Monday, June 19, 2017

A Surprise

  You may have already seen little sneak peeks at this project, and now it's time for the reveal... I've been debating whether to show the whole thing before next month's GrannySpiration Challenge, or go ahead and spoil the surprise. This afghan has been kept semi-top-secret because it was intended to be a gift, so let's unveil it in the most surprising way possible, shall we?

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day


  The project was neglected while I was sick and Dad was in the hospital. Afterwards, it seemed like every time I sat down to work on it, something else went wrong. (Though isn't that the way my life always goes?) Things broke, people interrupted, and the weather didn't cooperate (my kitchen window is leaking again). Between cats in the way, dim light from storms, and (most of all) a lack of room, I couldn't see how I'd ever get good photos of this project for next month's Challenge.

crochet, finished project, afghan, rain, Florida


  I've been sitting in near darkness most afternoons, stitching away to use up as much of the yarn as possible. Rip van Winkle kept saying "jeez, it's big enough already", but I wanted to use up as much of the One Pound skeins as I could in this project. And of course there's a method to my madness...

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound


  Finally, I didn't have enough left to make a full round with any of the colors left. Time to call it "DONE". But that still leaves the problem of getting those photos... My house has low ceilings. I was holding the camera against it so I can't see what I'm snapping a picture of, and ended up with a bad batch of photos. But that's okay, I have the solution.  

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day


  Hey! That's not my horrible ugly house in the background! Who's place came to the rescue as my "satellite office" for the day? And wow, don't the colors of the afghan look great with the color scheme of the room?


  With the homeowner so kindly away with The Kid and my niece at the movies, I almost didn't know what to do with an empty place to work in! The photo session was done in no time, allowing me to make some coffee and quietly work on a small project while I made use of the washer to give the afghan a bath before gifting.

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day, doilies, twine

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day


  See that? There's more of my work to be found in this house, so you know it must belong to someone special. Who could possibly be so trusted that I actually spend time making things for them?

  I pulled the afghan out of the dryer for one last photo on the couch, and found as it cooled off that it wasn't quite dry yet... Oh no! What to do? Time is running short and I need to get on my way home! Well, I guess there's only one thing I can do...

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day


  Leave it in the dryer with an apology note. After all, there's no point in me dragging the damp project back home when it's already where it should be... Is there? I know it's in good hands at its new owner's house.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

  Dad reads the blog, so I'm wondering if he'll find the surprise in the dryer or read this post first... Either way, I hope The Kid managed to not spill the secret - She's my accomplice! I chose to make this afghan for him because he's the one that took me to get the yarn. And in the end, I just couldn't create what I had envisioned... A coffee-themed blanket that I could wrap up in with my favorite mug. But I did discover that the horribly greenish Taupe that wouldn't fit the coffee theme matches Dad's decor pretty well, and I couldn't get the thought out of my mind. Sometimes, you just have to take the hint from the forces that be.

Happy Crocheting!

PS - Anderson was NOT amused that I was at his house again...

crochet, WIP, afghan, finished project, granny square, Caron One Pound, Father's Day, cat, Anderson

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trouble with my Supervisors

crochet, WIP, work in progress, sneak peek, afghan, granny square, granny stitch, cats, kitty pics, funny, LOL

  It's rare that I get to have a peaceful workday all to myself. All day long, my supervisors are coming in and out, making noise while I'm trying to concentrate, always demanding things, and judging whether or not my work is good enough for them. Can you believe it that I even have to clean up their mess when they leave? And every time I turn around, I catch them playing around again. That's it! I've had enough. It's time I let them know what I really think about them... They're just a couple of pussies!

crochet, WIP, work in progress, sneak peek, afghan, granny square, granny stitch, cats, kitty pics, funny, LOL


I'm busy stitching away at a humongous project that's on a time frame. And there they sit, asking for me to get up for the thing that's right behind them...

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Turning up their noses at my skill...

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And constantly pushing boundaries! No wonder it takes so long to finish simple projects.

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Such a stressful work environment. 😉


Happy Crocheting!

