make them shift while cutting, resulting in sloppy, jagged cuts and the need to cut again. If you're completely new to making plarn, then start with one bag. If you're just new to cutting more than one bag at a time, try starting out with 2 or 3. Folding the stack of bags in half (like you'll see next) helps to hold them together.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Begin by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the bags. You'll need to cut about 1" (2.5 cm) from the bottom to avoid the seam. Once the tops and bottoms of the bags have been removed, the remainder of the bag will form a tube. Cut parallel to the top and bottom cuts to create "loops" from the tube.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Remember, I'm creating super-thick plarn! I'm only cutting three loops from a tube - each loop is about 4" (10 cm) wide. You could get about twelve 1"-wide loops from each bag.


  Whether you join the loops as you cut the bags or wait to join them all at once is your decision. Either way, let's learn a few tricks for how to join those loops with a nice, smooth knot...


**From here, I'm going to refer to the loops as "strips", because I have to show and tell you how to "open up a loop in the loop"... You can see how that would get confusing. So now the loops are strips, and any loops you see are created in them. Get it?**
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Open up the end of one strip to form a loop. Run the end of a second strip through this loop, just far enough to fit your fingers inside the new strip. Don't pull it any farther through than you need, and you'll save time.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Holding the first strip firmly, insert your finger and thumb to create a loop in the new strip.
 Try keeping your fingers spread in this loop while you pull the strip through in the next step, as you see in this photo. This will allow you to keep the loop open as you pull the strip. Otherwise, the loop begins to tighten and a knot can form too soon.


 Unfortunately, I couldn't hold the plarn that way for the next photo, because you couldn't see what I was doing - It just looked like a mess.
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Pull the tail of the second strip through the loop (in the second strip). Continue pulling the whole strip through until a knot begins to form close to the first strip. Don't pull it tight yet! Check out the next tips...



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Okay, so if you just pull your strips gently until firm, you'll most likely get a knot like the one you see above. Sometimes, the strips don't pull evenly, and you'll have a big loop in the knot, or it just won't tighten up as much as the rest. Let's fix that! Making plarn doesn't always go smoothly. The next step shows you how to make it look nicer:



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Insert your fingers and thumbs inside each strip, close to the knot. Spread the strips open, slowly tightening the knot. If it won't tighten, then you probably have slack inside the knot, which is easier to fix before you tighten it too much. Pull the knot loose just a little, and re-tighten as shown above.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Repeat, repeat, repeat! Keep adding new strips to the end of your plastic yarn until you're swimming in a tangle of it, or add a few at a time while you work your project up.


  I sure hope my tips can help you make plarn easier and faster! I've learned that plastic grocery bags have to be purchased, or are banned altogether, in many places across the world. But as you can see by all my grey bags, the local Walmart doesn't hesitate to bag (and double bag) my items. It has led to an unbelievable stash in my house. Some people say they'd rather work with yarn (me, too), or others think creating plarn is too time-consuming (it is), but there's much more to it than that...

  When I see the amount of space my year's worth of shopping bags can take up, I imagine it going into a landfill. Then, I wonder how much space it would take up if every person in my neighborhood were to throw away the same amount... Wow. Yes, they could be recycled, but where to take them around here? I don't know, and I bet a lot of other people don't, either. The county is more enthusiastic about advertising the next cattle auction than a recycling program. So, I make plarn and crochet it into useful items. But when I'm done with a project, I can't wait to get back to my yarn.  


Happy Crocheting!


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Really?

  More than ever, I feel like Karma is biting me. Since that Russian Join tutorial where I taught you that fixing a knot in your skein can be a simple task, I've ran into a knot in every single skein that I've worked with.


  This is where I should remind you that these things happen from time to time, and we just have to deal with it. Still, it's happening to me a lot after that tutorial... So, between my last few posts and this one, it might sound like I'm saying "don't buy this yarn", but I'm not. I'm just saying that I'm having some bad luck, and I'm frustrated. It's like "REALLY? Is this what I get for telling you to repair your knots?"


