Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Hit and a Miss

  I've been hiding my little side-project from all of you, and I think it's time to stop being so selfish. Although work continues on Mom's Afghan, I can only sew on one flower before it starts to drive me nuts, so progress is slow. On my breaks in between, I've been trying to finish up some WIP's. One is the giant plarn mat for The Kid's room - which I've already shared - but it's nothing special to look at, so I haven't been keeping up with progress about it.

  And the other WIP is Super-Secret Project X. This project is actually a pre-design to another design I'll be selling. I got half way through making the squares for my design, and realized I liked it better with a slight tweak to the pattern. I already had half the squares done, and the original pattern came out pretty nice, so I figured I'd keep working on it and let you all have it as a free pattern. You may have already seen the pattern for the squares I'm using... Now, here's a little sneak peek at what I'm making with them:

crochet pattern, Grannies in a Love Triangle, granny square, crochet, WIP

  The free crochet pattern for this square was a disappointment, to be honest. I was thinking "Wow, I made this awesome, interesting, original pattern, and everybody will love it". I thought my pattern was the freakin' bomb. So, I published it. It bombed, alright... Sure, I got some positive feedback and some shares, but comparing numbers to my other patterns, this one was just sad.

  But that's okay... I've seen this happen before, and I should know better than to set my expectations so high. The patterns for my other squares are never as popular as a full project. I love to publish the patterns for squares and motifs alone, and suggest you use your imagination to create your own design. However, numbers show that the majority of the public wants to see that square used in a project. Well then, how's this?

crochet, pattern, WIP, shawl, love knot, granny square

  I know, it's still not complete, but it's nice, isn't it? I'm joining the squares with a join-as-you-go technique, using the love knot stitch. Since I'm using this pattern to experiment for the "for-sale version", I used a bit of a different stitch pattern than the one in the square. I think it makes a nice design in between the joins.

crochet, lace, love knot, join-as-you-go, granny square

  It's very rewarding as a side project, because the large love knots make it grow quickly. But in my exhaustion I became stumped on my own pattern. On paper, I had it planned out. When I came to the opposite side of the strip, I couldn't figure out why my corners weren't a symmetrical match to the other side.

crochet, granny square, love knot, join-as-you-go

  Either I got enough coffee or sleep to figure it out, because it finally clicked. Oh, was that one of those "DUH" moments... My corners did match. All I had to do was make one simple slip stitch, but I hadn't marked it as one on paper.

crochet, love knot, granny square, join-as-you-go

  YAY! So, I got past that little bump in the road and continued working. I finished the strip that you saw in the previous photos, and started the next. I got all the squares joined, but it became clear that I would run out of the yarn I was using before I finished the border. Instead of letting it become another figurative "bump in the road", I got my butt on the real road and picked up another skein. I was excited to make the join, continue with the strip, and get closer to the finish. Then I found the mistake I made at the beginning of the third square:

crochet, granny square, love knot,

  BOO! And I figured that if I have to take it that far apart, I might as well take it all the way apart to start with the new skein, and not have another end to weave in. I'm going to have enough to deal with when the project is finished. Then I thought I should go ahead and take the time to weave in the ends on my squares, so I could take some prettier photos of a strip. But the sun went down before I got them all finished. Since I wouldn't be able to take new pictures until the next day, I thought I might as well create a tutorial while I'm at it.

  I guess my mistakes are leading in a good direction, but I realize now that I made another. Since I deviated from my original design idea, it changed the width between the squares; the wrong way in both directions. A pattern that was originally going to be three rows of seven squares will now be two rows of eight. And what that means is that I owe a big apology to anybody that followed along and created the 21 squares I was calling for. I made them too, and I'm considering turning my extras into some kind of wall art.

  Depending on your size, you could stick with the three-row design, and make three more squares - I think it will be too short width-wise if you don't. I wear a size extra-small, and sometimes that's too big... Any of your average t-shirts in size medium will go past mid-thigh on me, so maybe a shawl three rows long would fit the average size person the right way. It's just too long for me, and I don't want to look like I'm wearing a blanket.

crochet, free pattern, love knot, granny square

  You can find the pattern/tutorial for the square here. I promise the design won't change again. It's safe to continue. It's actually done already, but I still have all that wonderful computer work to do before it can be shared with you. I hope to have the tutorial for the whole project posted soon, but I don't make promises anymore. You never know... I might get distracted and sew more than two flowers on the afghan before needing a break.

Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Lost Crochet Files - 6

New to this series and want to see all my "lost" projects? You can start here with episode 1. You'll find links at the end of each post for the next episode.

  Well, now... After the recent depressing string of events that have occurred, I've been looking forward to what's left of my lighthearted "Lost Crochet Files". But I have to admit that opening the files for the first project stopped me in my tracks - That's Mom's doily. I made her two of them for some candles she kept on the coffee table. So, it took me a while to get it back together and start this post. Other than that minor setback, finding these photos made me happy. We can all do a little happy dance and shake it off, because now that they've been found, I can use the pictures to recreate a pattern I was very proud of. Sooo....