Thanks to Jump Steady, the self-elected co-supervisor of Crochet is the Way, and to Lucky, the CEO (Cat Expecting Offers of food) for sponsoring today's post. They were compensated with extra treats and rubs for their appearance, and I'm sure it's not helping to enforce the rules.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Be Square Top - Part 2

  The first part of this tutorial, shared as my project for June's GrannySpiration Challenge, gave you all the information you needed to start your own version of this top. For those interested in the entire pattern, the remaining parts of the tutorials will show you everything. Here in Part 2 of this series, we'll be covering more of the original square-neck, granny-stitch design. You'll get more tips for starting the beginning, learn how to keep that joining seam from traveling around, and I'll show you some places where I made more work for myself than needed. We'll get to the taller stitches in the next part, and to make it less confusing, I've decided to start a separate series showing you how to work the second super-lacy, rectangular version.

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  Just remember that when it comes to garments, I hate writing exact patterns for one reason: It limits you. Everyone is a different size and shape, along with having different tastes in style. Want a higher neckline? Your stitch count will be different. Don't want to use taller stitches? Maybe you won't have to adjust the size due to the stretch, like I did. So, I hope it doesn't get too confusing when I throw in all the extra information... Perhaps it would be helpful to take notes along the way. I'm really excited to see how many different creations you all can make. Let's get started!


The beginning (again)
  Even though we already covered this in Part 1 of the tutorial, I'd like to share a little more information... For beginners, you may want to start with a regular chain like I did for this top. If you're more advanced or just adventurous, I really recommend starting with the beginning I used for Version 2.

Chain 2 to begin, and make a half double crochet in the farthest chain from the hook.
*Chain 2, DO NOT turn, and make a half double crochet in the space between the chain-2 and half double crochet of the previous "row".*
Repeat * to * until you reach the desired length, make sure the rows are not twisted, and slip stitch to the beginning space.

  This makes for a super-stretchy neckline that's more forgiving of mistakes in size. If you get it a little too small, it will stretch. And if you get it a little too big, then it's easy to make some decreases without the stitches bunching up. Also, it's easy to adjust if you want to use a stitch that has different multiples. Replace the chain-2 and half double crochet with a chain-3 and double crochet for a bigger space, or work chain-1 and a single crochet for tighter stitches.

Because the beginning of the top has to fit over the bust, you'll want to increase rapidly for the first round. Try to make enough stitches so that they bunch together, but don't make it so dense that the fabric ruffles.

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For example:
Using a size J/10 - 6 mm hook and worsted weight yarn, I started with a chain of 80. (I'm a size extra-small / 0.) Each side of the first round is made with 9 granny stitches (3 double crochet, chain 1) across, which equals a grand total of 45 stitches. 45 x 4 = 180! That's more than twice the number of stitches in my beginning chain...

You can spread the beginning chain out into a square shape to get an idea of how many stitches you'll need per side.

  For those who work the super-stretchy beginning, you don't have to increase so much. Working too few stitches into a regular chain will cause it to be uncomfortably stiff and dig in around the shoulders. I'll repeat what I said in Part 1: BIGGER is better when you start the neckline, especially if you're using the plain-chain beginning. If it fits too loosely or rides too low when the top is finished, you can always rejoin around the neckline and work some decreases to tighten it up. I'm quite pleased with how I was able to incorporate another color change into the design because of the work I had to do to tighten it up...

So give yourself a little *room* for mistakes, and you may find yourself looking forward to color details or fancy borders instead of fearing an improper fit.


  Now, the rest was covered in Part 1 up to those taller stitches. (I worked this first design all in the granny stitch up to the bottom of the bust.) But after you join the armholes, your joining seam will now start to travel around the top...


Help! What do I do?
  In Part 1, I said I that I like to join with a single crochet stitch so you can avoid having to slip-stitch over for the next round... But sometimes, you'll want to slip stitch over a little. I like to keep my joining seam along the side of the top, too. After you join for the armholes, end one round with that single crochet join, but end the next round with a chain-1 and slip stitch. If you're using a stitch (like the granny) with multiples and chains, then here's how to begin and end that slip-stitch-joined round:

Don't start the round with the entire multiple! Instead, begin with the last stitch of the first multiple in the round:

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When you reach the end of the round, work the rest of the stitch, join, and slip stitch into the next chain space.