  Aside from that, it's actually causing me to be more productive... I think. Being sick of finding knot after knot, I rushed to finish my fuzzy blanket. Instead of being discouraged, I took on a "get it out of here already" mentality. And in the course of working on it for a few nights, I finally used up what was left of the fuzzy yarn:


crochet, blanket, Bernat Pipsqueak, poo emoji


  Now, wait... Where's the big finish photo, and why does 💩 seem to be the main focus in the picture? Call it artistic suggestion, because that's kinda how I feel about my "big finish". It's not big, and it's not finished. Yes, I used up what was left of the yarn, and I guess I have a usable throw blanket, but it's not quite big enough to go all the way across my bed like I wanted. But OMG, stop being so pessimistic, right? Here, have the "big finish" photo:

crochet, blanket, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn


  That's some progress! But, I messed up... I realize now that my planning was off when buying more yarn for the project... As you crochet in the round, each additional round will take a little more yarn than the last. I had guessed that I'd get six rounds out of a skein after the center block, and I only made it through five. After that, I continued getting one less round than I thought I would...

crochet, blanket, yarn, Bernat Pipsqueak

  And even had to use scrap from another ball to finish five rounds after that color change. Now that I have a better idea of how much it will use up, I think two more skeins will get me close to the size I want, but still not enough - I'll need four more skeins, and I'm not sure if I want to invest that much in this project. For now, it's bound off, and I'll call it a finished throw until decide whether or not to get more yarn. It might not be turning lemons into lemonade, but it's keeping them from spoiling at least.


  In my frantic goal to reduce my stash and get reorganized, I practically threw that blanket aside to pick up something else. There's more yarn to use up, after all! But, how does that fit in with getting rid of some WIP's? I sat down with a skein of Loops & Threads Facets, and worked up a gauge swatch. 

crochet, yarn, gauge swatch, Loops & Threads 'Facets'

  Then I began working on a new square pattern for what I thought would be another blanket. The plan was to get two skeins of this new yarn, test them out, then maybe make a blanket... But then I'll run into the same problem of needing more yarn! Perhaps I'll just turn the squares into a scarf.


  Regardless of what they would become, I continued working up squares. After making four from the skein, it's looking like I'll only get two more squares out of it. Bummer - That won't even make a scarf, so maybe it will be a cowl. Still in my "run with it" mentality, I kept working... Until this:

crochet, yarn, knots


  Ugh! Being new to this yarn, I'm not sure if the Russian Join will work to repair it. I had the same fear with the fuzzy yarn, but it worked out fine, so I'm hopeful. But unlike the plied mess of fluff, this bulky yarn seems to be a loosely spun single:

crochet, Russian Join, yarn, knots

  I'm not sure if I'm right about that, because it changes appearance throughout the skein. Some of it is so loosely spun that it will pull apart, and other parts look as if they are plied. I think those two-color parts are just a single that is spun with two-color roving. I'm short on time, so I'll be investigating that later today or tomorrow. There will be an update about the yarn and whether or not the Russian Join worked in the near future. Either way, I was tired then and afraid to try the method on it, so I threw it aside for the next project.


  I'm sticking to a simple design to use up my stash: Giant granny rectangles. I grabbed the next victim from the bag of new yarn. I didn't work up a gauge swatch, which left me ripping out the first few rounds and reaching for a bigger hook size. Once that problem was solved, I immediately fell in love with Bernat Baby Blanket.

crochet, yarn, blanket, Bernat Baby Blanket


  It's so soft and fluffy! Just like the last fluffy yarn I worked with, but without the fuzzy bits left behind. (Plus, you can actually see your stitches.) And the super-bulky weight makes the project grow so fast! Oh boy, was I happy and enjoying that experience. Until...

yarn, crochet, knots


  Yup. I was nearing the end of the ball, and ran into a knot. With so little left, I thought I'd roll up the mess that once was a skein before repairing that knot. Before I finished, I found another knot. Needing another skein or two to finish the project, I considered calling what's left of this ball "scrap" and continuing with a new one. The Russian Join might be a great way to repair yarn, but I'm getting a little tired of having to prove it.


