Friday, August 8, 2014

How To: Russian Join

  Do you ever get done with a crochet project, only to see all those yarn ends to weave in, then realize you're not done at all? I have a horrible habit of finishing a pattern, then thinking "DONE!", but we all (should) know this isn't the case. A pattern may be finished once the last stitch is complete, but a project isn't done until it's wearable or usable. When you've worked a project which requires more than one skein of yarn or color changes, those tails just might haunt your dreams at night, like mine.

  After four nights of weaving in ends while finishing a large afghan, I began having nightmares about being attacked and eaten by my project. The tails became tentacles which would entwine my body and suffocate me while I struggled to get free. Eventually the afghan devoured me.
  After four more nights of weaving in ends while still having the same nightmare, I stuffed the project in a cabinet, never to work on it again. Sad. I should have used this technique instead.

  Laugh if you want to, but maybe you've had a similar situation happen to you. Bad dreams about a silly afghan might still be a problem of mine, but weaving in ends will never bother me again. The Russian Join is a method of joining two skeins of yarn together without leaving any tails behind. Spending some time to learn and use this skill will save you a bunch of time on your next big project.

  *I've wanted to create this tutorial for a while, but research has held me back. I really wish I could explain the origin of this method, but it seems to have quite an elusive past. I've done internet searches, watched videos, and poured through all of my old reference books, but all have failed to provide information about where and when the Russian Join was first documented. However, I haven't seen or read everything out there, so if you can help, please, provide information for us all.

  We can assume the skill originated in Russia, but this may not be the case, as with a few other crochet techniques such as Bavarian crochet. Sometimes, there is plenty of material teaching a skill, but no documentation of its source. I do have a theory about how this method was created, if you'll allow me to speculate:

  First, let's understand spit splicing, a way a joining animal fiber yarn. With this technique, the ends of each strand are teased or "fluffed" out, then the strands are combined and twisted. Finally, you spit on it, then agitate it in your hands, which essentially felts the fibers together to create a solid strand.

  Non-animal fiber yarns such as cotton, acrylic, or blends can't be felted, so my guess is that the Russian Join was invented in more modern times to replace spit splicing. It creates a slightly thicker join, but no ends to weave in, right? Well, in fact, you'll still need to do a little weaving, but it's nothing compared to a nightmare afghan. Let's learn!

  Above is an example of what the Russian join looks like when the same color yarn is being joined.

  To better demonstrate the procedure, I'll generally be using different colors (top photos). Many examples are added showing the joining of like colors (bottom photos). This method is most commonly used to attach duplicate skeins, but it can also be utilized when working with different colors. It takes a little more experience using the Russian Join before you will link your strands in the correct spot for a color change, but don't let that discourage you! Once you know how it works, you just have to master where to do it.

1. Thread the end of one strand of yarn through a yarn needle.

2. At least 2 inches (5 cm) away from the needle , begin weaving the needle through the strands of yarn.

A great trick to do this: Wrap the needle as if to yarn over, splitting the strand each time.

3. Pull the needle through the strands, leaving enough of a loop to thread the other strand of yarn through. Remove the needle.

4. Thread the other strand of yarn on the needle. Run through the loop made in the first strand.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 as for the first strand.

6. Gently tighten the ends of both strands.

An extra tip: See the top example (2 colors) after pulling the tails? It doesn't look so pretty. To fix this, give your yarn a twist to tighten the ply back up. It may be necessary to repeat this a few times to get it settled together. I didn't play a trick on you, the top example and the one below are the same piece of yarn. Trim the ends, and continue working!

Just for all of you, I (temporarily) overcame my fear of the nightmare afghan, so I can show you what I'm talking about:

  It's a 3-strand afghan made in four pieces, then joined using two strands for each of the four seams. A 2-strand border is added, and there's still a piece to be attached which goes in the center. Three colors are used, with two large skeins a piece of two colors, and six skeins of the third color.

  And now my nightmares return...

Don't let it happen to you! It doesn't take much time to master this skill, but it sure will speed up the clock on any project.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to: Design Your Own Ripple Pattern

  When it comes to ripple patterns, there are three types of crocheters: The ones who understand it completely, the ones who don't get it at all, and the ones who can follow a pattern, but don't understand what makes it work. Regardless of what category you belong to, this tutorial will have you crocheting a ripple pattern in no time. Beginners can learn from the start, or advanced crocheters may use the examples for inspiration in their own designs.

