Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Stolen Identity Stitch Hat

  I love using the double crochet stitch for getting projects done quickly. But when I want to make a project go faster without the openness of the taller stitch, I rely on the shorter half double crochet. It's the stitch I've been using for my mittens patterns, and for the worsted weight gloves I'm still working on because I set that project aside for a hat. Of course, it's the stitch I chose to work the hat, too.

hat, crochet, half double crochet, crochet for charity, donations

  I hate making hats... Not because of sizes, or the way they're created, or because I hate hats... I just hate designing hats, because I never know exactly what to call them. There's beanies, skull caps, ski hats, cloches, bucket hats, tams, berets, and more. I made a beret once and was told it's a tam. I made a ski cap and was told it's a beanie. I give up. Have a half double crochet hat.

crochet, hat, bucket, half double crochet, crochet for charity

  But you know, I hate the half double crochet stitch, too... Not because of the stitch, but because of what it's called. Who names these things? Every time I use this stitch, my mind starts wandering and I start wondering about how the half double crochet and it's taller siblings came to be known as they are. If you think about it, the single crochet is equal in height to one chain, and the half-double is equal to two. Why did this poor stitch get labeled as half of something, while the equal-to-three-chains double crochet gets to steal it's identity?

  I've tried to make sense of it before. And okay, before you think I'm dumb or crazy, I suppose I should explain that the stitches get their names from the number of times you pull through two loops... Single crochet is once, double crochet is twice, triple is three times. So it makes sense that this in-between stitch that doesn't fit the same form would get named as some in-between thing. That still doesn't change the fact that:

Single = 1

Double = 2

2/1 = 1 !

  Half of a double is a single. Math proves it, and you can't change that! Just like I can't change the label this stitch. Despite my wishes, it shall remain known as the half-double, even though half of a double is a single. And math proves it.

half double crochet, hat, frogging

  So, you can see the obnoxious turn my mind takes when working this stitch, which is probably why I didn't pay attention to the size as I once again pondered the naming of the half-double. See, this hat isn't really a pattern as much as it is a form in my head. It's probably been worked by many a crocheter in quite a few variations. Increase flat by so many rounds, then work even until you reach your desired length. You can do it in single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, triple crochet... You get the point.

  I use that tried and true method of hand measuring for hats. Which, if you don''t know, means increase until you reach the size of your hand. Then work even. Your hat should fit. However, I throw my own variations in there depending on the stitch I'm using. For the solid, non-stretchy single crochet, I work a little past the size of my hand. For taller stitches with more stretch, I work smaller than my hand.

  I'm designing this half double crochet hat to fit a man, so I asked the Other Half to give me a hand with the sizing. He did, and it wasn't big enough yet, so I kept working. In his typical fashion, he took a nap. Not wanting to disturb his "peaceful" sawing of logs (even though sometimes I really want to disturb the snoring), I just assumed that three more rounds would be good. After that, I worked even and had the ends woven in before he woke up.

  When he woke up I plopped it on his head, to sadly realize it was way too big. I know he's not some huge beefy guy, but this wasn't even close. This looked like Fievel wearing Papa's hat.

Fievel, An American Tail
From Google Images, scene from An American Tail

  Could I save it? Roll up the brim and attach an embellishment, making it a woman's hat instead? No, it was too short. Aside from finding a dude with a huge 28" noggin, the only thing left to do was frog it. I picked out the end, ripped back all the even rounds, and took out two rounds of increases. I worked even again from there, and I was able to get three extra rounds more than I originally had.

  It looks horrible on my model, Head. That's because it was designed for a man, and Head is just a dummy with a measly measurement of 20". The Other Half won't model for me. This hat fits comfortably on 22", and will stretch to fit 24". (It's not so long like it is on Head when it's stretched to fit.) The length increased enough that it could be rolled up and worn by someone smaller, like you can see in the first photo. I think I managed to turn it into a pretty versatile hat. Or beanie. Or maybe it's a skull cap...

