Felting — The fun of felted crochet, plus two handbag patterns

If you’ve never discovered the fun of felting, these easy, step-by-step instructions will show you how. Included are instructions for two colorful, eye-catching felted crochet purses to stitch using either 100 percent wool or wool-blend yarn.

felted crochet handbags

Felted Crochet Handbags

fabfeltedcrochet_page_1_image_0002

What is felting? Felting is a process by which wool fibers are tightened into a dense, strong material that is incredibly tough and long-wearing. Several ancient cultures used felted wool to make their shelters during their travels. Felting is also what happens when a favorite wool sweater gets turned into something resembling a pot holder. Unplanned and uncontrolled, felting is a bad thing. However, with planning, control and a great choice of colors, felting is a fabulous way to make useful, fun objects and terrific gifts.

The most important part of felting is the choice of yarn. Felting only works with animal hair fibers that have not been chemically treated to be washable. The best fiber for felting is wool. A wool/mohair blend also works very well, with slightly different results.

Blends that contain acrylic or any other fibers generally will not work with felting. Any yarn that says “superwash” on the label will never felt. Both Brown Sheep and Cascade produce excellent feltable yarns that come in a large assortment of colors.

Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride yarns are an 85 percent wool/15 percent mohair blend. These yarns work well with felting and they will felt with a nice dense texture that tends to be thicker and fuzzier because of the mohair in the blend. Some of the heathered colors will be especially fuzzy and are a great choice for furry projects like slippers or stuffed toys.

Cascade’s 220 Wool is 100 percent wool. It felts to a smoother surface that is great for things with a more tailored look, like nice square corners on a tote bag. 220 Wool also comes in heathers (220 Wool Heathers) and in a series of marled or two-color plied yarns (220 Wool Quatro) that give a tweedy look when felted.

The second most important part of felting is the way you stitch your project. Because crochet already tends to be dense in structure, it needs to be opened up more for proper felting.

If a medium (worsted) weight yarn, normally used with a size G or H hook, is felted, the resulting texture will bear a strong resemblance to plywood. If the same yarn is crocheted with a size J hook, it will look too loose and have gaps showing between the stitches before felting, but will felt to a closed up, dense fabric with a nice hand. Stitch choice also affects the result.

Single crochet will tend to be stiffer and double crochet might still have a few gaps. Half double crochet is the proverbial “just right” stitch for most projects, having a nice hand and flexibility, but no gaps.

In theory, almost any small-project pattern can be turned into a feltable pattern if the hook size is changed and a good felting yarn is used. If you choose to convert a pattern, plan to make a test piece before committing a lot of time and yarn as the other variables in the felting process can also affect results.

Once a piece is completed, it’s time to go to the washer. Using a washing machine is the easiest way to felt unless the sample is very small. Placing the project into a zippered pillow cover prevents any fibers from getting into the washer and also protects things like purse straps from getting caught and stretched. Add a few towels for help in agitation and load balance. Use half the soap needed for a normal load. A gentle soap is best, but used in smaller quantities, regular laundry soap will also work. Set the load for the hottest water available for the wash cycle and a cold rinse. Turn it on and let it go.

One of the creative parts of felting is that the process can be stopped anytime. A lightly felted or “fulled” fabric with fully visible stitches is achieved after a short cycle in the wash. A fully felted fabric will have no visible stitches at all and can take as may as five washer cycles depending on the washer. Most projects are felted to someplace in the middle, as desired. Check the piece after the first load. Does it have a long way to go, or is it almost where it should be? If it has a long way to go, put it back in the washer and let it go though as many cycles as needed.

If it’s nearly there, put it back in, but stay close and open the washer every few minutes to check the progress. With things like hats, try the damp piece on to see if it fits. If it’s still too large, keep going, when it fits, stop. When the required level of felting is reached, take the project out of the pillow cover and arrange it as needed to dry. Do NOT put it in the dryer, or that fabulous hat for your mother will fit her cat instead! Arrange the items on a dry towel, out of direct sunlight. If it’s something flat like mittens, simply lay them out. For dimensional projects like hats, purses or tote bags, put something inside them that will help hold the desired shape — a bowl under a hat, a plastic-wrapped box of soda cans in a big tote, etc. — a couple of plastic grocery bags work especially well to shape slippers.

This next step is hard … walk away from the project. Let it dry completely — without touching it. On a large project, this can take several days. In a desperate pinch for time, a hair dryer on a low heat setting can be used.

Gauge is normally important, and would normally be discussed much earlier in the project. In felting, gauge is not nearly as important because the piece is purposefully being crocheted in an open, loose manner and then is felted down to the desired size. Gauge has very little effect on fit when a hat that looks like a huge ugly sack 36 inches around is made and then felted down to be an adorable, turned-brim, dressy, winter hat that fits a 221/2-inch head.

A fun thing to try is to include a synthetic, nonfelting yarn, such as a novelty or eyelash yarn as a carry along with the wool. When the wool felts, the synthetic yarn stands up or pops for a great trim. Try it for a furry edge on a hat, stripes on a purse or cuffs on mittens.

Felting can be used for any size project. In general, the larger the amount of yarn, the harder it is to control the process. For example, it is much more difficult to be sure of even results in a large project, like a coat, than it is to be sure of the results in smaller objects like purses, hats or slippers. A whole group of smaller pieces can be felted in one load as long as colors are separated into different pillow covers. It is very satisfying to see several purses or a whole row of pairs of slippers done at one time, lined up drying for family gifts. Have a great time playing with great yarns!

Felted crochet diamond sample

Diamonds swatch: Notice the puckering between the diamonds at the bottom; this sample did not have the thread carries snipped as called for in pattern.

unfelted half double crochet swatch

Unfelted “before” half double crochet swatch.

felted half double crochet

Plain, half double crochet rows: two wash cycles.

Unfelted half double crochet swatch.

Unfelted “before” half double crochet swatch.

lightly felted

Lightly felted or “fulled”: one wash cycle.

felted half double crochet

Plain, half double crochet rows: two wash cycles.

further felted crochet

Still further: three wash cycles, notice it’s getting hard to count the stitches.

fully felted crochet

Fully felted: four wash cycles, cannot count the green stitches accurately.

DIAMOND BAG
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate
FINISHED SIZE

Before felting: 12 1/2 x 16 x 39 inches, including straps

After felting: 10 1/2 x 12 3/4 x 26 inches, including straps

GAUGE

Because this piece will be felted, gauge is not critical. There should be sp showing between sts when bag is held up to the light.

PATTERN NOTES

When changing colors always change in the last stitch made.

Carry yarn loosely across back of work, a finger should easily fit in the carried loop.

The carried yarn will be trimmed later.

The Bag shown was washed through 2 normal length, hot-water/cold-rinse washer loads for this degree of felting.

It is critical that after the first cycle, the thread carries on the inside of the diamond pattern are snipped in the center. These carries will felt faster than the rest of the Bag and will distort the pattern unless snipped. One washer cycle completes enough felting so that no stitches will come apart. After the Bag is dry, trim any remaining bits of the thread carries.

Join with slip stitch as indicated unless otherwise stated.

