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Friday, April 7, 2017

As Expected: FAIL!

  Wow, I feel like I'm doing two "fail" posts in a row... Only, this one really is a fail, and that last one was just for tips. 😀 I shared a sneak peek at this project a few weeks ago, but I think I was complaining more about the weather than sharing the project. (The weather finally warmed up to 90°F before turning chilly again yesterday. Thanks, Florida.) I got my chance to "fmelt" my plarn project. I didn't expect it to go perfectly. I didn't think it would fail this badly, either.

crochet, fails, plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, fmelting, hardened plarn, WIP, work in progress


  To explain if you missed it: The plan was to make paper plate holders. And ugh, this is SO much work! First, you make the material (cutting up plastic bags). Then, you crochet the project. And finally, you get out the iron and turn it into hardened plastic. That's why I figured I'd use my not-a-mistake design to test the material instead of frogging it and making more work for myself. I thought if this didn't come out well, I could always flatten it out and use it as a trivet. But, no. All I got was a big, fat FAIL.

crochet, fails, plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, fmelting, hardened plarn, WIP, work in progress

  Melting through the plastic is something I usually do right at the beginning, when the iron is set too high. This time, I took my time before I destroyed my work. 😉 With an old wooden plate holder for a form and parchment paper to keep melted plastic off my iron, I got to work "fmelting". One minute... Two minutes... Five minutes... The plastic still wasn't hardening. I set the temperature up. To make a long story shorter, I ended up cranking the heat all the way up after 20 minutes and still-floppy plastic. What refused to harden up before suddenly melted through.

crochet, fails, plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, fmelting, hardened plarn, WIP, work in progress

  But wait! It gets even better... (That's sarcasm there.) Even though part of the project melted through, other parts of it still wouldn't harden up! Especially around the most important part: The curve that's needed for the shape of a plate holder. The middle of the flat circle did fmelt pretty well. When it came to creating the shape I thought I could make just by melting... Nope, it's not gonna happen this time.

crochet, fails, plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, fmelting, hardened plarn, WIP, work in progress

  The flat sides of that pentagon-turned-circle started showing badly the more I tried to melt and shape. Parts overlapped the form, and others shrank back from the edge. I saw it happening before that melt-through occurred, and that's why I wasn't worried about ruining it with the high heat. I just wanted to test out the temperature I would need for the following projects.

  It might be a big fail, but it was a learning experience. See - I have this all figured out already. 😀 I've fmelted plarn thicker than this before. Why won't this harden up? There's nothing wrong with my iron, is there? (Yes, I burned my finger when I checked the iron for a malfunction. I'll never learn.) And why can't I get it to hold it's shape?

  It's either because of the form or the paper. For other fmelted projects, I've used something metal or covered the form in aluminum foil. I jumped into this project with a bare-bones form that might be letting the heat escape. I've also changed part of the method by using parchment paper. I used waxed paper before, but it leaves residue on my iron.

  So now the question is: Do I really want to continue with this project? It needs a lot of changes before it will be successful. What did fmelt proves this material is way too thin for its purpose. Although hardened, it isn't very strong. The material will have to be thicker and the shape has to change. Plus, the curved shape will have to be made through crochet and not by melting. And if parchment paper is part of the problem, then I'll have to use that waxed paper and be forced to scrub the gunk off my iron again.

crochet, fails, plarn, plastic yarn, recycle, fmelting, hardened plarn, WIP, work in progress

  Now that I've figured out the problem(s), I just have to try again... I'm just not so sure I want to. This is a time-consuming process, and paper plate holders can be bought in sets of eight for $2. I made some extra material ahead of time, but now I know I can't use it for this. Perhaps my time could be better spent turning that material into something a little more successful and practical? Let's not forget the work of cleaning the iron... Okay, all thoughts of future attempts have now been abandoned.

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Metal Mishaps

  For those who love the story behind a design: Oh wow, do I have a tale for you! If you've already been to this month's Granny-Spiration Challenge, then you might think I whipped up my project the night before... After all, it's just a simple one-round square, right? How hard could it be?

  Right. And that's what I originally thought when I started the project a month before the challenge. The road to this successful design was a bumpy one with lots of twists, and I think I got lost a few times along the way. But now that I've conquered the route, it should be easier for everyone else to pass. All you have to do is follow my directions to get there... But what if you want to blaze your own trail to a new place?

