Monday, March 14, 2016

Beginning Crochet - Slip Stitch

  Welcome to part two of the Beginning Crochet lessons from Crochet is the Way! If you're learning to crochet, I'm glad you've found your way here. With the skills you'll learn in this series, you can become a confident crocheter that understands what you're doing to create a stitch, not just how to create it. These tutorials will teach tips to make it easier and different ways you can use each stitch. And, hopefully help you avoid some of the frustrations many beginners go through!

  Now that you've mastered the chain stitch, it's time to learn the slip stitch... What's that? Did I hear some of you say that you skipped right ahead after just learning the chain stitch, but you haven't really practiced getting your tension right? Yeah, I thought so, you naughty little students. That's okay if you did, because I was a naughty little beginner, too. But I'm gonna give it to you straight: If that tension is too tight, then you're only going to get frustrated working into a chain. This tutorial will teach you how to make the slip stitch and concentrate on finding the loops of the stitch, plus more tension tips!

crochet, learn to, how to, slip stitch, tension tips

  So, hopefully you've managed to keep your chains loose enough, even if the tension isn't perfect. And if you're still itching to learn the slip stitch, but you find your chains are way too tight to get a hook in, I'll give you a starting tip so you can cheat: Grab a smaller hook. I know you're eager to learn, so we'll let you get away with that for now. But only if you promise to go back to the end of the previous lesson and brush up on those tension tips, plus pay attention to these new ones! Now, let's get started:

Ooo, and by the way: Don't worry about making straight rows here... Counting stitches and turning/finding your beginning chain are in a separate lesson for a reason. In that lesson, you'll be able to use this stitch to create a PATTERN:) from your practice piece. But you're not allowed to go there until you're comfortable with your tension! Let's just see if you can get that hook in those chains, and find those loops. I'll show you why this simple stitch can become difficult to work with. Then you'll be ready for a pattern! 

crochet, chain, beginning

-The simplest of simple things you will use the slip stitch for is to join a round. I mentioned in the last lesson that you can begin with a "Magic Circle", but as a beginner you may find joining chains easier. We won't cover working in the round just yet, but we will use this set-up chain for a bit of practice in making a ring. Here I've started with just ten chains.

crochet, slip stitch, joining into a ring

-If you'll be working into each chain of your beginning round, then it's important to make sure your stitches aren't twisted before you join. And for a little cheat tip: If you're just working into the loop created, that's not so important.

-To create a beginning round, you'll insert the hook in the "last chain from the hook". The bottom bar of the stitch should be under your hook, and the front and back loops will be on top.

-If you've begun with a knot-less beginning, then the stitch will try to pull loose as you work into the chain. Pinch the stitch at the "V" just as I showed you for creating the beginning loop.

crochet, how to, yarn over

-Now to make a slip stitch, yarn over the hook from back to front.

crochet, how to, slip stitch

-Grab the yarn with the hook. Pull the working yarn through the loops of the stitch and the loop on your hook. Tip: Rotate the throat of the hook slightly downwards as you pass through the loops of the stitch, then pull through the loop on your hook.

-Don't pull the stitch tight against the hook! Leave a slight gap between the hook and the base of the stitch to keep the tension of your stitches nice and loose.

So, are you a tight-tension beginner, like OMG how am I supposed to get the hook into the loops of the stitch? When I was a beginner, I had to pick the loops of the stitch up with my fingernails and work them over the hook individually. Yeah. Should'a fixed that tension, first, right? Because if you do that (and I know some of you are doing that), your yarn will end up looking like yuck. Stop it. Go back. Work on pulling your loops up higher before you complete the stitch (or make the next stitch), and you'll be a better crocheter from the start.

And if your tension is loose enough that your stitches are indistinguishable floppy messes, add more tension - get mad or something! (Okay, no, that's bad advice... But you could always watch the latest political debate or the evening news and wonder what the world is coming to... That should give you plenty of tension!) Tight-tension crocheters need to pay more attention to how much height they pull up in a loop, and so do you. But, what you need to pay more attention to is how you're holding your working yarn. If you can't add more tension comfortably with your own hands, then you can always use what we'll call a "yarn bowl" - which is an item that can be purchased, go ahead and look it up... - or you can make your own from an old plastic bowl, use a basket and run the working yarn through the handle... You can even attach something like these carabiner clips to the working yarn to add a bit of weight.