BAG

Rnd 1: With A, loosely ch 28, working in back lps (see Stitch Guide), hdc in 3rd ch from hook (first 2 sk chs count as first hdc—place marker), hdc in each rem ch across to last ch, 5 hdc in last ch (place marker in first and 5th st), working on opposite side and in rem lps of beg ch, hdc in each ch across with 4 hdc in last ch, (place marker at beg of last 4 sts, you should have 5 hdc between first and last markers around end), join (see Pattern Notes) in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. (60 hdc)

Rnd 2: Sl st in next st, ch 2, [hdc in each st across to first marker, 2 hdc in each of next 5 sts (move markers on each rnd as you work)] around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. (70 hdc)

Rnd 3: Ch 2, hdc in each st across to first marker, [2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st] 5 times, hdc in each st across to marker, [2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st] 5 times, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. (80 hdc)

Rnd 4: Ch 2, *hdc in each st across to marker, [2 hdc in next st, hdc in each of next 2 sts] twice, 2 hdc in next st, hdc in next st, 2 hdc in next st, [hdc in each of next 2 sts, 2 hdc in next st] twice, rep from *, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. (92 hdc)

Rnd 5: Ch 2, *hdc in each st across to marker, 2 hdc in next st, [hdc in each of next 3 sts, 2 hdc in next st] 5 times, rep from *, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. Remove markers. (104 hdc)

Rnds 6-9: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 10: Ch 2, hdc in same st, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. (105 hdc)

Rnd 11: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 5 sts, changing colors (see Pattern Notes) to B in last st made, [hdc in next st, changing to A, hdc in each of next 6 sts, changing to B] around to last st, hdc in last st, changing to A, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 12: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 4 sts, changing to B, hdc in each of next 2 sts, changing to A, *hdc in each of next 5 sts, changing to B, hdc in each of next 2 sts, changing to A, rep from * around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 13: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 3 sts, *changing to B, hdc in each of next 3 sts, changing to A**, hdc in each of next 4 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 14: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 2 sts *changing to B, hdc in each of next 4 sts, changing to A**, hdc in each of next 3 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 15: Ch 2, hdc in next st, *changing to B, hdc in each of 5 sts, changing to A**, hdc in each of next 2 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 16: Ch 2, *changing to B, hdc in each of 6 sts** changing to A, hdc in next st, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 17: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join with sl st in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 18: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 5 sts, *changing to A in last st made, hdc in next st, changing to B**, hdc in each of next 6 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 19: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 4 sts, *changing to A, hdc in each of next 2 sts, changing to B**, hdc in each of next 5 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 20: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 3 sts, *changing to A, hdc in each of next 3 sts, changing to B**, hdc in each of next 4 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 21: Ch 2, hdc in each of next 2 sts, *changing to A, hdc in each of next 4 sts, changing to B**, hdc in each of next 3 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 22: Ch 2, hdc in next st *changing to A, hdc in each of next 5 sts, changing to B**, hdc in each of next 2 sts, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 23: Ch 2, *changing to A, hdc in each of next 6 sts**, changing to B, hdc in next st, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. Fasten off B.

Rnds 24-28: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join 2nd ch of beg ch-2. At end of last rnd, fasten off.

Rnd 29: Join B in first st, ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnds 30 & 31: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. At end of last rnd, fasten off. Do not work in yarn ends, they can be clipped off after felting.

STRAP MAKE 2.

Row 1: With B, loosely ch 110, hdc in 3rd ch from hook and in each rem ch across, turn.

Rows 2 & 3: Ch 2, hdc in each st across, turn. At end of last row, fasten off. Sew long edges tog forming a tube. Loosely sew the ends of Strap to desired position inside of Bag, keeping the Strap lined up the full width of the top strip. Loose stitching is needed because these sts will felt a little faster than the rest of the bag and could distort if they get too tight.
STRIPED BAG

SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate

FINISHED SIZE Before felting: 121/2 x 16 inches After felting: 91/2 x 12 inches

MATERIALS

  • Cascade 220 Wool medium (worsted) weight wool yarn (31/2 oz/220 yds/100g per hank): 1 hank each #8555 black and #7814 chartreuse
  • Size J/10/6mm crochet hook
  • Tapestry needle
  • Purse handles
  • Stitch marker

GAUGE Because this piece will be felted, gauge is not critical. There should be sp showing between sts when bag is held up to the light.

PATTERN NOTES

The Bag shown was washed through 4 normallength, hot-water/cold-rinse washer loads for this degree of felting.

Join with slip stitch as indicated unless otherwise stated.

BAG

Rnd 1: With chartreuse, rep rnds 1-9 of Diamond Bag. Remove markers. (104 hdc)

Rnd 10: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. At end of last rnd, fasten off.

Rnd 11: Join black in first st, ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 12: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. Fasten off.

Rnd 13: Join chartreuse with sl st in first st, ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2.

Rnd 14: Ch 2, hdc in each st around, join in 2nd ch of beg ch-2. Fasten off.

Rnds 15-32: [Rep rnds 11–14 consecutively] 5 times, ending last rep with rnd 12. At end of last rnd, fasten off. Felt to desired degree. When drying, put several round cans, such as soup or vegetable cans, in bottom to help maintain flat bottom with rounded ends shape. This purse is more fully felted than the Diamonds Bag. After drying, clip any ends, add the handles. Attach handles according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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Unspun Wool & Fibers: Crochet From Batt to Beautiful

The variety of unspun wool and exotic fibers on the market today offer a wonderland of experiences for the fiber enthusiast. Silk, wool, alpaca, camel and mohair are just a few in the cornucopia of choices. Not only can you find these fibers already spun, plied and labeled for your convenience, but you can also find these fibers available in unspun form. Using unspun wool and other fibers can make it very affordable to crochet and knit with exotic fibers to create hats, scarves, sweaters and more.

Working with unspun wool and other fibers comes with a bit of a learning curve, but it is well worth the experience. It really gives you a great sense of accomplishment because you are involved with the entire process from creating your fiber to making your project.

First, let’s explain what we mean by unspun wool. When you purchase yarn, you are purchasing fibers that have been spun or twisted into strands, which are then usually plied together with other spun strands to form a yarn or thread. Conversely, unspun fibers are those that have not yet gone through the spinning and plying process. Once you know how to handle and work with these fibers, you can use them instead of yarn or thread in a crochet or knit project. You can also use unspun wool and a yarn or thread of a contrasting color. Some combinations of thread and unspun wool or other fibers are simply beautiful.

After the sheep have been sheared, the wool is washed and combed to remove the debris commonly referred to as “VM” or vegetable matter. The remaining fiber is then run through a carding process and then formed into batts, roving or “top.”

Top is a long piece, approximately 2-4 inches in diameter. It requires a complex process that involves extensive combing and drawing of the wool to keep the individual fibers parallel. It is shown in the far right of Photo A.

unspun wool photo A

Photo A

Roving is also a long piece, approximately 2-4 inches in diameter, with the fibers lying in random directions. It is shown in the center of Photo A.

Batts are large pieces of roving laid out flat. As with roving, the fibers lay in random directions. The initial shape is thinner in depth than roving and can be quite long and wide, like a quilt batt. It is shown in the top left of Photo A.

A batt was used for the instructions in this article, but you would use the same process for roving or top. The fiber used is carded Corridale Cross from DyakCraft (formerly known as Grafton Fibers).

The first step in creating unspun wool and other fiber from a batt is to separate the fiber into a manageable strip. Open the batt and gently pull away a strip about 2 inches wide from one end (see Photo B). If you are using roving, pull off a hank about 3-4 feet in length and separate the hank into 1-inch-wide strips.

unspun wool photo B

Photo B

Before drafting the unspun wool with which you will crochet or knit, you need to determine staple-fiber length and how far to pull the fibers. The staple fiber is the length of the hair, which is important because the individual hairs hold on to each other by friction. You can only draft or pull the unspun wool or fiber to half the length of the staple fiber; pulling further causes the fiber to pull apart as there is not enough friction between the hairs to hold it together. Some unspun wool or other fibers will hold together if drafted slightly longer; however, a good rule of thumb to remember is to draft only half the length of the staple.

Find the staple length by gently pulling a thin strand from the unspun wool or fiber. Now place that thin fiber strand between the thumb and forefinger of one hand and gently pull the strand with the opposite thumb and forefinger until you have only a few strands in your fingers that are a single length. Holding the length between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, you can see the length of the staple fiber (see Photo C). In this case the staple fiber is approximately 4 inches long, which means that I can only pull the fiber half that length, or 2 inches, before it falls apart.

unspun wool photo C

Photo C

Drafting the unspun wool or fiber takes a bit of practice, but it will go rather quickly for you after you get the feel of it. Taking the strip you separated from the batt, gently hold the fiber in your nondominant hand with the end you are going to pull from between your thumb and forefinger. Now, using the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand, pull the tip of the strand out and away from the strip in light, short strokes making sure that you are only drafting the fiber half the length of the staple. In this instance, I can pull about 2 inches of fiber before stopping and repositioning my hands and fingers to pull again.

