How and why to swatch.

Are you a swatcher? Do you know why and how to swatch? Do you think it is all a complete waste of time?

As a designer, swatching is an early part of the design process, we use the swatch to calculate the numbers for the pattern. We couldn’t start without one. But when the designer has done all that work surely thecrocheter doesn’t really need to do one?

YES YOU DO! (almost always)

Lets look first at the information we get in a pattern about tension or gauge* 

*US patterns tend to use the word gauge, UK patterns tend to use the term tension, they mean the same thing from here on in I will use tension

To prepare a swatch properly you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Make a large square in the stitch you have been told to work in. To know that it will be large enough to measure you should chain for more than the number of stitches you can expect to get, In this case I would probably start with 24 stitches. Make the swatch in the yarn you plan to use using the hook you plan to use. Work a few more rows than suggested in the tension info, maybe 12 rows in this case.
  2. Measure the tension before you block it and keep a note so that you can check your tension while crocheting. To measure the piece you will need to lay it out flat and count the number of stitches and rows in 4in or 10cm or the measure you were given. It may help to measure and pin then count between the pins.
  3. Wash and dry the piece as you will the finished object. So if it is going through the machine then the dryer do that. If it will be hand washed then dried flat do that. If it will be washed and pinned out to dry (blocked) do that. If it is cotton, silk, linen or bamboo it may help to hang the piece with weights attached (threading a knitting needle through the bottom is an easy way to do this) as these fibres grow considerably when the weight of the whole piece acts on the stitches.
  4. Measure again and compare this measurement to the tension information.

How do your numbers compare?

If you have too many stitches/rows your finished object will be too small. Repeat the 4 step process with a larger hook.

If you have too few stitches/rows your finished object will be too big. Repeat the 4 step process with a smaller hook.

If you will be working in the round without turning you should work the swatch in the round without turning too.

It is less important to make the swatch in the round if the pattern calls for you to turn at the end of each row. These swatches can be made in rows.

I can get stitch gauge but my row gauge is off, what should I do?
If you can only get one spot on then it is normally best to get the stitch gauge right as in most constructions this is where most of the fitting comes in. You may have to adjust the pattern slightly (adding or subtracting rows) to allow for the difference.

How much does it matter?

Well, how much do you want the finished item to fit? Say the tension square said 20 stitches to 4″, your knitting is has 22 stitches and you go ahead and knit the jumper with the 40″ chest. Your jumper finished jumper will have a chest measurement of just over 36″ and you will have to suffer the indignity of finding a skinny friend to give all those hours of work to! Worth spending a little while before starting the project to avoid that fate? Probably!

Do I have to start with the suggested hook size?

No, it is just a suggestion based on the designers idea of what they used to get that tension or what they think the average knitter or crocheter will need to get tension. If you know you crochet loosely you might want to try a smaller hook first.

I have have average tension anyway so surely I don’t need to swatch?

Yes you do! There is no such thing as average tension really and you don’t know that the designer has average tension.

I am using the suggested yarn so I don’t need to swatch do I?

Afraid so! No two crocheters work quite the same so even with the same yarn and same hook two people are unlikely to make the same tension.

So when don’t I need to swatch?
There are a few times when you can get away without swatching:

  1. When size doesn’t matter and you have plenty of yarn (because tension also effects the yardage needed)
  2. When the item is very small and quicker to make than the swatch would be.
Forest Forager Handwarmers are small enough to just make and measure after as they are not much bigger than a swatch anyway.

Forest Forager Handwarmers are small enough to just make and measure after as they are not much bigger than a swatch anyway.

This post is adapted from one originally published by Joanne on her personal blog.

How to prevent pain when crocheting

We've all done it, got too involved in a crochet project, sat for too long trying to get it finished up and ended up with pain in our fingers or wrists. (As designers we do this a lot!) 

Pain from crochet tends to manifest itself in pain in the fingers of either hand, in the wrist, elbow and shoulder of the dominant (hook holding) hand and in the neck. Left unchecked this mild pain can turn into a repetitive strain injury (RSI), a serious condition cured only by resting completely or medical interventions.

We'd all like to be able to do more crochet without experiencing pain. These simple techniques and points to consider should help prevent pain occurring in the first place.

POSTURE

The majority of neck and shoulder pain particularly is caused by poor posture when we crochet. Ensure that you are sat comfortably. Your neck should not be hunched over as you look at your work. Is your back comfortable?

If you need glasses, are you using the right pair to be able to see the work while you are sat comfortably? If you are having to hold the crochet uncomfortably far away or too close to see it, it might be worth a trip to the opticians to get a pair that allow you to both see and work comfortably.

Are your elbows and wrists held comfortably as you work? Propping them up on a pillow or arm rests as you work may help this.

TECHNIQUE

RSI is caused by repetitive movement so it stands to reason that minimising movement while you crochet will help minimise the risk. Be mindful of your technique as you crochet. Are there any movements that can be made smaller and more efficient? Can you twist less as you pull the yarn through? Do you need such an expansive movement to yarn over?