Happy Crocheting! 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Grumble, Gripe and Gauge

  Today was the day I planned to publish the pattern for my first set of mittens, keeping with the concept of "Mittens Monday". And... This isn't it. Yeah, sorry to those of you who are waiting for it; it needs some... Let's call it splitting up. Well, this is still about mittens! What was one pattern with some notes for adjustments will now get separated into two different patterns. It's not complicated; I just have to take the time to decipher my chicken scratches of notes everywhere.

mittens, crochet, gauge, free pattern,

  I had originally thought the two different yarns I was using were the same brand, but I soon realized that they weren't. That didn't stop me! I made gauge swatches and they matched, so I kept working. What a big surprise when I finished two pairs of mittens in two sizes to realize: They're almost the same size! Oh no, what do I do?

crochet gauge, measuring

  So, I could complain. I could cuss, kick, and throw my notebook down in disgust. But what I will do is... Okay, who am I kidding? I already did all that; I'll just spare you the complaining and give you a lesson/warning. Sound good?

  Alright, let's go over how I was making the pattern: Same pattern, two sizes, and two different yarns, but with matching gauge swatches. I had already planned on an additional round for the larger size to increase the length, as well adding to the length of the thumb. Now, we'll skip ahead to the results: One mitten would obviously be longer, but when I tried them on, they didn't differ in circumference!

crochet, gauge, measuring

  And on to the explanation of this mystery, minus all the math mumbo-jumbo: The yarns are sized close enough to work up the same in a gauge swatch when counted by inches - more specifically, a gauge swatch that was worked flat in rows. By sight, one yarn simply appears "fluffier". I'll throw some guesswork in there and say that maybe - and this is just a guess - I think my tension could vary a bit between the yarns, too. One has a smoother texture that doesn't catch, so I'm more likely to work my stitches with tighter tension. Due to the anticipation of the second yarn splitting, by instinct I work with it more gently.

  But back to that not-really-math, solid reason: Inches are bigger than centimeters. (Duh...) When good ole Americanized me counts my stitches in inches, I'm not getting as close of a measurement as I could be. Sometimes, you have to stop being the sixth-grader that's groaning why do I have to learn more measurements when I already know feet and inches?; and you have to flip that ruler over to get a better gauge. (And get a flat ruler, too. Those tape measures can throw off your measurements.)

gauge, crochet, measuring, centimeters, inches

  Now why should that matter, when four inches equals ten centimeters, and I still have the same number of stitches in both swatches? That's a bit of a phenomenon... When counting the number of stitches together, you get the same count. But if you use those centimeters to measure each stitch individually, one is just a tiny little line wider. It doesn't add enough to a four-inch gauge swatch to make much of a difference by sight, but it's enough to change the finished pattern.   

  Now, let's add some more technical stuff: Thickness. Because I worked those gauge swatches in rows, the thickness of the yarn didn't make a difference. So, let's see a show of hands... Anybody have a guess where I went wrong? Yes, yes, you in the back, screaming "you're working a pattern in the round, dummy, you need to work a swatch in the round too!"... Yes, you're correct. I'm the dummy that worked a flat swatch for a round pattern. I was trying to save time. I was cheating. I was too lazy to work more stitches up in the round. And it made a big difference.

crochet, mittens, gauge, Country Loom, Homespun

  The dummies' explanation of why that changes the size: In small swatches, the flat pattern will just fluff upward, and you think "ooo, fluffy". But if it fluffs out more, then it fluffs inward more, too. When you're making a pattern for something like a hat, or sweater, or you know, mittens... Well, something has to fit inside that pattern. The thickness of the yarn decreases the inside of the hole.

  So I get to translate what all my little marks, numbers and symbols mean in my notebook, and there will be two patterns, even though they're almost the same. They're not the same enough to make sense of all the variations for the two different yarns, and it could get hard to understand. It just has to be two separate patterns, and I wish I had realized that before I went scribbling notes that just confused me in the end. Do you always need to wok a gauge swatch in the round for an in-the-round pattern? Maybe-probably-not if you know the yarn you're using is the same as called for. But if you're using a substitute, and especially if the texture varies, then it's probably a good idea to give it that little extra test.

crochet patterns, mittens, gauge

Happy Crocheting! 


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