Friday, October 24, 2014

How to: Work into your Turning Chain - The easy way!

  I taught myself to crochet with nothing but a few books. None of those books ever had a tip on how to work into your turning chain, also known as the last stitch in the row. Because it was a source of frustration for me, I shied away from projects worked in rows, and preferred to work in the round.

  Finding this elusive stitch is often difficult for many crocheters. I've heard stories from people who have crocheted for decades and still "hate working into the turning chain". How often have you heard or read that? It's been very difficult for me, because my tension is usually very tight. I've improved my skills over the years, loosened my tension a little, and decided to teach those who need to know the easiest way to find your turning chain.

  Get ready to make your crochet projects easier: Have no more fear of working into the turning chain!

This works with any of the basic stitches, but I'll be working in single crochet.

The first key to an effortless turning chain is to make sure you are turning your work in the correct direction. Whether you're left-handed or right-handed doesn't matter.

With your work flat, the opposite end from where you are working will be flipped over the end with the hook. Never flip it under, and you'll never have a problem. This keeps the working yarn behind the hook:

If you turn the wrong direction, you will see the working yarn in front of your work:

The next important key to finding the turning chain again is the loop left on the hook from the last stitch in the row, before you turn. It's easy to pull this loop too tight when chaining and turning.

If this loop sits flat against your work once you turn, it's too tight:

Sometimes I pull my loop so tight, it's almost non-existent when I turn. If you have this problem, go ahead and pull up a bit of slack in this loop before you continue with the turning chain.

I like to make this loop large enough to leave a space equal to the thickness of the hook between the work and the hook:

The problem with the turning chain is that when you turn, it takes some slack out of the stitch.

Once you've chained to turn with this larger loop, you will see it's a tiny bit taller than the other stitches, but that's okay!

That was my first turning chain. Turn, and continue working.

Now, you've reached the end of the row. Where's that last stitch?
The horizontal loop you see next is actually the bottom loop of the turning chain:

Go ahead and turn you work, but do it in the wrong direction, with the working yarn in front.

Now look: What's after your last stitch?

Sometimes, if your tension is still too tight, you might only be able to see part of the stitch, and you'll need to pull up the other loop with your hook.

Insert your hook under both loops:

Turn the work back around to complete your stitch:

For the previous example, I was working into my first row of stitches. This means the stitch I just showed you was the skipped chain from the starting chain (the one that makes the first stitch). This one is always the most difficult for me.

Let's work another row, just to work into that first turning chain I showed you. At the end of the row, we have the same problem again.

Where's that last stitch?

Again, remember that for now, you're going to turn in the wrong direction, so the working yarn is in front of your work.

Once you turn, you'll see the turning chain:

Insert your hook under both loops of the stitch:

Then turn your work back around again to finish the stitch:

Congratulations: No more fighting with the last stitch in the row. Remember to keep your turning chain loose to make it easier!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yarn Review: Bernat Boa

  I don't work with novelty yarn often, but I can't resist a lonely skein on a clearance shelf, either. These were two skeins that were half unraveled, one missing its label, and they were a steal at $1 a piece. I searched the rest of the yarn to identify what color I had, discovered the discount I would be getting, and went back to the clearance to make sure I hadn't missed any! I didn't have a project in mind when I bought it, I just wanted to add a good deal to my stash.

  I've actually had this for over a year...It was intimidating me at first, so I was avoiding picking it up. But when an awesome project came into my head, I knew I had to tackle this yarn at last.

  First, let's discuss the details of Bernat Boa. What is Boa? This is what is called an eyelash yarn, also known as a fashion yarn; AKA a novelty yarn. It's made of 100% polyester, but hand-wash only, being a delicate yarn. It comes in 100 gram, 129-yard balls, and costs about $5 a ball. Being a bulky (5) weight yarn, the recommended hook size is K/10.5 - 6.5MM, which makes a 4" by 4" (10 cm by 10 cm) gauge swatch of 10 rows of 11 sc. If you keep reading, you'll see my attempts at making some gauge swatches with Boa.

