What makes it work?
If you’re like most crocheters you probably started by making some fun little one skein items, like scarves or afghans. Once you realized how much you enjoyed crochet, you may have thought, “This is fun, but I’d really like to make something I can wear more often, something bigger that could be a part of my everyday wardrobe,” or maybe you wanted a fabulous crocheted piece you could wear for a special occassion. Recently, you may even have seen some really amazing crochet pieces on a runway fashion show and wanted to make something equally as fine for yourself.
Your next step might have been to search the patterns on Ravelry or at your local yarn store (if they are crochet friendly, that is). For a first fitted garment there were probably a couple of obstacles. First, there are a lot of crochet garment patterns out there, but they are not all equal. How often have you seen a crocheted sweater pattern and thought, “I like the idea of this design, but something isn’t quite right.” That something goes back to the challenges we talked about in the last post. Crochet garments are often stiff and boxy. They don’t have that soft drape that flatters the way a perfect piece should.
The second problem is fit. You may have found a beautiful pattern that looks fabulous on the model, but you will need to modify it for your figure and you don’t know where to begin. This problem requires a bit of fitting know how. If you sew, you may understand the basic skills, but might not be sure how make them work when crocheting.
Never fear, there are some really smart designers out there who understand how to make a crocheted garment fit like a dream, drape like it came from a couture designer, and can show you all the tricks you need to know to make that dream project turn out perfectly.
Two great reference books
Flat pattern design in crochet
You may already have some crochet stitch dictionaries and how-to books in your crochet library. Now you will need some books that will become your go-to references for adjusting a pattern design or creating your own design. Today, I will introduce a couple of books that have been around long enough to be tried and true references for making fitted crochet garments. You will want to add to your reference library as you go along, but these might be good ones to get you started.
If you are new to the concept of pattern making, or you have some experience but aren’t sure how to adapt your crochet using traditional fitting methods, then Lily Chin’s book Couture Crochet Workshop is for you. She starts out with how a basic flat pattern is constructed and how to use an existing garment as a guide to do your own flat pattern. She gives you keys to getting the fit you want for the style you have in mind. And she also gives you some insider tips on making your garments look professional, like how to adjust armholes and shoulders. You may be familiar with some of the techniques, but be sure to review them before starting a crocheted garment. Unlike with sewing, you have to have it all planned out before you start to crochet. You will also learn to lay out your swatches on your pattern so to get increases and decreases that fit the curves for neckline, armholes, and sleeves while keeping the stitchpatten even. The patterns in this book are mainly classic styles that give you a chance to try out the techniques you’ve learned.There are also circular patterns which allow you to do wonderful things with vintage crochet stitches originally designed to be used for home decoration, but make beautiful shawls, jackets, and skirts when blown up to the larger proportions necessary for clothing.This is one of the construction types that works especially well in crochet. She’s got all the calculations laid out for you. What a time saver! My favorite worked in the round pattern is the Cossack Hat. No book on crochet techniques would be complete without a chapter on lace and Lily breaks it down for you. One of the toughest planning skills is adapting a lace repeat to give smooth curves where you increase and decrease. Lily’s got that covered, too. She also shows you how to avoid some of those tricky seam constructions on lace garments by working seamless bodices and sleeves.
The no math method
If flat pattern drafting leaves you flat, there is another method for getting great fit with far less math and alterations. By adjusting yarn size and hook size to the pattern you like you can alter the fit without recalculating the math. If you are working your own design, you can run a gauge swatch with different size hooks and alter the gauge where you want the curves; smaller hook, decreases size, bigger hook, increases size. Mary Jane Hall’s book, Crochet That Fits, gives you step by step instructions for using this method to adjust for hips, waist, and bust. The results are garments with drape that takes advantage of crocheted fabric’s natural stretch. And she shows you a simple graduated stitch method to get armhole and neck shaping. It’s just one more way to get great fit without the fuss.
All the patterns are labeled: beginner, advanced beginner, or intermediate. The little black dress on the cover shows off a crocheted necklace and both of the patterns are included in the book. I want to try the ballet neck sweater and the striped, sleeveless turtleneck. There is something for everyone here from simple accessories like hats and headbands to belts and purses. You’ll see how the same design idea can be easily be modified to make another garment and it will really get your creative juices going. Try a couple of the patterns and then take off with your own variations.
Find your style
So if you like a tailored look, Couture Crochet Workshop might be your go-to reference book for fitting and alteration. On the other hand, if you like a more softer more draped style, Mary Jane Hall’s book might be a good first crochet fitting reference for you.
Next week, I will be talking about some recently published books that build on the idea of fit and flatter for designing in crochet. It’s all about using the medium to its best advantage. What’s your best tip for making a crocheted project really shine?
Chin, Lily. Couture Crochet Workshop. Loveland, CO. Interweave Press, 2006
For mor about Lily Chin see the interview with Dora Ohrenstein on Crochet Insider:
See what it looks like to be the fastest crocheter!
Lily’s Ravelry page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/lily-m-chin
Hall, Mary Jane. Crochet That Fits. Cincinnati, OH. Krause Publications, 2008
Mary Jane Hall’s Ravelry page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/mary-jane-hall
Mary Jane Hall on Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryjanecrochet
Mary Jane’s Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/maryjanedesign/my-original-designs/