M'kay? No more excuses. Undo that ring you made and let's start again with that short chain. We're getting to the "hard" part:   

crochet, slip stitch

-Start in the second chain away from your hook: Insert the hook in the back loop of the chain, yarn over and pull through the loop on the hook. Do that for each remaining chain (insert hook in the back loop, yarn over, pull through the loop of the chain and the loop on your hook), and you should end up making one less slip stitch than the number of chains you started with.

-Next time, we'll see exactly how to turn for a new row. Most instructions simply state "keep your working yarn behind your hook as you turn", and as a beginner I got that all wrong! But we're not worried about that right now. This is just practice before more practice :)

-Working slip stitches in rows as you see here... Well, that can actually be a bit confusing, despite the slip stitch being such a simple stitch to work. With no real height between the stitches, it can be hard to find the correct loops to work in. That's why we're only going to work in the back loops of the chains for now... It's easier for those with tight tension, but that makes finding the right loop for the stitch harder! That's a good thing. Start with something that will challenge you to learn the correct direction a stitch should be facing

From here, I want you to just have fun with the slip stitch! Don't worry about if you make a stitch in the wrong place, or if you miss a stitch at the end of the row and find your rows decreasing in length. We'll work on that next time while making that pattern. Here's what you'll have to look out for while working this stitch in rows:

crochet, how to, slip stitch, stitch direction

-Now, as a newbie, you may not see the problem here... As you continue to work rows of slip stitches in the back loops, the front loop from the stitch in the previous row will pop up, making it look like a stitch... But here's your tip: See the "V" shape of each stitch? The "V" of the stitch from the last row is pointing in the opposite direction of the way you are working. Although those V's look like the right stitch to work into, it's the wrong loop! If you worked into what looks like the "back loop" here, you would really be working into the front loop.

And I'm sure that's not at all confusing to a beginner... 

crochet, how to, slip stitch, stitch direction

-Looking from the top of your work, you'll see the correct loops. Notice how the "V" of the stitch makes an arrow that points in the direction you're working? There you go. But that's only for rows, not for working in the round.

-Also, if you look at the row from the top, then go back and look at the previous picture, you'll see that the multi-colored yarn lets this stitch's secret be known: Look at the stitches past the ones I marked... One loop is a different color!

crochet, slip stitch, back loop, stitch direction

-Instead of pulling through the stitch and the loop on the hook at the same time, pause for a moment after you pull the yarn through the back loop of the stitch. You'll be able to watch the front loop of the stitch "magically" change into what appears to be a new back loop! Just remember that it's a trick of your eyes and the fabric. Learn to pay attention to the direction of the stitch.

crochet, slip stitch, how to

-So if your rows didn't come out even, or maybe you worked into the wrong loop here or there... It's not the end of the world, is it? If you don't already know the term "frogging", then let me teach it to you: That's when you mess up and you have to "rip it, rip it, rip it" out. Don't get why it's called frogging? Keep saying "rip it" over and over out loud as you pull out your work... Try jumping up and down in anger, too... Maybe then you'll get it :)

  The point of this lesson was to teach you the stitch and the importance of proper tension - because that slip stitch can get tight! We'll learn more about how to put it to rights next time as we create that pattern. I'm not going to give you a simple project as a beginner! I'm going to give you a challenging but easy pattern. And I'm going to walk you through it step by step, so you'll know exactly how to do it. But I'm going to teach you what you're doing, so you can use your new knowledge in other patterns, too.

You'll need: 
Worsted weight acrylic yarn - I'l be using Red Heart With Love in Water Lily

Hmm... And maybe some coordinating scraps for an embellishment? Not important.

A crochet hook - I'll be using a size H/8 - 5.00MM, you may need a different, but close size. Gauge won't be terribly important, so don't sweat it!

A blunt-tip yarn needle, or a smaller size hook. 

Stitch markers! These will save your sanity. But you don't have to run out and buy stitch markers! Use paper clips, scraps of yarn, twist ties from bread bags or mismatched clip-on earrings. We don't need no fancy tools 'round here - I certainly won't be using any!

You'll learn:
How to turn your work for rows

Finding (and marking) your beginning stitch

Making back- and front-loop slip stitch fabric

Joining crochet pieces together with a slip stitch

And more!

Happy Crocheting!

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