Thursday, March 5, 2015

Crochet Basics - the Flat Circle

I teach crochet - a lot.

I've been teaching classes full of new crocheters for about 5 years on a regular basis.  I find, that the students who UNDERSTAND crochet rather than just following directions about crochet have a far easier times making patterns and learning new skills.

One of the basic things that is helpful for crochet students to fully understand is making a flat circle.  SO many patterns begin with a flat circle, rugs, hats, baskets, mandalas, etc. etc...  Crochet pattern directions are written in all manner of ways - two people might explain the same thing very differently.  It's extremely confusing for students who are just learning to follow a pattern.  It's very helpful if a student can disregard badly written directions and understand - aha! this person is creating a flat circle... a lot of the poorly worded text can then be avoided and just the very necessary elements can be concentrated on - it's much less frustrating in the long run.

I've recently written a lot of hat patterns.  I want to share the patterns but find it so tiresome to write out all the directions step by repetitive step of starting the hat pattern in a flat circle - sometimes I want to just say - make a flat circle with 8hdcs in the first round until it measures whatever... SO MUCH EASIER! and most confident crocheters will know exactly what I'm telling them to do.

I really want to teach my students to understand the flat circle so I came up with this basic lesson.  Granted - this is NOT what I teach students the first week... we have a whole learning process - but by the time they are ready to tackle a hat, it's time to learn.

I hope this little write up and explanation might help anyone who has never had an "aha moment" about the flat circle.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cozy Stripe Blanket Reveal

So earlier this fall I started a Cozy Stripe Crochet Blanket along with Lucy at Attic24.  I needed another big blanket to use in the living room this winter and this easy blanket was just the ticket.




I didn't take many photos along the way - not sure why.  I put the blanket away over the holidays but after the new year I got it back out and started in anew.  I finished it up pretty quickly!



I used whatever acrylic worsted weight I already had - some "I Love this Cotton" and some Knit Picks Brava.  I think I used an I sized hook - 6mm probably.  I just picked colors as I went along - I think there are about 15 colors in the blanket.

And now - here it is all done!





For the border, I followed Lucy's example except for the last round.  In the last round I made a slightly more fluid edge.  I just winged the final row pattern.



Enjoy! - and by the way - this baby is HUGE.  I didn't measure it or count the rows but it is seriously big enough to cover two full grown people.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Tee Baskets

For a while I've wanted to try to make a basket out of tee shirt yarn.  One of my crochet friends did also - so we got together last week to give it a try.


I asked her to pick a pattern that she liked and we'd both follow the same pattern and make a basket.  We cut our tee shirts into balls of yarn.  I use these instructions.  I make my yarn strips about 1" wide and then tug on them which stretches them from a flat piece of tee shirt into a curled piece of tee shirt yarn.

Once we had our shirts done, we got straight to work.  We used this pattern.  We both failed miserably.  I think one of the reasons it didn't work is that we didn't understand when we were crocheting from the outside of the basket towards the inside and when we were going the other way - this made some of the instructions completely backwards... tho. I think it was our mistake and the pattern is probably fine.  Our resulting basket didn't have nice straight sides, it was slumped and mis-shapen.  I don't know what we did wrong.  I'm quite an advanced crocheter but what a mess.  I knew I would never use the basket I had made the way it looked - I wish I had taken a photo of it.

Since the basket was pretty easy to UNmake, I did just that.  Then, using what I had learned from the failed basket, I made up my own pattern.  Now there are a ton of tee shirt basket crochet patterns floating around.  I've been collecting them.  I have a whole pinterest board called Crochet Baskets which you might want to check out - there are oodles of designs and patterns, most of them are free.  If you make one of the patterns from my pin board, please let me know - I'd love to keep track of what patterns are good.

The first basket I made that was successful was a bit smaller than what I would have wanted.  I made it small in case I had to pull it all out again.  So, both to test my new method of making and also to have a bigger basket, I made a second basket.  It worked well twice so I consider my pattern to be somewhat successful.  The little basket has handles, the bigger one does not - just to try it differently, I left it without handles but I could still go back and add to it to make handles.  I didn't write the directions for handles - so take a look at another pattern with handles if you decide to add them.

Also - please note a few things about tee baskets.  First, making one is not relaxing!  The big fat yarn, tight stitches and hook combo made my hands very tired.  I'd make more, but this type of crochet it like battling with the yarn to get it to the shape you want, not like smooth, happy and carefree stitching.  Second, it takes a lot of tee shirts and tee shirt yarn to make a basket.  The tee shirt yarn making process requires a lot of cutting fabric, and I have THESE FISKARS scissors to make it easier and still my hands were tired after cutting and creating all the tee shirt yarn.

Sizes... my bigger basket (the one in the photo tutorial) is about 8 inches in diameter across the bottom and 8 inches high about and it took me 7 large tee shirts to have enough yarn for this size.