You will be using a pulling action, but do not yank the fiber and do not hold the fiber with too much pressure. Not only will this result in hanks of fiber coming away from the source, it will also hurt your fingers and hands. Always use gentle pressure and draft using a smooth, easy rhythm.

The thickness of the draft depends on the amount of fiber you hold between your thumb and forefinger to draft out from the strip. As you can see in Photo D, holding only a narrow section of fiber, about 1/4 inch in width, in my right hand, and the fiber coming from the source in my left hand is forming a nice, thin triangle coming out from the strip and drafting into a nice and even strand that I can work with. I like to pull my fiber from about 1/4 inch in width to as fine as slightly less than 1/8 inch in width (see Photo D). Continue to draft the fiber until you come to the end of your strip, allowing it to pool in a loose pile.

unspun wool photo D

Photo D

Once you have some fiber drafted, you need to wind it so that you can crochet or knit with it. Unspun wool is extremely difficult to wind onto a wool winder, since it can fall apart as you wind it. Instead, try using a smooth, coated mailing tube that is about 6 inches in length and about 2 inches in diameter. Holding the tube, place the end of the fiber onto the tube and hold it there with your thumb. Tightening up very gently, wrap the drafted fiber around the tube in slightly crisscross wraps, allowing the fiber to flow through your fingers and onto the tube (see Photo E).

unspun wool photo E

Photo E

This gentle tension on the fiber allows it to wrap around the tube without felting or adhering to itself too much. Do not pull hard or tighten up too much or the fiber will pull apart. Wind the fiber in the center of the tube about 3 inches wide. Do not wind up and down the entire length of the tube or the fiber will adhere to itself. Mark your tube with a permanent marker if you need to and stay within the lines.

When you get to the end of the drafted strand that you have wrapped, leave a tail of about 4-6 inches. Draft another strand, and then fuse the end of the new strand to the tail on the tube by laying the strands in the palm of your hand with their lengths overlapping each other about 2-3 inches. Place the palm of your opposite hand over the strands and rub the strands together in one direction only. Do not rub back in the opposite direction or you will untwist the fuse. You can also apply a little bit of moisture to the strands if you choose. Wind this strand onto your tube and continue on with drafting.

Crocheting or knitting with your unspun wool and fiber is, relatively speaking, the same as working with yarn. Crocheting with unspun wool is usually much easier than knitting because you can normally apply tension very loosely over one finger when crocheting
as long as you don’t pull on the fiber (see Photo F).

unspun wool photo F

Photo F

Remember that the unspun wool or fiber is very delicate. If you are having difficulty, try holding the unspun wool or fiber in your hand and wrapping it around the hook without tensioning the unspun wool or fiber around or over your finger.

CRANBERRY CLOCHE CROCHET PATTERN

unspun wool cloche pattern

Cloche pattern

SKILL LEVEL: Easy

FINISHED SIZES

Instructions given fit woman’s size small/ medium; changes for large/X-large are in [ ].

FINISHED MEASUREMENT

Circumference: 181/2 inches (small/medium) [201/4 inches (large/X-large)]

MATERIALS

  • 100 percent wool or wool/blend roving: 4 oz/200 yds/113g burgundy
  • Sizes F/5/3.75mm and H/8/5mm crochet hooks or size needed to obtain gauge
  • 6-inch coated mailing tube, 2–3 inches in diameter
  • Stitch markers

GAUGE

Size H hook: 15 sc = 4 inches; 19 sc rows = 4 inches

PATTERN NOTES

Draft wool to 1/8–1/4-inch thickness comparable to light worsted-weight yarn and wind onto center section of coated mailing tube. If unspun wool seems to be too thick, you can thin the wool as you crochet with it. Join with slip stitch as indicated unless otherwise stated.

CLOCHE CROWN

Rnd 1: With size H hook, ch 3, join (see Pattern Notes) in first ch to form ring, ch 1, 6 sc in ring, do not join rnds, mark first st of each rnd. (6 sc)

Rnd 2: 2 sc in each st around. (12 sc)

Rnd 3: [Sc in next st, 2 sc in next st] around. (18 sc)

Rnd 4: [Sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (24 sc)

Rnd 5: [Sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (30 sc)

Rnd 6: [Sc in each of next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (36 sc)

Rnd 7: Ch 1, sc in each st around.

Rnd 8: [Sc in each of next 5 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (42 sc)

Rnd 9: Ch 1, sc in each st around.

Rnd 10: [Sc in each of next 6 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (48 sc)

Rnd 11: Sc in each st around.

Rnd 12: [Sc in each of next 7 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (54 sc)

Rnd 13: Sc in each st around.

Rnd 14: [Sc in each of next 8 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (60 sc)

Rnd 15: Sc in each st around.

Rnd 16: [Sc in each of next 9 sts, 2 sc in next st] around. (66 sc)

Rnd 17: Sc in each st around.

LARGE/X-LARGE SIZE ONLY Rnd [18]: [Sc in each of next [10] sts, 2 sc in next st] around. ([72] sc)
BOTH SIZES Rnd 18 [19]: Sc in each st around.

BODY

Rnd 1: [(Sc, dc) in next st, sk next st] around.

Rnd 2: [(Sc, dc) in next sc, sk next dc] around.

Next rnds: Rep rnd 2 until Cloche measures 7–71/2 [81/2–9] inches from beg.

LOWER EDGE

Rnd 1: Sc in each st around. (66 [72] sc)

Rnd 2: With size F hook, ch 3, dc in each st around.

Rnd 3: *Fpdc (see Stitch Guide) around next st, bpdc (see Stitch Guide) around next st, rep from * around.

Rnds 4 & 5: Rep rnd 3. At end of last rnd, fasten off.

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Crochet with Fur and Learn How to Spin Pet Hair

Crochet with fur for a one-of-a-kind crafting experience. Have you ever had a special dog in your life that had a beautiful, downy-soft coat, and you thought to yourself, This would make some incredible yarn! With a little know-how and understanding of pet-hair fibers, it’s easy to create your own unique blend of pet-hair yarn from the fur of a beloved friend.

Why crochet with fur from pets?

First, it’s not practical for most people to keep traditional fiber animals like sheep or llamas, but it is practical to have a dog that, in addition to loving companionship, will provide you with a ready source of fiber to spin. Second, long after a beloved friend is no longer here, a knitter or crocheter will have a pair of cozy socks or a cute, fuzzy hat as a memento.

 

If you crochet with fur from your dog or cat, does it smell?

While some dogs smell more “doggy” than others, once the pet fur yarn has been washed it usually doesn’t have a noticeable smell. There are exceptions, however. Hair from a wolf-dog hybrid will usually reek, even after multiple washings.

What kinds of pet hair can you spin and use to crochet with fur?

You can spin almost any hair as long as the hairs are at least 1 1/2 inches long. Most dogs are double-coated with stiff, coarse guard hairs outside and a soft, downy undercoat next to the skin. For dogs, a slicker brush works well to collect the undercoat without getting a lot of the guard hairs too. Some excellent favorite breeds to spin are sheltie, husky and Samoyed. You can also spin hair from breeds without a double coat, such as poodle and Afghan hound. Longhair cats work well too.

How to spin pet hair into yarn so you can crochet with fur

There are a number of steps involved in processing pet hair into yarn to crochet with fur.

  1. Collect the pet fur.

Naturally shed hair is best. If you brush your dog, collect the hair from the brush and keep it in a bag. Using clipped hair is not recommended. Hair clipped from double-coated breeds will have a lot of guard hairs in it that will have to be picked out.

Some state and federal laws prohibit processing, buying or selling anything made from domestic cat or dog. These laws are designed to prohibit the killing of pets for their flesh or pelt. However, the wording of some laws is broad enough to include items made from shed or clipped hair. It’s a good idea to check the dog- and cat-protection laws in your area, especially if you plan to crochet with fur for other people either privately or commercially.