  Is it bad luck when purchasing skeins, or does my trouble-causing Troll hop in the bag the second I get my yarn home? I don't have the answer, just the problem. I'll have the solution, too, if the Russian Join works on that loosely spun yarn. Now that I've talked out my frustrations, I'm a little more enthusiastic about getting to it. Since Rip van Winkle is once again napping (really?) and I have to wait for the company he's expecting (really.), I won't be going yarn shopping like I had planned. I better get done with this scarf/cowl/whatever, so I can start another blanket from the rest of the stash. Really!


Happy Crocheting!   

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fuzz and Other 'F' Words

  Feelings; fascination; fluffiness - I wanted a soft, fuzzy throw blanket for my bed, and I love the "fur" of Bernat Pipsqueak yarn. Freezing - I'm always cold, so I need a fluffy blanket. Fantastic - I finally found a rectangular pattern that doesn't curl with this yarn. Failure? Maybe. I was excited and motivated at first, but right now I'm feeling like...


  My latest fluffy formulation is a freaking fuzzy disaster! I'd like to include a few other 'F' words in that sentence, but I don't use that kind of language here. I think you can still get my point, though.


crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots


  So, what's wrong? I think every crocheter knows this feeling: You're working happily along, envisioning your completed project... Then that thing happens that brings your work to a screeching halt... A knot in the yarn. Faulty yarn? This really can be a simple problem to fix, as I shared in a recent tutorial for the Russian Join. But now I feel like Karma has its teeth attached somewhere behind me, because after posting that lesson and telling you how "easy" it can be, look what I found:


crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots


  I'm ready to give up. It's not like I hate the blanket... I really enjoy the feel of the fluffy, fuzzy yarn, even though I don't like having to clean up the bits of fuzz that come from it. I'm having fun with the simple granny rectangle design, despite not really being able to see a single stitch. And I'm looking forward to keeping this downy-soft creation on my bed this winter, but I'm not sure if the five balls I have will make a blanket big enough... Nope, even with all those problems, I still can't forsake this project. I just hate this knot:


crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots


  My motivation is beginning to fizzle away. Oh well, what can you do? I simply need to sit down and repair it, then get over this experience. It still makes me mad. I crocheted through my whole ball of white, to see how far it would go. Then I decided to rip back some, cut, and begin the blue. I often prefer darker colors, but I really like this blue:

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots



  It's so soothing, isn't it? I wasn't enjoying the blinding whiteness of the beginning, and this blue calmed my irritation. After working a few rounds, the ball was running out. I planned on finishing the round, cutting the blue, and picking up the white again. I came to the last double crochet set in the round... Almost to the end of the ball... Flop. The mess exposed itself with an audible "here I am" on the table.

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots



  That was the end of the blue being soothing, and the beginning of quite a few 'F' words muttered at the project. But like I said before: What can you do? Yes, I'm frustrated. It's quite disappointing that I couldn't stretch an extra foot from the yarn to avoid the knot. This is not going to be fun. I just need to get it done and over with...

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots



  Do you figure there's a Russian Join being made somewhere in all of that fuzz? I think. I'm not actually sure if this will even work, because I've never used the method on a fluffy yarn like this before. And I think by the photos, you can tell why you don't see many tutorials for how to do this to fuzzy yarn. Well, there are plies in there somewhere, and I think I picked some up on the needle, so here goes...

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots



  Yay, *happy dance*! Although it was 100% more difficult than joining smooth yarn, the Russian Join method worked. It worked so well that I had some trouble closing my loops! The texture of the yarn creates a ton of friction against itself, and I don't think I'll have any problems with it coming apart. Now, all I have to do is trim the ends, and find that stitch that I had to drop. Once again, I'll remind you that a locking stitch marker (or a cable needle) can be a great tool for keeping your working loop from pulling out...

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots



  And once again, I didn't use one. Sigh. I'm starting to think these kinds of projects have no reward other than "I finished it". There's no "look what I made" pride in this work; I'm feeling more like "why am I doing this?" discouraged. To be honest, I felt like throwing this project in the trash for a fickle moment. I followed through instead, fixing the problem, despite having fears that the method wouldn't work.


