Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crochet supplies for the new crocheter

Crochet Supplies for the New Crocheter
update ©2016 Sandra Petit, 

If you are a new crocheter, or you have a friend who is new to crochet, you might wonder what kinds of supplies you should have to make your crochet experience the best it can be. Since I recently needed this information, I thought I’d share what I gleaned by asking other crocheters which crochet supplies they thought important to have on hand. Of course, you can get these things gradually. You don’t have to run out and buy everything at once. The first items are those I consider most important. The others are lagniappe (extras that I believe will be helpful for your crocheting pleasure).

Yarn (light colored, smooth worsted weight), hook (J), scissors, and large eye needle. You might also want a needle threader if threading needles is difficult for you.
Hooks - There are two basic hook styles - inline (like Susan Bates hooks) and tapered Boye style. Which one you like best will be determined by you over time. If you are new to crochet, you may not know which works best for you so you might like to get an inexpensive hook in both types, or just choose one to see how you enjoy the craft (you will love it!).
You will also need to decide on a size to buy. Worsted weight yarns generally work well with an I or J hook, so that might be a good starting point as they are easily found in your local Walmart or craft store.
If you are financially able, you might like to try different types and sizes. Crochet hooks can be made with aluminum, plastic, wood, brass, steel, Corian and whatever custom designers can find that can be formed into a hook. You can find them with inline and tapered hook heads.

Yarn - You might like to start with a smooth, light or medium color, worsted weight yarn. I suggest not starting with a dark yarn or a multi-color (variegated, ombre, or tweed) yarn or a specialty yarn (like boucle) because it is more difficult to see your stitches. 

Most people learn to crochet using acrylic or wool yarn (as opposed to cotton or thread). Different yarns do work up differently, but in the beginning you don’t want to spend a fortune on specialty yarns for you to work up and rip out while you learn. I suggest getting a cheap, acrylic yarn to practice on. You might buy a skein of cotton worsted yarn, because it has such a different feel to it than acrylic or wool. You shouldn’t have a problem with the stitches using cotton but you want to use a hook where the cotton will glide over it easily. When you’re more comfortable in your crocheting skills, you might like to try other types of yarn. Remember to buy enough yarn in the same dye lot if you intend to do something with your practice projects. With the cotton, you can make bunches of dishcloths while you learn. They don’t have to be perfect. Who cares if a dishcloth is a little bit off?
Scissors - This is important. You need a good, sharp pair of small scissors. Actually, to be honest, you need a BUNCH of good, sharp scissors. LOL Mine keep disappearing.

Scissors - This is important. You need a good, sharp pair of small scissors. Actually, to be honest, you need a BUNCH of good, sharp scissors. LOL Mine keep disappearing.

Large Eye Needles for weaving – You need a needle through which your yarn or thread will go easily. I like #16 which I use with yarn from sport to bulky. They do make needles with even larger eyes for the super bulky yarns.

Stitch/row markers/holders - These are used to keep your work from unraveling if you have to walk away from it for a while. You don’t have to get official stitch markers, though they are handy little things and come in all sorts of types and designs. Make sure you get the crochet type, not the knitting type - they are different. You can make do with a paper clip or a safety pin. Recently, a visitor to the web site made a suggestion I liked so much I put it on the web site. Instead of using a stitch holder or safety pin, you just make what I call Lil’s Knot. It’s like a slip knot but you don’t use the hook. Your work won’t unravel and you don’t need to worry about having a pin handy. I use this myself more often than not.

Nail file or Emery board - There is nothing worse than working for hours on a project and have your nail snag and mess up a section way at the beginning of the work! It’s to your advantage to keep your nails clear of chips.

Ruler and/or nylon measuring tape - Don’t use the one from your husband’s tool box. Get a good flexible measuring tape. I like the retractable / spring ones and have several of them. That said, I also keep a wooden or plastic ruler handy as it is best for measuring squares most accurately.

