Friday, August 29, 2014

Free Pattern: Spooky Glow in the Dark Charms

  A ghastly apparition, an eerie extraterrestrial, and a grinning death skull are all glowing in the spotlight this Halloween! Soda can tabs are used to make the same beginning form for each of these scary little guys. Using a small amount of glow-in-the-dark plastic lacing, you can follow each pattern to crochet plenty of them by Halloween.

**There's also a bonus pattern for a "creepy" video game character at the end!**

  Attach a couple of jump rings to turn into jewelry, add a key chain ring or pin back, or make some chains at the top to have them hanging around. Turn a few into some hair-raising hair clips, or make multiples of each figure to create a spooky garland. These charms have endless possibilities.

Finished size of body form is 1 1/4" x 1" (3 cm x 2.5 cm).

The measurement across the ghost is 2 1/2" (6 cm).

The alien head is 1 3/4" (4.5 cm) x 2" (5 cm) at widest point.

The skull is 3" x 2 1/2" (7.5 cm x 6 cm.)

Skill level:

Steel crochet hook size 7/1.65 MM or size needed to obtain gauge
Plastic lacing (lanyard string), glow-in-the-dark - about a yard for each smaller piece; a few yards for skull
Smaller hook to weave in ends
Soda can tabs, one for each charm you wish to make

10 rows of 10 sc = 2" x 2" (5 cm x 5 cm)

This pattern may be difficult for anyone with a hand disability or injury. The small hook and stiff materials can be awkward to work with.

Keep your tension loose or you could cut the material with your hook.

*A safety tip: The gummy, rubbery texture of the plastic lacing is very tempting for little ones to chew on. If a child has not outgrown the stage of putting things in their mouth (do they ever?), please don't give them any of these pieces. The possibility of chewing through the material is a choking hazard, and the metal tabs can have extremely sharp edges.

Slip stitch - sl st
Chain - ch
Single crochet - sc
Double crochet - dc
Double crochet two together - dc2tog - Yarn over, insert hook, pull up a loop. Yarn over, pull through 2 loops. Yarn over, insert hook into next st, pull up a loop. Yarn over, pull through 2 loops. Yarn over, pull through all 3 loops.

Directions for beginning form:

The tab is not symmetrical. The direction of the tab will determine the shape of the eyes, mouth and body. If making skull, it is necessary to use the oval shaped hole at the top.

Leave a tail long enough to travel the outer distance of the tab.

Begin with lacing behind tab, from top to bottom. Insert end of lacing under center bar of tab, from back to front.

Pull to the top.

Holding tail behind tab, insert hook under loop made at top of tab.

Pick up working end of lacing, pull through loop as for a slip stitch.

Ch 1.

Hold tail to the working side of the tab, work the following sts over it. 3 sc in upper opening of tab.

Moving past center bar: 8 sc in lower opening.

3 sc in upper opening.

Join with a sl st to beg ch-1.

Continue to the pattern you wish to create.

Directions for Ghost:

Ch 1, turn. 1 sc in same st and in each of next 3 sts. Ch 1, 1 dc in same st as last sc. Ch 4, sl st in top loop of dc just made. Ch 5, sl st in 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in next st. Ch 2, 1 sc in same st. Ch 1, sl st in next st. Ch 3, 1 dc in following st. Ch 2, sl st in top of last dc, 1 dc in the next st. Ch 3, sl st in the following st. Ch 1, (1 sc, ch 2, 1 dc) in next st. Ch 5, sl st in 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in next st. Ch 4, sl st in top of last dc. Ch 1, 1 sc in same st as last dc. 1 sc in each of next 2 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. Optional: You may want to make a few chains at the top of the figure, depending on how you will be finishing it. Bind off, weave in ends.

Directions for Alien/Beginning of Skull:

Ch 7, turn, sl st in 3rd st from beg. Ch 1, turn. (3 sc, ch 1, 2 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc) in ch-7 sp. Sl st in the joining sl st of the previous row. Ch 7, sk 2 sts, sl st. Ch 1, turn. (3 sc, ch 1, 2 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc) in ch-7 sp. Sk beg sl st, join with a sl st to next available st.

To complete Alien, you may wish to make a few chains, depending on how you will be finishing it. Bind off, weave in ends.