  You can easily follow this tutorial and continue repeating the pattern to make a scarf. Increase the multiples and play with variations in this pattern to create your own baby blanket, afghan, or maybe just a shawl or wrap.

This tutorial will:

  • Cover the basics of ripples and how they work.
  • Teach you the simple mathematics needed to create your own designs.
  • Provide a simple ripple pattern and some variations.

The Basics:
What makes it work?
  A ripple pattern results in a series of peaks and valleys in the fabric you are crocheting. The peaks are created when the number of stitches are increased. Valleys develop from crocheting stitches together or skipping to decrease. The combination of stitches in each increase, decrease, and in between determine the height and shape of the ripple.

  Ripple patterns are made in many ways. Shells, fans, clusters, V-stitches, and so much more often combine to make elegant, bold, or relaxing designs.

  The "trick" with any basic ripple pattern is keeping the number of stitches the same in each row, and to make the stitches in the proper places. This is where the pattern form and mathematics in this tutorial will be used to create simple, uniform ripples. In your own designs, you can combine different sets of multiples in the same piece of work to make interesting or wacky patterns.

  To keep the number of stitches correct, you must make a decrease for every stitch you have increased. Although that seems simple enough, the next row won't work if you only use increases and decreases. Some extra stitches are needed to make the transition between peaks and valleys, or you just get a crazy mess! These "transition", or single stitches are what determine the depth of the ripple.

  For the examples I will be using a size 7/1.65 MM steel hook and # 10 thread, for better photos. If you have a project in mind, you may want to practice with the materials it calls for. Otherwise, grab whatever yarn and hook you are comfortable with, and let's get started!

Chain - ch
Skip - sk
Stitch(es) - st(s)
Double crochet - dc
Double crochet 3 together - dc3tog

The Formula:
A pattern you can adjust!
  The pattern we will be using for this tutorial is a combination of 3 double crochet shells (increase), regular double crochet, and double crocheting 3 together (decrease). For ease of instruction, we will stick to that number. At the end of the tutorial I will provide examples for other variations. If you have not learned how to double crochet 3 together (dc3tog), I will provide instructions along the way to modify the pattern with a few skipped stitches.

  We will be increasing by two (2) for each shell, and decreasing by 2 for each dc3tog. Only the number of the regular double crochet in between those will change. You must start with at least 2, but you can add as many stitches as you want from there. Let's get started by figuring the number of stitches and the beginning chain.

  Your project size will determine the number of multiples, or sets (or repeats), you will need. I'm only using two (2) multiples for this tutorial, so we can keep it short. For an example, let's use the pattern with the smallest number of stitches in a multiple, or the shortest ripple.

One multiple will read: 3 dc, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts, dc3tog twice, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts, 3 dc.

For the beginning chain, each regular double crochet and each shell only need one chain. The dc3tog need 3 chains. There are 2 shells, 4 double crochet, and 2 dc3tog total in each multiple.

The formula for each multiple would be 2 + [4] + (3 x 2) = 12, Increase the number in brackets [ ] for a deeper ripple.

To figure the beginning chain, multiply 12 x [2] = 24. Change the number in brackets [ ] for more multiples. Then add 3 to count as your beginning double crochet (24 + 3 = 27), so 27 will be the number for my beginning chain.

Change the numbers in brackets for a deeper, wider ripple. Add 2 to the stitch count of the multiple for each number you increase by.

For example: This multiple has 6 stitches between each increase and decrease. You can see how the ripple is deeper and wider than the tutorial example using 2 stitches.

To figure the stitch count and beginning chain, it would be 2 + ( [6] x 2 ) + (3 x 2) , or  2 + [12] + 6 = 20. Only the number in brackets [ ] will change. If you wanted to make an afghan with 15 ripples, you would then multiply 20 x 15 = 300. Then add 3 for the beginning dc, for a total of 303 for the beginning chain.

The Tutorial Pattern:
A short, simple ripple...
*Ch 27 to follow pattern tutorial. See above to figure beginning ch for more multiples.

Row 1:
2 dc in 4th ch from hook. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts. Dc3tog twice. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, *3 dc in each of the following 2 sts, 1 dc in each of the next [2] sts, dc3tog twice, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts.* 3 dc in last st. (24 dc) Repeat from * to * for more multiples.

Row 2:
Ch 3 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc in same st. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts. Dc3tog twice. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, *3 dc in each of the following 2 sts, 1 dc in each of the next [2] sts, dc3tog twice, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts.* 3 dc in last st. (24 dc) Repeat from * to * for more multiples.