Those are the basic supplies. There other things that you might like to have in addition to the basics.

You can find a lot of patterns and the answers to questions online now, but I like to also have books I can look throughI h.

Pattern leaflets/books - Everybody has their favorites. Leisure Arts is a long time publisher of crochet leaflets. There are many others as well.

Reference books – Over the years I have accumulated quite a collection of crochet reference books! The reference books include Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti, Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecraft (not just crochet), The Crocheter’s Companion by Nancy Brown, The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman, and Lily Chin's Crochet Tips & Tricks. New books come out often so just browse the shelves at your local bookstore or craft store.

Chibi needle holder - You will use needles for sewing in ends and this wonderful little Chibi holder is great to keep your needles in one place. They come with curved or straight needles, but you can buy your own needles and stick them in there as well. 

Magnifying glass - This is really depends on your eyes and the quality of the patterns you get. Great for seeing those little charts when working filet crochet.

Plastic sleeve protectors - These are good to protect patterns from spills while you’re working. I also use them in my Crochet Journal, where I keep a picture and pertinent information on items I’ve made as gifts so that if I want to make them again, I am able to find that pattern. 

Hook organizer - I have a quilted roll up hook case which I love, but I also have hooks stored in plastic boxes, toothbrush holders and other odd places.

Supply case / totes  – This is where I keep my overflow hooks, needles and other supplies. It has to be long enough to hold afghan hooks which are long. I also use totes to carry yarn for various projects.

Magnetic board  or clip board - holds patterns as you work.

Needle threader - In case you think this is only for thread users, think again. I’ve used it for yarn as well. This is particularly handy if you’re getting on in years and the eyesight/hand-eye coordination is not all it could be.

Highlighters - When you’re working a complicated pattern, it’s a good idea to photocopy the pattern and use a highlighter to mark each row as you finish it. Of course, your pattern will have a repeat. You can either make several copies and mark each one in a different color :-) or you can put hearts or pencil marks next to each one, using a different mark each time you go through the repeat.

Pom-Pom maker - If you like to add pom poms to your hats or other things, it might be a good thing to have one of these. 

Fringe / Tassel maker (right) - I love this little tool and use it quite often. There are many different kinds, but if you don't want to purchase a tool, you can just use a book or ruler to make your fringe.

Yarn bobbins - These are neat little creatures. When you finish your project, sometimes you have just a little bit of yarn left. If you leave it alone, it will eventually become a big mess. If you use a yarn bobbin, it will keep those bits neat and you can later work them all into a scrap yarn afghan. Also, you can use yarn bobbins to hold a bit of yarn needed while making a project that calls for a number of color changes. The bobbins hang there and wait for you to come back on the return row and pick it up again.

Office supply tags to keep track of projects - I have Crochet Journal sheets which I use to keep track of completed projects, but what about those projects that are terminally "in progress".  By the time I get back to them, I’ve forgotten what hook I was using, what pattern, which one of these white skeins is for which project - you know the dye lots are different. LOL With one little note, I could have all that information at hand. Office supply tags have a string with which you can attach the tag so it's always with your project.

Small photo album - If you have "shortcut" patterns that fit on index cards, you can put them in this photo album and keep it near your crochet supplies. I guess this might be more for experienced crocheters, but one day you will all be experienced. What I mean here by "shortcut" patterns is this. You’re working a pattern and it’s pretty complicated but you can see where it’s going. It goes on and on but what you really need to remember is "first row sc" "second row dc" "third row long stitch". Since the previous rows are done, all you have to do is glance down to know what you meant. I remember one pattern particularly that I did. It was so complicated to follow each row. I decided to simplify it.

Instead of reading the entire long instruction, I wrote:
I hook, name of afghan
2/lsc row
6, ch 2, sk 2
6, 2sc in sp, dc
That was one sequence.

