Kristin Omdahl’s Seamless Crochet

Making crocheted motifs can be a lot of fun. It’s amazing the different geometric designs that can be created from the same motif or pairs of motifs set in different ways with different colors. The problem comes in when it is time to assemble them. You can wait until the end and crochet them all together afterwards; this eliminates working in loose ends easier. But you will still have at least one loose end to hide on each motif, which can be daunting if you want to make something light weight and lacy, like a shawl. If you are doing all of your motifs in the same color scheme, you can simply skip the final row and join them all using the same yarn or thread for the final round. In general, I have found I have trouble with the join showing on motif work and have never found a joining method that gives me the results I want.

Problem solved! Kristin Omdahl has done all the experimentation for us and offers a book that reveals the secret to joining motifs seamlessly in Seamless Crochet from Interweave Press.  All the challenges that may come up have been considered, such as joining half motifs or triangles and  clear and precise instructions are included for all the steps you will need to know to complete a seamless motif project.

This is not a book that teaches you how to crochet, but rather a book for crocheters who want to learn a new method for joining motifs. With this in mind, Kristin has kept the projects simple, so they are useful learning tools for mastering the techniques. Once you have mastered the seamless crochet method, you can then go off on your own and complete any motif project seamlessly whether it is a pattern you purchase or something you design yourself.

There are eighteen projects in the book, so you can find something you will like to make for practicing each of the techiques. It also includes an instructional DVD. Which demonstrates the seamless method with three of the projects from the book. You can crochet along with the DVD or choose a project you like and just watch the part of the DVD that shows the technique you need. If you prefer learning straight out of the book, simply browse the projects in the front and choose whatever you like for a first project. Kristin has planned it so both beginners and advanced crocheters will have projects to please and challenge them.

The join as you go method is presented in the back of the book. So, you will want to study that thoroughly first or watch the explanation on the DVD before beginning your first project. You will need to learn a slightly different method than you are used to for reading the charts, but once you understand the concept it is quite simple. There is, also, a short glossary and stitch dictionary in the back along with a resource guide for all the materials suggested with each pattern.

Overall, I think this book is well worth the price. You get to learn a new crochet technique, you get a large selection of patterns, and you get a DVD. That’s quite a lot of bang for your buck in one book. Of the projects offered, my favorite is the very first pattern: Blue Lagoon. It’s a shawl in a hexagon swirl motif. Although it is done in chunky weight yarn, it has a light and airy look to it and drapes very nicely. The Malabrigo Superwash Merino yarn that Kristin has used appears to have a slight sheen to it and no halo. I like that, it gives it a silky look. The Eden Tile shawl is done in a multicolored yarn and adds some depth to the simple motifs, which might otherwise become boring. I also like the Burges lace edging on this shawl. It’s another bonus that comes with this book. You might not be expecting to learn a Bruges lace stitch. The Ninja Star shawlette also gets my vote because the motif creates such eye catching shapes. There is real motion in the design. The Star Mobius is another nice piece that I would like to make. Here, she has used different colors in rows creating a colorful project that is still joined in one piece. I love the soft sheen of the acrylic and bamboo yarn used in this one.

The stitch pattern of Berry Blossom Market bag was too open for my taste. I like a market bag with smaller holes, otherwise things are always falling out. However I do like the three dimensional flowers in the motif. They could be really interesting in a smaller gauge and using a less stretchy thread or yarn.

The weakest designs were the hats, which were nothing new or interesting; and some of the neck pieces which were either too spindly to hold their shape or done in yarn that was too thick to make a really wearable piece. My one other criticism is that some of the edgings are not really three dimensional. The Bruges lace was nice, but some of the edgings were just a long strig with a motif on the end. This kind of fringe will never hang well and will crumple when washed. I can’t imagine blocking each little piece of fringe after washing. If you don’t want regular fringe or tassles, bobbles or other stitches that hold their shape work best with as fringe.

My rating for this book: It’s a keeper! The method is well explained in both charts and written directions, and visuals on Kristin’s DVD. As always, the photos are immaculate; focus is very sharp and lighting is perfect on detail shots. And there is something for everyone in the generous choice of patterns. Now if only there were a method for doing multicolored motifs with no seams. I can’t wait to see if she does a sequel!

