Friday, August 14, 2015

Stitching Outside of the Box

  Here's a new free crochet pattern tease for you! It's the next Scarf of the Month pattern that will be published very soon. But this post isn't about the pattern. It's about why you should never be afraid to try something different in your crochet:

  If you think you recognize this stitch, but something looks different, then you're right! And if you can't guess this stitch, then that's okay! You may not have worked with this stitch before, or maybe I've modified it too much for you to recognize. While designing the Scarf of the Month for May, I began by using the classic Love Knot stitch:

  But sometimes when I'm crocheting I get weird ideas of "I wonder what would happen if I did this", and it leads me in a new direction. The triangular mesh that I started with looked nice and lacy. I was thinking that it would make a cool texture to combine the Love Knot with raised post stitches. 

  I couldn't get the post stitches to work with the geometrical pattern I was creating. So I turned the Love Knot into a post stitch! How I did it will remain unknown for now, because I'm still putting the tutorial together. It won't be a secret for long - I just need a coffee break before I finish the editing. 

  My point isn't about this pattern specifically, though. It's that I did something I've never seen in a book or pattern before. I've never seen a video for how to do it. I just wondered what would happen if I put my hook "here" and pulled up a loop "there", and I made something cool happen. It doesn't always work. Sometimes I end up confused or untying knots. But if you're adventurous in your crochet and you're not afraid to think outside the box, then start stitching outside the box! You never know what neat new stitch you may discover!

  Put your hook in backwards! Yarn over in between steps! Twist your hook around! Pull up an extra loop! Who knows? Maybe that new stitch you've discovered has been done before and you just haven't seen it. So what if you're not the inventor? Use it anyway. And what if other people don't like your stitch, or think it's too hard to make? You keep stitching outside of that box anyway. Do you think everybody thought Picasso was a genius the first time they saw his work? What matters is that YOU like it. And... You know... That it doesn't unravel.

Happy Crocheting!
(In or out of the box!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Use the Tension Tamer Crochet Tools

  So, you finished making your Tension Tamer Ring and/or Bracelet (in case you didn't, click here if you need the pattern)... Now, how do you use it? These are versatile tools that can be used many ways, depending on your tension needs! Follow along as I show you just a few of the ways you will be able to control your crochet tension with these accessories.

First of all, there's two basic ways you can load your working yarn into the tools. You may find it easier to attach one side of the ring/bracelet to yourself first, as shown here.

Rest the working yarn over the tension tool. If you need to reduce your tension, load the yarn so that the working side faces your hook hand. If you need to increase your tension, load the working yarn facing away from your hook hand.

Snap the other side of the tool shut over the yarn, and you're good to go! (I have the ball end of my yarn on the wrong side of my arm here, and it gets annoying to work this way! Fix this mistake by moving your ball of yarn, or twist the tool around until the yarn is at the outside of your arm.) You can let the yarn flow through the slot as is, or scroll ahead for another way!

Later, I will show you more ways to work with the bracelet, but this is my favorite way to lessen tension using this piece - if your tension is at its tightest. I simply bring the yarn up from the palm of my hand, between my index and middle fingers, and then over the index. Just one finger for tension!

The second way you can load your tension tools is by inserting your working yarn into the slot. I find this to be the easiest for both the ring and the bracelet. Again, if you need to increase your tension, load the working yarn running away from your hook hand. To decrease tension, load the working yarn running towards your hook hand. (You can always just flip the tool around! Nothing special needed here!)

Attaching my bracelet in this manner will decrease my tension, because the working yarn is towards my hook hand. To increase you tension, rotate the piece the opposite direction. 

You can also use this loading method to use the tool as shown in the first example. After attaching the tool, just slide the yarn around to where you want it!

And you can cross the straps to increase you tension a bit more - But I find it difficult to load the yarn this way without attaching one side first.

Once both straps are attached, it will "trap" the yarn in a little hole. This only adds a tiny bit of tension, but I find it comfortably raises the yarn off of your wrist/finger.

You can adjust the width of the hole by sliding your finger against the "X" where the straps cross. Just be careful: You can make the yarn jump to the other side of the hole if you slide the yarn with the straps... But maybe you'll want to!

When I need a little more tension, I like to use the bracelet alone in this way. I let the yarn travel over the top of my hand, under my middle finger, and over the index. This creates a medium amount of tension that I prefer for lighter projects.

You can also spin the bracelet around to hold the yarn from underneath, as in the first example. Holding the yarn this way still creates the least amount of tension, but the crossed straps add just a little to it.

Remember that these tools are versatile! If you don't like the amount of tension from only using one finger, experiment with different ways to hold your yarn. I'm experienced in crochet, and a little set in my ways! You might find another way that works better for you.