Directions for completing Skull:

Ch 3, turn. Dc2tog, 2 dc in each of next 4 sts. 1 dc in each of the following 3 sts, dc2tog. Ch 2, sk 1, 1 sc. (Ch 3, 1 sc) in each of next 3 sts. Ch 2, sk 1, dc2tog. Ch 15, turn, sl st in previous dc2tog. Turn, (sl st, ch 1, 1 sc) in ch-15 sp. (Ch 3, 1 sc) 5 times in ch-15 sp. Ch 1, sl st in dc2tog. 1 dc in each of next 3 sts. 2 dc in each of the following 4 sts. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3.

When complete, this piece weighs almost 1/2 oz (12.5 g), and is quite heavy and large for jewelry. However, you could attach jump rings for a keychain or ornament, and it makes an awesome garland. Before finishing off, make desired number of chains. Leave loose or join with a sl st to last sl st. Bind off, weave in ends.

Happy Halloween!

Bonus for Minecraft fans:
Finished size of Creeper is 1 3/4" x 1 1/2" (4.5 cm x 3.8 cm)

This is for my kid...It is a Creeper, right? Could it be an Enderman? Maybe it's a Ghast...I don't know, they all have square heads to me!
(I'm kidding...It's a Creeper. Hopefully this one won't explode!)

To make a square around body form, work in the back loops only in each st. Ch 1, 1 sc in same st. 2 sc, ch 1, 2 sc. 1 sc in each of next 3, 2 sc, ch 1. 2 sc in each of next 2 sts. Ch 1, 2 sc in following st. 1 sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in following. Ch 1, 2 sc in last st. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1. Bind off, weave in ends.

Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday

Crafting for Special Occasions, and Christmas in July

  It may be over, but let's discuss Christmas in July: Where did it come from, and how is it connected to crafting? I love this subject simply for all the different stories you will hear. After trying to do some historical research, I discovered three different origins during my first three internet searches. The first article I read stated the celebrations began in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas falls in the summer. The next information I found was about merchants trying to draw more business in a slow season. The last subject I read about was the first documented use of the term "Christmas in July", by a group of Girl Scouts at Camp Keystone in 1933. They held a celebration with everything from Christmas trees to Santa Claus.  Finding a different twist to the story with each click was interesting.

  None of this information came close to what I remember about the background or it's association with crafts, so I gave up the search, and decided to tell it my way. I have no recollection of where my impression came from, but somewhere along the line, I read about a different origin of the tradition. It didn't have anything to do with celebrations or parties. It isn't about observing the holiday at a more convenient time of the year, or getting the best deal on presents with blowout sales. Apparently, the idea behind Christmas in July nowadays is far from my own notion of its history. 

Let's go back in time for a moment:

  Think of what it was like before department stores, malls, and even gas powered vehicles. You couldn't just run to Walmart on Christmas Eve to pick up a present for Grandma, you had to make it! Men might carve or build things like toys, kitchen utensils, or even furniture from wood. Women often used yarn, cloth, and needlework to create special pieces for the ones they loved. Children as young as six would put their own skills to work making a simple gift such as an embroidered handkerchief for a family member. 

  Making something by hand, specifically for a certain person, not only took thought, planning, and materials (plus skill), crafters also needed time to finish their projects in between the workings of a busy life. Just like there wasn't a corner store to run to for more eggs, there wasn't a craft store to run to for more yarn, thread, or cloth. There may have been a shop of some kind, but if they ran out of supplies, it could be possible to not see another shipment for months. Not to mention, in some cases it took an entire day to reach the town or general store . In times farther back, perhaps you even would have had to spin your own yarn, weave your own cloth, or barter with a neighbor!

  All of that may seem like a hassle to us now, but it was just part of daily life back then. A woman would have finished knitting a new pair of stockings by candlelight after the harvest was in and the cows were milked. Obviously, it took a while to finish presents for the whole family. It was typical to start thinking of Christmas gifts as soon as July! Again, I can't recall where I read about it, but I thought that thinking ahead was the idea behind "Christmas in July".

Please leave a comment if you know of any other stories involving the history of "Christmas in July". I'm fascinated with all the different angles of the origin.

  No matter what the occasion, handmade gifts usually come from the heart as much as from your hands. If you are a crafter, you probably realize you can't begin working on that shawl for Aunt Bertha only a day before her birthday. The thought might be from your heart, but can your hands keep up? When you create from scratch, time management is an important part of project planning. Maybe you can finish a simple paper project or knit a dishcloth in a night, but something large like a quilt would need...oh, I don't know...a year if I made it

  Have you ever ran out of time for a craft? If you sell your work or create as a favor, you may have had experiences like mine.