Variations and modifications:
  So, maybe you're a beginner and you don't know how to dc3tog; you're not ready to learn, but you want to make a ripple blanket now. Maybe you're an advanced crocheter, but you want a much quicker pattern or one that uses less yarn. Simple! There are a few different modifications you can make to help you achieve what you're looking for.

  Don't know how or don't want to dc3tog? There's an easier way to decrease the number of stitches in a pattern. Skip! But there is one thing to remember: 

A dc3tog still equals 1 stitch once completed, so you have to make something to take its place. This can be done by making a chain to replace each dc3tog, or choosing where to make a double crochet. For example:

  The pattern for the following example is -
Ch 3, 2 dc in same st. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, ch 2, sk 6, 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, *3 dc in each of the following 2 sts. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, ch 2, sk 6, 2 dc in each of next 2 sts.* 3 dc in last st. (Repeat  from * to * for more multiples.)

  This creates an open fabric by replacing the dc3tog with chains and skipped stitches.

  or, the pattern for the next example would be -
Ch 3, 2 dc in same st. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, (sk 1, 1 dc, sk 1) twice. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, *3 dc in each of the following 2 sts. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts, (sk 1, 1 dc, sk 1) twice. 1 dc in each of the next [2] sts.* 3 dc in last st. (Repeat from * to * for more multiples.)

  Finally, let's look at some examples of a few variations you could use to make your own design. It's simple enough to follow the pattern using regular double crochet to create an average ripple blanket, and make it more interesting by playing with color changes. This is a great way to use up yarn leftovers.
  But how do you make it your own? As long as you keep the number of stitches in the row the same, you can work with different stitch placement and chains for a more lacy effect, or to achieve a certain pattern. To give you an example of the many changes you could make, here's a bit of a sampler pattern:

Each row is repeated once, colors are changed every other row.

Ch 27, or see formula to figure beginning ch for more multiples.

Each multiple equals 12 stitches as pattern is written. Stitch count for multiples only change when you change the numbers in brackets. Add 2 to each multiple for every number you increase by.

Row 1:
In this row, the dc3tog have been removed, using double crochet and skipped stitches for an easier pattern .
{2 dc in 4th ch from hook}. 1 dc in each of next [3] sts, sk 4, 1 dc in each of next [3] sts. *3 dc in each of following 2 sts, 1 dc in each of next [3] sts. Sk 4, 1 dc in each of next [3] sts*  (Repeat from * to *  for more multiples.)

Row 2:
Repeat row 1, replacing { } with "ch 3, 2 dc in same st".

Row 3:
In this row, the regular dc, or transition stitches, have been replaced by chains and skipped stitches for a lacy effect.
Ch 3, 2 dc in same st. Ch [2], sk [2], dc3tog twice. Ch [2], sk [2], *3 dc in each of the following 2 sts. Ch [2], sk [2], dc3tog twice. Ch [2], sk [2].* 3 dc in last st. (Repeat from * to * for more multiples.)

Row 4:
Repeat row 3.

Row 5:
Also for a lacy effect, the shells in this row are replaced with (1dc, ch 2) or (ch 2, 1 dc).
Ch 5 (counts as 1 dc, ch-2), 1 dc in each of next [2] sts. Ch 2, sk 6, 1 dc in each of next [2] sts. *Ch 2, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts, ch 2. 1 dc in each of next [2] sts. Ch 2, sk 6, 1 dc in each of next [2] sts.* Ch 2, 1 dc in last st. (Repeat from * to * for more multiples.)

Row 6:
Repeat row 5.

Row 7:
A project made of this row would be a super quick, easy pattern using the least amount of yarn. The stitches of the shells are replaced with chains, like row 5, then a "base" stitch is made for the "transition" stitches, with the rest being replaced with chains and skipped stitches. Finally, the dc3tog is also replaced with chains and skipped stitches to produce an amazingly lacy fabric. The pattern seems strange written this way, but it is broken up so that you can easily modify the numbers and understand the stitch placement.
Ch 5 (counts as 1 dc, ch-2), 1 dc in the next st. {Ch [1], sk [1],  ch 2, sk 6, ch [1], sk [1],} 1 dc in following st. *Ch 2, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts. Ch 2, 1 dc in next st. {Ch [1], sk [1], ch 2, sk 6, ch [1], sk [1],} 1 dc.* Ch 2, 1 dc in last st. (Repeat from * to * for more multiples.
Replace { } with: {Ch [4], sk [8]} to simplify pattern. Remember to add the numbers in brackets [ ] for the correct stitch count if you modify the pattern.

