Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Hip to Crochet

Check out this sign board I saw in front of Akira Chicago , an edgy shoe store and fashion boutique on Clark Street in Chicago's Andersonville 'hood:

Toms Shoes is well known for its One for One program.  For every pair of shoes purchased, Toms donates a free pair to a child in need.  Check out Toms Shoes website to learn more about this wonderful program.

Still haven't hopped on the crochet bandwagon?  C'mon knitters.  Crochet has never been hotter.  Sign up for a beginning crochet class at your local yarn store.  Make yourself some fun summer accessories.  Before you know it, you'll be.................wait for it................HOOKED!

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Alas, Barnabas......

With the frenzy surrounding the delicious Johnny Depp's recreation of Barnabas Collins, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch the videos of the original series.  If you're old enough, you probably remember racing home after school to watch it.

There are so many comparisons to be made between the movie and the series: chief among them being who's the dreamier of the two Barnabeaux?

The beautiful, though often ridiculously attired Johnny Depp?

Or the smoldering, yet generally more conventionally attired Jonathan Frid?

Really, it's difficult to say.  Each man makes one's heart throb in his own way. Certainly the original series was darker and more engrossing than the movie.  The movie is rather a send-up of the series, and doesn't take itself particularly seriously.  It won't be winning any Oscars, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and loved all the '70s references thrown in.  Of course in the movie, the production values are much better, and there are no scenes in which we can see people wandering around backstage.  But the series has its own special charm, and like all soap operas, reveals the story one tiny glimpse at a time.  I love Jonathan Frid as the original Barnabas.  But I can't help thinking that even in a more serious recreation of the original Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp would have been even better than he was in the present Tim Burton vehicle.  And why, you might ask, am I obsessing about Dark Shadows in a blog that's supposed to be about crochet?

Well --- here's my reason (read that:  excuse).   I bet you can't guess what really caught my eye as I watched episode after episode of the original series these past few weeks.  Well, here's a hint:  in almost every room at Collinwood, at "the old house," even at Maggie's house...........

beautiful, traditional granny square afghans appear on every bed and every sofa.  It was a lovely touch.  It gave the spooky old house a warm, homey feeling, don't you think?

And I might have imagined it, but in a couple episodes, I thought I also saw this sort of thing:

So - for those of you Dark Shadows fans out there in blog-land, take a step back in time to revisit Collinwood.  How many examples of crochet can you spot?  Think of the people who made these items.  Were they made just for the show or were they borrowed?  Who decided to include these beautiful pieces in the prop list?  If you feel like it, leave me a comment on this post - tell me how many crocheted items you've found.

Your guess is as good as mine, but it warms my heart to see them.  And now if you'll excuse me, it's almost sunrise.  I must get some sleep.

Oh, Barnabas...........

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Single, Double / Toil and Trouble

Imagine, if you will, you’re browsing through the magazine racks at your favorite bookstore, and you come across Inside Crochet, Great Britain’s only all crochet magazine.  The magazine is beautiful and one or two of the patterns really catch your attention.  So you do what any of us would do:  you buy the magazine and then head straight to a yarn store to purchase yarn for at least one of the projects featured.

Several weeks later, after you’ve finished, say three of the twelve partially completed projects you’ve been working on, you decide to start that new project that you found in that wonderful magazine you picked up the other day.  You rummage around your yarn room (or for some of us – your yarn house) until you find the bag containing the magazine and the yarn you bought.  It takes you a few minutes to figure out which of the designs you’d chosen, but finally, you’re sitting in your favorite chair, pattern, yarn, hook, stitch markers, light and other supplies laid out just the way you like them, your movie (or audio book) ready to play, and then it’s the magic moment:  embarking on a new crochet project.  Is there anything more delicious?

You begin the gauge swatch.  Using the hook recommended, you get the correct number of stitches per inch, but your row count is way off.  You try several different hooks, and finally, you even choose a yarn from your stash instead of using the yarn you bought for the project.  But no matter how many times you try, you cannot get the right row count.  Finally, you decide it must be a mistake in the pattern.  You go back to your original yarn and hook, and begin the project.  After all, your stitch count is correct, right?  

You pop the movie in and begin.

As you’re working, you begin to sense that something is wrong.  Your work doesn’t look anything like the photos in the magazine.  Your piece is much longer than it should be.  Let’s say you’re making a short-sleeved shrug.  If this keeps up, it will look more like a long-sleeved cardigan when you’re done.

Bubble bubble toil and trouble.
What do the Brits mean when they say double?

An excellent question, Grasshopper.   Following is a table that provides a glimpse into these two ways of describing crochet.  For some commonly used crochet stitches, this table provides the international crochet symbol, the American abbreviation and name for the stitch, the British abbreviation and name for the stitch, and a description of the stitch.

So, why all the confusion?  Why the difference?  Why is life so complicated?  Why can’t I fit into last summer’s jeans?  Why do I always run into my ex when I look my worst?

It seems to me that, putting aside the slip stitch and the chain stitch, Americans regard “yarnover and pull up a loop,” and everything that comes before that step, as preparation for the actual stitch.  Everything that comes after “yarnover and pull up a loop” is the actual stitch.  So, if I’m working a single crochet, for example, I insert my hook into the stitch; I yarnover and pull up a loop; and then I’m ready to work the stitch, which comprises one yarnover and pulling through both loops on hook.  One yarnover = one SINGLE crochet. 