  An acquaintance once approached me on a Monday with a request for a beautiful, complicated wedding afghan. It contained interlocking rings, pineapples, mesh, puff stitch flowers, leaves and more. It could possibly have been a sampler pattern for how to become the most advanced crocheter. I asked to look over the pattern, and I would get back to her as soon as I knew if I could handle it. It looked something like this, but better, because my memory is vague and my drawing is appalling:

My first question: "When will you need it by?"

Answer: "They're getting married this weekend!"

Ha, ha, ha...

  Maybe non-crafty people don't comprehend the amount of effort it takes sometimes, or perhaps they think we're Superhumans. But a crafter needs to know their skill level and time frame before beginning a gift. Made of tiny motifs using thread, the afghan I was asked to make may have been completed by the couple's first anniversary, maybe. I knew I couldn't tackle it in time, so I had to politely refuse.  

Acquaintance's next suggestion: "How about you let me know what you need, and I buy the stuff today on my lunch break?"

My 'inside' answer: "Ugh..."

My real answer: "I'm sorry, but there's just not enough time."

Her reply: "I bet my grandma would have done it if she was still here..."

  I don't think it would have been reasonable to ask Grandma to complete that afghan in less than a week, either. I've concluded that some people might overestimate us, but others just don't appreciate the time and energy put into many crafts. Maybe a non-crafty person can't realize the effort required for such a project, but an advanced crocheter would have understood the extensive amount of time needed.

  Many projects list a time to estimate by, but what if the directions don't specify, or you design your own? Have you ever ran out of time to create a gift? Was it because you underestimated your time frame, because the project was more difficult than you thought, or did the occasion "sneak up" on you?

  Has anyone ever expected you to complete a project in an unreasonable amount of time? 

  Or possibly worse, have you spent a lengthy time creating a gift, just to have it unappreciated?

What would you do differently?


Friday, August 22, 2014

Free Pattern: Fall Flower and Cable Headband

  When you think fall colors, you probably get the impression of browns, oranges, and reds. The fashion industry has a bit of a different idea for the fall of 2014. The usual warm, cozy colors are still there, but with cooler aluminumpurples, and even blue hues added!

  The unusual picks on the fall color palette inspired me to rummage through my yarn stash, in need of a headband for those upcoming breezy fall days. I didn't have an exact match, but I began experimenting with anything close to it, and came up with something pleasing to the eye. The colors I put together not only coordinate with this season's fashion, they will remain in style through the winter months also.
  Royal blue is the focus point, adding a pop of bold color with an accessory. I was lucky when the Burgundy I had came in very close to this season's Sangria, and Coffee, although darker, took the place of Cognac nicely. The faux cables made with chains and slip stitches create an interesting design, while the added flowers quietly accent each of the colors.

  You can use the colors I chose, match them to the fashion industry's picks, or make one for any season in your own color choice. This pattern is a great scrapbuster, plus it's easy enough to adjust the pattern to fit little girls and babies, too! My original design wasn't what I was looking for, so I made some changes. Since both designs are cute and simple, I've provided directions for both, so you can make yours in the style you prefer.

In women's size:
Finished size for the non-elastic band is about 20" (50 cm) circumference.
Finished size of elastic band is 14" (35.5 cm) circumference, compressed; will stretch to fit up to 20" (50.5 cm).
Both are about 1" (2.5 cm) wide.

Skill Level:

Worsted weight (4) yarn
Red Heart Super Saver, a few yards of each:
  Burgundy - Color A
  Royal - Color B (version 1), Color C (version 2)
  Coffee - Color C (version 1), Color B (version 2)
Crochet hook size J/10 - 6 MM or size needed to obtain gauge
Tapestry needle to weave in ends
Elastic crochet thread (optional) - If you don't have elastic thread, you will need to make the band for version 1.
Stitch markers, if you are new to foundation stitches

Without elastic thread - 4 FDC = 2" (5 cm) wide, <1" (2.5 cm) tall
With elastic - 6 FDC = 2" (5 cm) wide, 1" (2.5 cm) tall


  • Adjustments are simple, therefore not written into the pattern. 