Of course some of the pain can be caused by squeezing. Can you change your yarn hold so you don't need to grip it so hard? Are you having to grip hard to hold your hook? (see also TOOLS & MATERIALS)

STRETCH

As you crochet take regular breaks (every twenty minutes at least) When you take a break look up from your work and carry out simple stretching exercise on your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands:

  • Roll your neck backwards, forwards, to the sides gently.  
  • Shrug shoulders up and down and roll shoulders forwards and backwards.
  • With your arms semi extended, shake your hands.
  • Holding your arm just above your elbow reach over your opposite shoulder. 
  • Pull your fingers gently back so your wrists flex.
  • Clench into a fist then stretch your fingers as far as they will go.

Before you start to crochet again, recheck your posture.

TOOLS & MATERIALS

Finding the right hook FOR YOU is absolutely pivotal to avoiding pain. Many people find hooks that have a soft grip useful as you do not have to squeeze as hard to be able to grip and manipulate the hook. Other people find that an ergonomic handle doesn't suit their hold but a straight hook made of bamboo is good as it warms to the touch. For more information about

Some yarns are more likely to cause pain, especially wrist, elbow and shoulder pain. Unyielding, unstretching fibres such as linen and cotton are more likely to cause pain as it is harder to push the hook through them than a bouncy, soft wool for instance. 

There are specialist gloves and supports that you can buy that may be helpful to help you support painful joints. 

VARIETY

Nothing is more likely to cause repetitive strain than doing the same thing over and over again. Try and mix up your projects so that you are doing different things. 

Vary the hook size you are using (particularly if you are not using an ergonomic hook) so the pinch you have to make is changing in size. 

Vary the type of yarn you use. Both fibre (as discussed in TOOLS & MATERIALS) and yarn weight. Some people find chunky yarns harder on their hands and some find lace weight impossible. 

Work at different gauges even within the same yarn weight, your hands grip and move differently when they work at the solid tension of a sock than they do a drapey shawl.

Thinking carefully about all these points as you pick your next project: Avoid what is painful and mix it up between the rest. 

STRENGTHEN

Looking after your body in general can really help to alleviate pain when crocheting. Ensuring all the supporting and opposing muscles are strong and healthy makes a big difference. Light weight bearing exercise for the arm muscles is really useful. It was transformative for Joanne's elbow and shoulder pain. (As with all types of exercise, seek a qualified coach and if you have any medical issues seek a doctor's permission before starting any new exercise regime)

IN SUMMARY

Crochet itself is quite a meditative and soothing practice. Being mindful of our bodies and looking after them as we crochet is an important part of that practice. 

Why not pin or print this image to remind you as you work

RSI is a serious condition and if you have any tingling, aching, stiffness or inability to move the fingers or the wrist you should stop crocheting immediately and rest. If resting does not completely cure the symptoms you should seek medical advice. Continuing to crochet through the pain can make the problem worse.

How to work raised (post) crochet stitches

A very versatile stitch to add to your repertoire, raised stitches are based on the standard crochet stitches, the only difference is where the stitch is worked. Raised stitches are worked around the stitch below rather than into the top of the stitch. This has the effect of lifting both stitches to add texture.

Raised stitches are often worked in columns and, as they are easy to spot as you work, can be used to divide different sections up (which removes the need for too much counting - always a win!) as in Humphrey from The Shawl Project Book Two (above)

The raised treble front is the reverse of the raised treble back so, if you are working in rows, you will use a raised treble front on the right side of the work and a raised treble back on the wrong side or vice verse to create a column.

IMG_5802.jpg

Sometimes they are used in rows (normally on the wrong side of the work) to force the tops of the stitches below over to form a strong horizontal line, as in our popular Contour Shawl pattern (above)

The raised trebles can be used to form a faux rib by alternating front and back post stitches. It doesn't quite have the stretch and elasticity of a knitted rib but it adds enough weight to stop the crochet curling so makes a good edging for sweaters. A basket weave effect can be made by alternating blocks of front and back raised stitches. This is the edging we used for Callander from  (above).

The raised treble front is also used to make crochet cables. By altering the order of the stitches a cabled effect can be made quite easily.

Crochet really is a craft divided by two languages and never more so when it comes to raised stitches, the terminology is completely different. In the UK standard crochet terminology the stitches (taking the treble variant as an example) are known as Raised Treble Front, abbreviated to RtrF and Raised Treble Back, abbreviated to RtrB. On the other side of the pond, in US terminology, they are known as post stitches (because the stitch is worked around the post of the stitch below) and they are known as Front Post Double Crochet, abbreviated to FPDC, and Back Post Double Crochet, abbreviated to BPDC.

