Friday, April 25, 2014

Yarn Review: Bernat Baby Jacquards

  Do you ever buy yarn on discount or clearance? I do it every chance I get. This skein of Bernat Baby Jacquards was less than half price, so I snagged it.

  This is a 90% acrylic, 10% nylon blend, DK (3) yarn.  It is extremely soft to the touch, lightweight, machine washable and dryer safe. According to the manufacturer's website, it looks like there are eight colors available, including this one.

  Buried at the back of a shelf, with a ripped up label, I almost missed it. Almost. How could you miss this color? Although the color name is Berries 'n' Cream, it reminds me of a pitcher of cold pink lemonade with lemons floating in it on a hot summer day. Beautiful.

  I was surprised with my results once I completed a project with Baby Jacquards. It created a luxurious fabric that is soft, light, and drapes wonderfully.

  I have no complaints about working with this yarn. I do have to admit some unhappiness with my own results, though.
After finishing the Pink Lemonade scarf using this material, I hand washed it, and it came out fine. When I washed it a second time in a machine (gentle cycle), it fuzzed up quite a bit. It didn't ruin my project or anything, it just didn't have that nice smooth look anymore. Perhaps it is best to hand wash it. Has anyone else had this happen?

  I have a second complaint,  but it's not really serious. Hey, Bernat, who says this has to be just for babies? Move over, babies! I want this yarn for myself! In grown-up colors too!

  But seriously, if Bernat had the same product in more adult pleasing colors, I think I would make one of everything out of it. My favorite part of working with Baby Jacquards was watching as the colors unfold from the skein.

  When someone speaks of a yarn using terms like "luxurious" and describes how well it drapes, you probably think of something with natural fibers (and usually a high price); this yarn will challenge that idea. "Baby" yarn or not, I would enjoy making some garments with it. Wouldn't this make a cute pair of socks for a little girl (or for yourself)?

  Making a guess, I think any baby would enjoy being wrapped up in this softness. Go ahead, make a baby blanket with it, then try to tell me that a secret part of you doesn't want one for yourself. You'll see.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to: Surface Crochet

  When you want to add something special to a crochet project, surface crochet is a great idea. 

  You can use this method to transfer embroidery designs to any piece of crochet or knitting. Surface crochet is a perfect way to add extra color or dimension to a project. The stitches you create can also be used as a new foundation row to work into.

This tutorial will:

  • Help you understand the basics of  surface crochet 
  • Teach you how to create a flat design and how to use surface crochet for three dimensional texture. 
  • Explain how to use different methods to get the design you want.

  Once you're done here, you will be able to add texture, color, shapes and pictures to your crochet. 

Let's begin with the basics.

  You can use whatever yarn and hook you are comfortable with, but if you are learning for a specific project, it may be helpful to use the materials the pattern calls for.
  If you are a beginner, I recommend you to make a practice square to work on. The one I'm using is eight inches (20 cm) for a pattern I'm designing; yours doesn't have to be so large for learning. 

  This may seem tricky to learn for some, but relax if you're having trouble. A few simple things to remember for help:

  • Your working yarn will be coming from behind (or under) your work, so remember, the yarn shouldn't be in the front unless it's on your hook.
  • Do you know your stitches? Every stitch is made the same way, the difference is where the yarn is coming from.
  • The crochet method is still the same. Work from right to left for right-handers, left to right if you're left handed. Rotate your work as your design turns.

Are you ready?
Begin with a slipknot. 

First you will attach the yarn to the post of a stitch on the wrong side of the fabric. Insert hook from front to back to the right of a stitch. From back to front, insert the hook to the left of the post.

Pick up the slipknot.

Pull through.

Secure with a slip stitch.

The loop now needs to be on the other side of the fabric. Drop the loop, turn your work, insert hook from behind, 

and pull loop through.

Let's begin with the slip stitch. Insert hook into the next stitch, pull up a loop,

and pull through the beginning loop. (1 slip stitch made)

I'm going to create a circle. This is for practice, so you can work whatever shapes or designs you choose. 

If you want to follow the tutorial step by step, that's fine too. Ahead I'll show you how to work into these stitches.