  • Average head measurements: 12" (30.5 cm) for premie size, 14" (35.5 cm) for baby, 16" (40.5 cm) for toddler, 18" (45.5 cm) for child, 20" (50.5 cm) for women.

  • Pattern is written for a woman's size band. 

  • Subtract 2 stitches from the band for each size decrease.

  • Adjusting the size of either version may make it necessary to "fudge" the cable a bit on odd numbered repeats. Don't worry about it...use this area to attach your flower(s), so it won't be noticed.

Stitches and abbreviations:
Chain - ch
Slip stitch - sl st
Foundation double crochet - FDC: Ch 3 (counts as first dc), *Yarn over, insert hook in fourth (4th) loop from hook, pull up a loop. Yarn over, pull through one (1) loop (foundation chain). Mark loop just made.(Yarn over, pull through two (2) loops) twice.* Repeat from * to * for each FDC. Marked loop = foundation chain.

Directions for version 1:

Non-elastic band - With color A, FDC 40. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3. Bind off, use tail to join gap at bottom, weave in ends.

Cable - 
Join color B with a sl st to any dc post. (Ch 1, sl st around to next dc post) 39 times [your numbers will be different if adjusting sizes]. Ch 1, join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, weave in ends.

Join color C to any dc post above color B. Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post below color B. (Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post above color B, ch 1, sl sl around the following dc post below color B) 22 times [Your numbers will be different if adjusting sizes]. Ch 1, join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, weave in ends.

Chrysanthemum flower,
One (1) of each color:

Begin with a magic circle.

Round 1:
(Sl st, ch 2) in magic circle 6 times.

Round 2:
*In next available ch-2 sp, (sl st, ch 1) twice, sl st in same sp.* Repeat from * to * 5 more times. Join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, leave tails to attach to band.

Use tails to secure each flower around 2 dc posts.
1. Weave tails to the center of the flower.
2. Attach first flower around 2 posts below "cable", secure with a snug overhand knot.
3. Move over to the next 2 posts to secure flower 2 above the cable.
4. Attach the third flower around the following 2 posts below the cable.
5. Secure the edges of the flowers to the band while weaving in ends.

Directions for version 2:

Elastic band -With color A, FDC 48. Join with a sl st to beg ch-3. Bind off, use tail to join gap at bottom, weave in ends.

Cable -
Join color B with a sl st to any dc post. (Ch 1, sl st around to next dc post) 47 times [Your numbers will be different if adjusting sizes]. Ch 1, join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, weave in ends.

Join color C to any dc post above color B. Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post. *(Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post below color B) twice. (Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post above color B) twice.* Repeat from * to *  11 times. [Your numbers will be different if adjusting sizes. If  your cable ends on an odd repeat, attach you flower(s) over this spot.] (Ch 1, sl st around the next dc post below color B) twice. Ch 1, join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, weave in ends.

Chrysanthemum flower,
One (1) in Royal:

Begin with a magic circle.

Round 1:
(Sl st, ch 2, sl st, ch 1) in magic circle 6 times.

Round 2:
*In next available ch-2 sp, (sl st, ch 1) twice, sl st in same sp. Sl st in following ch-1 sp.* Repeat from * to * 5 more times. Join with a sl st to beg sl st. Bind off, leave tails to attach to band.

Use tails to secure the flower around 1 dc post.
1. Weave tails to the center of the flower.
2. Attach the flower around 1 post, going between "cables", secure with a snug overhand knot.
3. Weave in ends. 

  You can combine any combination of cables or flowers to either band. Remember to attach your flowers over an uneven cable.
  I know from experience, if you have thin or straight hair, the non-elastic band will be difficult to wear over the top of your hair. It can still be worn around the forehead, but use elastic for the best fit. Elastic thread can be sewn into the piece after completion if your band doesn't fit. If you have textured hair with body, either band will work well for you.

Did you make yours with a different combination? Please share your own ideas!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Yarn Tales Tuesday

A Mix of Materials

  Have you ever mixed different yarns together in a project? Did it work out fine, or was it a disaster? What about mixing different kinds of material? Have you ever created something using more than just yarn?

  I've just finished up one project using two different kinds of yarn in contrasting colors. Now I'm working on a project using two completely different materials. While working on the afghan with combined yarns, I was lucky to have no problems with gauge. Both yarns develop into the same size fabric, despite not feeling the same while working with them.    