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And when you join the following round, do it with the single crochet. Continue alternating, and your seam will be straighter than mine... Forget and change it up every few rounds? As long as the seam stays near the side of the top, I promise nobody will ever know. ;-)


The do's and don'ts:
  I want to end Part 2 of the tutorial with the things I wished I had done differently and parts that turned out better than expected... Although I do love this top, I know I made more work than I needed to do in this first version. And to be honest, the sleeves turned out a bit wider than I had wanted because of the fixes I had to apply for a proper fit. But hey, maybe my mistakes can help make your top even better:

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If you're working the plain-chain beginning, DO work your stitches into the middle of the joined loop, and not into each individual chain. 1) That's always easier. 2) It lets the stitches ride freely so you can better adjust the fit if you need to. If you don't have to make any adjustments, then the stitches will settle into place when you wear the top. This is how I left version 3, and I like how the stitches stretch out over the shoulders but group together around the neckline. To me, it just adds to the design.

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DON'T try to work the square exactly to your desired width for sleeves. Plan to leave them slightly thinner, and join with an increase in stitches as I showed you in Part 1, or just chain over as far as you need for the armhole. The increasing (and later decreasing) I had to do would have been unnecessary if I had made an increase or chained over before joining.

On that note... DO increase along the sides if you need extra room over the bust. And DO use stitch markers to help you work them evenly! I know, you would think you want the increases over the place that needs the room, but they blend in better on the side and provide more stretch for the material. Otherwise, you could end up with a front that bulges.

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And on that note, DON'T drive yourself nuts if the shape looks off when you have to increase. What matters is if it fits when you try it on! Personally, I went half crazy doubting the shaping because it seemed to bulge around the armholes while it was flat on the table. And that's because technically, it does bulge out around the armholes, when I'm not wearing it... This stretches out around the bust when worn, versus an increase over the bust that would be less form-fitting and more made-to-fit. DO have confidence in your work. Try it on: If it fits, then it fits!

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And DO have fun! If you just don't have the confidence to begin the larger project of an adult top, maybe consider making a smaller version for a child or even a doll. You won't be out much yarn or time either way. DO NOT try to practice by making a sweater for your cat... You're not the same shape! (But you can still make a sweater for kitty if you want.)

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  I made this version with a "normal" size hook (J / 6 mm) and worsted weight yarn, and was able to finish with scrap left in a 7.1 oz / 200 g ball of Caron Cakes. Version 3 was created with a large size N / 10 mm hook and a ball-and-a-half of DK weight Hipster yarn... And I made it waaaaay too long! Had I known it would stretch in length once the stitches relaxed from washing, I might have ended it at just one ball. After a second wash and wear, it's hanging to my knees and I'm thinking of ripping a few rows out.

  For lacier Version 2, I used some scrap of worsted-weight Simply Soft from my stash, the same size hook as Version 3, and I did NOT make it to fit smaller-than-average-me. Using even more taller stitches in an open lacy design, I was able to make a waist-length top for The Kid with just 3 oz / 85 g. I was surprised to finish a size medium top with so little material, but this is greatly due to the large hook and lacy stitches. Unlike the part-wool Version 1, the acrylic yarn and spaced out stitches make a nice, breezy summer top. But if you wanted to work up a denser fabric and add sleeves for a fall sweater, it will take much more yarn.

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Until next time...
  We're going to get to those taller stitches in the next part of the tutorial. I wanted to cover them right away here in Part 2, but I didn't realize how many tips I wanted to share! After making three different versions of this top, I think there are so many ways you could alter this format to make your own design. I hope you can use my advice to produce the perfect vision of your creativity. And this really is as much as you need to know in order to take it from here!... But like I said before, the rest of the top will still be continued in upcoming tutorials.

Happy Crocheting!