But without further ado, lets get you making them. We are using the raised treble stitch for the tutorial. If you want to do a raised double crochet stitch (US single) then simply use the hook placement as a guide and otherwise make a double crochet as you normally would (eg, no yarn over before you insert the hook, draw up a loop around the stitch, yarn over and draw through both loops on the hook)


HOW TO

RAISED TREBLE FRONT

 

STEP ONE:
Yarn over

 

STEP TWO:
Insert the hook from front to back then back to front around the stitch.

 

STEP THREE:
Yarn over and draw up a loop.

 

STEP FOUR:
Yarn over and draw through two loops, yarn over and draw through last two loops.

 


RAISED TREBLE BACK:

STEP ONE:
Yarn over

 

STEP TWO:
Insert the hook on the far side of the stitch from back to front

 

STEP THREE:
Push hook front to back again around the stitch.

 

STEP FOUR:
Yarn over and draw up a loop.

 

STEP FIVE:
Yarn over and draw through two loops, yarn over and draw through last two loops.


Fancy giving it a go?

We have lots of patterns that use raised stitches and show how truly versatile the stitch is.

Clockwise from top left:

Bartsia Cardigan, Alchemilla Shawl, Contour Shawl, Gnarled Bark Hat, Pinetum Shawl, Callander Cardigan, Humphrey Shawl (centre)

This article was originally written (in substantially different format) and photographed by Joanne for Love Crochet Magazine and is republished with permission.

How to work a crochet spike stitch

Today we are getting spikey with it and looking at how to work a spike stitch.

The Malvern Cowl from Crochet Yeah! uses spike stitches for a colour work effect.

The Malvern Cowl from Crochet Yeah! uses spike stitches for a colour work effect.

Spike stitches are a decorative technique worked in crochet. Normally worked in double crochet rows using two or more colours in the piece, they are an easy way to introduce a colour work effect into crochet without having to juggle more than one colour in the same row.

Spike stitches are worked into previous rows by inserting the hook through the fabric rather than into the top of the stitch. They are a great way to add shading and texture. Playing with the depth and frequency of spike stitches along a row can add a variety of geometric colour patterns. Altering the length can create triangles or chevron effects in a piece or keep the spike stitches the same length to add squares or rectangles.

Why not try using rows of spike stitches in amongst rows of double crochet when working with colour change or ombre yarns to give an interesting effect?

Maple Falls Sweater uses multiple spike stitches to look like leaves.

Maple Falls Sweater uses multiple spike stitches to look like leaves.

It is just as easy to work multiple spikes in the same stitch to give an effect like leaves or a birds foot. Simply repeat Steps 2-4 as many times as needed before moving to Step 5 and do not restrict yourself to just working directly below the stitch.

Spike stitches make a great border on a plain piece and can even be worked effectively on a piece of knitting.

The reverse side is very similar to the right side so the fabric is reversible. This doesn't hold true of stitches with multiple spikes so if you want a reversible fabric, steer clear of these.

HOW TO:

STEP ONE:  Work up to the stitch before the spike stitch.

STEP TWO: Insert your hook from front to back through the fabric on the row below (or two or more rows as required by the pattern) making sure that the hook is in the column below the stitch.

STEP THREE: Keeping the yarn held at the back, yarn over and pull a loop through the fabric.

STEP FOUR: Draw the loop up to the height of the new row making sure it is neither puckered nor too slack.

STEP FIVE: Yarn over and pull through both loops on the hook (just like a normal double crochet) The stitch is completed.

TOP TIPS FOR GETTING IT RIGHT

Be careful where you place your hook in the rows below to give an even finish.

Make sure you pull the loop up to the same height as the new row to avoid puckering.

If you want to practice your stitch then you might be interested in buying the Malvern Cowl Kit - it contains all you need to make the cowl including three skeins of Socks Yeah Yarn, Crochet Yeah book (which contains the pattern plus five others), hook and stitch marker. It is available exclusively from our Etsy shop priced £27 plus p&p.

The book containing the Malvern Cowl pattern, Crochet Yeah, is available in print for £12 plus p&p or as an e-book for £10.

Maple Falls Sweater is available as a pdf download for £4

 

This article was originally written and photographed by Joanne for  and is republished with permission.

Contour Shawl

So, I guess you all really like the Contour Shawl, huh?  We are totally blown away with the response to our latest release.  Not only has it flown off the (virtual) shelves, but we have seen so many finished and in progress shawls popping up all over the internet!  Yay!!

 

At least once a day, we have been pouring through your makes - so in love with the different colour choices, it has us itching to make one in every single colour.  However, deadlines, so we will have to live vicariously through your awesome makes. 

One of the first to finish was Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch.  You can read all about her gorgeous shawl here and how she handled that very familiar game of yarn chicken

 

You can see more awesome contour shawls on Instagram and, if you haven't started one yet, you can get the pattern here

Three From The Top

We are so excited to release our newest collection, Three from the Top.  It is our first cardigan collection with 3 patterns sized from Baby to a 60in bust.  There is something for everyone!!

 

You can buy the print version here for £12

Alternatively, if eBooks are your jam, you can purchase the PDF from Ravelry for £10