If you want to make a circle, you will need to work into the stitch diagonally across. For a shape with corners, you would work into the stitch below.

When you've completed a circle or other shape, you can work up to the beginning stitch, then back under (I'll show you that later), 

or you can join it with a slip stitch.

This has a tendency to look a little strange unless you're breaking off there. I'm doing this purposely for texture in my design.

To tell you the truth, I'm using this tutorial for my guinea pig while designing. You can work however you like, but I'll be working into the stitch behind this one to begin my next circle. 

If you want a smooth transition, you would work into the stitch directly above, or work back under.

Now, let's move on to a single crochet for some added texture. If you try to make a single crochet all in the same stitch, it is difficult to pull the yarn through the loop. Pull up a loop in the current stitch instead.

Pull up a loop in the next stitch, 

pull through both loops on hook. (1 single crochet made)

For this exercise, I'm working in a spiral around my first circle. You'll notice a little gap between them. This is because I'm working into the next stitch over.

If you didn't want this gap, you would work your stitches closer to the beginning round. A great way to get these as close as possible is to turn and work the other direction.

However, you'll notice as I work around, the yarn hides this gap quite well. Here's a great shot of the texture of the different stitches:

You'll see shortly how to add even more texture to these stitches.

This time I don't want to jog for texture, I'm just going to keep working around in a spiral.

Now I want to join these again, because we'll start working into the top of these stitches.

Time to add more texture. I think I want to make some single crochet ruffles. Shall we?

I've chained 1 to make the height of the first single crochet. Insert hook into the stitch, pull up a loop from behind the work.

Yarn over, pull through both loops. Here I've made a few already:

How do you make a ruffle? Increase your stitches. I'm making 2 single crochet in the top of each stitch.

This is just a small ruffle. If I continue working this way, it will have a gentle ripple all the way around.

But I decided I want to make a deeper ruffle, so I began making 3 single crochet in each stitch.

Feel free to play around with stitch placement to get the texture you desire.

For the rest of the stitches, I alternated between one, two, and three single crochet in each stitch, in no particular order.

Here's where we'll work on moving behind the fabric. If you need to move across a large area, it's best to bind off and start again. If you only need to move a short distance, remove you hook, then insert it in the same stitch from back to front.

Pull the loop through. You could just pull enough slack in this loop to reach the designated stitch, but I find the loose yarn pulling to the front of my work when I try this. Here's what to do if you have the same problem: Chain the same number of stitches you will be moving over. I work tightly, so I like to chain one extra, or my work will pull. You may need to do the same. 

Remove your hook again, insert from back to front, pull through the desired stitch.

Here I've worked a random row of slip stitches. These will be my foundation stitches for the next step.

I want to add some major texture by using double crochet worked into these foundation stitches. Normally, it would be easier to bind off and work these from the top later. That would defeat my goal of working the entire design without binding off, so I'm doing it this way.
First you will need to chain 3 in the same stitch to make the height of the next double crochet.

Then yarn over, insert the hook into the next stitch, and pull up a loop from behind.

Working over the top of the stitch, pull up a loop again, then pull through 2 loops on the hook.

Repeat this again to complete the stitch.

Here I've worked a few more. I find it extremely difficult to work more than one double crochet into a stitch this way. The yarn tightens too much around my hook when I yarn over.

Although I have found it possible to work a triple crochet this way, the issue is the same. The angle is awkward and the yarn needs a lot of slack for it to be worked. Alas, I must admit defeat and tell you I couldn't complete a decent looking stitch for a photo for you. You're welcome to try your skills on it, and I wish you better results than mine.

That said, I encourage you to use what you've learned here to develop new methods. As I previously said, the work would normally be bound off and began again in the next place, and you certainly wouldn't use this practice if you were concerned with the back of your work. Why do it this way? The simple answer is: I hate weaving in ends. I love to crochet, but I wish there was a magical yarn that could weave its own ends in. There, I said it. Anybody else with me? 

Have you ever used unconventional methods in crochet to avoid a task you dislike? Do you follow the rules, or do you have secret tricks of your own?

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