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PS - Now can you see why I was doubting that shape? Besides this yarn holding up to the washer and dryer, I should have mentioned that it probably went through about 200 fittings! 
😉

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Be Square Top - GrannySpiration Challenge

  It's time for June's Granny-Spiration Challenge! Summer is here, and it inspired me to create some lacy tops. They are heavier weight lacy tops, so it helps keep me a little warmer in the air conditioning while the lace is nice and breathable. The main project I'm sharing today was made in Caron Cakes, which is a 20% wool yarn and I admit it was a bad choice of material for summer in Florida. It's such a nice top - I can't wait to wear it in the fall! With the format of how this is made, you'll be able to create your own in any yarn or thread you like. Just, don't choose wool if you live in Florida. 😏

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  The tutorial(s) for this project will be coming to you in parts... Because I wanted to cover many areas that you can adjust to make the proper fit, the entire project has over forty pictures (so far; I'm not done yet). That's a few too many to put in one post along with the Granny-Spiration Challenge, so for now you'll just get the main idea of the how-to. Be sure to scroll down after the tutorial so you can check out what everyone else in the Challenge has created, and don't forget to enter the linkup and giveaway!


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  You won't believe how easy it is to start (and finish) this top... Excuse me while I get excited and yell: IT'S A SQUARE! (Or maybe a rectangle.) It's a square with a BIG hole in the middle, and then you join it together to begin working in the round. Just. One. Square. And no sewing or joining pieces? Is this a dream? Can it be true? YES! And it's easy to adjust no matter what size or shape you are! Can you tell I'm excited about this project? There will be a separate tutorial for each of these tops, but I'd like to cover parts of the two main designs to get you started. Let's get to it:

Where to start:
Granny-Spiration Challenge 2017, granny square, top, tank top, blouse, shirt, easy, crochet, free pattern, tutorial, linkup, giveaway, yarn, Caron Cakes, blue, Blueberry Cheesecake

The neckline is where it all begins, which means it's top-down for ease of fitting. Keep in mind that you'll be able to work around the armholes and neckline to tighten them up if your top is too loose, but there's not much you can do to make it bigger if it fits too tightly. Bigger is better if you're not sure. Here are a few variations you can combine to change your design:

For a higher neckline or wider sleeves (don't go too wide!)...
-Start with a square.

For a lower neckline or thin/tank top sleeves...
-Start with a rectangle

Which beginning to choose?...
-The main version (top picture) starts with a large ring of chain stitches, and then turned into a square with even sets of granny stitches around four sides. This only allows for as much stretch as the stitch you choose, but it prevents the project from stretching out of shape and you know where your neckline will be.

-The second version (bottom picture above) uses a series of (chain-2, half double crochet) "rows" that are joined into a beginning chain. (Exactly how to do it will be covered in one of the upcoming tutorials.) This method creates a super-stretchy neckline for easier fitting, and it adds a little character to the lacy design.
*Honestly, after I worked this design using the chain/stitch method, I don't think I would make another top with the solid-chain neckline. It's awesomely stretchy and looks so much better. But, let's move on to how the first one was made...


What's next?
You can take some of the guessing out of your fitting by measuring another top. The circumference (the distance all the way around the armhole) will be the outside width of your square.

The rest is pretty easy until you get to joining the armhole. Keep working rounds until you (almost) reach a length that can be joined under your arms - OR - just work to the desired width for your sleeves (see explanation below). If you started with a square and it's not wide enough to join yet, don't worry! I'll show you what I did on the rectangular version to widen the armholes.

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Now, let's get more technical: By "sleeves", I mean the distance between the neckline and the outside of your shoulder. Real sleeves are better added later if you want them... Extending the square to try to create a sleeve will create a bat-wing shaped baggy sweater. (So, I guess you could do that if you wanted one!)



Granny-Spiration Challenge 2017, granny square, top, tank top, blouse, shirt, easy, crochet, free pattern, tutorial, linkup, giveaway, yarn, Caron Cakes, blue, Blueberry Cheesecake

When you reach the desired width, you'll need to work across one more side. This adds just a little bit of width depending on the height of the stitch you are using, so you might want to plan on joining when it's almost the width you want across your shoulder.


Creating the armholes:
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Now, fold it in half with the right sides out. There you go! There's the true beginning of your top. Until now, it was just a square (or maybe a rectangle). But do you see it now? So simple. We'll just flip it over and start working stitches across the opposite side. But first, what to do if it doesn't reach around your arm yet?...