Do you have any tips for motif work? What’s your favorite motif?

Drafting Patterns for Crochet and Knit Garments

There are few people who make their crochet ideas come to life without a plan and if your plan is to produce a pattern you will need some experience in pattern drafting. I have a background in theatrical costuming and have had to make many, many garments straight from a sketch. But unless it was a very small show, I had to be able to create a pattern that could be easily followed by cutter and seamstress to make my own design or that of another designer come to life. And it had to look like the picture.

The same holds true when creating a crochet or knit garment. It is unlikely that you will find a tech assistant that can or would be willing to create the first draft of a garment from a sketch. You could make the garment up first, but unless you are making something that is a variation on a standard pattern, you will need to draft the garment pattern first. Right now, I have started swatching for a vest idea, but I quickly realized that I need to draft the pattern in order to determine accurately where the stitch pattern needs to change for the proper fit and overall shape of the garment.

You don’t need to take a dressmakers pattern course to do this, but you do need to be able to draft a basic pattern and work from their. I’ll give you a few hints to get you started here and then give you some references for more in-depth instructions at the end.

You will need:

Large paper – at least half the desired circumference of your finished garment

Source options:

Dressmakers paper with large 1″ squares

Butcher paper  or brown wrapping paper – some art stores have it.

Reel ends of newsprint – used to be easily found at newspaper printing offices. Try calling around to any local publications that may still print their own papers.

Large paper scissors – an old pair of Fiskers works nicely

T square – hardware store or art supply store

Soft pencils and erasers – because you are working with cheap quality paper, the pencils and erasers need to be soft enough not to tear the paper.

Compass: for drawing curves

Let’s use a vest for this example. For a first try, let’s use a garment with a fit you already like. Creating the entire garment from scratch can come later, after you have the hang of how to get the basic shape down on paper.

Take the following measurements:

Largest circumference of garment: __________

Divide by 2: __________ = basic front & back width

Divide by 2 again: __________ = center front and back

Length of center back __________

Add at least 3″ top and bottom __________ = approximate length of front and back

Measure across shoulders __________

Distance across shoulder seam at neck __________

Distance from outer shoulder seam and lower armhole seam

__________

First measure the garment for the largest circumference (the entire measurement across front and back). Divide by half, this is your basic front and back size. You’ll see in a moment why we don’t measure each separately. Divide by half again; this mark is your center front and back.

Using front and back width and length draft two large rectangles with 3-6″ of room on all sides. It’s best to cut these into two separate pieces for ease of working with the sheets. Mark each sheet either front or back and mark the center point of each. All other measurements will start from this center point.

Back: Use the shoulder width measurement and center it over your center back. Mark the outer edges of the shoulders on each side. Draw a horizontal line 1″ above the shoulders. Center your ruler or t square and mark the inner neck measurement on the paper.  Use your compass to create a half circle by placing the point into the center back line and opening the compass to meet one of the inner shoulder seam marks and drawing your half circle to meet the other inner neck point. You should have a gentle curve that mimics the curve on your original garment. Take a visual check and see if this looks about right. You could lay the garment out on the paper and trace it but this leads to inaccurate curves because the fabric is not stable like the paper.

Are you confused, yet? You could trace around the entire garment, but then you would have to spend a lot of time truing up all your lines and you wouldn’t learn how the relationship between each line and curve works.

Front: Try taking similar measurents for one armhole. This time draw a rectangle from the top and bottom of the armhole inward to the deepest point on the armhole. Use this rectangle to round off the curve of the armhole, making the bottom curve close to a quarter circle and gently curving up to the outer shoulder seam. If you are familiar with commercial dresspatterns, you will recognize this type of curve. If you don’t sew, just trust me. It’s not and oval, it will create more of an egg shape when joined with the front.

For the front, save time by lightly tracing off the back. Measure across the widest part of the front (this will cross over the bust points if it fits well). Find the waist (in this case the narrowest point of the front. and mark that on your pattern. Be sure each of these marks are the proper distance vertically from the armhole and lower edge. For now, mark that distance and draw a line from the bottom front to the underarm seam, gently curving inward at the waist and then outward to bust line and underarm. You should have one continuous gentle curve. If you have sharp angles, soften your curve. If this means missing your  marks slightly, that’s ok. We are making a fabric that will have more stretch than a woven fabric, so it will ease over the curves.