  1. Pick the card.

“Picking” the fiber is sorting through the hair to separate the usable from the unusable. The three-bag method works well for most. Begin with three paper grocery bags: one for the collected hair, one for the guard hairs, twigs, matted clumps, etc. that get picked out, and a third bag to hold the hair for spinning.

“Carding” uses a pair of paddles with rows of small, bent-wire teeth to comb the hair so that all the hairs run parallel to each other. Sometimes the picking process will make the hair fluffy enough that it doesn’t need carding. If you want to blend the pet hair with another fiber, like wool, to modify the properties of the resulting yarn, you would need to card the different fibers together.

  1. Spin the pet hair into yarn so you can crochet with fur.

Spinning twists the hairs together to form a ply (single strand). Two common spinning tools are the drop spindle and the spinning wheel. A drop spindle has a weight at one end of the shaft. You set the spindle turning in the same way that you would spin a top. A spinning wheel has a foot treadle to keep the wheel turning continuously. With both tools, it’s the rotation that supplies the twist.

Two things control the thickness of the yarn: the amount of hair twisted into an individual ply and the number of plies in your final yarn. A single ply will coil back on itself and is very difficult to work with. You generally need at least two plies to make a workable yarn you can use to crochet with fur. You make yarn by spinning two or more plies together, in an opposite direction from which they were originally spun. For example, if your individual plies were spun clockwise, when you ply them together to make yarn you would spin the spindle or wheel counterclockwise.

  1. Wash, set and dry your pet fur yarn before you crochet with fur.

Wind the plied yarn into a hank by wrapping the yarn around and around, hand to elbow, the way you might coil a long extension cord or phone cable. Tie the hank loosely in about four places with lengths of string or other yarn to keep the hank from getting tangles.

Submerge the hank in very warm, soapy water. Add a healthy amount of an inexpensive shampoo directly to the water for most house-pet hair yarns. If the hair is particularly dirty, or if it’s from an oily-coated breed of animal, you can use grease-cutting dish soap. Don’t agitate the yarn or it might felt. Just let it soak for 10-15 minutes, and then drain. If the water was very dirty, repeat the soaking process.

Rinse the hank by submerging it in clean water that is at least as hot as the water you soaked it in. Continue the submerge-and-drain process until all trace of soap is removed. Gently squeeze as much water as you can from the hank. Never wring it. Roll the hank in a towel to blot out more water.

Hang the damp hank somewhere out of the way with good air circulation until it is completely dry. Don’t use anything made of metal (it may rust a bit and stain your yarn) or wood (it may be damaged by the moisture). Hang a weight from the bottom to straighten the hank. When the yarn is completely dry, wind it into a ball and it’s ready to use to crochet with fur.

What is the yarn like when you crochet with fur?

That depends on the fiber you used, and how you processed it. Dog undercoat yarn is very soft and fuzzy; in fact, some people mistake it for angora. Yarn made from single-coated breeds like Afghan hound will be smoother and not have the fuzzy “halo” that an undercoat yarn has. Cat-hair yarn, Persian or Himalayan for example, will be very soft and drape well. Since pet hair doesn’t have the crimp that wool does, it tends to be inelastic. Some pet-hair yarns, such as Afghan hound, will felt and others like the Samoyed won’t, so be careful which yarns you mix in a project.

What can you do with pet fur yarn?

Pet-hair yarn is virtually as versatile as most other types of yarn. As with commercial yarns, each yarn has its own characteristics and you need to pair a project with a suitable yarn.

One final thing to keep in mind: Dog hair is much, much warmer than wool. This characteristic makes it much more suitable for smaller projects such as ear bands, hats, mittens or socks.

The “picking” process to clean a dog’s brushed and collected fur of debris allows her to still enjoy one of her favorite pastimes — playing in the leaves!

Crochet with fur and make a Dog-Hair Tam

pet hair tam

Pet Hair Tam

SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate

FINISHED SIZE: One size fits most

MATERIALS TO CROCHET WITH FUR

  • Hand-spun dog hair/wool-blend novelty yarn or similar light (light worsted) weight wool or wool-blend yarn: 3/4 oz/160 yds/21g natural color of fiber being used
  • Size D/3/3.25mm crochet hook or size needed to obtain gauge
  • Tapestry needle

GAUGE: 5 sc = 1 inch

PATTERN NOTE: Join with slip stitch as indicated unless  otherwise stated.

SPECIAL STITCH Triple treble (trtr): Yo hook 4 times, insert hook in indicated st, yo, draw up a lp, [yo, draw through 2 lps on hook] 5 times.

TAM HEADBAND

Row 1: Ch 6, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each of next 4 chs, turn. (5 sc)

Row 2: Ch 6 (counts as first trtr), trtr (see Special Stitch) in each rem sc across, turn.  (5 trtr)

Row 3: Ch 1, sc in each trtr across, turn. (5 sc) Next rows: [Rep rows 2 and 3 alternately] until headband fits snugly around head at temples, ending last rep with row 2.

Next row (joining row): Holding last row and first row tog, working through both thicknesses, sl st last row to opposite side of foundation ch of row 1.

CROWN

Rnd 1: Working in ends of rows, *ch 5, sc in end of next trtr row, ch 5**, sc between same trtr row and next sc row, rep from * around, ending last rep at **, join (see Pattern Note) in first sc (see Fig. 1).

Rnd 2: [Ch 7, sc in 3rd ch of next ch-5] around, ch 3, join in 4th ch of beg ch-7 (see Fig. 2).

Rnd 3: [Ch 9, sc in 4th ch of next ch-7] around, ch 9, join at base of beg ch-9 (see Fig. 3).

Rnd 4: [Ch 11, sc in 5th ch of next ch-9] around, ch 5, join in 5th ch of beg ch-11.

Rnd 5: [Ch 9, sc in 6th ch of next ch-11] around, ch 9, join at base of beg ch-9.

Rnd 6: [Ch 9, sc in 5th ch of next ch-9] around, ch 4, join in 5th ch of beg ch-9.

Rnd 7: [Ch 7, sc in 5th ch of next ch-9] around, ch 7, join at base of beg ch-7.

Rnd 8: [Ch 5, sc in 4th ch of next ch-7] around, ch 3, join in 3rd ch of beg ch-5.

Rnd 9: *[Ch 5, sc in 3rd ch of next ch-5 sp] twice, ch 5, [insert hook in 3rd ch of next ch-5 sp, yo, draw up a lp] twice, yo, draw through all 3 lps on hook, rep from * around until 4 ch-5 sps rem. Fasten off, leaving 10-inch length for finishing.

FINISHING

With tapestry needle and length left for finishing, sew centers of last 4 ch-5 sps tog.

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Crochet Socks that Fit

Crochet socks can be difficult to get just right. After all, it’s a known fact that no two people have the same feet and that most people do not have feet that fit the “standard” sizes given in many crochet sock patterns. For example, patterns for knit or crochet socks will often state general sizes, such as “fits woman’s size medium.” With a little guidance and the right information, it’s easy to make comfortable crochet socks that can be custom-fit to any foot.

Getting the Right Fit with Crochet Socks

When making socks, do not use only the length of the foot to determine the size of crochet sock you will make. A size 9 shoe doesn’t necessarily mean you have a wide foot; you may have a narrow- or medium-width foot. The circumference of your foot and leg should determine the size of the crochet sock you will make.

Using the foot illustration below as a guide, take the foot measurements of the sock recipient. For accuracy, if you are making crochet socks for yourself, have a crochet or knit buddy take your measurements.

measuring guide for crochet socks

Crochet socks measuring guide

Measure the circumference of the foot at A, measuring the widest portion around the heel and arch. Your sock cuff must be able to stretch enough to fit around the foot, heel, arch and ankle.

While the person is standing, measure up from the floor at the heel to the height of the sock leg listed in the pattern (or to the height you want your sock). At this height, measure the circumference of the leg, using this measurement to determine the circumference of the crochet sock leg.

Note: Do not use measurement B for kneesocks. This type of sock is measured differently and is normally shaped to fit the calf.

