You may not have ever thought of this, but it’s something worth paying attention to. What do you do at the end of a row when it comes time to turn your work?
The crochet world has a few inconsistencies, and this is one of them. It’s rarely even mentioned in patterns, and it can make a huge difference in your edges! I’m not talking about whether you chain first and then turn, or turn and then chain.
I’m talking about the specific direction you actually turn your work over. If you’re right handed, and you’re working in rows (not rounds as in a circle), when you come to the end of a row, you’re on the left corner.
If you imagine your work as though you were holding a book, you can visualize it like this. You can turn the lower right corner of your “page”, keeping your working yarn and stitch stable, like the spine of the book. When you do this, your working yarn wraps behind your work and keeps the yarn in the back where you typically are carrying it in your work. It also puts a little bit of tension on the outside of the stitch, which can help keep your edges flush and tight.
The other way is kind of flipping back a page in a book. You’re turning your work and bringing your working yarn to the front of your work. This also places some tension on the outside stitch, but might result it a bit of a bump. But, bumps can always be covered by a border, so you really have to figure out what feels more natural to you and what result you like.
I personally prefer the first way. But I used to always do the second way until I checked for the differences. This picture shows how different my edge stitches look using both methods. It took some time and conscious remembering to change that habit, but I’m much happier with the results!
So, how do YOU turn your work?
There are many ways to join your yarn. I’ve tried a lot of them, but my preferred method is the Magic Knot. And once you know how to do it, you’ll see – it really is a little bit of magic!
Here are the overall steps to check out. Detailed instructions are below.
I like to use this anywhere I need to start a new strand of yarn. It works best with yarns and threads that are not slippery – acrylic, cotton, wools, anything that has a little bit of grab to it. A slinky, slipper yarn will come undone, however. So be sure to test your knot and yank on it HARD before moving on.
Step 1: Take your working yarn and lay it out with the end facing away from your work. Your new yarn will face the opposite of that direction. This might be different if you’re left handed, so switch them appropriately.
Step 2: You’re going to start making a regular knot, which is called an overhand knot, with your new yarn. You’re going to cross it OVER your working yarn and bring it back towards you under the working yarn.
Step 3: Make a loop AROUND your working yarn and pull the new yarn tail through, making sure that your tail continues in the same direction it started. (You can pull that knot tight at this point but I left it loose for this pictorial.)
Step 4: Start your second knot with your working yarn. You will cross this strand UNDER the new yarn.
Step 5: Close your working yarn knot AROUND the new yarn by bring your tail over the new yarn and through the loop you just made, making sure that the tail is facing the same way it started, opposite of the new yarn.
Step 6: Tighten your first knot if you haven’t already done so. And I mean REALLY tighten it. You want this nice and snug and I’ll tell you why in just a minute.
Step 7: Tighten the other knot if you haven’t already done so. Same goes with this knot. Tighten it HARD!
Step 8: Grab the tail of the new yarn in one hand, and the tail of your working yarn in the other and pull them towards each other. If you tied your knots correctly, this should be fairly easy to do. Once they’re touching, give them a really hard yank.
Now, here’s where the magic comes in. As long as you followed these directions precisely, your knots are facing in opposite directions. The harder they push against each other, the tighter they become. This doesn’t hold true on yarn that is slippery, which is why I recommend you always test it before moving on. But, I have been using this knot for years with great success! It makes a very small little bump in my yarn, but once the project is worked up, it’s barely noticeable! So, let’s finish this tutorial.
Step 9: Cut the tails. Don’t be afraid to cut them right up against the knot. As long as you don’t actually cut the knot, it will be secure. I promise!
Step 10: You’re done! Look at that beautiful knot! It’s secure, and barely noticeable.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Anatomy of a Hook
The most important tool in your arsenal as a crocheter is your crochet hook. When I first started, I really didn’t know much about why I liked one hook or felt clumsy with another. But there are really good reasons for this!
Hooks come in a variety of brands and styles, the two most famous being Susan Bates and Susan Boye hooks. There are some variations as well, but those are the two most common.
Let’s take a look at my favorite style first – The Susan Bates Hook.
Starting on the left, I’ve circled and labeled the head of the hook. There’s a closer image below that labels the parts of the head – the lip, groove, and point. Next on the upper image are the throat, shaft, thumb rest and handle. This happens to be a cushioned hook, which is nice for those of us with wrist issues.
The handle of hooks is pretty standardized. Most are long and skinny, but with our growing awareness of wrist health, there are more and more ergonomic variations available all the time. And, most hooks have a thumb rest – that flat little spot where most of us rest our thumbs. We’ll talk about different holds and different ergonomic styles in another post, because this is really important!