This is a very simplified explanation and there are a lot more tricks and details that can be added as you gain confidence and skill. But this will give you a basic pattern to work from. You can then lay out a mock up of the stitch pattern in strategic places and discover where your increases and decreases will best be placed. Lily Chin’s book, Couture Crochet gives some good images of how a flat drafted paper patern looks. She actually works out the pattern on paper with the stitch pattern printed on it full size. In order to do this, you would need to go to an office supply store that has a printer used for printing architectural designs and have it printed there. I think it might be too costly for the beginning designer, but it is good to know it is possible.

Happy crocheting!

http://www.lilychinsignaturecollection.com/main.php

Vintage Crochet Influences Today’s Designs

Have you ever wondered why some crocheted objects have a neat and professional look, while others have that homemade look as opposed to handmade? Skill with your medium, as well as with the hook, are needed to create a finished object that has all the qualities needed to serve its purpose and highlight its beautiful crocheted stitches. Crocheted garments need particular care in the choice of yarn or thread, as well as hook size. The wrong hook or a too think yarn can turn that gorgeous vest you worked so hard on into something as stiff as a throw rug.

It’s no wonder the choice of yarn and hook are the biggest challenge for crocheters. Historically, crochet was seen in household items, which required just such a stiff fabric. The other way we traditionally found crochet was in crocheted lace garments that were truly elegant, but could only be produced with thousands of hours of work, something most of us don’t have these days. So, the traditions were either very thick, dense, stiff fabric or very fine delicate fabric.

Knit fabric is naturally softer and most wool yarns were developed with knit garments in mind. So, this has been another barrier. Some folks, even think you can’t crochet with yarn, only thread. It’s true, crochet was most often done in cotton thread and thus we have those amazing motif designs which were seen around the house right up to through the 1950s as doilies and antimascars (seen on the backs of chairs as protection from men’s hair oil) which are the basis for many of the lovely exploded lace designs we see today on crocheted garments. A crocheted garment was for the most elegant occasions. So, if you could afford it, a crocheted wedding gown was a treasure, as was wedding gift of a crocheted bedspread.

In the 1960s there was a revival of crochet and other hand crafts. Today, we may remember the ungainly acrylic granny square vests as a testament to the ugly 1960s and 1970s, but this was also a time fo true innovation in the crochet art. As we saw in last week’s post, it was a time when wearable art came to the forefront and many innovative crochet designs remain as attractive and stylish today as they were in the hippie era. And don’t think it was all jeans skirts and granny square vests. I was recently perusing a website of vintage patterns from the ’60s and there were not one, but two, crocheted hoodies! If you made one of these, no one would never know they were designed in the 1960s. And how about all those fashions with ripple stripes we see today? Yep, 1970s styles in that amazing new polyester started the craze. Crochet pattern designers, also, had some lovely interpretations of ripple striped tops. What goes around comes around.

What was happening during that period more than anything else was experimentation. Sure some of the styles didn’t work, or they only worked for that time period, but the experimentation lead to a better understanding of how crochet works. Whether it’s crochet, knit, or woven, it’s the fabric that makes the garment. Fabric has a texture, a hand, and a drape that will determine how the final garment will look and all the experimentation during the mid to late 20th century helped develop the wide variety of patterns and even the influenced the innovative yarns and threads we have available today.

So, the next time you are browsing patterns on the web or stash diving at a garage sale, take a second look at some of the old designs. If a design was a great look back in its day, it is probably still a great design today. Try to imagine the same garment with today’s yarns and colors. With only minor modifications in fit, maybe the same pattern could be given a totally modern look. Women’s garments, especially can go from baggy to body hugging in just a few years. If you are crocheting it yourself, you can adjust that fit to suit your body and today’s fashion look. Bring the shoulders in, and a 1980s look can become a classic. Lengthen a 1950′s cashmere sweater, and you have an updated, yet still elegant look.