So far, I keep showing the bracelet. The ring can be loaded in all the same ways, but let's look at a few different ways to use it!

The ring is a bit trickier, if you try to attach it this way. If you don't get the yarn over your finger when you attach the snaps, your working yarn will fall right out of the tool. Somehow I kept doing that when trying to display it, and it got frustrating!

Make sure your yarn is in the slot and over your finger before you attach both snaps, and hopefully you can avoid the same troubles I had!

I prefer to use the ring this way, so the yarn runs under the vertical bar. This will decrease your tension, just as with the bracelet. Rotate the ring in the opposite direction to increase your tension.

We've seen a lot of my set in worsted! Let's switch over to my preferred set in super-fine (1) Woolike for my final comments:

I have seen some crocheters work with their hands flat, as you see me working trying to work here. I find it impossible, even with this tool. If you're able to work this way, you'll have to experiment on your own!

I work with my hand rotated sideways, as shown here. I like to use the ring this way, without the bracelet. Bringing the yarn up from under my hand and over my index finger is the best way for me to hold the least tension.

I also find that I can use a little more tension when using this lightweight set! I can hold the yarn in a light-tension hold, while adding a little more tension with one of the pieces turned to increase tension. Experiment with your own ways to find what's best for you!

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Free Pattern: Tension Tamer Ring and Bracelet

  This lovely crocheted bracelet and ring set isn't a cute way to accessorize... It's a crochet tension tool! These pieces can be worn together or separately to help you adjust your crochet tension. Whether you have a disability that makes holding your yarn difficult or you just can't fix tight tension, these tools will be your new best friends! I'll even show you different ways to wear these pieces to increase or decrease your tension as needed. This pattern is written to fit you, so finished sizes will vary. Dimensions of each piece I created for myself are given in the separate written directions.

  As I mentioned in a post while working on this set, I do realize that making these could be difficult if you find crochet impossible due to tension. Soon, there will be a no-crochet (and hopefully no-sew!) version of this tool. However, I held my tension tight while creating these, so you can see what yours will probably look like when finished. I'll give you a few tips along the way, so I encourage you to look over the whole pattern first before you give it a try.

Skill level:

Any yarn you choose! I'll give you instructions in the pattern to adjust as needed.
Crochet hook - Try your yarn manufacturer's recommended size first.
*Tension too tight? You'll probably want a bigger hook :)
Yarn needle or smaller hook to weave in ends
Sew-on snap buttons - size 4/0
Needle and matching thread for sewing snaps

*I did some internet window shopping, and guess what I found: No-sew snap buttons that attach with prongs! I totally need these, but I don't think they would work with thicker worsted weight yarn. If and when I order some, I'll update my results here. In the meantime, if anybody has any experience with using no-sew snaps on crochet, please share your info in the comments!

Will vary depending on choice of yarn and hook size.

Look for tips in and after the pattern! I've made two versions of these pieces, using two very different yarns. Hopefully my tips will help you be able to adjust the pattern to your yarn choice and needs. You'll find some loose directions first, then I'll follow up with the actual stitch count of each version I made.

The purple set is made with Loops and Threads Woolike super-fine (1) weight. It's 85% acrylic and 15% nylon - A great fine, stretchy yarn for this project, but may be difficult for beginners to work with.

The blue/black/brown/tan-ish grey(?) set is made with Loops and Threads Impeccable worsted (4) weight. Although I love this 100% acrylic yarn, it's not my first choice for this project. It's bulky and has no stretch, but I figured it's equal to any acrylic Caron/Red Heart/Bernat/Lion Brand worsted that's likely to be found in any beginner's yarn stash.

I did not design a version of this pattern in thread, because I presume that if you're having trouble with tension, thread is the last thing you'll want to work with. However, I find that my tension has more slack when I work with thread. Have a go at it if you'd like! Just follow the instructions provided to adjust the pattern.

Stitches and abbreviations:
Chain/s (ch/s)
Single crochet (sc)
Double crochet (dc)

Stitch (st)

Directions for Tension Tamer Ring or Bracelet:
*You may want to grab a notepad or a scrap piece of paper to keep track or your stitch count!

1. Chain the number of chains needed (write down that number!) to go around the wrist for bracelet, or whichever finger the ring will be worn on: I recommend the middle, but you may want to wear the ring on your ring or pinkie finger. The number of chains needs to be even. If you end on an odd number, add one more chain. You can always tighten up the fit with the placement of your buttons.

2. Chain the same number of chains again. (See? I told you to write down that number! But don't worry; no math...yet! You don't have to add these together.)

3. Decide what stitch you want to use. Don't add any chains for single crochet. Add 1 ch for half-double crochet (not shown). Add 2 chs for double crochet. Add 3 chains for triple crochet (also not shown).