  You can achieve amazing results with this yarn. It's fluffy and thick, while at the same time elegant and delicate. Use Boa to add a "fur" collar to a lacy bolero, or make an entire accessory with it. I've already been brainstorming for things like hats and jewelry. I noticed a slight problem while experimenting with some of my ideas, though. Once you have worked Boa up, then take it apart again, your yarn doesn't look so pretty anymore. In the following photo, the color Parrot (purple) hasn't been used, but Cardinal (red and black) has been worked up and unraveled once. You can see how the "hairs" are ragged looking and twisted:

  With that said, the results you get from working with this yarn are still awesome. You get a thick pile of satiny-fluffy-soft fur-like material that makes fun accessories, as well as great trim, lining, and accents. I'd love to have the money and patience to make an entire blanket out of this stuff!

  So, for my opinion about working with Boa: If (and I stress that word IF) you can find your stitches to work with this yarn, the results are beautiful. Although it's synthetic, it's not itchy to wear against the skin. A few skeins of this would make a lovely cardigan or a comfy pair of socks. If you can find the stitches to work into to make anything. With all of Bernat Boa's fluffy soft goodness, the stitches disappear in a halo of fuzziness. See what happened when I made the mistake of trying to work with Boa using a small hook:

  I got to five rows of five single crochet before I got too frustrated to continue. Lots of good light, maybe a relaxing cup of tea, and some soft, calming music are all helpful while working with Boa... Or, if you're me, a nice relaxing cup of coffee and some blaring heavy metal. Keep the good light.

  For now, I gave up on trying to work with Boa and a small hook, before I feel like making that an Irish coffee. I changed over to the recommended hook size, and started working another swatch. I didn't complete it because...Well, can you find the stitches?

  Here, let me provide a close-up for you. Does that make it any easier?

  Maybe if I show you an example of a simple chain of Bernat Boa, you can easily find the stitches:

  The next time I try working with this yarn, I'm going to try switching to an even larger hook size. Maybe that will make finding the stitches easier. I also wonder if working with a lighter color would be better, or if the stitches would still be invisible. I would love to hear a comparison from someone who has knit and crocheted with Boa, because I think that knitting with this yarn would be less difficult.

  There's also a small problem other than the lost stitches while working: You're going to want a lint brush and a broom, or something, to clean up all the fuzz that's left over. Tiny bits of Boa's "hair" get left behind with every few stitches. After an hour of working with this yarn, it's like you've had a shedding synthetic cat in your lap.

  I'm totally not bashing Bernat Boa, though. Although there aren't a ton of colors to be found, there's still quite a selection to suit your taste. I love all the deep jewel tones available. And even though I didn't see many, there are a few lighter and brighter colors to chose from, if that's your thing. If you visit their site, check out the color Fa La La, which is red, green and white. It would make an interesting Christmas headband, or even a stocking. In case you missed it, the color shown here with the label is Parrot, and the red and black ball is Cardinal:

  And for the final conclusion of this rambling back-and-forth review: I'm undecided! I like the results. I love the softness and the colors. I don't like the mess, and I wish the stitches were easier to find. It's one of those yarns that I really want to make a project from, but I just don't want to work with it.

  I'm not defeated, though! I still have that super-cool idea in my head, and I really want to make it. It is possible: I can find the stitches. I will find the stitches...I just have to be positive, get another cup of coffee, and crank up the stereo.

  In case you missed the link in the beginning, you can learn more about Bernat Boa by clicking here to visit the Yarnspirations website. Explore all the colors available and browse free patterns. While I was there, I discovered 44 free project ideas using this yarn and a variety of crafts. I love the flip flops!

If you have used Bernat Boa, feel free to use the comments section below. What is your favorite color? What did you make? Was it frustrating to work with? Do you have any helpful tips for others?

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