The trick is knowing how to get the look you want. Next week, we will take a closer look at creating the fabric. Getting that right is the number one skill you need to get a polished look with your crocheted garments. We’ll take a look at Dora Ohrenstein’s book, Creating Crochet Fabric, and highlight some of the basic skills and top tips she gives you in the next post.

Till then, Happy Crocheting!

Crochet in Korean

It wasn’t until moving to Korea that I was inspired to take up crochet for making garments. Korea is very hot and humid in the summer, but it is also a conservative place, so wearing revealing clothing in the summer is frowned upon. The rule at the workplace was no exposed shoulders. If you are American, you already know how hard it is in summer to find appropriate clothing for the work place. With this added restriction I had a dilemma. We were expected to dress in business attire, but how could I look as well kept as my Korean counterparts? I noticed that all of my female coworkers wore little crocheted jackets over their summer tops.

I knew I coudn’t just go out and buy something in my size, but I did know that I could crochet beautiful lacy designs if I could just get some basic patterns. That was the beginning of my adventure with crocheted garments.I started scouring the bookstores and online book sites for crochet patterns that might get me started.

That opened up a whole new world for me. I remembered the wonderful selection of crafts books that the Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya, back in San Francisco had. They always had a good choice of Japanese craft books in English translations available. Not so, in Korea. But what I did discover was that they have Kyobo Bookstores, which are similar to Kinokuniya. Nothing was in English, but I soon found out that Asian patterns were always charted. I could make the patterns following the charts.

But what would I do if I had a problem? I was thousands of miles away and I had no idea. You can probably guess that I did an internet search and discovered hundreds of crochet sites. There were lots of blogs, as well as commercial sites selling all the supplies, including books and even free patterns.

If I could do it while living in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, you can, too.

Here are a few guidelines:

Start with the basics. If you don’t have someone to teach you, find a how-to book that is easy to follow or look at some of the tutorials on YouTube.

Swatch. Make some practice swatches with the most common stitches.

You should learn the chain stitch, single crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet.

You will also need to practice some simple increases and decreases.

Start with a simple pattern, but one you really like. Look for a style you like that uses only one or two different stitches. There should be a list of abbreviations for all the stitches. I recommend getting a book that also has a chart, so you can visualize how the stitches line up.

Choose a good quality yarn in the weight called for in the pattern. If you don’t like the yarn, you won’t like the finished product.

Start with at least three hooks. Get the one called for in the pattern and at least one smaller and one larger hook. Depending on how tightly or loosely you crochet, you may need to use a different hook size.

SWATCH: Remember that yarn that matches the weight called for in the pattern? Well, there is no industry standard, so the yarn size is an estimate. That means the size of your project won’t be right until you play around with the yarn and hooks until you get the gauge called for in the pattern. Make a big swatch, at least 4 inches, preferably larger. Launder it and steam it according to the yarn label, then measure. Keep swatching until you get the right gauge.

What’s gauge: It is an estimate of the number of stitches per inch across a row and the number of rows per inch measuring vertically.

READ: The entire pattern! Try out any confusing parts, like lining up stitches or doing increases and decreases, until you feel confident.

Go for it!

If you get stuck, try finding an answer on an internet blog or an online video. A good place to start is Johnny Vasquez’ video tutorials “New Stitch A Day” There are hundreds of them. Become a member on Ravelry (www.ravelry.com) and post a question on one of the help boards. Or you can contact me by posting a basic question here. This blog is mainly for information and news, but I will be happy to answer specific questions about the basics of getting started with crochet and most likely, others will be able to offer additional information.

Here are some of my favorite websites, blogs, & podcasts: (Dear readers, please suggest more.)

http://newstitchaday.com/welcome

http://www.facebook.com/pages/KINOKUNIYA-BOOKSTORES-SAN-FRANCISCO/177633730285

Kyobo Bookstores online site in Korean only: http://www.kyobobook.co.kr/index.laf?OV_REFFER=http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=kyobo%20bookstore&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kyobobook.co.kr%2F&ei=FyhFUKa2BISB0QHfsIDIDg&usg=AFQjCNFHbRkAJ1H0vtMlDMRZVP9AnxUxUw&sig2=E9pUEthw4QEMgwqrW79z4Q

There is a store in Duluth, Georgia, but no website.

Happy crocheting,

Joy!

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