Step 1: Create a flat round circle.  If you don't know how to do this, use this method.  I started with 8 stitches in the first round.  I also started with a magic ring.  It doesn't matter how you do it - just make a flat circle.  Remember in the example I refer to above about the flat circle, she is using UK crochet terms so her htr is a US hdc.  Make the circle as big as you want the bottom of your basket.  Because I was using such a small hook (size M - 9mm) for this size yarn I found I had to increase more than I normally would on my last round in order to keep the circle flat.  You can probably use a size N (10mm) hook and it wouldn't be as much as a struggle.  I made my circle with all hdcs (half double crochets - American terms).  OH... throughout the pattern, you make a round and then join with a slip stitch before starting the next round.  If your next round is going to be sc, chain one at the beginning of the round.  If your next round is going to be hdc, chain two at the beginning of each new round.

Step 2:  Once your circle is the size you want, make one final round on the circle doing a flsc all the way around and don't increase.  When you are making this front loop single crochet, remember that it is the front loop if you are working from the inside of the circle going out... I'm not sure if this makes sense, but it does matter if you are working from the inside of the circle out - or the outside of the circle in.  I am working at this point from the inside of the circle outwards.

see how my hook is only going under the front loop of the VEE at the top of the stitch.

if you are doing the flsc correctly, you will see a ridge or line form on the outside of your basket

if you correctly completed your flsc row, your bowl will look a bit like a dish with an edge

this is my little basket (the first one I made using my own pattern) sitting inside the bigger second basket bottom

Step 3:  Now, here's where I did something different from the other basket pattern I tried.  I worked the rest of the basket working my stitches from the outside of the basket inwards.  In other words, I poked my crochet hook into the stitches from the outside of the basket.


For this first side row, I worked all hdc stitches around the basket, working from the outside in.  Work the hdc stitches by going under both loops on the VEE as with any normal stitch.  I switched to green yarn because I had run out of grey.  You can change colors or change yarns as you need to throughout the pattern.

here's how it looks after adding a few hdc stitches and working from outside in.

Step 4: The next round I made using blsc.  I used blsc because it makes a little line around the outside of the basket and I liked that textural detail.  I'm sure the basket would be fine making all the rounds hdc or alternating between stitches however you prefer the look.



Continue adding rows and changing colors or yarns as needed until your basket is as tall as you like.  You can see the little line around the outside which is the where the blsc shows up.


I finished my last round as sc.  I thought it finished off the basket nicely.


And - if nothing else, your little crochet baskets will at least be a place you can hold the rest of your tee shirt yarn!

Enjoy - Sher

Monday, January 26, 2015

Around Here

Around here it's been quiet but busy -

I really want to write up the tutorial for a blanket I created "the Rainbow Trellis," but I just haven't gotten to it yet.

Here are a few snapshots from the past few weeks....



Had breakfast out (him, chocolate chip pancakes - me, food with much smaller sugar content!) with #4 child before taking him back to college.


Visit to my friend Madeline (we've known each other since we were in Kindergarten together) in Gettysburg.  I haven't seen her for two years! Much too long!















Madeline owns two houses that are right on the Gettysburg battlefield.  The homes are on opposite sides of the field.  We left her house just before dusk to take a stroll through the National park.  We basically just had to step outside her door and were right on the park's property - so cool.

The sun was setting just as we left the house and we had the most amazing light show.  I only had my iphone camera, but I think you can get the feel of the beautiful scene and gorgeous light as the sun took its plunge behind the horizon.







 After our walk, we drove over to the 200 year old farmhouse that she owns on the other side of the park.  She rents it - but it is the cutest little place with it's original floors and timber beams.  From the master bedroom with cathedral ceilings, it is possible to sit right between the windows and see both the sunrise in the morning and the sunset at night.  Beautiful.  It was super cozy.


 Before the holidays I started in on this Cozy Stripe blanket along with Lucy at Attic24.  It a giant!  I used many bright happy colors or acrylic (worsted weight).  It's a gift for us, here at home - just a cozy blanket to snuggle beneath during the winter months.  As soon as the kids went back to college, I pulled the blanket back out and attempted to finish it.   Here it is in progress.


 Living in the suburbs outside of a major US city, you'd be surprised how much wildlife shows up in my yard.  Can you see the big hawk in the tree?  He comes often.  We also get raccoon, foxes, deer, blue jays, cardinals, squirrels, chipmonks, etc.... it's a very well visited yard.

We've also had a stray cat living on and around our porch since this summer.  Until this winter, I basically greeted and petted him and provided him a little bed on the porch chair, but when the temperatures dropped very low, I let him in a few times and I've bought him food.  He comes every morning for food, sometimes coming in, sometimes not.  He follows us all around the neighborhood when we take the dog for a walk - he's just 10 feet behind.  We've named him Milkshake.

We think he'd like to call our home his own.  What does it look like to you?