Next is the shaft. There can be some variables in the shaft – some are shorter and some are longer – and this becomes important when doing tunisian crochet, or long stitches with multiple wraps. For beginners, it’s not that important though.
For most people, the head of your hook is where the important differences live. The image above shows my preferred hook (not right or wrong – my personal preference). It’s a Bates hook. If you look at the hook, you can see that the part we refer to as the point is actually kind of pointy. The groove is deep, which I find helpful to hold my yarn. And the lip is a little bit sharp and blade like, which grabs the yarn well for me.
I didn’t label the throat in the close up of the head, but it’s labelled in the photo below. On a Bates hook, which is referred to as Inline, you can see that the shaft (the part after the throat) and the head are the same diameter. There is a sharp dropoff from the shaft to the throat. If the shaft and the head are the same diameter, it might be easier to keep your stitches even, as you won’t have to loosen your work just a little to pull the head through a loop.
In this image you can see a comparison of the Boye hook to the Bates hook. If you look closely, you can see that the Bates hook is slightly pointier, where the Boye hook is slightly rounder. The groove on the Bates hook is deep but the groove on the Boye hook is shallow. Some people prefer this as they feel it’s easier to release your stitch. The lip on the Boye hook is very blunt, which some people feel makes it less likely to split your yarn. You can also see that the head of the Boye hook is noticeably larger than the shaft. For most stitches, this is something people work around, but if you ever find yourself struggling making a bullion stitch, try switching to a Bates to see if it’s easier!
So that’s the two basic styles of hooks. There are definitely pros and cons to both. But I have found personally that the one I learned with is really the one I prefer. Which is the Bates hook for me. If I try a Boye, I feel clumsy and slow. It took me a while to figure out that this was the difference, but now I know how to shop for new hooks better and am less likely to buy a hook I don’t like.
The Clover hook is kind of in the middle of these. Some people consider the Clover hook to be the best of both worlds. I’ve used them and I don’t feel as clumsy with them as I do with a Boye, so they are definitely different although they look rather similar.
So what kind of hook do you love? What do you love about them? Have you tried other styles?
Understanding what yarn a pattern uses
So you have a pattern you want to make but how do you decide what yarn to use?
The simplest, most reliable method is to stick to the yarn the pattern recommends. The designer made this pattern with a certain yarn in mind so if you use what they recommend, your results will be the closest to the finish product.
Let’s take a look at my Sea Turtle Baby Tank published in the April 2018 issue of I Like Crochet Magazine. Isn’t she precious? Don’t you love that little turtle on her shoulder?
I had summer babies in Florida. My kids rarely wore anything that wasn’t lightweight and breathable. So, I chose this yarn with that in mind. It’s soft for babies, and has an airy design. It drapes nicely, has good stitch definition but doesn’t stretch out and become misshapen with wash or wear.
In this image, you can see what the pattern says to use for the yarn. Now, you’re always free to use a different yarn, but when you use the yarn that a designer used, a lot of the work is already done for you.
In this pattern, I used Loops & Threads Woolike yarn. It’s an inexpensive yarn easily available at all Michael’s stores or online.
You can see that this is a Super Fine yarn, by the yarn symbol with a 1, as well as the words undernath Super Fine. This yarn only comes in 100gram balls, and you will need less than one ball for each colorway you use. It uses one each of Navy, Ice Blue, Tan, and Sage.
In the parenthesis after each color name, you see the abbreviations MC, CC1, CC2, CC3 used. Those tell you how the colors are referred to in the pattern. And, after the abbreviations, you see numbers like this 1(1,1,1)ball. This means that you use 1 ball to achieve each size.
And, that’s really it! If you want to substitute yarns, it gets more complicated, but we’ll discuss that when we go over gauge and sizing. That’s when things really get fun!
Keep on Hooking!
I’m finishing up my last project, which was Lilla Bjorn’s Stained Glass Wonder Blanket and I already have the yarn for something new. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m super excited about it.
I met this beautiful yarn at the CGOA conference in July and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It’s a cotton blend with metallic threads running through it. It’s soft and cuddly but soooo blingy! My kind of yarn! And the metallic touches are pleasant on the skin, which is such a nice surprise! I knew I needed this in my life and the wheels started turning instantly.
Once I saw the beautiful shades this yarn comes in, I knew what needed to be done. A capelet, with a high collar and maybe some fringe. I love the copper, rose gold, and black. I can’t wait to share the finished project!
For now… ponder this image…
Reading Yarn Labels
Yarn labels come in many varieties. Some have tons of information and you just don’t know what to make of it, some has just the basics, and then most are somewhere in between.
Let’s start with this label by Red Heart. It’s their Soft line. We’ll talk about the quality and texture of this line in another post, so let’s just focus on the label here.