The next was
2sc in sp

Of course you have no idea what I’m talking about, but if you were working the pattern, it would make perfect sense because you’ve been going through the rows and understand the pattern by that point. This is the kind of thing you’d put in your little album.

Also you might put little notes on hook sizes or what hook to use with what yarn, as noted above.

If you're using the large office supply tags, you can even attach this information to your project and then put it in your album for future use.

I'm sure there are other crochet supplies you can use but this should give you a pretty good start.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Yarn Dictionary

In my quest to highlight portions of the web site that you may not have visited, here's the yarn dictionary. I did some slight updating to it, hopefully making it more useful.

These are certainly not all the terms that apply to yarn,but should be enough to get you started and answer some questions you might have about it.

Yarn Dictionary
©2016 Sandra Petit

Yarn comes in different kinds of packages. One is called a ball. It might be wound with a center pull or it might not. Generally, however, it is in a roundish shape
Brand name
Many manufacturers make more than one type of yarn. The brand name would help you to shop for the specific fiber you want. Red Heart, Bernat, Caron, Knit Picks, Wintuk, Sayelle, Patons. These are all brand names.

Within some there are "sub" groups. For ex. Red Heart has Super Saver, Classic, Red Heart with Love, Red Heart Soft, etc.  One of the Knit Picks types is Brava and within Brava there is Brava Sport and Brava worsted and Brava Bulky.

Some stores have their own brand. For example, Hobby Lobby has I Love This Yarn.
Color flashing
This is when your variegated or ombre yarn creates an unexpected, and possibly unwanted, pattern in your project.
Color pooling
This is when certain colors in the color pattern repeat of your variegated or ombre yarn pool together, causing spots of color throughout your completed project.
This is another way to package yarn. Cotton yarn or string often comes in a cone, which holds more than a regular ball or skein and is wound on a heavy cardboard center. Yarn is pulled from the outside of the cone.
Dye lot
When yarn is dyed, all the yarn that is dyed at one time is given a "lot" number. This number is stamped on the wrapper for all the yarn done at that time. You should always buy enough of the same dye lot to complete your project. If you run out, you should try to match your yarn as closely as possible, but there is sometimes great discrepancy in the shade of different dye lots.
Material that makes up the strands in a skein.
Lion Brand calls this "frosts." I call it the shiny thread that runs through yarns such as the Christmas yarns, but since I didn’t have a real name for it, I’m borrowing their term "frosts."
Gauge is given in a pattern so that your project will come out looking like the one you see in the picture that is with your pattern. To check gauge, you would make a small swatch from the pattern, or if no swatch instructions are given, complete the first few rows of the pattern which include all the main bits of it. Then measure to see if your stitches match the gauge given.

For example, it might say 2 dc = 1" or something like that. Be sure you check for correct height as well as width.

I mostly work on afghans and, to me, gauge is not that important in an afghan or scarf since I don’t care if my item is slightly smaller or larger than the pattern indicates. For projects such as clothing, however, it is very important to follow the listed gauge.

You should use whatever hook gives you the gauge noted even if the hook is different than the one listed.
The company that makes the yarn. Coats and Clark makes Red Heart for example. Most manufacturer web sites offer free patterns and some have FAQs and tips.
Measurement used for hooks and some yarns. Metric measurements are not widely used in U.S. but are gaining in popularity.
This is similar to the term variegated, but in an ombre skein the strand changes to different shades of the same color, like shades of blue, or shades of brown, rather than different colors in the same skein. Ombre yarn is also subject to color flashing and color pooling, just as variegated yarns are.
Number of strands woven together.