Measure around the ball of the foot at C to determine the circumference of the foot portion of the sock. This measurement should be about 1/2 inch narrower than the heel/arch measurement (A).

While the person is standing, measure the foot from the back of the heel to the longest toe (D). This will give you an accurate foot length measurement. You will make your crochet sock approximately 3/4 to 1 inch shorter than the actual foot length measurement.

Note: If there is a finished sock length given in your pattern, it should be used as a guide or suggested finished length.

For toe-up crochet socks, while the person is standing, measure the foot from the longest toe to just below and at the midpoint of the ankle (E) to determine when to begin the heel. For the best fit, toe-up socks should be tried on often while being crocheted to ensure a proper foot and heel fit.

Choosing Your Size for Crochet Socks

Final measurements in sock patterns are normally given for the foot circumference of the leg and foot with the narrowest size listed first, and each additional width from medium to the widest width in brackets. Once you have your measurements, pick the leg and foot circumference measurements given in the pattern that fit closest to your measurements. Follow the instructions for that size.

What if the sock recipient isn’t present, or you want your crochet socks to be a surprise? This is where the Pattern Sizing chart comes in. If you do not have the sock recipient present, find out their shoe size, including width. Following the chart for the width size, use the appropriate circumference in the pattern to fit the person’s shoe width. Then, use the chart based on standardized shoe sizing as a guide for the length of the sock.

Regardless of whether you use actual foot measurements or the chart, remember to take into account that crochet socks stretch in both width and length. Your finished sock should be slightly narrower and shorter than your actual foot.

Making Adjustments to Crochet Socks

You may find that your leg is narrower than your foot. Or you might have a wider leg with a narrower foot. To have your socks fit correctly, you would follow the numbers in the pattern that best fit your leg circumference, and then make adjustments to be able to follow the numbers in the pattern that best fit your foot circumference.

Example: Your leg is a medium but your foot measures to the narrow width. Work the leg of the sock to the medium-width numbers; then decrease the gusset down to the narrow size and use those numbers, not the mediumsize numbers. If you are working a short-row heel, once the heel is complete, decrease stitches on the foot section to meet the narrow numbers of the pattern.

If the measurement at point A is more than 1 inch larger than the measurement at point B, you may have to use a wider size for the cuff portion, adding elastic thread to your cuff. When the cuff is completed, evenly space decreases around the base of the cuff until you have the number of stitches required for the leg pattern. After you’ve worked approximately half an inch into the leg, drop the elastic thread.

No matter what size you are making, if possible, try the sock on often to make sure of the fit. Ease or inch the sock up and over the foot. Do not yank or pull the sock on by the cuff. Each time you try the sock on, it will stretch the stitches and your gauge will change. Always squeeze the sock back down into shape and then continue crocheting.

Gauge

Take time to make a gauge swatch, and do it in the round. The last thing you want is not to meet gauge. Adjust your hook size accordingly to obtain the gauge given in your pattern. If you’re making a 7-inch circumference and your gauge is off, you may end up with socks that fit either a fashion doll or the Big Bird float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®.

If you have too many stitches per inch, try a larger hook. If there are too few stitches per inch, try a smaller hook. Most crochet sock patterns do not consider rounds per inch important unless there is a special patterning involved.

However, you may still need to adjust your gauge in this area. If your rounds are slightly short, try loosening up your tension; if you are slightly higher in rounds per inch, try tightening up your tension.

By determining the best size to comfortably fit your foot, and then matching gauge to achieve that size, your sock-making experience should be an enjoyable one with an outcome to your liking.

Pattern Sizing for Crochet Socks

The measurements listed in the following charts are based on standardized  measurements for men’s and women’s shoe widths and shoe sizes.

Considering Shoe Width

Approximate foot circumference at ball of foot (C on diagram above)

Shoe width chart for crochet socks

Shoe width chart for crochet socks

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Blocking a Crochet Project: The Basics

Blocking a crochet project is an important step toward making your crocheted pieces look more professional. It’s a way of “dressing” or finishing your projects using moisture and sometimes heat. By properly blocking a crochet project — whether a garment or accessory — can go a long way toward making it look and fit better, and it can help restore symmetrical balance to a misshapen afghan or rug. Blocking a crochet project sets the stitches and can even enhance the drape of the fabric. Seaming and edging are easier on blocked pieces, and minor sizing adjustments may be made while blocking a crochet project.

There are different methods for blocking a crochet project, and knowing which one to use for a particular piece can make all the difference in achieving a successful result. Choosing the correct blocking method depends on what the item is and what type of yarn or thread is used. Some items might not be suitable for blocking, such as 3-D pieces that are difficult to handle or very small items such as Christmas ornaments. Also, certain fibers might not be suitable for blocking.

Getting Started Blocking a Crochet Project

You’ll need a blocking board, rustproof pins, a steamer or steam iron, a spray bottle and your yarn or thread labels. A blocking “board” needs to be a flat surface that’s large enough to hold the piece or pieces you want to block. Pieces should not hang over the edges of the blocking board.

If you don’t have, or can’t find, a commercially made blocking board, it’s easy to create your own. Purchase a piece of plastic foam insulation board at your local home-improvement center or foam board from an office-supply store. In choosing the size, keep in mind that, while a larger board can block more pieces, it may be difficult to store. It might be better to purchase several smaller boards for blocking a crochet project that’s a larger size.

Cover the board with a thick towel and then with a clean cotton cloth, both of which have been washed so that they will not bleed onto your work. While solids usually work best, you can use a fabric with a large check print or stripes in order to have a blocking guide.

Your blocking board will need to be in a location where it can remain undisturbed until the blocking is finished, which can range from just a few minutes to more than a day, depending on the circumstances. The board needs to be able to handle pins, moisture and heat. To block a crochet project that’s larger, such as afghans or shawls, for example, a guestroom bed or a large, well-padded table — even a sheet-covered carpeted floor — work great.

Choose Your Method for Blocking a Crochet Project

Blocking methods may be described as wet, dry or cold. The actual method you choose will vary depending on yarn content, final use and your own preferences.

Consult the yarn label. If different fibers have been combined in the same item, the most delicate fiber takes precedence. Most natural fibers such as wool, cotton, linen and mohair may be either wet- or dry-blocked. Some synthetic fibers do not benefit from blocking and may, in fact, be ruined by careless blocking. Novelty and metallic fibers may need special care and may not be suitable  for blocking.

While it’s always advisable to make a test swatch for any pattern to check gauge, an added benefit to making a swatch is that you will also have a piece to practice blocking to make sure you are using the proper method. For example, did you know that too much heat can “kill” acrylic yarn, making it shiny and limp? It’s better to wreck a swatch than a whole afghan.

Wet blocking is suitable only for those fibers which tolerate submersion. Wash the piece first, if desired, or thoroughly wet it and gently squeeze out excess water. Do not wring or twist! For two-dimensional pieces, lay the piece out flat, and gently pat and shape it into the desired finished measurements. Pin the piece securely in place using rustproof pins or blocking wires. For 3-D pieces, stuff the piece with rolled up plastic grocery bags or other waterproof stuffing. For round pieces, blowing up a balloon to the desired size inside the item works well. Leave the piece undisturbed until it is completely dry. You can hasten the drying process by setting up a fan to blow over the area.

Dry blocking is suitable for fibers which can tolerate moisture and heat (steam). Pin the piece into the desired shape and size on the blocking board. Pins should be close together and evenly spaced so as not to distort the fabric. Blocking wires also work well.

Smooth all seams and areas that are puckered or rippled as much as possible with your fingers. Holding a steamer or steam iron an inch or more above the item, steam the fabric well. Move the iron slowly over the surface, never allowing it to touch the fabric; do not press. After steaming, leave the piece undisturbed until it is completely cool and dry.

Cold blocking can be used for fibers which can tolerate moisture but not heat. Pin the piece into shape on the blocking board as you did for dry blocking. Mist with a spray bottle of clean water until the piece is completely wet. If stubborn areas resist lying flat, use additional pins as needed or press with your hand for a few seconds (it’s amazing how the gentle warmth from your skin can help!). Leave the item undisturbed until it is completely dry. Again, a fan can help speed things up.

