Posts Tagged ‘crochet tips’

Tuesday’s Tip – Unravel Projects with a Ball Winder

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
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Your ball winder is a valuable tool that can be utilized even after you start your project!

Sometimes you need to rip back the sleeves on a sweater, or just an entire project that didn’t come out quite right. So many of us end up winding the yarn from our project by hand. Don’t forget about your ball winder, and you can unravel your project in a snap!

For instruction on how to use a ball winder and swift, click here.

Yarn Cake

Friday, August 2nd, 2013
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In the retail store, customers sometimes look at our ball-winder-and-swift set-up and ask us if we can wind their skeined yarn for them. “No,” we say gently. “We can show you how to do and you can get right on it.” There’s usually a look of panic, or a plea (“just for me? I can’t possibly.”) but we’re firm–because the beauty of a ball winder and a swift is that you can wind up any skein of yarn with less than three minutes of instruction, and it will usually take about 17 seconds for a long, twisty skein to turn into a firm, compact yarn cake. In my first years of knitting, I used to make my husband hold his arms out like a robot to wind a skein into a ball, and when he wasn’t around, I’d have my kids do it. However, it didn’t take long for them to become bored and annoyed at the constant demands on their time (very important things to do! Pokemon cards to look at! Legos to leave on the floor so that I step on them, barefoot, and cry!), and I’d start bribing them with candy, and then with cold, hard cash.

A tasty skein of Northampton Sport, wound into a cake!

A friend and co-worker convinced me to invest in a ball-winder and swift combo. I was really hesitant about doing this, because for some reason I thought that once I had the tools, I was expected to be a SERIOUS KNITTER. But the first time I hooked a skein onto that plastic swift and twirled the handle of the ball winder around for less than a minute, I was hooked. It was amazingly simple and the results are instantaneous. Ball winders, by the way, have a hilarious instruction manual in the packaging that is translated from Japanese and makes it all worthwhile. I have the plastic and metal swift, but we also sell a beautiful wooden swift that is much larger, and will probably be around when you teach your granddaughter or grandson how to knit. Spinners, weavers, dyers, and knitters can all benefit from a little fiber help, and these two indispensable tools will make your life a billion times easier.You can use either of these products separately–swifts can be used to wind spun fiber, and ball winders are great for coned yarns. Webs offers a fantastic deal on the two if bought together.

Now you can eat the M&Ms by yourself without having to parcel them out to the child who complains about how itchy the baby alpaca feels.

Tuesday’s Tip – Swatch with Scrap Yarn

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
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This week, Sara has a great tip for testing new patterns!

I do a lot of designing and I spend a considerable amount of time swatching different stitch patterns. I’ve found that I like to spend time with a stitch pattern before I commit to a fiber, especially if it’s a luxury fiber like silk or cashmere. So, I keep a skein or two of orphan yarns in my stash and partial skeins.

Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool is a perfect yarn for this. You could buy one skein to make a couple small projects, then keep the rest to use for swatching. This way, I can spend some time with the stitch pattern and if I find that I do not like the process of creating it I don’t feel bad about wasting the yarn used.

Pictured: Valley Yarns 478 Foundry Lace Stole/Scarf crocheted in Valley Yarns Colrain.


Tuesday’s Tip – How to Use Tights to Tame Slippery Yarn

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
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This week, Sara has a great tip for keeping those slippery yarns in line!

When working with slippery yarns it can be a nightmare to keep them untangled; even when wound into a ball! I’ve kept a few pairs of tights from when my girls were little and cut the legs into 6-8″ tubes. When I’m working with a yarn like Berroco Seduce, I will wind it into a center-pull ball and then slip it into one of the tubes to keep it all nice and tidy.

Now you can knit or crochet easily without your slippery yarn tangling!

Reading Crochet Charts

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Reading crochet charts can seem daunting to a crocheter that’s never used one before, but they’re not as scary as you might think. Crochet charts are a map of your stitches, they are a visual guide to the stitches you need to create.