We've had some snow off and on.  This past weekend we had dinner out with friend and then went back to their hot tub and sat outside in the heated water with snow falling on our heads.  The next morning, I forced myself to sleep in and ignore the shoveling that was needed - I'm often the first one up on the block, clearing away the snow from my walks and my elderly neighbor's.  The snow was still there when I got up.


Speaking of snow - the first of the flakes started falling again this morning.  It's supposed to continue through tomorrow.  Our forecast where I live is currently 12 - 24 inches.  It's supposed to be 30 inches a few hours north of us in NY.  It looks like all my kids will get snow too - but a more manageable 3-5 inches for most of them.  I've got all my shovels lined up on the porch, hubby has the firewood piled high, we've done a little grocery run and there are plenty of indoor projects for when we get stuck inside.


Until then, I'll walk the dog and enjoy the limited light that comes through the windows between bouts of snowy clouds to light the tulips by the window.


Oh yeah, and the cozy stripe got it's last row of stitches this morning - a bit of a border left and then I'll do a reveal.


Keep checking back for the Rainbow Trellis blanket pattern - it just might happen soon!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sweet and Special Soapies


Today a little lesson about how to make a "soapie" - my own invented word.

To me, a soapie is a little cotton crochet holder for a small bar of soap.  It can be used in the shower as a soapy scrubber or alternatively as a drawer sachet.  The holder is made from 100% cotton yarn so even if it's used in the shower, it should hold up decently well and can probably be popped in the wash if need be.

This soapie is made so that the soap can be replaced either when it's been all used up in the shower or it's lost its scent in the drawer.  Don't toss the soap that's lost its scent as the unscented soap may no longer work in the sachet, but can still get you clean in the shower.

I made the holders to fit a box of small square soaps that I purchased at Trader Joe's before the holidays.  The soaps came in three neutral colors and were all scented Lemon Verbena.  The small giveaway soaps that you find in hotel rooms or B&Bs would also fit in these little holders, maybe not EXACTLY but certainly a good enough fit.

Three out of the four holders have buttons.  I left one without a button in case its owner opted do use it in the shower and didn't like the idea of having a button on their body scrubber.

Here's how I made them: (I used Knit Picks Dishie yarn and a size H (5mm) hook)

Step 1: Find a pattern for a small crochet square.  I chose THIS PATTERN.  You may want to have a wander through my pinterest board "Crochet Granny and Squares."  I selected a pattern that would result in the approximate size square to fit my soaps.  The pattern I selected had three rounds and in all cases, I did the first two rounds of my square in the same color and then changed to another color to complete the third round and do the joining.

Step 2: Make TWO squares from your pattern.  They can of course be identical or a mix-matched colors but they should be the exact same size.

Step 3: Hold the two wrong sides together.  Then starting on the upper left side of your sandwiched squares, single crochet around 3 sides.  Go through both loops of crochet and through both squares (that's going through a total of 4 loops) Do not cut the yarn.  It doesn't matter which corner you start in to join the squares, as long as you go in the direction of the arrows and don't finish off your yarn when you've joined the third side.


When I joined, I made two sc in the first corner where I started.  Then, I made one sc in each side stitch of the final round of my square.  When I got to the bottom corners, I made 3sc in each corner.  You may need to modify how many stitches you use in your joining based on the pattern you choose for your square.

Step 4: With the remaining 4th side open, sc across the top of the front square only.


In the photo above you can see that the soap is inserted into the open 4th side of the squares - the one that's not joined.  The arrows indicate where I single crocheted just across that top open edge of the front square.

Step 5: Continue single crocheting around the corner and then across the top open edge of the back square.  If you don't want to add a button loop, just continue around to the corner of the front square.  Finish off and weave in all ends of your joining yarn.  If you didn't weave in the ends of your squares at an earlier time, you can flip your entire soapie inside out and complete that task.

Step 6:  Optional.  If you intend to add one or two button loops to your soapie, you'll want to complete step 5 just a tad differently.


You can see the buttons that hold closed the top of the soapie in the photo above.

To create a button loop (or loops) see the diagram below.


My diagram is not accurate in terms of the number of stitches I show and in the fact that my front square has a bunch more stitches than the back square - the two squares will have the same number of stitches.  I just wanted to show how to skip a stitch and instead make 3 chain stitches to form a button loop.  Obviously if you need to make more than one button loop, you will need to space out where to make them along your square and then skip a stitch for each loop and add 3 chains above the skipped stitch.  Hopefully that is not too confusing.  I didn't photograph my process while I made the little soapie so I had to resort to the diagram instead.


I'm sure you could also insert a round soap into this little pouch.  Or, you could make a larger rectangle shape and join two of those together to cover a full sized bar of soap.

Last Christmas I made a bunch of little draw string soap holders for a standard sized bar of soap - you can see my post about those by clicking here.

Enjoy - Sher!

PS.  Next up - the Rainbow Trellis blanket (a photo tutorial of a blanket pattern I created - free of course as all the fly the coop crafts blog patterns are!)
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