In some countries they use the term ply rather than fingering, sport etc.
Yarn is also packaged in skeins. A skein is similar to a ball, but not as short and fat. Skeins come in different sizes as well. You can find skeins with as little as 1 3/4 oz. and as much as 16 oz. of yarn. The most popular are probably the 3 to 8 oz. Manufacturer sometimes change the way they package yarn so this info may also change.
Looks like little bits of different colored yarn scattered throughout. It makes a very pretty product, but I wonder about the longevity of those bits. Will they withstand repeated washings? I don’t have an answer.
Tweed yarn has been around for many years. However, the use of the term has changed. It used to mean two different colors wound together but in a search I see that the term is used for what I previously called speckled or sprinkled yarn. This is yarn with little bits of another color sprinkled throughout.

If you like the “old” tweed look, you can create  this look yourself by combining two yarn colors and working them together as one strand. I find white or cream combine well with just about any other color.
This is similar to the term ombre, but in a variegated skein the strand changes to different colors in sequence, like blue to green to white or whatever, rather than shades of the same color.

For example, the Christmas yarn has a pattern of different colors -- white, green, white, red. Itis repeated throughout the skein.

I love variegated yarns but I am wary of them as well. I have used skeins of the same dye lot and when I looked at the completed piece, there was a definite pattern in some of it - this is called color flashing. It would be okay if the pattern ran throughout but I could pull my hair out when I see one skein making one pattern and the next making a different one. Sometimes this can be fixed by just changing the number of chains on your foundation chain, but by the time you see the pattern, it is too late for that. I have ripped out a whole skein and used it for say, a granny square, and it is fine.

If this bothers you, my suggestion is to be alert, check each skein to be sure the colors are running in the same direction. In other words, make SURE your skein #2 still has white, green, white, red, and NOT white, red, white, green. Also, try to estimate as close as possible where one skein ends and the next begins for joining. See what part of the color scheme your last stitch ended and try to match it as near as possible when you join your new skein. If you see the pattern emerging after you’ve gone too far to rip back, try using the skein from a different end or cutting out a strand so your repeats fall in a different place.

Another thing that may happen with variegated yarn is color pooling. That is where the same colors in your repeat end up near one another causing a "pool" of that color.
Weight gives you an idea of how thick or heavy your yarn is. You can’t judge solely on weight as I’ve had two yarns both saying worsted weight and one was obviously thinner than the other. Generally, we consider light worsted and heavy worsted to distinguish them.

There are several weights - fingering, sport, worsted, chunky, bulky and more.

Different countries use different words to convey similar types of yarn weight. Some use grams, some ounces or pounds. Many will put both, plus yards to help us out.

Each manufacturer may have skeins of different weights available, sometimes in the same colors.
A yard is 3 feet or 36”.

How many yards in a skein? Interesting question. It varies depending on the kind of yarn and weight.

If you’re making a particular item that uses different colors, you want to make sure you have enough of each yarn for your project. That being the case, read the labels and make sure each skein contains the same number of yards or adjust your purchase accordingly.

It is also good to use yarn of the same weight. How can you tell other than comparing the strands physically? There should be a listing of so many stitches per inch or 4 inches. If you are comparing the same number of inches and one uses more stitches in that number then it is a thinner yarn.

Interweave Press has The Crocheter's Handy Guide To Yarn Requirements. The description says: “This handy guide contains specific yardage requirements for nine of the most popular crocheted items-caps, scarves, bags, afghans, ponchos, baby sweaters, short and long skirts and tops. The yardages are given for working various sizes in single crochet using five standard yarn weights, from fingering to bulky.”

Happy crocheting!

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Another problem some have with reading patterns is the use of symbols such as the ones used to indicate a repeat of a particular part of the pattern.

The symbols ( ) and [ ] set off instructions that are to be repeated within a pattern.

[dc, sk 2 ch, sc] across
That means you would repeat the stitches specified within the brackets across the row in that order.

A pattern might also use both parentheses and brackets.

[2 dc in next st, (dc, sk 2 ch, sc) four times] across.
This means that you would work 2 double crochet in the next stitch, then you would work a dc, sk 2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc. Then you would start over with 2 dc in next st, then the repeating (dc, sk 2 ch, sc) which would be worked four times. Each time you go back to the 2 dc at the beginning because it is included in the repeat.