  Whoop! For all the times I've been reminded of the bad feeling of losing my projects, I finally got to something I actually needed. Now I can be not-so-mad about the dog-eaten notebook... Okay, I'm still and always will be mad, but this helps. Let me introduce you to what was going to be my first-ever free crochet pattern on the blog:

crochet, doily, butterfly stitch

  Mom got her doilies, and my notebook got destroyed. I probably could have asked for one of them back to copy the stitches, but I didn't want to do that. I thought I could recreate it by memory, and I wanted some doilies for myself. I started recalling the details to make a set in colors matching my decor. The biggest thing that stood out in my mind was the round of butterfly stitches in a second color:

crochet, butterfly stitch, doily

  I remembered that the center was started with a large hole, to save a bit of yarn since it's under a large jar candle anyways. Mine were also going to be under candles, so I would copy the same idea. Honestly though, it's only a ten-inch doily... I don't know why I was worried about saving yarn. But hey, save it if you can, right?

doily, crochet, butterfly stitch

  I chose my colors and got to work. In no time at all, I had my doilies finished and a new pattern written. I was satisfied with how they looked, and company complemented them when I had them on display. Confident that my pattern was special enough, I published it on the blog. But after finding the pictures of the original doily, I think I could have done better. Comparing the two makes me wonder if my crochet skills went on a vacation that day...

crochet, free crochet pattern, butterfly stitch, doily

  I do enjoy the second design of my doilies; it goes well with the spiderweb, skull, and dragon-filled theme of my decor. But, like my cheap furniture, it looks flimsy compared to the first design. I rushed to recapture what I had originally taken time to create, and it shows. It's still a good pattern. It's just not the same.

  And, since most of the "Lost Crochet Files" have followed a theme, I have one more that fits in with these round doilies. It's also another "fail". No, not the design - that was good - The purpose of this pattern was a fail. Back then, this beginner-designer had an "awesome" idea for a set of hot pads with a baking theme... Cool, right? Sure it is! And I went through all the work of creating this so-cool cherry pie hot pad, the first design of the series... In acrylic yarn.

hot pad, crochet, cherry pie, acrylic

  (That bit of yarn in the middle is just holding the pieces together while I join them; it's not part of the design.) The pattern itself would have made a cute doily, or maybe a dishcloth... It would even make a great hot pad, if made in cotton! Thankfully, I didn't find out my mistake in the "ouch, there goes dinner" kind of way. I actually found out about a week after finishing it, when I tried to iron another acrylic project. I couldn't get it to block out to the right shape, so I thought I would iron it

  Right. I've learned some things the hard way. I keep saying that throughout this series. I'm not a beginner-designer anymore, but I do still learn things the hard way. I think I always will. I learned that scraping melted acrylic off an iron can be a great workout for your triceps, and that if it won't block out, you're not going to iron it out, either. I'm just glad that I can look back and laugh, and I don't have any major burn scars from hot pad disasters.

  I even learned that not everything is a disaster. After finding the photos to compare projects, I actually considered pulling the pattern for my Butterfly Stitch Doily. The project could be made better, the pattern could be written better... And surely the photos could be better. But then I checked the stats on the page to find people are still viewing it regularly. Not a lot of people - about 50 a month - but there's views there. It's not bots or crawlers or any of that fake-traffic stuff that I barely understand, but real people that are viewing it for more than ten minutes at a time. I liked it before I compared it to Mom's doily. I guess I'm not the only one.

  The lesson: Don't ever be discouraged just because somebody else doesn't like your work. And maybe you shouldn't be discouraged when you're the one who isn't pleased with a project. Somebody out there likes it. Where you see holes, somebody else sees beautiful lace. When you think flimsy, someone else thinks delicate. Everyone has different tastes, and what you don't like will please somebody out there. And if in the end, you can't find one single person who enjoys what you've made, then you can count it as a learning experience. Like learning why not to iron that acrylic yarn, sometimes learning can be painful or messy. But hopefully, there will be a minimal amount of scarring and scraping, and you can call yourself more experienced when it's over.

Happy Crocheting!

Interested in more doily patterns? Check out two of my most popular:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Simple Flowers and Variations

  Crocheted flowers can be used for so many things! Embellishments, hair clips, headbands, barefoot sandals, wall decorations, gift bows... That's just a handful of examples, and I bet you can think of more! I went through a ton of variations while trying to create the perfect flowers for Mom's Afghan, so now I'm sharing just a few of them with you. (Version 1 is the same flower I'm using for the afghan, but here it's worked in DK.)

  These are all created with the same basic pattern, while adjusting the stitches and count in the center or for the petals. One special technique gives the flowers some depth, but I'll show you another version that's worked without it for a completely flat motif. You can use them alone or stack them together for an even more three-dimensional flower! And from thread to bulky weight, you can use any material; just adjust your hook size. You get the point, right? All the variations are supposed to be more of a concept than specific instructions for a pattern. See what you can make!

free crochet pattern, flowers, easy, six petal, three dimensional

Skill level:
crochet skill level, easy

Explanation of materials, gauge, notes and stitches:
Use any yarn you wish! Check the label for the manufacturer's recommended hook size. The flowers you see in this post were created with a combination of worsted weight yarns (Red Heart Super Saver, Caron One Pound - Versions 5 & 6), DK (Bernat Baby Jacquards - Versions 1 through 4), and Red Heart Fashion Thread, #3 or #5 - Version 7); hook sizes used were H/8-5.00 MM, G/6-4.25 MM, and a size 3 steel hook.