Here's where I'll stop speaking in metaphors and just tell you all the "fun" I had crocheting with metal.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square


  I'll show you my secret weapon first, although you don't have to have one of these to crochet with metal wire. Once I finally found the right hook size for the material (that's a long story in itself), I knew I had to try one of my antique hooks. Most people may have thrown this bent hook out, but I always knew I'd use it for something! I have a bad habit of keeping my loops low and tight, but the angle of this hook's head forced me to pull them up nice and high like they need to be.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square

  I've always wondered how that hook got that way and who did it, but I suppose I'll never know. Anyway... Are you the same kind of tight-loop crocheter as me? If so, then you'll find crocheting with metal harder to do. No matter how many times I changed hooks, my work kept curling towards me. It took a few tries to realize that it wasn't all because of the hook size. Pulling the first loop of the stitch up higher let it fall back into the work instead of being pulled tight against the base. 

  
  Pulling the loops tight also causes twists and kinks in the wire, and that's part of what caused the curling. It was mostly because of my hook size at first. Wouldn't you think you'd need a small hook for something so thin? Right, but... See that explanation above. The small hook caused the wire to kink up as soon as you "yarn" over with it. No matter how many different designs and stitch counts I worked out, they were all curly messes.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square


  What a shame. I really liked the look of the two-round designs I created, but they would be too big to use for (my) jewelry if made with a large hook. Don't get me wrong - I think it would be cool to make something big and bold, like 70's style. But let's be honest: When it comes to earrings, anything over an inch just gets stuck in my hair! The goal here was to keep it small, simple, and delicate. And not stuck in my hair.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square

  I began trying to make these motifs with a 1.50 mm steel hook, working my way up to the size 3 you see above. (A US size 3 should be 2.10 mm, but this old hook doesn't match.) By the time I worked out that square, I had figured out the problem with my tension. But why is it still curling? Hmm... Metal is bendy. I should be able to just "block" it out flat, right? Just give it a stretch into place and it will stay... Nope, didn't work. 

  When you think you've figured it all out, this material changes its personality. The wire stays kinked when you work it up on a too-small hook, but you can't bend it into place to block it flat! This is one of those "Arg, are you kidding me" moments. Yes, it stays kinked if sharply bent. But the loose loops required for a flat project turn it into a springy material that bounces back into shape.


  This all leads us to another problem: The material itself. I didn't have much of that silver wire left, so I didn't want to keep practicing with it. There's another roll of "gold" in my supplies that I'm not happy with. It's much too yellow in my eyes. Why not ruin it while trying to get this right? And ruin it is exactly what I did.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square

  This is not gold! It's just yellow-coated wire. It's not like I thought I was getting a roll of real gold for a few dollars. I just never thought the coating would start coming off every time I ripped my stitches back to try again. (And yes, the "silver" is also plastic-coated wire.) This isn't like crocheting with yarn or even plarn, where you can rip back and try again. Each time you do, it damages the wire more and more. 

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square


  It's "get it right" or "get more material". By the time I made the square above, I was ready to give up. I was destroying material, my hands, and my confidence. It was so close to being flat! I stretched, and pulled, bent and smashed, and repeated. None of it helped. It just can't be blocked. But give up? NO! Not me! Well, if you can't make a tiny motif with a small hook, then I guess it's time to make shorter stitches to achieve the size with a bigger hook.

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square

 Ta da! And stubborn, stubborn me did make a bigger motif with those tall, lacy double crochet stitches. I suppose I could have included it as part of my project for the Granny-Spiration Challenge, but at the time it looked so plain without the bead. Reviewing my pictures, I think it might make a cute, simple pendant on its own. Maybe add a bead on an eye pin.  

crochet, tips, crocheting with metal, jewelry, wire, granny square

  Sure I accomplished the design I wanted, but will I ever wear it? Turned diagonally, the pendant will be over 2" across. That's a bit large for my taste in accessories and it's way too big for earrings. But for somebody else? Maybe you like it. My point is, the material poses it's fair share of limitations in what you can make and how it can be made. A smaller gauge wire would work better on a small hook, but this is already really thin!   


  None of this has been said to discourage you from trying your own metal project. I hope it can steer you in the right direction, closer to where you need to start. It's not the kind of project that you can jump into and rip back if it's not perfect. You can score metal beading wire for really cheap if you catch a sale or use coupons, so it's not like you're destroying a $30 skein of handspun silk if you make a mistake. For me, I just hate wasting any material, ever. Except for that ugly yellow "gold". I threw the aftermath of my practice in the trash without thinking twice.


Happy Crocheting!  

PS- If you missed this month's Granny-Spiration Challenge, be sure to stop by to check out my project and see what everyone else is making, too!

https://crochetistheway.blogspot.com/2017/04/delicate-granny-earrings.html


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