Tips to Use When Blocking a Crochet Project That’s Large

When blocking a crochet project that’s large — afghans, tablecloths, bedspreads and shawls, etc. — remember that most can easily be blocked on a bed with a firm or extra-firm mattress, on a large, well-padded table or on a clean, carpeted floor.

Arrange the piece into a nice, even shape to the required or desired measurements, taking care not to over-stretch or distort the shape of the piece. Using rustproof pins, pin all edges down securely around the entire piece. If any stubborn areas don’t want to lie down smoothly, adding a few extra pins in these spots usually does the trick.

If desired, the piece can be dry-blocked as previously instructed. But, for large pieces such as these, you can also achieve beautiful results by blocking without the use of steam.

Using a large spray bottle of chemical-free water, mist the piece thoroughly until it is lightly wet (semi-saturated). Use your hand to gently press each area as it is sprayed. It’s amazing how just the heat from your skin acts like a low-heat iron of sorts on wet yarn or thread, but without the possible damage to yarn fibers an iron can cause.

After the piece is thoroughly wet down and “hand-pressed,” have a fan blow on the project until it’s completely dry. The results will be beautiful!

Now that you know the different methods to use when blocking a crochet project, you’ll feel more confident to take that extra step and give your projects a more finished look with the results you desire. But, don’t forget to practice on a test swatch before blocking a crochet project!

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Beginning Chains: How Many Chains to Crochet at the Beginning of a Row

How do you know how many beginning chains to crochet at the start of a row? If you’re following a crochet pattern, the pattern instructions will tell you. However, if you want to create your own design or if you want to modify a pattern, you’ll some basic information.

The table below indicates the number of beginning chains needed to bring the work up to the level of a stitch at the beginning of a new row. However, don’t feel bound by these rules. You may find you need to adjust the number of chains up or down. Those who crochet tighter may need to add a chain, and those who crochet looser may need to subtract a chain in order to keep a tidy edge. You can also adjust the number of beginning chains to create a smooth curve instead of a stair-step edge when shaping.

Stitch Used               # of Beginning Chains

Slip Stitch                   1

Single Crochet             1

Half double crochet     2

Double crochet            3

Treble crochet             4

Joining New Yarn or Thread in a Crochet Project

Never tie or leave knots when you crochet! Yarn ends can be easily worked in and hidden in your project because of the density of the stitches. Always leave at least 6 inches when fastening off yarn just used and when joining new yarn.

Whenever possible, join new yarn at the beginning or end of a row. To do this, work the first stitch or the last stitch with the old yarn until two loops remain on the hook; then complete the stitch with the new yarn.

When you have to join new yarn in the middle of a row, work until you have approximately 12 inches of the old yarn remaining. Hold the end of the new yarn behind the working row and, using the old yarn, work several more stitches over the end of the new yarn. After doing so, change yarns in stitch as previously explained.

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Importance of Gauge in Crochet

Gauge is the number of stitches per inch and the number of rows per inch you need to get when stitching with a particular weight of yarn and a specific crochet hook.

Because the hook size stated in the pattern instructions is just a suggestion, and because each crocheter handles the yarn slightly differently, gauge can vary from person to person even when they are using identical hooks and yarns. Crocheting a proper swatch at the beginning of a project saves both time and money. Learning why and how to make a proper swatch is a crucial step toward enhancing a crocheter’s confidence and ability to make a successful project every time.

WHAT IS A SWATCH?

A swatch is a small sample of crocheted fabric made in the same yarn and stitch pattern you intend to use for your crochet project. If done properly, it can provide a wealth of information and save you time and money. “Swatching” is the verb that describes the process of making the swatch. “Gauge swatch” and “swatch” are often used synonymously, but it is important to think of a swatch as more than just a way to measure gauge. So, this article uses the term “swatch” exclusively to get you in the right frame of mind.

WHY BOTHER?

Why bother doing a swatch at all? Why not just start stitching and see what happens? A swatch can give you a lot of useful information before you start your project. Sometimes the information you get from a swatch will determine whether or not you will continue with the project as written, make adjustments or even abandon the project for something totally different. Learning the pitfalls of a project from a 4- to 6-inch square swatch can save time and money in comparison to finding the same hazards after working a much larger piece.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

The standard way to write the gauge information is as follows:

20 sts = 4 inches; 20 rows = 4 inches

The part of the gauge statement that is important to you is the measurement of 20 sts and 20 rows over four inches, or five single crochet stitches and five rows per inch. If a pattern calls for more than one hook size, only one of the hooks will be used to get the stated gauge. If this is the case, the gauge will be written as follows:

Size H hook: 20 sts = 4 inches; 20 rows =  4 inches

INCORRECT GAUGE

Let’s look at an example of what may happen when you work to a different gauge than that given in the pattern. Let’s say that you are using a sweater pattern that calls for 12 single crochets = 4 inches, or 3 single crochets per inch, and you want to make a sweater with a finished bust measurement of 44 inches. If you start stitching and you get 3 1/2 single crochets per inch, your finished sweater will be 37 1/2 inches around, or 6 1/2 inches too small! If you worked the same sweater with a gauge of 2 1/2 single crochets per inch, the finished sweater would be 52 3/4 inches around, or 8 3/4 inches too large! You can see that being just half a stitch off per inch can make a huge difference.

Can you see that it makes much more sense to take the time and effort necessary to match the gauge at the beginning of a project than to find out your gauge is off after hundreds of stitches have been worked?

CLEANING

If you plan to wash your finished project, it is best to wash your swatch too, as gauge can change dramatically after washing. Some yarns will shrink or stretch out of shape after washing, and some colors will run. Many crocheters have been disappointed to find that their red-and-white striped afghan turned into a red-and-pink striped afghan after its first wash.

YARN CHARACTERISTICS/ DURABILITY

Make observations as you stitch and after  you wash the swatch. Does the color rub off on your hands? Does the yarn make you sneeze or break out? Does it shed? Does it pill or stretch?

Try abusing the swatch a bit. Put it in the bottom of your pocketbook or your child’s backpack. Take it out after a week and examine it. Is the fabric going to stand up  to its intended use?

FABRIC

The fabric that is produced when the yarn is crocheted to the gauge given in the pattern is what the designer considers to be the perfect tension for that particular yarn for that particular project. The fabric will have a certain “hand” and “drape,” which are characteristics that describe how the stitching feels and how it hangs.

For example, a stuffed animal is usually worked to a tighter gauge than a sweater since the animal’s fabric needs to be tight enough so that the stuffing will not show through or fall out. A sweater worked with the same yarn in the same way would probably be so stiff that you wouldn’t want to wear it.

COMFORT

If you are planning to make a garment that  will be worn next to the skin, do the “underwear test.” Wear the swatch next to your skin for a day.

STITCH COMPATIBILITY

There is more than one type of stitch compatibility. In this case, stitch compatibility has to do with the relationship between the stitch and the stitcher. When you’re trying out a new-to-you stitch pattern, a swatch can help you decide if you want to complete the project. Is the stitch pattern too difficult? Is it too boring? Is it neither, but just annoying to work?

FINISHING TECHNIQUES

Even though you are just beginning a project, you need to begin thinking of finishing. What kind of edging will this project have? Where will the edging be worked? How will the project be put together? What size buttons do I need? Work out bugs and practice seaming and edging on the swatch before moving on to the finished product. Work the button bands on the swatch, then take the swatch with you to purchase the perfect button.

YARN AMOUNTS

If you do not work to the same gauge as the instructions, you may find yourself running out of yarn. Pattern instructions give the amount of yarn used for that project in a certain size in the given gauge, so while you may not be worried about finished size, you should be concerned about having adequate yarn to complete the project.

SOME TIPS

Don’t be discouraged if a swatch turns out to be a disaster. Swatching can be a trial-and-error process. If your swatch doesn’t turn out well, don’t think of it as a mistake. Think of it as a learning experience.