Stitch markers may be desired to mark the beginning stitch of rounds.

You'll also need a yarn needle or smaller hook to weave in ends.

Because there are so many variations, I won't be providing gauge or a list of stitches for these flowers. I will be including extra notes for each variation. I'm writing the instructions without abbreviations, and you'll be expected to know (or look up) the stitches used. That means we can get right to the directions, so let's go!

*I'll be leaving the tails loose for every one of my flowers, so they can be used later for sewing the pieces to their final destination - whatever that may end up being. ALL versions shown were created by working over the beginning tail and pulling tight to close the center.

crochet, free crochet pattern, flowers
 Center used for versions 1 & 2

crochet, free crochet pattern, flowers
Center used for Version 4 

crochet, free crochet pattern, flowers
Center used for versions 3, 5, 6 & 7 

The "special" technique:

crochet, techniques, post, slip stitch
To slip stitch over the post: You will insert your hook under the post, from in front of your work. This will leave the stitch on top of the post.

To slip stitch behind the post (Version 5), you will insert the hook over the post, from behind your work. This will leave the stitch behind the post.

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Versions 1 and 2:

Center/First round (same for both):
Beginning with a magic circle, or working all stitches into your beginning loop: Chain 6 (counts as a double crochet + chain-2), (double crochet, chain 2) 5 times in loop. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning chain-3.

Version 1, Round 2:
(Slip stitch over the post of the next available double crochet, chain 2. Make 2 half-double crochet in the chain-2 space, chain 2) 6 times around. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning slip stitch.

Version 2, Round 2:
Following the same instructions for version 1, replace the half-double crochet stitches with double crochet stitches.

I did not adjust the number of chains before the stitches in round 2, because I wanted the petals of version 2 to curl up a bit more. You could chain 3 if you want the petals to curl less.

You could also use triple crochet stitches for the petals. Adjust number of chains if needed.

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Version 3:

Center/first round:
Beginning with a magic circle, or working all stitches into your beginning loop: Chain 3 (counts as a double crochet), make 11 more double crochet in the loop. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning chain-3.

Round 2:
(Slip stitch over the post of the next available double crochet, chain 2, double crochet in the space after the post. Double crochet in the next space, chain 2) six times around. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning slip stitch.

The petals for this version are the same as Version 2, but the stitches are worked over the double crochets instead of chain spaces. See Version 6 for a way to add even more texture when using the "solid" center.

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Version 4:

Center/first round:
Beginning with a magic circle, or working all stitches into your beginning loop: Chain 1 (counts as a single crochet), make 11 more single crochet in the loop. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning chain-1.

Round 2:
Follow instructions for Version 2, Round 2.

It can be difficult to work the "post" slip stitches over the short single crochet stitches of the solid center. If you need a smaller center, you can also replace the double crochet stitches of the "open" center pattern (Versions 1 & 2) with single crochet.

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Version 5:

Center/first round:
Follow instructions for Version 3.

Round 2:
(Slip stitch behind the next available double crochet post. Chain 2, double crochet 2 in the space after the post. Double crochet 2 in the next space, chain 2) 6 times around. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning slip stitch.

Working the "post" slip stitches from behind plus making a color change will cause a dot of the second color to show on the center. This pattern may be better kept as a single color.

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Version 6:

Center/first round:
Follow instructions for version 3.

Round 2:
[Slip stitch over next available double crochet post, chain 2. (Double crochet 2, chain 1, double crochet 2) in space after post. Chain 2, skip the next double crochet] 6 times around. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning slip stitch.

This is (almost) exactly the same pattern as Version 5, but the "post" slip stitches are worked in front, and a chain is added to the petals to create a bit of a point - Plus, every other stitch of the center is skipped. Experiment with the number of chains and stitches in the petals to create more depth!

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Version 7:

Center/first round:
Follow instructions for version 3.

Round 2:
(Slip stitch in the next double crochet, chain 2, double crochet in same space. Double crochet in next stitch, chain 2) 6 times around. Join with a slip stitch to the beginning slip stitch.

This version shows you how to make the flower completely flat, but you can add more texture again by adding to the number of stitches in the petals.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

  I have provided you with three different centers, and various ways to work the petals around them. I kept the stitches - single, half double, and double crochet - simple for the sake of the pattern, and written it in easy repeats so you can even adjust the number of petals. 

  Beginners - You can easily make your flowers more "frilly" just by increasing the number of stitches in each petal. The more stitches you add, the more your petals will fold over each other.

  Now, what if it's just too simple for you? More advanced crocheters - Replace those basic stitches with puff, bullion, popcorn, or maybe even loop stitches. See what kind of combinations you can come up with!

crochet, free pattern, flowers

Happy Crocheting!

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