  I didn't feel like doing it, but I found the stitch I dropped, finished the round, and began with white again. Work has continued, and the blanket is getting fuller. I've now found the same kind of knot in three more skeins. Each time, I've wanted to give up again. 

crochet, Bernat Pipsqueak, yarn, blanket, knots


  ...But I keep moving forwardWow, maybe I'm finally turning into a full-grown adult! One that's making a fluffy baby blanket for her bed...

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Angel Cakes Shawl

  A beautiful, lacy shawl with a pattern so easy beginners can follow along! Can you make a chain stitch and a single crochet? If yes, then you've got this. I stopped short of using my whole skein of Caron Cakes to create the version shown, but you could continue the pattern for a wider, longer shawl. You could also end the pattern sooner for a cute little triangle scarflet. Finished size of version shown is 64" (162.5 cm) across by 24" (61 cm) long.


  There's a picture tutorial to help you get started, and some progress photos so you know there's no lie: The shaping looks a little weird, taking on a curved, stingray-like shape as you begin working. But with a little tugging the pattern settles into a triangular shape, and the addition of an edging straightens it all out. The border could be skipped if you like the curved shape, or an edging-free shawl could be straightened out with some heavy blocking when finished. Personally, I like the contrast of the colors running up the sides of the stripes and recommend working the border, but with all these options, it's easy to customize your project to your own tastes.


free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes


free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes



Skill level:
Easy






Materials:





1 ball Caron Cakes yarn - 80% acrylic / 20% wool - worsted weight (4)
-or any similar gauge yarn
Crochet hook size I/9 - 5.50 MM
-or size needed to match gauge
Yarn needle
Stitch markers (optional but recommended; see notes)



Gauge:
In 4" by 4" (10 cm by 10 cm)
12 rows of 12 single crochet

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes


Notes:
Chain-1 at beginning of rows does not count as a stitch.

Stitch markers are recommended for beginners. The first and last chain spaces of rows can be difficult to find, and this prevent you from having to count spaces across. Just a few markers are needed to mark the beginning/ends of rows, and the joining space for the edging. If you have no problem keeping track of the spaces, feel free to work without markers.

Numbers in brackets [ ] are only for the purpose of the photo tutorial. If you see a number in brackets, you'll find this step in a picture below the instructions for each row.

*I've been getting a lot of requests for translated versions of my patterns. Anyone can easily use that "translate" button on my sidebar, but abbreviations don't translate! To make the pattern easier to translate into all languages, I'm writing it out first with no abbreviations, along with the tutorial. For those of you who prefer the shorthand version without tutorial photos, you can find it written after the full pattern.


Stitches:
(American terms)
Chain (ch)
Single crochet (sc)

*Half-double crochet (hdc) - needed once for joining the edging. I'll give you instructions on how to skip this, for beginners who haven't learned the stitch yet. (In that case, you'll use a slip stitch.) But, hey beginners: I'll also show you how to make that half-double crochet!


free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes



Directions:

Row 1:
Chain 2, single crochet in the farthest chain from the hook. Chain 4, single crochet in the same stitch. [1] Chain 1, turn. [2]
(1 chain-4 space)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

*Note that the pattern turns itself upside-down after step 1. Keep the beginning tail at the bottom when turning, as shown in step 2.


Row 2:
Single crochet in the first chain-4 space. [1] (Chain 4, single crochet in the same chain-4 space) 2 times. [2 & 3] Chain 1, turn.
(3 chain-4 spaces)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes



Row 3:
Single crochet in the first chain-4 space, chain 4, single crochet in the same space. [1] (Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) 2 times. [2] Chain 4, single crochet in the same space. [3] Chain 1, turn.
(4 chain-4 spaces)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes


Row 4:
Single crochet in the first chain-4 space, chain 4, single crochet in the same space. [1] (Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) 3 times. [2] Chain 4, single crochet in the same space. [3] Chain 1, turn.
(5 chain-4 spaces)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes


Row 5:
Single crochet in the first chain-4 space, chain 4, single crochet in the same space. (Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) 4 times. Chain 4, single crochet in the same space. 
(6 chain-4 spaces)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes


Row 6 and all following rows:
Chain 1, turn. Single crochet in the first chain-4 space, chain 4, single crochet in the same space. (Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) to last chain-4 space. Chain 4, single crochet in the same space. 
(7, 8, 9... chain-4 spaces / The number of chain-spaces will increase by 1 each row.)