Brits, on the other hand, begin counting with the initial “yarnover and pull up a loop.”  So what Americans consider a SINGLE Crochet becomes a DOUBLE crochet, because first one must yarnover and pull up a loop (one yarnover), and then yarnover and pull through both loops on hook (two yarnovers).

In my classes, some students find that the British terminology makes much more sense, because, they reason, it includes all the yarnovers.  But I prefer the American terminology, and here’s why:

British terms do not take into account the yarnovers that come BEFORE the “yarnover and pull up a loop” step.  It’s easy enough to see how single crochet becomes double crochet in Brit-world.  There are two yarnovers, so it’s a double.  But what about a double crochet?  To work a double crochet, you yarnover (one), insert hook into stitch, yarnover (two) and pull up a loop, yarnover (three) and pull through two loops, and finally yarnover (four) and pull through last two loops.  That’s four, count ‘em, four yarnovers in total.  So shouldn’t it be called a Quadruple Crochet?  It seems rather arbitrary to me to begin counting with the yarnover and pull up a loop step.

If, however, I’d learned to crochet in, say, Liverpool, while watching Johnny and the Quarrymen morph into the Fab Four, I’d probably think it’s arbitrary to begin counting after the yarnover and pull up a loop step.  It would probably feel natural to me to start counting at the yarnover and pull up a loop step.  All in all, it’s simply a matter of what one sees as preparation for the stitch and what one sees as working the actual stitch.

The important thing to remember is that there are many lovely patterns written in the British style, and many in the American style.  It’s really not that difficult to translate one to the other, so whichever terminology you’re using, don’t let the fact that a pattern is written in the other terminology intimidate you.  If you like a pattern you find in Inside Crochet – go for it!  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What's so important about using the right words, yo?

YO!  It's a gangsta thing.

YO is part of every stitch in crochet.  It's an abbreviation, yo.  You can't do a stitch without it, yo.  I'm not talking about the Grammy award winning cellist, yo.  I'm not talking about the childhood toy on a string, yo.  I'm talking about the most important part of every crochet stitch, yo.  I'm talking about the abbreviation, YO, yo.

YO is the abbreviation for "Yarnover." It refers to the action of drawing the working yarn over the top of the crochet hook from the back of the hook (away from you) to the front of the hook (toward you).  Seems simple enough, yo.

But students have made comments such as, "My grandmother never said 'yarnover.'  She just said you wrap the yarn around the hook.  Well, yeah, you wrap the yarn around the hook, yo.  Front to back?  Back to front?  Left to right?  Right to left?  Once, twice?  Six times?  I can explain my patterns in the words each student uses, but what happens when she's trying to decipher a pattern?

Whether your pattern is written or charted, you won't be able to make any sense of it if you can't interpret the instructions and understand the language of crochet.  Even if you take a crochet class, your teacher can't follow you around the rest of your life, translating patterns.

So, for everyone's edification (and I'm sure you can hardly wait), here's a graphic to illustrate my point.

The first diagram shows a line from a pattern, and how it would be charted.

The next three diagrams show various versions of the same written pattern instructions that I've heard, and how their charts would look.

See what you think.  If you look at the last example, you'll see that it would be impossible to stitch Row  Two.  It's all chains, yo!

Note:  You can purchase this crochet symbol font at this link:  Stitchin' Crochet Font.

And in case you're wondering, here's a photo of the project from which this instruction was taken.  This is the sample of the beginner's ruffled scarf.  It's modeled here by the lovely Mandy Petersen, owner of Windy Knitty, a wonderful yarn store in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

BESHERT CHAPEAU - a Yarnover Chicago Pattern

Here's my second pattern.  It's a basic watch cap pattern.  I'd estimate it to be at the advanced beginner level.  Please feel free to teach this pattern, or to sell hats made using this pattern.  If you teach it, please ask your students to purchase their patterns directly if possible (if that's not possible - that's okay).  If you sell on a website, such as ETSY, I only ask that you attribute the pattern to me.  Other than that - knock your socks off.

Why do I call it the Beshert Chapeau instead of something more descriptive, like, oh, I don't know - Basic Watch Cap or Really Warm Hat for those Bitter Cold Chicago Winters?

Well, in Yiddish, beshert means meant to be; an event or circumstance that's just a given; not in doubt.  Its secondary meaning is beloved.  So if you refer to a person as your beshert, you're saying that person is not only your beloved, but the person with whom you were meant to be.  I've made this hat for several people.  The orange and yellow striped one pictured in the pattern was made as a sample for Windy Knitty, which is a fabulous LYS in the 5600 block of N. Clark Street, in Chicago.  I've given it as birthday gifts and even as a chemo cap.  But I designed the hat for ........ well, you get the idea.

You can purchase this pattern on Ravelry here:  BESHERT CHAPEAU

If you aren't on Ravelry, you can sign up for free.  If you're not interested in Ravelry, but want this pattern, please comment below, and I'll arrange to send you a PDF of the pattern.  The price is $3.75.

Enjoy and please feel free to share your opinions, comments, complaints, or whatever.