The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with the standard crochet symbols, these are the symbols you’ll see in every charted design, no matter what language the written pattern is published in! The Craft Yarn Council has a great list of the most commonly used symbols on their site. You’ll notice that most of the symbols have a physical resemblance to their stitch counterparts.

Know Your Symbols: Check the Legend

As with anything new start simple and familiarize yourself with the process before tackling more complicated projects. Let’s walk through a small swatch in one of the most basic stitches, single crochet.

Here we have a simple, single crochet swatch.

Single Crochet Swatch

The written pattern:
To begin: Ch16
Row 1: Turn, 1sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1sc in ea ch across
Row 2: Ch1, turn, 1sc in ea sc across.
Repeat Row 2 three times more. Fasten off.

The charted pattern:

You’ll see that the charted pattern builds upwards from the foundation chain just like your swatch.

Each row begins with a number that tells you which row you are on and alternate rows change color to help you see which stitches are part of that row and to avoid confusion between rows.

When you compare the chart with the swatch you can see the tail from where you began the chain in the bottom left corner which corresponds to the “Start” symbol and the tail from where you fastened off in the upper left corner which corresponds to the “End” symbol.

Reading Crochet Charts: Charts are a map of your stitches

Take your time and build your experience. The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper is a great resource for transitioning to using charts. Each stitch pattern includes an image of the pattern, the written version of the pattern as well as the chart.

What’s your favorite tip for reading crochet charts?


Crochet Trends in May

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
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Local and regional Fiber Fairs can be wonderful places to discover new yarns and Indie Dyers that you won’t find at Big Box stores, or your local yarn stores.

While the knitting world has embraced hand-dyed yarns crocheters seems to be a bit hesitant. I say go for it! Hand dyed yarns are perfect for crochet. Where knitters can sometimes run into issues of color pooling, with the short colors sections of these yarns, the very nature of crochet stitches takes advantage of these color changes.

There are plenty of wonderful patterns out there that would be perfect for a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind skein of  yarn picked up at a fair. Mary Beth Temple’s  Arches Cowl would be perfect as it can be worked till you run out of yarn. Sometimes you get lucky and find a hand-dyed bulky weight yarn; the Berme pattern from Berroco could help you turn that into a quick and perfect sweater.

And don’t forget socks, there are so many hand-dyed choices in sock yarn it can make your head spin, but it’s not just for socks. Linda Permann’s Stellar Beret and our own Iris Shawl can be made with sock weight yarns.

This weekend is the annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair, I’ll be there looking for yarns that inspire me to crochet. For a list of Fairs in your area check the Knitter’s Review calendar of upcoming events.

So choose a few patterns, check the yardage you’ll need, and hit the fairs!


Tuesday’s Tip – Blocking over a Plate

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
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This week, Greta shows us exactly what it means when a pattern says, “Block over a plate.” Now you’ll be able to block your berets and slouchy hats perfectly!

Have you ever knitted a slouchy hat pattern and reached the finishing instructions only to find this strange little tidbit, “Block over a plate”? Now, I absolutely love knitting slouchy hats and berets, but when I saw this for the first time I was a little confused. After trying this blocking technique many times, I finally got it down and thought I would share what I’ve learned.

A dinner plate (about 10” in diameter)
A bowl or pitcher, something that balances nicely
About 1 yard smooth scrap yarn
A tapestry needle

Step 1: Using some smooth scrap yarn (about 1 yard) and a tapestry needle, thread the scrap yarn loosely around the brim of your hat getting as close to the edge as you can manage. Technically this step is optional, but I like it because it gives the brim a more finished look and helps open up any lace work in your hat.

Step 2: Block as usual. I wet blocked my hat to soften the fibers and really let those stitches bloom.

Step 3: Place the hat around and over the dinner plate. I arrange it so the crown of the hat is over the bottom center of the plate.

Step 4: Gently and evenly tighten the scrap yarn and tie it in a slip knot. Make sure everything is arranged nice and evenly on the plate.

Step 5: Place the plate brim-side down on an upturned bowl. This keeps your project from getting dirty and helps it dry faster.