This is the main part of the label, the part that’s on display in stores. I’ve diagrammed the label below.
You can see the logo, the weight of the ball in both ounces and grams, the dye lot (there is none), the length of the ball in yards and meters, what size knitting needles are recommended in US terms and metric, and the name of the color.
But wait! There’s more!
This is the important part when it comes to care instructions. At the top we we see the yarn weight which we discussed here. And next to that we find the knitting and crochet information.
There’s a lot of information in that little square! You know this is the one for crochet people because of the hook in the center of the square. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but for now let’s just discuss the information as it’s presented.
Across the top and on the left side you see the size of a square that you should make to determine gauge. On the right side is the number of rows you will need to make to achieve that size square, and on the bottom is how many and why type of stitches you make.
The center of the square is the recommended hook size in US terms and metrics. This is just a guideline though. You can use whatever size you need to achieve gauge, or if you want a different effect, you can also change the size. Crochet is art! You do what makes you happy.
Below that is the care and use information.
From the left, you see a wash symbol with a number and two lines under it. 80 represents a cool wash or sometimes you will see this as a single dot, 90-104 (or 2 dots) represent a warm wash, and anything over 130 (or 3 dots) represents a hot wash. The two lines under the wash symbol indicate a gentle cycle. If there are no lines underneath, you can use a regular cycle. When in doubt, always use cold water and a gentle cyclewith your handmade items! Or better, wash by hand.
Next to that is the dryer symbol, which follows a similar system – 1 dot is tumble dry on low heat, 2 dots is medium heat, and 3 is high heat. If you see an X over this symbol it means dry flat and do not put in the dryer. You might also see two lines under this symbol, which means a gentle cycle in the dryer. When in doubt, dry flat!
The next symbol is ironing. For this yarn, there is an X over the symbol which means do not iron. This symbol can also have the dots inside, which indicate low, medium, or high heat, as with the dryer.
The triangle represents bleach. It’s rare to find a yarn that can be bleached, so you will typically see that big X over the triangle. But, sometimes it will be an empty triangle which means bleach is safe, or it will have two black stripes inside which means non chlorine bleach, like oxy clean, only.
And the final symbol is for dry cleaning. A means any solvent, P means any solvent execept trichlorethylene, and F means petroleum solvent only. Again, this symbol might have an X which indicates it cannot be dry cleaned.
The final bit of information on this label is fiber content. This one is 100% Acrylic. This is important for a number of reasons. We’ll talk about different types of fiber, how they behave, and why you would choose them later in this series.
Okay! Here’s a couple other labels just to see other ways you might see yarn represented.
This is more compact. You see the logo, with the yardage and weight right below, followed by information for a pattern that is included on the label presumably. There is a crochet hook with the recommended size and that’s about it. The yarn content was listed on the back, with the care instructions.
This is also 100% acrylic. It’s a light weight yarn, size 3, and it’s recommended that you use a 4mm or USG hook. This can be washed in warm water on a gentle cycle, dried on low heat in a gentle dryer. It should not be ironed, bleached, or dry cleaned.
Here’s another one from a small yarn maker that I love. Frequently smaller companies have less information on their labels, but the important stuff is sill there!
This is from Fairy Tale Knits. It’s a blended yarn, with 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, and 10% Nylon. It is 435 yards, and weighs 3.5 oz. The weight is Fingering, which we know from our chart is a SuperFine yarn, or will have a yarn symbol of 1 in some patterns. It should be washed by hand and laid flat to dry.
Whew! That was a lot of information. Hope it cleared things up and we will continue this series soon!
American vs. UK vs. Metric Hook Sizes
We’ve talked a little bit about yarn and how yarn sizes aren’t terribly consistent or precise. Well guess what? Hooks are unfortunately not much different.
There are US sizes, UK sizes and metric sizes. I personally prefer metric sizes, as that seems the most precise to me – a 4.0mm hook is a 4.00mm hook, whether it’s purchased in the US or the UK, and there are tools you can buy to verify that sizing. I have this one, and use it whenever I’m in doubt.
I made this handy little chart to help demonstrate all the different names of crochet hooks. This is for non-steel hooks, which are typically aluminum, wood, or plastic. Steel hooks are smaller than these and have a different sizing system altogether! Feel free to print this chart out for future reference.
Craft Yarn Council Yarn Chart
So let’s talk about the thing that is overwhelming our houses, our thoughts, our hands…. Yarn! It comes in all colors, sizes, textures, shapes, even temperatures! So, what does it all mean?
First let’s look at the official chart from the Craft Yarn Council.
