Today we have a guest post by Dora Ohrenstein
Consider this: when you create an item, whether knit or crochet, do you think about the fabric you’re making? Sometimes we yarn lovers get so caught up in a the look of a particular design or stitch, we forget about the tactile feel of it, the way it hangs and moves.
What are some of the characteristics of fabric? Its smoothness or texture, stiffness or fluidity, weight, solidity, warmth, elasticity, breathability on the skin, washability, durability. You probably think about such things when purchasing items for your wardrobe or home. If it’s a blanket, you want it to be warm, soft enough to feel good but hardy enough to survive washing. A jacket might also be warm, but needs to be fluid enough to allow ease of movement for the wearer. A top for wearing indoors would need other qualities: breathable fabric that is comfortable to wear and soft against the skin, and that drapes nicely around the body. At the other end of the spectrum is a bag, which works best with a more rigid, structured fabric that will hold its shape over time.
A variety of fabrics can be created in both knit and crochet, but how it’s done is quite different depending on the craft. Since my expertise is in crochet, and since many knitters, and even some crocheters, don’t quite understand how fluid fabric can be achieved in crochet, let me amplify!
Several factors are significant: Firstly, the size of stitches, which means the size of the hook. I tend to use a larger hook than what is called for on the ball band. Typically, for a fingering weight yarn, I use a D or E, for a DK, a G or H, and for worsted, a J or K. There are no hard and fast rules, and a lot depends on the stitches you will be using. If you habitually crochet tightly, your stitches may look very neat and tidy, but your fabric will be dense and rigid. Loosen up those stitches and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in the feel of your fabric.
Our chosen stitches make a huge impact on fabric too. In crochet, there is no default stitch like stockinette, but rather, an infinite number of stitch patterns that result in closed or open work fabrics. To make closed fabric that drapes well, avoid short dense stitches like single crochet. Instead, use taller stitches to improve drape in the fabric. Working in one loop only also increases drape. The more open and lacy the stitch pattern used, the more drape. The more dense and textured, the more rigid the fabric. So, any time you use cables, puffs, bobbles or other dimensional stitches, you are working towards structure and away from drape. That’s why these stitches are great for hats and bags.
Of course the fibers in your yarn make a difference too: alpaca, bamboo, pima cotton are examples of fibers that enhance drape. Here are some photos of sweaters from my book entitled Custom Crocheted Sweaters. In each case, the yarns and stitches were carefully chosen so that the sweaters would drape in a flattering way. I hope this shows how crochet fabric can be just as suitable for wearables as is knit. I think both are lovely and both have a place in our lovely yarn universe!
I’m happy to answer any questions you post here about crochet fabric! If you want to delve further into the topic, I invite you to my classes at Vogue Knitting Live, January 17 – 19, 2014, click here for the complete schedule.
Dora Ohrenstein is a crochet designer, author and publisher. Her books include The New Tunisian Crochet (Interweave, 2013), Custom Crocheted Sweaters (Lark, 2012), the first in-depth book on sweater construction and alteration for crocheters, Creating Crochet Fabric (Lark, 2010), and Crochet Insider’s Passion for Fashion (Leisure Arts, 2009). Dora’s chic and innovative designs appear regularly in Interweave Crochet, Crochet! and Crochet Today. She is Co-Editor of Annies.com widely read Talking Crochet column, and she writes for various other publications about crochet history, international traditions, and techniques. Dora is the founder and editor of Crochet Insider, (www.crochetinsider.com) an online magazine that has won the Flamie Award three times. She is also a professional singer and voice teacher.