  The yarns I combined are Caron One Pound and Caron Simply Soft. I ran into the same problems with them as usual, but at least there was no issue with the finished size and shape of my project. Click the links to read my original reviews of Caron One Pound and Simply Soft. These reviews explain the difficulties I have with Caron brand yarns.

  My latest project is a challenge! This is what I often get when I let my kid design something. I say "I want to make a (fill in subject here), do you want to help me come up with some ideas?" No matter what it might be, she always takes creativity to the top. I was planning something with multiple colors of plarn (plastic yarn), but now we're up to two colors of plarn and some Simply Soft

  The first thing necessary is to work up gauge swatches. Ha! The plarn I had already prepared won't work. When worked up, it's probably equal to a sport or DK weight yarn, while the Simply Soft is worsted. I already knew my rows were coming up short, so I didn't bother to complete the swatch. So it was back to the drawing board...

  Is it a disaster? No, not for me; at least not this time. Fortunately, I prepare plarn in my spare time, just getting rid of bags and making a stock for future projects. Fun, right? I've been told I need a better hobby! Well, regardless of what others without any hobbies say, I enjoy doing something to avoid filling up a landfill. But to get back to the subject (let's come back to this subject later), my project doesn't need to be scrapped or changed at all. Luckily, I thought of using double strands, like with the Welcome Mat I designed. With both strands held together, the plarn will equal the gauge of Simply Soft.

  Back to my side subject: Walmart bags. Unfortunately, we don't have many choices for shopping in the small town I live in. Well, it's not like Walmart is the only store in town, but the others price gouge to the point of poverty. So we're left with Walmart, and their bags, because I refuse to pay over $5 for a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs. So, you might notice many of my projects using the familiar gray and blue bags.

  How many of you are screaming at me to get some reusable bags? Been there, done that! I put them on the conveyor, the cashier moved them on top of the bag carousel, then she puts the groceries in the disposable bags. Okay, we'll try again next time, right? The same thing happened the next time, even after I spoke up, making sure she knew what they were for. A third time, I went as far as to put them on the racks in front of the bags, then I needed to go back to the conveyor to put my groceries up. This guy moves my bags, and puts my stuff in disposables again! I complained to the manager, who told me reusable bags "can be a hassle for our cashiers". REALLY? Why do you sell them at the register then? So, I make plarn because there's no getting through to these people.

  Okay, I'll end my rant, and I apologize, because the subject is yarn, plarn, and mistakes (or success), not Walmart, right?

  With some innovative thinking, I was lucky enough to avoid having to cut more plarn just for this project. Another option would have been to change hook size, but being slightly more than half the thickness of the yarn, the plarn pieces would have larger spaces in the fabric, while I need something compact. In the end, the double strands of plarn make a stronger, thicker fabric matching the gauge of the yarn. The only other choice would be to cut more bags.

  This can often be a problem when working with a scrap busting project. Have you ever had to *scrap* your idea for a project? Two yarns may both be worsted weight, but they might not work up in the same gauge. Would you choose to change hook sizes, or the materials used? Have you ever made the mistake of beginning a mixed material project without making swatches first? I'll admit it, I'm guilty, who else?

  I repeatedly jump into patterns without making a swatch, when the gauge doesn't really matter and it uses all the same material. Does it really matter much if an afghan or a bag finishes an inch or two off? Not to me, when I'm making it for myself. But what about that sweater? An inch or two can result in a garment that doesn't fit!

  Sometimes it is very important to test your gauge. Whether because of mixed material or for sizing, working up gauge swatches makes the difference between finishing a project, or having to say "Oh, scrap!"

  Please, share your disasters and successes with us to help others avoid the same problems. I once had a beach bag turn out 3 feet tall!  Have you ever had a crochet calamity because your gauge was off? Was it using different materials?

  Learning to make swatches can save your projects. What projects have come out perfectly by checking your gauge?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Free Pattern: Sports Team Afghan and Baby Blanket

Go team!

  You don't have to make this ripple blanket in sporty colors, but if you cheer for a team, why not start baby out early? Ripples are a great design for boys or girls of all ages, no matter what colors you choose. The texture and contrasting colors of this pattern will interest little ones' senses, while the combination of Caron brand's Simply Soft and One Pound will soothe with softness.