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

As stated in the description, the sides of the pattern will begin to curve around as you work. This is caused when the last single crochet in the row is worked too far over in the chain space, so it may not be a problem for everyone. Some gentle stretching of the sides will pull the curl out of it as the single crochet settles into place, but a small curve is still noticeable. Working the edging up the sides pulls the curve completely out of the design, so if you like the shape, you may want to skip those final steps.

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes
 

End on any number row you wish. Version shown ends on row 52.

Do not bind off if working the edging; mark the beginning chain-4 space of your last row.


free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes



Edging:
Working up the side, up to the chain-space of the first row: (Chain 3, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) across, chain 3 before corner. Working into bottom corner/chain-4 of row 1: (Single crochet, chain 3, single crochet)*. Working up next side: (Chain 3, single crochet in the next chain-4 space) across, to last available space before marked chain-4. Chain 1, half-double crochet** in beginning single crochet of marked space.

*See tips in the photos below for how to begin weaving in your tail while you work.

**Instead of (chain 1, half-double crochet), you can chain 3 and join with a slip stitch. Joining with the half-double will give you something more substantial to begin weaving your tail into, instead of the lacy chain stitches of the rest of the design.



Bind off, weave in ends.

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes



-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -


Abbreviated, photo-free directions:

Row 1:
Ch 2, sc in the farthest ch from the hook. Ch 4, sc in the same stitch. Ch 1, turn.
(1 ch-4 space)


Row 2:
Sc in the first ch-4 space. (Ch 4, sc in the same ch-4 space) 2 times. Ch 1, turn.
(3 ch-4 spaces)


Row 3:
Sc in the first ch-4 space, ch 4, sc in the same space. (Ch 4, sc in the next ch-4 space) 2 times. Ch 4, sc in the same space. Ch 1, turn.
(4 ch-4 spaces)


Row 4:
Sc in the first ch-4 space, ch 4, sc in the same space. (Ch 4, sc in the next ch-4 space) 3 times. Ch 4, sc in the same space. Ch 1, turn.
(5 ch-4 spaces)


Row 5:
Sc in the first ch-4 space, ch 4, sc in the same space. (Ch 4, sc in the next ch-4 space) 4 times. Ch 4, sc in the same space. 
(6 ch-4 spaces)


Row 6 and all following rows:
Ch 1, turn. Sc in the first ch-4 space, ch 4, sc in the same space. (Ch 4, sc in the next ch-4 space) to last ch-4 space. Ch 4, sc in the same space. 
(7, 8, 9... ch-4 spaces)

End on any number row you wish. Version shown ends on row 52.

Do not bind off if working edging; mark the beginning ch-4 space of your last row.


Edging:
Working up the side, up to the ch-space of the first row: (Ch 3, sc in the next ch-4 space) across, ch 3 before corner. Working into bottom corner/ch-4 of row 1: (Sc, ch 3, sc). Working up next side: (Ch 3, sc in the next ch-4 space) across, to last available space before marked ch-4. Ch 1, hdc* in beginning sc of marked space.

*Instead of (ch 1, hdc), you can ch 3 and join with a slip stitch. Joining with the half-double will give you something more substantial to begin weaving your tail into, instead of the lacy chain stitches of the rest of the design.

Bind off, weave in ends.


-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -


  There are tons of ways to wear this shawl! To the front, side, or back; pinned, tied, or draped... Or even as a sarong! With so many options, this just might become your next favorite accessory. And with all the color options available, it will be hard not to make one in every "flavor" of Caron Cakes!


free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

free crochet pattern, Angel Cakes Shawl, shawl, Caron Cakes

Happy Crocheting!