Once the hat is dry you are good to go! Wear that slouchy hat with a smile knowing both you and it look awesome!

(Pattern is Crooked Paths by Melissa LaBarre; Yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in Flashdance)





CAL Week 4: Sugar Sparkles Shawlette

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
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All our crochet work is done! Now we move on to the blocking and see the magic it can have on a finished piece.

You may want to weave in your ends before blocking but don’t trim them yet, let them settle into the new shape with the blocked shawl and trim them when everything is dry.

Here you can see that I’ve pinned the top edge, using blocking wires to keep it nice and straight. Then I pinned the bottom section of the shawlette with another wire and I have a third wire in the center so I can keep everything even.

Once the center section was pinned I was able to pin out the angled increase and decrease sides with a pin in each bobble, here you can see that in detail.

We have a great video with Dena showing you the blocking process. While she is blocking a knit shawl the principles and process are the same.

Once the shawlette is dry you can unpin, trim any ends that may have popped out during the blocking process, and wear!

Thanks for crocheting along with us! What was your favorite part of this project?

Get your copy of the pattern here and join in the CAL at any time! Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

Tuesday’s Tip – How to Choose the Right Size

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
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Today’s tip is from Kirsten Hipsky, designer for Valley Yarns. She has some great suggestions for selecting the perfect size to make for your next garment. 

To help figure out which size to make, I recommend measuring around your chest at its widest and choosing the closest size to that measurement, making the larger one if you’re between sizes.

Another helpful exercise is to measure the bodies of your current favorite sweaters or sweatshirts just underneath the sleeves. This will help you see ahead of time which size sweaters you like wearing the most.

We try to design all of our Valley Yarns sweaters so that they could be worn with zero inches of ease. That is, a person with a 40″ chest should be able to wear the 40″ finished chest measurement sweater without the sleeves or neck being too tight. But if you prefer looser sweaters, you could easily make a larger size.

Most of the sweaters could also be worn with a couple inches of negative ease if you like tight-fitting sweaters. The Kohl Lace Pullover, for example, has a stretchy, lacy stitch pattern and a roomy, straight sleeve that could probably be worn with up to 4″ of negative ease. But I would measure your current sweaters first to make sure that’s what you would like.

The sweater shown in the picture is Valley Yarns 464 Bittersweet Pullover knit in Valley Yarns Sheffield.

CAL Week 3: Sugar Sparkles Shawlette

Thursday, April 11th, 2013
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We’ve got the first three rows of the edging done! They might have felt a little difficult at times but they set up the rest of the edging so everything else moves along pretty smoothly from here.

Here we have a video showing you the key steps from Rows 4 and 5.

In Row 4 you begin to shape the edging by decreasing sections with dc3tog (double crochet 3 together) stitches, and increasing in others with chain loops. The FPtr stitches in Row 5 of the edging are worked around the FPdc from Row 3 and are a bit easier to place because it’s very easy to see those post stitches.

Row 6 will be familiar with it’s combination of dc3tog and chain loops, like in Row 4.

Row 7 has the seemingly tricky FPtr5tog (Front Post Treble 5 together) stitch, this video shows you how simple it is.

Row 8 is another combination of chain loops and bsc stitches with the added interest of a bobble at the top of each of the triangles created by the FPtr5tog stitch that you did in Row 7. Once you’ve completed Row 8 of the edging you’ll have just a bit more work to do along the top of the shawl before you’re finished.  You’ll need to thread  beads for the last time before you begin this section and REMEMBER you’ll be working along the wrong side of the shawlette for this top edge so the beads align on the right side.

Now, you’ll sc along the side of your beaded edging to neaten that edge and bring it in line with the top edge of the shawlette. Then you’ll work alternating sc and bsc along the top edge in the same way you did for Row 1 of the edging. Regular sc will be worked along the other side of the beaded edging to mirror the first side. Finally you’ll slip stitch back along this edge to finish it off.

Next week we’ll have a finished shawl and share some blocking and finishing tips. Have you enjoyed the pattern so far?

Get your copy of the pattern here and join in the CAL at any time!