4. Begin in one of the following stitches:
Single crochet - 2nd ch from hook
Half-double crochet - 3rd ch from hook
Double crochet - 4th ch from hook
Triple crochet - 5th ch from hook

The skipped chains count as your first stitch.

5. You wrote that number down, right? We just took two away from it by making the first stitch, plus the beginning chain. (You don't even have to do math here! Just think: Okay, I made two stitches. Now, how many more do I need to get to that number? Just start counting after two!) Make a stitch in each of the next [your number minus 2] chains.

6. In the same chain as the last stitch worked, make another stitch. Chain 1, and make 2 more stitches in the same chain.

7. Make 2 stitches in the next chain. Chain 1 and make 2 more stitches in the same chain.

8. Make a stitch in each of the remaining chains.

9. Bind off and weave in your ends! (I use a yarn needle for worsted and up, but for finer yarns like Woolike, I use a smaller steel hook.)

You can see in the following two photos that mine came out pretty twisty, just like yours will if your tension is too tight. If your tension is so tight that you find it difficult to work into your beginning chains, try creating this pattern by working into the back loops only. It will make your pattern a little wider and give it a tiny bit of stretch, so you might like it better anyways! Fix that twisty-ness with a little blocking. Dampen the finished item and flatten between two paper towels or dishcloths. I weigh mine down with a cookie sheet and a heavy bowl for about twenty minutes, and they come out looking much flatter!

Horrible instructions for sewing on the buttons*:

*If you haven't yet, see the post I am a Sewing Dummy for explanation - I am not the person you want to ask for sewing advice.

You will need two buttons for each piece. That's four pieces: Two button backs, and two button fronts.

I begin with about 18" of thread, doubled over on the needle. I begin my big ugly knot between the loops of the stitches.

And by big ugly knot, I mean I'm securing the thread under where the button will go:)

It doesn't really matter which side of the button you sew to which side of the pattern; you can choose. Just make sure that you sew the other sides of the buttons on the opposite side of the pattern.

This will allow the ring/bracelet to snap around without twisting. Repeat for each piece. I really do apologize for my lack of sewing skills, but I promise to make an update about those no-sew snaps!

Click here to jump to the how-to tutorial showing you a few of the ways you can use these tools!

Actual written patterns -

*The patterns for my rings came out almost the same! I found that the stretchy yarn needs less chains, despite being a lighter weight. The bulkier worsted with no stretch needs a few more chains than you would think! I've still included both patterns, since I used two different stitches. Hopefully this will help beginners understand the concept of how to adjust the pattern!


For Woolike (1):
With hook size E/4 - 3.50MM and double crochet stitch - Finished size: 2.5" long by 1" wide (6.3 cm long by 2.5 cm wide)

Chain 20 (9 + 9 + 2) to begin.

Beginning in the 4th ch from hook, make 1 dc in each of the next 8 chs. Make (1 dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in the same ch as the last st made. Make (2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in the next ch. Make 1 dc in each of the next 8 chs.

Bind off, weave in ends.

For Impeccable (4):
With hook size H/8 - 5.00MM and single crochet stitch - Finished size: 3" long by 1.25" wide (7.6 cm long by 3.1 cm wide)

Chain 18 (9 + 9) to begin.

Beginning in the 2nd ch from hook, make 1 sc in each of the next 8 chs. Make (1 sc, ch 1, 2 sc) in the same ch as the last st made. Make (2 sc, ch 1, 2 sc) in the next ch. Make 1 sc in each of the next 8 chs.

Bind off, weave in ends.


For Woolike (1):
With hook size E/4 - 3.50MM and double crochet stitch - Finished size: 6" long by 1" wide (15.2 cm long by 2.5 cm wide)

Chain 52 (25 + 25 + 2) to begin.

Beginning in the 4th ch from hook, make 1 dc in each of the next 24 chs. Make (1 dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in the same ch as the last st made. Make (2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in the next ch. Make 1 dc in each of the next 24 chs.

Bind off, weave in ends.

For Impeccable (4):
With hook size H/8 - 5.00MM and single crochet stitch - Finished size: 7" long by 1.25" wide (17.7 cm long by 3.1 cm wide)

Chain 40 (20 + 20) to begin.

Beginning in the 2nd ch from hook, make 1 sc in each of the next 19 chs. Make (1 sc, ch 1, 2 sc) in the same ch as the last st made. Make (2 sc, ch 1, 2 sc) in the next ch. Make 1 sc in each of the next 19 chs.

Bind off, weave in ends.

  To keep this post from becoming too long, I'm including instructions for how to use these pieces in a separate post. There's a few different ways you can use your new tools, and I've got a lot of photos for you :) Click here to go to the tutorial!

Happy Crocheting!

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