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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. ­čśĆ

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


  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!


blouse, top, tank top, crochet, pattern, tutorial, free, garment, granny square, granny stitch, Caron Cakes


  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.

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

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

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?...


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

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.


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

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.

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

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.


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

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!

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

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.

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


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

...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.





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.

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

  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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Running Away Again

  A while back, I shared with you a problem I was having Peaches & Creme yarn. In the post Running Away, you can see what happened to the colors after the first wash. I've been working on some projects to use up the rest of the cone, and now I'm back with an update on some experiments. The photos aren't great because I'm working in my poorly-lit kitchen, but I'm excited to share the results.

Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Our unwashed test subjects are a couple of simple granny washcloths and a mitt made from a square. (Side note: There's still over half a cone left.) What we already know about this yarn is that it bleeds when exposed to cold water and mild detergent. The thing we're going to test for is to see if we can stop the colors from running by treating with a fixative.


  I have to admit that my knowledge of fabric dyes doesn't extend much farther than tie-dyeing tee shirts, so I had to go do a little research. At first, I was confused and thought that a "mordant" was the thing I was looking for... That's okay, because it led me to this article with a list of mordants and fixatives.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Somewhere along the way I read (in another post or in comments) that vinegar shouldn't be used for cotton yarn, so I went for the first thing on the list: Salt. The experiment starts with cool tap water, a non-reactive measuring cup, and some ordinary, iodine-free table salt. I also have iodized salt, but I thought it best to leave extra ingredients out of the mix.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  I didn't submerge the entire project right away because I wanted to see if there was a difference in the colors. In hindsight I realized that I have other pieces to compare it to... This step was unnecessary. I did notice some minor bleeding after a few minutes, so I went ahead and pushed the whole thing into the water.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Easily amused as I am, I sat watching the process for about 20 minutes. Is the color running, or does the white not look as white because of the water? Well either way, it's not running as bad as my first project did. Is that water blue? Yes, it is turning slightly bluish. Should I just take it out, then? No, sit and watch the bubbles float up from the pretty yarn; it gives you a tranquil feeling. Okay, but this is staring to get boring even for me. Fine, it's been half an hour, let's see what happens...


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Comparing the unwashed version with the project still soaking, there didn't appear to be much of a difference. I removed the washcloth from its bath and gave it a rinse with cold water. The water I poured out of the cup had a blue tint, but I never saw dye running from the project as I rinsed it.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Plain white paper towels are the tool I'm using to soak up extra water. I made a comparison while the first washcloth was still drying, and noticed the white wasn't so bright anymore. This could just be because it was still wet, or perhaps the dye ran after all. (We'll come back to this really soon.) I left it to dry overnight before starting the next test, but you get to fast forward to see what happens next...

Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Not really knowing if there's much of a difference, I decided to try sea salt for another project. This test was performed in almost the same way, except I went ahead and submerged the whole piece at once instead of leaving part of it out.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  And this time, I walked away to do some things instead of staring at a measuring cup like the crazy person I am. The mitt stayed in its bath for a little over thirty minutes, but not as much as an hour. I was getting ready to get it out, but first I needed to move the still-drying washcloth to make room...


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Hey, those are cute little sprinkles of blue on that paper towel, but that color is supposed to be in my yarn! I guess the table salt didn't do much good to lock in the dye... I mean, the white is still pretty white, and the yellow looks the same to me; but that blue! Oh, I really hope the next experiment works...


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  I pulled the mitt out of the sea salt mixture, gave it a squeeze with some paper towels, and immediately saw traces of blue left behind. The sea salt also failed to stop the colors from bleeding. And so, we move on to the last experiment...


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  I went against all dyeing logic for this, so let me explain my thought process: These are washcloths, made to be used with hot water. And when you're dyeing fabric, you usually do it in hot water. So since the dye won't stay in, I figured it couldn't hurt to treat it now in the way it will be used later. If it all runs out, then I'll have some pretty white washcloths, right?


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  So, it went into a nice hot bath with table salt and soaked for about 30 minutes. While it was resting in its tub, I set up a treated and an untreated washcloth for comparison. You know, I guess it's not that bad. The colors may have bled a bit, but the yarn still looks really nice. None of that "robin's egg" tie-dyed effect that happened with the first project - The white is still white.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  Soaking in the hot water/table salt mixture, the next washcloth didn't look like it was fading/bleeding/running at all. Could hot water be the answer here? We'll find out when we put in on some paper towels...


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  I should have kept another treated project in the picture for comparison, but failed to think of it. Regardless, the hot water treatment seemed to do the trick better than both experiments with cool water. The white looks white; the blue still seems bright. The yellow never changes.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  For the last time, let's take a peek under that washcloth to see what's on the paper towel... What? Little blue speckles? Yes, they are less noticeable than before, but the evidence is still there: None of my experiments succeeded in fixing the color to the yarn. But as I still have half a cone left, I suppose there will be room for more tests in the future. I've been doing more research and learned that you can use vinegar to set the dye in cotton yarn - As well as washing soda, baking soda, and cream of tartar; all things I have available in the kitchen, ready to experiment. I'm going to need them.


Peaches & Creme, yarn, cotton, washcloth, mitt, granny square, crochet, color fastness, color running

  To end, I'd like to share a final update on two projects: The new mitt I made was used, and the colors bled further. Although not as bad as the untreated soap-saver, the white turned blue as soon as it was exposed to soap and hot water. The blue isn't very blue anymore, and the yellow turns a bit greenish when mixed with it.

  As for the original project with Peaches & Creme, it suffered an unfortunate accident. (Wait, can we call it another experiment?) It was wadded up in a load of towels that got thrown in the washer on heavy wash, then dried on high high. The good news is: I was never happy with the requested size, and it shrank down to properly fit a bar of soap. The bad news: Among the staining of Rip van Winkle's concrete dust, you can barely see any color at all. The most noticeable shade now is the lovely rust stains left from my supposedly rust-proof shower hooks.

  Well, it's better to find out sooner than later. With the low cost of this yarn, I was hoping to make some gift sets to sell. Could you imagine the customer's disgust with the product when they make the mistake of machine-washing the item? And who wants to hand-wash, air-dry a washcloth, anyway? I will continue to make more for myself to use up the yarn, and use them for future experiments with more fixatives. Perhaps you'll already know the results if you see a new post titled "Running Further Away".

Happy Crocheting!


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