  The eyelets created by chain spaces make great peek-a-boo time for toddlers, though they don't make the pattern too lacy for the average guy. Bigger "kids" can support their team while they wrap up in the warmth of a throw or full size afghan during a chilly game. A throw or twin size afghan makes a great present for a new student's dorm room.

  Adjustments are provided to make a larger matching throw or afghan for dad (or mom) too! As a bonus, a pattern variation gives you a choice to make a slightly lighter blanket that works up faster! Baby blanket is 34" x 40" (86 cm x 101 cm), throw is 45" x 55" (114 cm x 140 cm). Check chart for finished afghan sizes.

Skill level:

Worsted weight (4) yarn


Color A: Caron One Pound -Royalty*
Color B: Caron Simply Soft -Neon Orange*

  Baby blanket-

Color A: Caron One Pound -Black
Color B: Caron One Pound -Sunflower

  -See size chart for amount of yarn needed. If you are using Caron One Pound for color B also, you will need half as many skeins as stated.

Crochet hook size I/9 - 5.50MM or size needed to obtain gauge
Needle or smaller hook to weave in ends

15 stitches = 1 multiple (set)

As written (throw):
1 multiple and 6 rows = 5" x 5" (12.5 cm x 12.5 cm)

In back loops only (baby blanket):
1 multiple and 6 rows = < 5" x 5"
- working the pattern variation increases the gauge vertically by less than 1/10" (0.25 cm) for each color repeat.
- with 8 color repeats and the last four rows, the length of this blanket was increased by less than 1" (2.5 cm).

-With 18 color repeats, a king size blanket's length would be increased to about 92" (233.5 cm)

*Mixing Simply Soft and One Pound yarn adds extra texture to the blanket. These two yarn work up in the same gauge, but Simply Soft feels just slightly thinner/lighter than One Pound.

When changing colors, remember to do so during the last step of the last stitch in the row before the change.

Stitches and abbreviations:
Begin/beginning - beg
Skip - sk
Stitch(es) - st(s)
Chain - ch
Single crochet - sc
Double crochet - dc
Double crochet 3 together - dc3tog - (Yarn over, insert hook in next st, pull up a loop. Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) three times. Yarn over, pull through all 4 loops on hook.


To begin, ch 138 (168, 198, 243, 273, 318) with color A.

Work pattern in the back loops only for a slightly longer, lighter blanket with added texture.

Row 1:
2 dc in 4th ch from hook. Ch 3, sk 3, dc3tog twice. Ch 3, sk 3, 3 dc. *3 dc in next st, ch 3, sk 3, dc3tog twice. Ch 3, sk 3, 3 dc.* Repeat from * to * 7 (10, 12, 15, 17, 20) more times. 

Row 2:
Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), turn, 2 dc in same st. Ch 3, sk 3, dc3tog twice. Ch 3, sk 3, 3 dc. *3 dc in next st, ch 3, sk 3, dc3tog twice. Ch 3, sk 3, 3 dc.* Repeat from * to *7 (10, 12, 15, 17, 20) more times.

All remaining rows will be repeating Row 2. Make two (2) more rows in color A. Make two (2) rows in color B.
Continue working pattern with four (4) rows of color A followed by two (2) rows of color B.

These six (6) rows are considered the "color repeats" listed on the size chart.
Check chart for number of repeats/rows.  

Last 4 Rows:
Repeat Row 2 in color A four (4) more times. Change to color B to work border. 

With color B: Ch 2 (counts as 1 sc, ch-1), turn, 1 sc in same st.  4 sc around first available ch-3 sp of both current and previous row. 1 sc in post sp between dc3tog, 4 sc in next available ch-3 sps of both current and previous row. Skip 2 dc, (2 sc in following post sp) 3 times.* Repeat from * to * 7 (10, 12, 15, 17, 20) times. (1 sc, ch 1, 1 sc) in last post sp. (3 sc around base ch [bottom loop] of next available [3dc] cluster) 51 (69, 111, 111, 111, 111) times. (1 sc, ch 1, 1 sc) in corner post sp. **3 sc around ch-3 sps of both current and previous rows. Sk 2 dc, (2 sc in next post-sp) 3 times, 3 sc around ch-3 sps of both current and previous rows. 2 dc in post-sp between dc3tog.** Repeat from ** to ** 7 (10, 12, 15, 17, 20) more times. 3 sc around ch-3 sps of both current and previous rows. (1 sc, ch-1, 1 sc) in corner post-sp. (3 sc around base ch of next available [3 dc] cluster) 51 (69, 111, 111, 111, 111) times. Join with a sl st to beg ch-1.
Bind off, weave in ends.