There’s a lot of information in that chart and it can be hard to understand when we don’t all use the same language. Craft Yarn Council has helped us out a lot by standardizing these terms as much as possible, but it’s not foolproof. Some manufacturers use different terms, most stick to these guidelines as much as possible.
Looking at the top of the chart, you see these symbols:
These symbols are generally on every yarn label you will purchase. Small manufacturers may not always use them, but any large manufacturer will have one of these symbols somewhere. The number in the center of the image should be consistent with the word in the top of the image. Jumbo yarn is 7, Fine yarn is 2, for examples. Unfortunately, these terms are not always consistent in all patterns. I follow the Craft Yarn Council’s guidelines, but not everyone does, especially when you’re dealing with international manufacturers. So, you will sometimes see the following terms in patterns:
So you can see that Lace weight yarn can also be called fingering yarn, or even crochet thread! But, then – even more confusing – Super Fine yarn is also sometimes called fingering yarn. These terms are not consistent, but we do our best to explain them as well as we can as designers. And there are people working to make this more consistent.
So, how do you know if the yarn you chose will give you the desired results from a project? Gauge! That’s a whole lengthy post in itself, but we’ll discuss it briefly.
What this means is that to create a 4 inch strip of single crochet stitches with , for example, Worsted Weight yarn, you will need between 11 and 14. To measure this accurately, I would recommend you chain 20 stitches, turn, and start single crocheting across starting with the second chain until you have 4 inches. This will undoubtedly curl, but do your best to lay it flat and measure. Note that with Fingering Weight yarn, it’s recommended to use double crochets.
Okay, so you want to do that, but how do you know what size hook to use?
Thank goodness, hook sizes are pretty consistent. And, most of them have a letter AND a metric size to help make sure you’re using the right size. The most reliable sizing is metric, but check both. Note that Fingering Weight is a little wonky here again – you might use one size in a steel hook (a special hook designed for using thread, mainly to make lace or filet) and another size in a regular hook.
So, hopefully that clears up any confusion about that chart. In future posts, we’ll break down yarn labels, what kind of fiber is good for what kind of project, why you choose one weight over another, and tons more!
While I’ve been working at organizing my massive yarn stash, I’ve also been working on setting up an area to video my tutorials. This is far more complicated than I expected! Lighting! Cameras! Open Space! Background! So many things to think about.
It’s still in progress, but I’ve set up a desk/table to work on. I started with just my laptop but quickly figured out that my laptop doesn’t have enough USB ports to handle two cameras and a microphone, so my son set about building a video computer while I worked on the other details.
First, my video camera. I had this grand idea that my cell phone and my laptop video cameras would be sufficient. Um, no. They were dark and grainy and just not what I wanted. So, I researched and hit a good sale and bought 2 of these bad boys.
So, now I had a camera, but how do I film my hands? I can mount the camera on the back of my monitor, but that only gets my face. So, now what?
I liked that so much I bought another one for my face cam. So one for my face and one for my hands. But, still it’s kind of dark, so what next?
I need two of these, one on each side of me. This lit up my table area pretty well too. They need to be put on stands so two more of my Boom Scissor Arms. Check. And I could go with rechargeable batteries, but who has time for that? So, I bought these. It should be noted that the first set of power supplies I bought for these were the wrong voltage and the lights barely turned on. So, read the description carefully!
But, there’s something not right about the lighting. I’m not a pro, so I researched some more. Apparently I need a “hair light”. That will help soften the light, reduce the shadows on my face (and man were there shadows on my face!) and help illuminate my background a little bit. But, I don’t want it to show up so I chose one with a boom arm which sits off camera and aims the light in the right direction.
So, now that I’m broke, lol. I can get started shooting some videos. Watch for those soon! I have a whole series planned. 300 stitch patterns, basic stitch instruction, pattern explanations, I’m really excited to share all of this with the world!
UFOs, they’re everywhere.
My living room, my bedroom, my Yarn Vault. And before I can really get started publishing, I need to whittle down some of my UFOs or I’ll never get them done.
You know what I mean, right? Unfinished Objects. /sigh/ I hate having something unfinished, especially when I’ve been looking forward to using them when they’re complete. So, publishing is waiting a little bit until I finish the blanket I’m currently working on.
It’s quite lovely, actually. Lilla Bjorn’s Stained Glass Wonder Blanket. https://www.ravelry.com/projects/CarochetDesigns/stained-glass-wonder-blanket
Just a few more octagons and I will be done. And, then watch out! Lots of things in the wings to share with you!
Like a high collar capelet I can’t wait to show you! Little hint… it uses this gorgeous yarn in Rose Gold, Copper, and Onyx. https://us.deramores.com/products/rico-design-fashion-cotton-metallise?variant=812704989191