Crochet is a fun way to pass time and relax. As with almost any activity, crochet has a beginning, middle, and end. This article gives specific instruction on the little details that help make each project look a little more polished and professional. Basic stitches are carefully taught in a step by step manner. Little tricks of the trade are shared so that everyone will have an easier time mastering this craft.
Beginning Crocheted Projects
All crochet begins with a simple foundation chain stitch, which is also often used in place of a desired stitch at the beginning of each row or round. One chain stitch is used in place of a single crochet, 3 chains are used in place of a double crochet, 5 chains are in place of a treble crochet when starting new rounds respectively. The chain stitch is abbreviated (ch) in patterns.
Begin by making a slip knot and placing it on the hook. Secure the loop, being careful not to make it too tight or too loose. Right-handed people need to hold the yarn around their left pinky and forefinger so it glides smoothly and evenly while stitches are being made with the hook in their right hand. Left-handed people can follow a mirror image.
Making a Foundation Chain
Wrap the yarn from back to front, around and under the hook. Pull it straight down, creating a single chain stitch. Continue doing this for the desired number of chains to create a foundation.
Foundation chains may be long and short, depending on the project. Some are worked to begin a series of horizontal or vertical rows, while others are made to create individual motifs.
Foundation chains for rows are generally longer. They need to be kept straight when adding the next row so that the work won’t buckle or twist. Foundation chains for motifs are usually shorter. The last chain is often joined to the first chain with a slip stitch, making a circle before beginning round one with the desired stitches.
Making a Slip Stitch
To make a slip stitch, insert the hook from front to back through the first chain. Wrap the yarn around and under the hook, just like creating a chain. Slip stitch is abbreviated (ss) in patterns. Pull the yarn through the chain and loop on the hook, so that only 1 loop remains on the hook.
When working round 1, carefully hold the loose end to the back of the piece. Stitches can easily be wrapped around this end, securing it for the final result. Any excess length can then be snipped without danger of unraveling the work in the final stages of completion.
Switching and Joining Colors
To switch or join another color, make a slip knot on the hook with the alternate color. Insert the hook into the desired stitch, wrap the yarn behind, around, and under the hook, pulling it through the chain and slip knot on the hook. Secure with a single chain. Carefully make the next stitches over the loose ends of the new color by holding the loose ends from both colors to the back of the piece. This will secure both loose ends, keeping them in place for final stages of the project.
Joining Motifs Together
One of the easiest ways to join motifs together is by matching the fronts of two motifs, corner to corner, and slip-stitching a seam along the back side. Do this with each motif until a row of the desired length is made. Make the desired number of rows, and then join the rows together in the same manner.
Another way to join motifs together is to sew them with a yarn needle. When doing this, it is important to keep a long end that can be woven into the final piece. It is not recommended to make knots in the yarn used to sew motifs together.
Some patterns offer specific instructions for joining motifs as the work is completed. These vary from pattern to pattern, depending on the stitches used to make the motif.
Weaving in Loose Ends
When a project is finished, it is important to weave in all loose ends. Sometimes this is done as the work is completed, but there is always a final thread from the last round that needs to be secured and hidden from view.
It is important to bring loose ends to the back of the piece with the crochet hook. Loose ends should be woven in on the back of the piece, with as little pulling and tugging to the front of the piece as possible.
Carefully insert the crochet hook under the nearest thread, getting hold of the loose end. Gently pull it through, weaving it in and out of the piece until it is secure. When weaving a loose end through chains, slip it under the entire chain, so that the chain remains uniform.
Once the loose end is secure, cut away the excess yarn. Then, gently tug at the project to adjust the loose end further into to work, reweaving as necessary.
Blocking A Finished Piece
Once a piece is finished and loose ends have been secured, it is a good idea to relax the stitches that have been worked. While being made, the stitches have probably been bunched up, tugged and pulled in a haphazard manner, as required in the creation process.
Blocking relaxes stitches, and allows them to flatten, enhancing their detail. There are 2 main ways to block a finished project. The first is to take it to the local cleaners, and pay them to do it. This is a good idea for large projects (like an afghan) that have been worked on for lengthy periods of time. It may even be wise to have projects like this dry cleaned as well.
Another way to block a finished project is to steam it. This can be done with a basic steam iron. Place a clean cotton cloth over the ironing board. Put the project on top. Place another clean cloth over the project, and steam through the layers, until the piece has become a little damp from the steam. Remove the top cloth, and begin shaping the piece, creating symmetry as the stitches relax. Then lay the project flat to air dry.
For doilies and linens, starch can also be used. Following the instructions on the starch used, starch the finished project, making sure to steam it also. When laying the piece flat for air drying, pin each point to a clean foam or cardboard. This may be covered with a cotton cloth as necessary. It is important to shape the project, pinning between stitches, until the desired shape is complete. It is also important not to overstretch the piece, disturbing the intricate detail of the stitches.
Special Tips and Tricks of the Trade
· It is recommended to use lotion before crocheting. Dry hands tend to snag yarn and projects.
· Crochet stitches are delicate and pretty. It is important to keep tension firm, but not tight. It is just as important not to let stitches be too loose.
· Points on crochet hooks need to be smooth. Replace old hooks that have nicks and scratches in them to prevent yarn from snagging on them.
· Understand the project. Certain projects like stuffed animals and dish cloths require stitches to be very tight. Other projects like doilies need to have a looser, lacy appearance.
· Match dye lots, especially when making a solid color project.
· When yarn is in short supply, different dye lots of the same color may be used for a multiple color project. However, it is a good idea to separate them from each other. It is not recommended to tie them together in the middle of an unfinished row or round.
· Count stitches as necessary. It is easier to catch an error early and tear out a few stitches, than to find one later on, and tear out several stitches, or even rows.
· Keep the work symmetrical. Whether a pattern is used or not, consistency is important for the overall appearance of the final project.
· Weave in all loose ends on the back of the project. Using a smaller hook than the one used to make the piece is also very helpful.
· Include care instructions when giving the project as a gift. These will vary depending on the yarn selected.