Click chart to enlarge:

Friday, August 8, 2014

How To: Russian Join

  Do you ever get done with a crochet project, only to see all those yarn ends to weave in, then realize you're not done at all? I have a horrible habit of finishing a pattern, then thinking "DONE!", but we all (should) know this isn't the case. A pattern may be finished once the last stitch is complete, but a project isn't done until it's wearable or usable. When you've worked a project which requires more than one skein of yarn or color changes, those tails just might haunt your dreams at night, like mine.

  After four nights of weaving in ends while finishing a large afghan, I began having nightmares about being attacked and eaten by my project. The tails became tentacles which would entwine my body and suffocate me while I struggled to get free. Eventually the afghan devoured me.
  After four more nights of weaving in ends while still having the same nightmare, I stuffed the project in a cabinet, never to work on it again. Sad. I should have used this technique instead.

  Laugh if you want to, but maybe you've had a similar situation happen to you. Bad dreams about a silly afghan might still be a problem of mine, but weaving in ends will never bother me again. The Russian Join is a method of joining two skeins of yarn together without leaving any tails behind. Spending some time to learn and use this skill will save you a bunch of time on your next big project.

  *I've wanted to create this tutorial for a while, but research has held me back. I really wish I could explain the origin of this method, but it seems to have quite an elusive past. I've done internet searches, watched videos, and poured through all of my old reference books, but all have failed to provide information about where and when the Russian Join was first documented. However, I haven't seen or read everything out there, so if you can help, please, provide information for us all.

  We can assume the skill originated in Russia, but this may not be the case, as with a few other crochet techniques such as Bavarian crochet. Sometimes, there is plenty of material teaching a skill, but no documentation of its source. I do have a theory about how this method was created, if you'll allow me to speculate:

  First, let's understand spit splicing, a way a joining animal fiber yarn. With this technique, the ends of each strand are teased or "fluffed" out, then the strands are combined and twisted. Finally, you spit on it, then agitate it in your hands, which essentially felts the fibers together to create a solid strand.

  Non-animal fiber yarns such as cotton, acrylic, or blends can't be felted, so my guess is that the Russian Join was invented in more modern times to replace spit splicing. It creates a slightly thicker join, but no ends to weave in, right? Well, in fact, you'll still need to do a little weaving, but it's nothing compared to a nightmare afghan. Let's learn!

  Above is an example of what the Russian join looks like when the same color yarn is being joined.

  To better demonstrate the procedure, I'll generally be using different colors (top photos). Many examples are added showing the joining of like colors (bottom photos). This method is most commonly used to attach duplicate skeins, but it can also be utilized when working with different colors. It takes a little more experience using the Russian Join before you will link your strands in the correct spot for a color change, but don't let that discourage you! Once you know how it works, you just have to master where to do it.

1. Thread the end of one strand of yarn through a yarn needle.

2. At least 2 inches (5 cm) away from the needle , begin weaving the needle through the strands of yarn.

A great trick to do this: Wrap the needle as if to yarn over, splitting the strand each time.

3. Pull the needle through the strands, leaving enough of a loop to thread the other strand of yarn through. Remove the needle.

4. Thread the other strand of yarn on the needle. Run through the loop made in the first strand.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 as for the first strand.

6. Gently tighten the ends of both strands.

An extra tip: See the top example (2 colors) after pulling the tails? It doesn't look so pretty. To fix this, give your yarn a twist to tighten the ply back up. It may be necessary to repeat this a few times to get it settled together. I didn't play a trick on you, the top example and the one below are the same piece of yarn. Trim the ends, and continue working!

Just for all of you, I (temporarily) overcame my fear of the nightmare afghan, so I can show you what I'm talking about:

  It's a 3-strand afghan made in four pieces, then joined using two strands for each of the four seams. A 2-strand border is added, and there's still a piece to be attached which goes in the center. Three colors are used, with two large skeins a piece of two colors, and six skeins of the third color.

  And now my nightmares return...

Don't let it happen to you! It doesn't take much time to master this skill, but it sure will speed up the clock on any project.