Another way to set off particular pattern instructions is to use the asterisk  * .
The asterisk will be placed in front of the stitches that need to be repeated.

*dc, sk 2 ch, sc, repeat from * four times
In this case you would crochet dc, sk 2 ch, sc, then repeat that sequence four times for a total of five: dc, sk2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc, dc, sk 2 ch, sc

Another way the asterisk is used is to for one asterisk to be placed at the beginning of the instructions to be repeated and one at the end.

*dc, sk 2 ch, sc *, repeat from * to * four times

All of these may be combined in one pattern sequence. That is when it gets really confusing and you have to pay attention to what you are doing. If the repeats are confusing, you can put each sequence on a different line to make sure you follow them in the correct order and number of times.

Sometimes a pattern will not need to be that exact. It might say to work the sequence until you have crocheted a number of inches. That gives you the option of using different hooks or yarns as long as you get the required number of inches. I don't think this would work well in clothing, but for afghans, scarves and such it would work fine.

Happy crocheting!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

crochet abbreviations

You're trying to read a pattern and it looks like a foreign language. That is because most crochet patterns use specific abbreviations which are recognized in the crochet community. Most patterns use the same abbreviations but you may run across one that uses their own shortcut.

Here is a list of common abbreviations. I'm sure there are others I've missed. Feel free to holler out to me and I'll add any I can confirm.

alt - alternate
approx - approximately
beg - begin, beginning
bet - between
BLO - back loop only
bo - bobble
BP - back post
BPdc - back post double crochet
CC - contrasting color
ch - chain
cl - cluster
cont - continue
dbl - double
dbl lk - double love knot
dc - double crochet
dc2tog - double crochet two together
dec - decrease
dir - directions
dk - dark
dnt - do not turn
dtr or dbltr - double triple
ea - each
edc - extended double crochet
esc - extended single crochet
exdc - extended double crochet
exsc - extended single crochet
fch - foundation chain
fig - figure (picture of stitch)
FLO - front loop only
fo - finish off
foll - following
FP - front post
FPdc - front post double crochet
g - grams
gm - grams
gr - group or grams
gs - granny square
hdc - half double crochet
hhdc - herringbone half double crochet
hk - hook
htr - half triple crochet
in - inch
inc - increase
incl - including
inst - instructions
ldc - long double crochet
lp(s) - loop(s)
lp st - loop stitch
lsc - long single crochet
lt - light
MC - main color
med - medium
mm - millimeter
mod-sc - modified single crochet
no. - number
oz(s) - ounce
p - picot
pat - pattern stitch
patt st - pattern stitch
pc st - popcorn stitch (also pop, pc, ps)
pm - place marker
prev - previous
ras - reverse afghan stitch
rem - remaining
rep - repeat
rnd - round
rs - right side
rsc - reverse single crochet
sc - single crochet
sc2tog - single crochet two together
sctbl - single crochet through back loop only
sdc - short double crochet
sk - skip
slst - slip stitch
sp - space
ssc - shallow single crochet
st(s) - stitch(es)
tch - turning chain
tog - together
tr - triple (or treble) crochet
tr tr - triple treble crochet
v st - v-stitch
x st - x-stitch
x times - (such as repeat 5x)
ws - wrong side
yd - yards
yf - yarn forward
yo - yarn over
yoh - yarn over hook
y st - y-stitch

Happy crocheting!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

foreign terms

Did you know that books, leaflets, blogs and web sites from different places may be using different terminology than you are used to? It's true. If you are in the United States, like I am, you use a particular set of terms. If you are in, for example, the United Kingdom, the same terms may mean something different. 

Here is a chart to help you with at least a bit of it. Remember to check the origin of the pattern you're trying to decipher or you may end up with a project that looks nothing like you envision. (I know the picture is small, but if you click on it, it will enlarge.)

Happy crocheting!