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For wider sleeves / armhole reaches around:
On the first version, I ended the first side in the corner space with a regular granny stitch; not a corner. Because the sleeves end at the outside edge of my shoulder, I didn't work an increase before joining. You would think the larger armhole would be more roomy, but it's not... It makes a stiffer armhole.

For narrow sleeves / armhole doesn't reach yet:
I worked corner stitches in the corner spaces before joining the second version. This one started with a large rectangle for a super-low neckline, but I also wanted thin tank-top sleeves. I gained the length/width needed for shape before it was wide enough to join under the arms. Remember we're working in the round now, so a corner stitch makes an increase. Chains can be worked to reach any additional width if necessary.
*Working the corner stitches makes a better shape with more stretch, too. Just like with the neckline, I prefer this method over the way I created the first version.


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However to decide to join the armholes: You'll do the same across the next side... And this side will end with joining the other two corners. I like to avoid having to slip-stitch over, so for the join I use a single crochet instead of (chain-1, slip stitch).
If you needed to chain 2 - use a half double crochet... Chain 3 - double crochet... And so on. (For more chains, you can combine chains and stitches, or you can check out my tutorial for extra-tall stitches.)

It's a good idea to check for fit before you continue... Next up are a few problems I ran into after joining my armholes.


Adjusting for fit:
Depending on what length/width your beginning square is, the stitches you use, and your shape, you may need to adjust size as you work in the round. The bottom of the armhole is in line with the fullest part of the bust when the project is flat... But when you're wearing it, the fullest part of the bust won't be flat! (Duh, right?)
With version 1, the armhole had a rectangular shape that pulled the the front and back out of shape and caused it to ride higher than I thought it would after joining - Just above the fullest part of the bust. The armholes fit, but I needed to make some increases on the next round to stop it from becoming too tight.

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So, I added an extra pattern stitch in the chain-1 space of each armhole. How do I say this gently... I didn't need to make too many increases for it to fit me. For a larger bust, I can see how you may need to rip back and adjust the width of the armhole if the fit is too tight, or you'll need to find some strategic places to throw in extra increases without causing a noticeable bulge.


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For my shape and size, all I would have needed to do from there was keep working rounds. I got pretty lucky and ended up reaching all the color changes in Caron Cakes somewhere near the joining seam!

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I knew that continuing in the granny stitch would make this top way too warm, so I broke the pattern (not the yarn!) just under the bust and changed to a V-stitch variation that gains height every two rounds. The fabric was already stretchy, but the new stitches increased the stretch of the pattern so much that I had to throw a few decreases along the sides... But that was as simple as leaving out a few chains on one round, and skipping over the decrease the next round.

Seriously. It's so stretchy that I was able to extend the dress form out two sizes, and it still fit. That was before I shrank it in the dryer so it would fit me better, but I bet it would still stretch up one size.

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Like, really. The taller stitches are so seriously stretchy that I was able to dummy-up the dress form to show that it would work as a maternity top, too...
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...But I won't be needing one of those any time soon (or ever)! So, it just hangs in a super-drape-y way when I wear it.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

  Whew! I told you there was a lot to cover, right? In the upcoming tutorials I'll explain more about the pattern, briefly cover the taller stitches used, show you how to keep the joining seam along the side, and we'll even have a whole separate tutorial for the more-preferred second version. I hope you've been able to grasp the main concept of how this works, and I'm excited to see what kind of top your imagination can create by using this method.

Happy Crocheting!

Now, shall we move on to the GrannySpiration Challenge linkup and giveaway?


Our top three link ups from last month:
-Granny Square Cushion from Made by Demi: http://madebydemi.com/2017/04/24/granny-square-cushion-cover/

-Sweet Treat Baby Blanket from The Underground Crafter: http://undergroundcrafter.com/blog/2017/04/17/crochet-sweet-treat-baby-blanket/


Don't miss what others in the GrannySpiration Challenge are creating:









Enter to win:



June's Giveaway is sponsored by Marjan of Aterlier Marie-Lucienne and includes two skeins of Wolke 7 (or Cloud 7) yarn from Gemacht mit Liebe. This yarn is 75% virgin wool and 25% polyamide, and hand dyed. Each skein is 100g/420m.

Rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway



And don't forget to share your own granny-inspired projects at the linkup!

The June linkup will open tonight at 12am EST June 3rd, and run through midnight Thursday, June 15th.




Thursday, June 1, 2017

Wool in the Wash!

  Things don't always turn out the way we want them to. I never expected to face so many challenges in such a short time, and it has thrown off my schedule and finances. (The car breaking down; that could be expected, but it was unplanned for...) I'm desperately in need of some new clothes, so I thought I could make a few lacy summer tops from the yarn in my stash to save a few bucks on the wardrobe budget. Most are coming out well, but I had one that didn't fit me as perfectly as I had hoped. Before the a/c in the house quit on me (note: I live in Florida and its SUMMER), I used Caron Cakes (20% wool) to make a warm but breathable top to keep me from shivering... In the air conditioning. Maybe I won't be wearing that top any time soon, but I did find a solution to fix the fit: High heat in the dryer.

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  Still looks great, right? I know, I'm surprised, too. Many of my acrylic yarns hold up well to washing and drying, but I don't usually use high heat to dry them. And no, this wasn't an accident like with the soap saver, I meant to put in in there in order to shrink it. I was using my dress-form for fitting, thinking that one size bigger would be okay for a top. But it wasn't okay with this material. (You'll see more about that in the upcoming GrannySpiration Challenge.)

Caron Cakes, wool, worsted weight, yarn, top, blouse, tank top, granny stitch, square, crochet, garments, drying, shrinkage

  Knowing that Caron Cakes would hold up to machine washing and drying, I decided to give it a try on high heat. I had previously thrown one of my hats in with a load (another accident) and it came out just a tiny bit smaller... Not enough to ruin the project, but it turned a roomy beanie into a well-fitting beanie. I was confident that the dryer could turn my somewhat loose blouse into the form-fitting top I wanted.

Caron Cakes, wool, worsted weight, yarn, top, blouse, tank top, granny stitch, square, crochet, garments, drying, shrinkage

  It suffered through the abuse and came out as I had hoped! It fits perfectly. As can always be expected, I had the end  of a tail pop out. It happens every time. Other than that, the top is still in one piece and no more fuzzy than when I had washed it by hand.

Caron Cakes, wool, worsted weight, yarn, top, blouse, tank top, granny stitch, square, crochet, garments, drying, shrinkage

  Extra-tall stitches were used for super-stretchy, airy lace. I did notice more fuzz around these areas, but as I said above: That was there after hand-washing. Perhaps the choice in materials was just the wrong way to go for this project. I've made two other tops similar to this; one in acrylic and the other in a cotton/bamboo blend. Both have better drape and are so much cooler (in slang meaning and temperature) than this version, and neither has fuzz around the taller stitches.

Caron Cakes, wool, worsted weight, yarn, top, blouse, tank top, granny stitch, square, crochet, garments, drying, shrinkage

  I guess I'm in an experimental mood. First, with trying to fix the color in my cotton yarn; now with making summer tops in wool blends... Maybe this heat is just frying my brain. What was I thinking? IT'S WOOL. Well, I was thinking of how I shiver in the air conditioning at the time, but now all we have is a portable unit that's doing its best to keep the house at a balmy 89°. No wool needed now! Experiment failed. Meh, you can't blame the yarn. It held up awesomely to washing and drying, and I even have a little left over after making my top a size too big. That part of this experiment was a win.

  So, I'm pretty sure that this pattern could be made up to a size large with just two balls of yarn. It follows more of a "format" than a pattern, which makes it easy to adjust how you want it to fit. With the other two tops I've worked up, I've found different areas and methods that can be changed to make it even better. And that means I have a lot of work to do! I'll be sharing the bare-bones how-to at the GrannySpiration Challenge. More will come soon after to help you mix and match techniques to create a perfect-fitting, easy-to-make top.


Happy Crocheting!

PS- There's more than just the granny stitch that makes this pattern suitable for the Challenge... There's a square in there! Can you find it? Hop on over to Crochet is the Way's Facebook page and you can see a sneak peek of the entire top.