WHEN SWATCHING DOES NOT MATTER

You’ve read this far, hoping for a hint that swatching really doesn’t matter. You’re in luck. There actually are a few instances when a swatch won’t help. A swatch wouldn’t help in the following instances:

  • When making small objects with relatively large yarn — a swatch would be as big or bigger than the actual finished project. Examples: Christmas ornaments and small home decor items.
  • When you have plenty of yarn, you don’t anticipate laundering the item, and when the finished size doesn’t matter.

A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE

A swatch is important, but don’t make the mistake of relying on it completely. Sometimes stitches will become more relaxed as the stitcher learns the pattern. Measure your work as you progress in case the gauge on a larger piece changes. Also, weight and gravity may do their work on a larger piece, resulting in a different gauge.

SWATCH HOW-TOS

GETTING STARTED

  • Swatch in the stitch pattern called for in the gauge information. Don’t assume that plain double crochet will yield the same gauge as a double-crochet-based stitch pattern.
  • Whether or not you decide to use the yarn suggested in the materials list, you need to swatch using the exact yarn in the same color that you plan to use for your project. Different colors of the same yarn may work up differently. Use all the colors together in the same proportion that the project requires.
  • Use the same hook that you plan to use for you project. Hook styles and sizes vary, even within a particular size. Don’t assume that your gauge is the same with a size G Susan Bates hook as with a size G Boye hook.
  • After you have worked a few rows, measure over at least 2 inches to see if you are in the ballpark. If you realize your gauge is way off, you’ll probably need to change hook sizes. Start over with a different size hook and a new swatch — don’t change hook sizes mid-swatch.
  • Make an adequate-size swatch. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the swatch must be. Your swatch should be a minimum of 4 inches square for any fiber but the thinnest cotton thread. For cotton threads, a 6-inch square is more accurate.
  • Work in the same direction required by the project whether you are working in the round or back and forth in rows. Most people get a different gauge when working in the round.
  • As you work, make sure to jot down notes of how many stitches were on your beginning chain, how many stitches are in the width of your swatch and how many rows or rounds you have worked. Note yarn name, color and hook size and brand.
  • Label your swatch with this information, even if you have a fantastic memory. Small hang tags are great for this purpose.
  • Relax! Your gauge may change as you become more comfortable with the stitch pattern. Just stitch at a comfortable tension — don’t try to change the tension to match a given gauge.
  • Pay attention to your beginning edge. Sometimes you will need to work the foundation chain with a larger hook. Practice on your swatch until you are happy with the result. It is much easier to correct the problem on your swatch than to try to fix a too-tight chain on a finished project.
  • Allow the swatch to rest for a half an hour, and then measure and take note of your “before” gauge. Sometimes gauge changes after washing and blocking. Making a note of the gauge right off the hook allows you to compare the “before” and “after” effect of blocking. The “after” gauge is the one that matters for the final fitting, but if it is substantially different from your “working” or “before” gauge, you may be nervous about the finished size of your piece. If you have made note of the changes that will take place, you can reassure yourself as you work that the working gauge is indeed correct.
  • Treat the swatch the same way you plan to treat your finished item. If you plan to wash your project, wash your swatch. Use the same washing and drying method on the swatch that you plan to use on the finished product.
  • Block the swatch.

MEASURING

  • Use a ruler, yardstick or tape measure.
  • Place the blocked swatch on a table and place the ruler on top of the swatch. Allow the swatch to lie as is. Do not rearrange it to make it fit the gauge you want.
  • Do not measure edge stitches as they can be distorted.
  • Measure at least 4 inches worth of stitches. Some rulers are not accurate between the end and the 1 inch mark, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Measure across as many stitches as possible. Count the number of stitches and divide by the number of inches for your “per inch gauge.” Round to the nearest hundredth of an inch. For example, if you count 17 stitches over 6 inches, it is approximately 2.83 stitches per inch (17 ÷ 6 = approximately 2.83). If possible, take the same measurement elsewhere on the same swatch and compare the two. If they are different, take an average. Note your findings.
  • If a row gauge is given, repeat the above step, measuring in the other direction.
  • Now look at your notes. If you have too few stitches per inch, make a swatch using a smaller hook size. If you have too many stitches per inch compared to the instructions, make another swatch using a larger hook size. For example, if the pattern calls for 12 sc = 4 inches (3 sc per inch) and your swatch measures 3 1/2 stitches per inch, increase one hook size and make a second swatch following all the rules outlined above.
  • If you have trouble getting the right gauge because it seems to be between two hook sizes, try switching hook brands rather than sizes.

Once you are satisfied that you have determined the correct hook size to give you the gauge in your yarn, make a note of it. If you need to put down the project for a while or need to use the hook for a different project, you don’t want to have to go through this process again!

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The History of Crochet Hooks

The history of crochet hooks is one of evolution. With today’s wide variety of lovely hooks crafted in a plethora of fabulous materials, styles and colors, it’s hard to imagine the rather crude, unappealing tools some of our earliest crochet forbearers had to use. It helps us appreciate all the more the wonderful tools we have available today and admire anew the incredible stitch work created by our ancestors with their limited and rudimentary implements.

Today’s crochet hooks are made from many different materials--including  abalone, glass, bamboo and exotic woods such as rosewood and ebony -- and feature a wide variety of styles and embellishments.

Today’s crochet hooks are made from many different materials–including abalone, glass, bamboo and exotic woods such as rosewood and ebony — and feature a wide variety of styles and embellishments.

Most of us give little thought to our crochet hooks other than to check the instructions for the suggested size for the project at hand. If we don’t have the appropriate size at home, we can always run out to the nearest craft or yarn store and pick one up.

The earliest crocheters, however, didn’t have chain stores or mailorder catalogs to fulfill their needs for crochet tools. The history of crochet hooks started with people fashioning their own, usually of wood, bone or metal. In Ireland, exquisite Irish laces were worked with hooks made from stiff wire inserted into a piece of wood or cork. The end of the wire was filed down and a hook turned at the end. Poor farmers often carved wooden hooks for their wives out of whatever was readily available.

Looking back through the history of crochet hooks, it’s amazing that these early crafters could turn out such lovely pieces of needlework with the crude hooks with which they had to work.

As crochet grew in popularity and technology flourished, stitchers enjoyed a renaissance in the production of hooks. Crocheters in the upper classes could take their pick of beautiful hooks hand-carved from wood, bone or ivory, or made of mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, abalone, horn, agate or sterling silver, and sometimes inlaid with gemstones.

Moving to the early 1920s in the history of crochet hooks, sets of interchangeable hooks became popular. Each set consisted of a single handle, perhaps of bone or amber, with an assortment of short steel hooks generally ranging in sizes from 1 to 14. The crocheter simply selected the size hook she needed for her project and screwed it into the tip of the handle.

In America, the Boye Needle Co. produced the first complete line of American-made steel crochet hooks in 1917. Each hook sold for a nickel. Aluminum =hooks appeared in 1923, and hooks for hairpin crochet were introduced in 1935.

World War II forced the government to order the cessation of nickel plating for crochet hooks in 1942, and Boye began a special black plating process known as “hoto” black process, or hot oxide black process, in order to prevent corrosion of the hooks. Nickel plating was not reinstated until the latter part of May 1945.

The history of crochet hooks has progressed to a time when we enjoy the convenience and availability of crochet hooks in an almost limitless variety of eyecatching styles and colors. From exotic woods and sparkling glass, to dazzling beaded and handpainted creations, we can revel in the pleasure of using beautiful, finely crafted crochet hooks that look  as good as they work!

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Crochet Using the Color Wheel

Have you ever thought about using a color wheel when you crochet to help you put together great color combos that produce eye-catching results? We all have our favorite colors and color combinations to crochet, but sometimes we just get stuck trying to decide which colors would go together well in our projects.

There are numerous styles of color wheels. The one shown below is very basic and simple to use.

Color Wheel

Color Wheel

Locate the main color you’d like to use for your afghan. Blending colors can be chosen from the two wedges to the right or left, depending on the look you want to achieve. Contrasting colors are directly across from the main color.