Row 8:
Repeat row 7.

  You could use any of these rows alone, combine different sets of multiples, or follow the sampler pattern to create your own project. There are many more variations you could try by yourself. Whether you sit down with a piece of paper to draw it out, or just play with some yarn and a hook, it's easy to create your own ripple masterpiece. If you have any questions or you're stuck on something, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you sort it out.

  Single crochet could also be used for this pattern, just remember to adjust your beginning and turning chains.

  One more picture; I couldn't help it. Here's a sample swatch of row 7 by itself, worked in 3 multiples, with a border added. It came out beautiful and I just wanted to share it.

  An afghan or blanket using this pattern, bulky yarn and a larger hook would work up a mile a minute.
  Please, oh, please, if somebody makes something like a shawl or cowl, or anything with this pattern, please share a photo with me, I'd love to see your creations!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Free Pattern: Plarn Welcome Mat

  Your guests can see your skills before they make it through your door when you make this plarn doormat. Using a large hook, thick double strands of plastic bag yarn, and 3 DC filet crochet, this pattern works up quickly and easily. The substantial size of each mesh produces an impressionistic view of the word "WELCOME", but it doesn't stand out enough on its own. A bit of surface crochet is the final touch to add some character and depth. The complete highlighted result is a sort of funky, fancy, graffiti-style block lettering.

  With the combination of techniques needed to make this project, you can brush up on a few of your skills, or perhaps add some new ones. Click on the links provided if you need help with filet crochet, surface crochet, or making plarn.

  Do you have a pile of plastic bags to save from a landfill? Plarn is a great way to turn trash into something practical or even stylish. Requiring four to six bags per row, this project uses well over 100 average size grocery bags, so be prepared for a lot of cutting.

  *Here's a tip: If you are skilled with color work, you could make this project really pop! Use color B to work the highlighted solid mesh, or use a third color for even more contrast.

Size is 18" x 36" ( 45.5 cm x 91.5 cm) before finishing.
Finished size with border is 19 1/2" x 36 1/2" (49.5 cm x 92.5 cm)

Skill Level: 

Plarn, cut into 2 1/2" -3" (6cm - 7.5cm) wide strips
- over 100 bags for color A
- about 30 bags for color B
Crochet hook size K/10 1/2-6.50MM, or size needed to obtain gauge
Smaller hook for weaving in ends

4" x 4" (10 cm x 10 cm) = 4 rows of 4 mesh,
  or, one mesh = 1" x 1" (2.5cm x 2.5 cm)

-Written directions are provided for the beginning chain and first row only. Follow the chart to complete.
-Begin working the chart from the bottom left to right. The next row up is worked right to left, and so on. To help make sure you're working in the correct direction on the chart, follow the arrows.
-Chain 3 for first double crochet at beginning of each row.

Chain (ch)
Slip stitch (sl st)
Single crochet (sc)
Double crochet (dc)

Filet Symbols:

Using two strands of color A, ch 90 to begin.

Row 1:
Follow chart from left to right: Dc in 4th ch from hook and in each of remaining 86 chs. (87 dc, or 43 solid mesh)

Rows 2 - 23:
Follow chart. Bind off.

Click to enlarge chart.

Rotate work 1 half-turn, repeat rows 22 and 23, beginning in first st of beg ch. Bind off. You may weave in ends now, or work over them while adding the border.

Surface crochet:
Now for the finishing touch. Your guests might not know they are welcome without it.

Using the same size hook unless you need to switch for gauge, change to a single strand of color B. Beginning in any marked mesh you wish, secure with a sl st to the wrong side, ch 1. Remove hook, pull st through to right side.

Following the markings on the chart, surface single crochet as stated for each filet:

To work horizontally:

Solid mesh - Make one surface single crochet for each dc of the mesh (3).

Open mesh - Make 2 surface single crochet in the chain space, one in the next dc.

Long mesh - Make 5 surface single crochet in the chain space.

Lacet - Make 2 surface single crochet in first chain space, 1 surface single crochet in the single crochet, and 2 surface single crochet in the next chain space.

To work vertically, make 3 surface single crochet around a dc post.

For border:
Use the same size hook and double strands of color B.

Except for corner posts, work 3 sc around each vertical post for short sides. Only work 2 sc in corner sps.

For long sides, work 1 dc for each dc available in a solid mesh. Work 2 dc in an open mesh ch-sp. Work 4 dc in ch-sp of a long mesh.

Chain 3 for corners.

Bind off, weave in ends.

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