Triad color schemes can be created by choosing the colors that create an equilateral triangle with your main color. On a 12-part color wheel, the lines of an equilateral triangle would select every fourth color. So, for example, if the main color on your crochet project is blue, the triad colors are yellow and red.

All colors on the color wheel are numbered according to value, so if you wish to crochet a project using an unusual color scheme, choose colors that are the same values. You can create an unlimited number of gorgeous color combinations using colors from any value group (all No. 3’s, for example). For an exciting color scheme, choose black, gray, navy, brown or white, and accent with one or more vivid colors.

Let’s say you are crocheting an afghan as a gift. You might like to choose colors that reflect the personality of the recipient. Yellows are cheerful and bright. Reds are passionate and aggressive. Blues are calm and cool. Purples are regal and starlike. Oranges are warm and cozy. Greens, depending on whether they are more blue or more yellow, can be cool or vibrant.

If you want to  crochet an afghan or other decorative accessories for your own home, work up swatches in several possible color combinations. Look at them from a distance rather than close up, preferably in the location where you plan to use the pieces. You will get a more realistic view of how the color combination will look and which combinations  you prefer.

Have fun experimenting with the color wheel and seeing what fabulous color combinations you can put together for your projects. The possibilities are virtually endless!

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Color Magic Secrets for Crochet by Darla Sims

If there is anything that is truly magical not only in crochet but in life itself, it’s color! In everyday life, people often give very little thought to color, yet responses to color are very real and can be scientifically measured. Although often the last thing on one’s mind, color influences many day-to-day choices, and that makes it something important to consider when you’re choosing color for your crochet patterns.

Color Psychology for Crochet and Real Life

Let’s take a step back from the world of crochet and talk about how color is used in real life. Manufacturers and merchants spend billions of dollars to capitalize on our responses to color because they know colors influence what we buy, how much we eat, as well how as how we are likely to feel and respond to their products in other ways. For example, red is often used in the decor of a fast-food restaurant because red stimulates and increases your appetite, so you’ll spend more money on food when surrounded by red, and you’ll be subconsciously dissuaded from lingering over the meal. Both red and yellow catch the eye and are used on food labels to stand out enticingly on store shelves, making them more visually appealing to the shopper.

When it comes to choosing yarn colors, it’s easy to become confused at the vast array of offerings in any store. Take the guesswork out of yarn choices for your next project with a small investment in a color wheel, a purchase that will almost guarantee you’ll never make another color error again! Craft stores offer color wheels that are small and flat enough to slide into most handbags.

Color Basics for Crochet

Instructions included with the color wheel shown here are simple and easy to grasp. To begin, choose a color of yarn, such as red, and then match the shade and the color number on the color wheel as closely as possible. As you rotate the inner wheel, notice how the symmetrical spacing and cutout shapes automatically indicate harmonious combinations. For example, if the color value of your red is No. 4, the arrows on the inner wheel point to opposite and complementary shades to use with your red, all of which also have a value of No. 4.

The more your project combines colors with one another, the more sophisticated and fashion oriented they become. In addition, the value of a color is deepened when mixed with black and becomes lighter when mixed with white. The next step/nuance would be to add gray to create more hues.

Color Properties: Value & Visual Weight and How to Use Them in Crochet

In looking at the color values shown in Fig. 2, the primary colors of blue, yellow and red in Tier 1 cannot be mixed from other colors. The secondary colors in Tier 2 result from mixing two primary colors together: blue + red = purple; yellow + blue = green; red + yellow = orange. The tertiary colors in Tier 3 result from mixing one primary color with one adjacent secondary color: yellow/green, blue/green, blue/purple, red/purple, red/orange and yellow/orange.

ColorMagicSecrets_Fig2

When selecting yarn colors,  two properties must be taken into consideration: the value of the colors and the visual weight. The lighter the color, the less it appears to weigh visually, while the darker the color, the heavier it seems. The most eye-catching color combinations are those that are the most opposite in value and weight, such as black and white, as well as other primary or strong colors combined with white. These opposites really stand out in your crochet projects.

The most soothing combinations are monochromatics, but they can also be made to pop when one hue is very strong. For example, if you make a sweater in shades of tan, and then work the edging, collar or ribbing in a dark brown, the dark brown stands out and makes a strong, appealing statement. The goal is to achieve visual balance while using harmonious shades. Without a color wheel, this can be a daunting, risky task.

The Best Colors to Wear: Choose Yarn Color Wisely for Your Crochet Clothing

When it comes to colors, those we use in home decorating are not necessarily the most flattering when it comes to clothing. The colors a person wears should complement one’s eyes, hair and skin coloring to be truly flattering. Colors fall into two basic groupings: warm and cool. Warm colors have golden undertones, while cool colors are based on blue. If your skin undertone is slightly blue (cool), then warm hues such as corals, oranges and rusts probably shouldn’t be in your personal color palette for crochet clothing because they are visually discordant with your skin tone.

If your undertone is warmer, cool blues and lavenders will tend to make you look wan and washed out.

Generally speaking, yellow is the single most difficult color to wear. If yellow is a color you truly love, choosing the right shade for your clothing will make all the difference. If your skin coloring is warm, select a banana shade that has a bit more red than lemon yellow, which is a slightly harsher yellow with green undertones. If your skin tone is cool, then opt for yellows with hints of greens or blues.

If you haven’t yet discovered the secret of the two easiest-to-wear colors (regardless of your own skin, hair and eye colors), just give turquoise and coral a try in your crochet clothing projects! Before long, someone is sure to say, “Wow! That is so your color!” These clear colors have perfectly balanced values and are flattering for everyone. When you look at or wear either of these two colors, your psychological response is an automatic lifting of spirit — making you feel good while you’re looking good.

For more information about the psychology of color, look up one of the many books available on the subject. The enlightening information found therein will take your ability to choose the right colors for your crochet clothing to an entirely new level.

Monochromatic color schemes always work when it comes to clothing or home decorating, as long as you begin with a basic yarn color for your crochet project that flatters your own coloring. By varying the hues of the basic color, you add visual interest and impact. The more varied textures are introduced along with varied shades, the more sophisticated, interesting and pleasing you’ll find your final crochet project. For example, if you love green, try mixing and matching any shades from the lightest to darkest in varied amounts for the most impact, using one shade as an accent to optimize your end result.

The most sophisticated and difficult monochromatic color palette for crochet projects (and any project, for that matter) is undoubtedly that of neutrals: creams, grays and tans. Color wheels are unable to break down the intricate values of neutrals. It takes an expert eye and knowledge to maintain the shading and visual balance of these subtle color changes and hues.

If you truly love neutrals and want to incorporate them into your crochet projects, go to your local home-improvement store and gather up paint chips to take home and study. Most paint manufacturers make it easy for you as they show color palettes in families with predetermined and matching values. For starters, look at the pale creams and you’ll immediately notice distinct differences. Some chips have strong undertones of green or blue, while others are more yellow or orange; yet others have hints of brown or black. This is understandable because white is actually a combination of all colors, not an absence of color, and cream is just a subtle darkening of white.

Color Trends: Going Beyond Crochet

When it comes to color, trends are not based on strong and growing demand for certain colors; rather, they are based on the findings from focused worldwide networks. Participants of these groups come from varied walks of life. Each member follows and studies such things as sports, politics, economics, music, arts, cuisine, leisure activities, decorating, fashion, the environment and cultural diversity, just to name a few. Each aspect of study provides useful information that allows the collective group to forecast colors with validity. When the core group comes to consensus, color chips are then developed and distributed to designers and manufacturers who further develop their own forecast for trends for yarn, fabric, paint, clothing, furniture and the like.

From season to season the hues of core colors change slightly to reflect worldwide changes as they occur within focus groups. Colors then become stronger, more muted or more convoluted to reflect global changes.

How drab the world would be without the magic of color. It is truly something to celebrate and enjoy! Thank goodness that the secrets of color can be revealed to enhance our crochet projects with a simple little color wheel.

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