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  • Crochet Beginners’ Tip: Slip Stitch Fake Facts

    About Today’s Tip for Crochet Beginners

    I’m going to unpack the “outdated advice” part.

    crochet beginners tip 0002 slip stitch misconceptions

    For reasons I still haven’t figured out, misconceptions and outright errors (alternative facts?) about slip stitches have been repeated uncritically in crochet how-to books for decades. I’ve distilled them all into the following four sentences, which are also found in my Slip Stitch Crochet 101 class handout.

    Can you spot all of the unhelpful advice?

    “There is one kind of slip stitch and it is crocheted tightly. It is useful only occasionally, for a few things, such as joining a round, closing a picot, or seaming. Don’t bother trying to make anything with it, it has no height. It doesn’t really count as a stitch at all; it’s a nonstitch.” 

    Crochet beginners have been discouraged from exploring slip stitches only, not other basic stitches. Why? It’s not because slip stitches are tricky for beginners. In my classes, the experienced crocheters struggle more (thanks to the misinformation).

    New Rules for Crochet Beginners About Slip Stitches

    Substitute the fake facts above with this:

    Thinking of slip stitches as a group of stitches is better than reducing them all to one stitch. It aids understanding, inspires innovation, and improves pattern writing. Go up at least two crochet hook sizes to crochet them loosely unless a pattern specifies otherwise. Also assume you’ll be crocheting into one top loop instead of both.

    Slip stitches are exceedingly versatile, useful, and pleasing for many of the things crocheters make. In fact, slip stitches are often preferable to other stitches, such as for ribbing, or for a thin, supple fabric that conserves yarn. They may also be fine for joining a round, closing a picot, or seaming, but not always. (For example, slipping a loop through to join is more invisible than a slip stitch; a single crochet makes a better picot in some patterns; a slip stitch or single crochet plus a chain-1 is sometimes a better seam.)

    Slip stitches clearly have height—how odd that it needs to be stated. The evidence is in the heaps of very wearable scarves and sweaters. You can also crochet around the post of a slip stitch. Not only does a slip stitch have height, the height varies depending on the type of slip stitch. As a starting point, expect front-loop types to be taller than back-loop types.

    I learned about crocheting slip stitch projects *decades* after learning how to crochet everything else. There’s no reason for crochet beginners to wait decades like I did!

    • May 23rd, 2017 by Vashti Braha

    Starting End of Yarn: No Small Thing!

    This post is part of a blogged crochet book. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.

    Today’s post is all about a neglected topic: the starting end of yarn.

    It’s important because we start right off making several decisions (and avoid others) with it. In fact, that humble starting yarn end may be the most underestimated part of a crochet project!

    Labeled diagram of Starting End of Yarn, Slip Knot, and Loop

    By the way, let’s keep the “yarn” simple for now. Let’s continue to use a three feet long {91 cm} piece of yarn that I mentioned previously. A shorter piece like this avoids all kinds of non-beginner issues, like how to find a yarn end in the middle of a whole ball of yarn! (That’s for a future post.)

    It also makes it easy to keep both ends of the yarn in sight at all times. If the end we start crocheting with is called the starting end (or occasionally a yarn tail), the other end is called the longer endball end (because it leads to the rest of the yarn), feed line (feeding from the ball), working endsupply end.

    Initial Decisions We Make About the Starting End of Yarn

    1. When we begin most of the crochet things we’re ever going to make, we make a starting loop near one or the other of two yarn ends of a ball of yarn. Whichever end we choose becomes the starting end. That’s the first decision we make. (I mention this because sometimes it matters; more on this in a future post.)

    2. The next decision is how close to this end we make the starting loop. In other words, how long should the starting end of yarn be for a crochet project?

    I like the standard guideline of 4″ {10 cm} long. It’s just long enough to be threaded onto a yarn needle later and “woven in” (sewn securely into nearby stitches so that it stays invisible). It’s not too long to waste yarn or to get in your way.

    An exception to the default 4″-long starting end of yarn is 6” {15 cm}, if the yarn is especially slippery. It needs more weaving in to stay put.

    Starting end of yarn: right and wrong lengths contrasted.

    Never snip the yarn end close to the knot unless you’re specifically directed to in a pattern for a certain effect, such as for stubby fringe. It otherwise looks poorly finished. Worse, it could loosen and cause seams or other stitches to unravel, depending on several things, like the yarn, stitches, project size, and its age.

    Special Tasks for the Starting Yarn End

    A starting end of yarn can also perform special tasks for you. Some may take a bit of planning ahead, but it’s worth it. The starting end is already securely attached. If you had to attach a new piece of yarn later for the same tasks, you’d have three yarn ends to weave in instead of just one!

    Even though beginning crocheters would not be ready for the following options, keep them in mind for later. As your skills grow you won’t underestimate the starting end of yarn.

    1. Seaming: For some projects, a much longer starting end of yarn can be ideal for seaming later. I often prefer a crocheted seam, and I don’t always know how much yarn I’ll need for that. A general guideline is to multiply the length of the seam by 3 or 4 for a slip stitch seam; longer for a single crochet seam.

    For this option, and for the next one, it helps to wind the starting end of yarn onto a bobbin or scrap piece of cardboard.

    2. New Jewelry Clasp: Often I’ll leave a long starting end of yarn when designing new crochet jewelry. At least 36″ {91 cm} long gives me options for crocheting different kinds of jewelry clasps later without having to attach a separate length of yarn.

    3. Sew or string on buttons and beads: A moderately long yarn end (12″ to 24″ {30-61 cm}) is helpful in case I might wish to sew on a button, or string on a big accent bead, or create beaded chain fringe. I’d still be attaching more yarn if I decide to add a fringe edging, but at least I wouldn’t have to weave in the starting end of yarn that’s too short.

    4. Both ends together: There are plenty of other times you might start a crochet project with a really long yarn end. You might start off crocheting the yarn end together with the other, longer end of yarn, for example.

    A beginner needs to be able to identify which end is the starting end, especially when the starting end is left long.

    One last thing about the starting end of yarn

    It’s an important part of tying knots correctly, even the simple slip knot. The starting end of yarn determines whether your starting slip knot is fixed and secure, or can be pulled loose enough to allow a seam to unravel! See my earlier blog post about these two different slip knots. Look carefully at the starting yarn ends.

    • June 2nd, 2015 by Vashti Braha

    Start Crocheting From Scratch

    This post is part of a blogged crochet book. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.

    Let’s really look at how we start crocheting, and why we do it this way. In these next few posts I consider standard (and less so) starting loops and knots for crochet. I’ve met crocheters who are actually not confident about how to start crocheting something. At the end of this post are my four big takeaways about the starting loops we use.

    Formal Slip Knot and Simple Crossed Loop: both work to start crocheting

    You can start crocheting with one simple loop. The set up is done. Frankly, you don’t even need a crochet hook or a specific kind of yarn. You also don’t need a fancy kind of starting loop (but see the next few posts).

    This is one of my favorite things about crochet. Isn’t it remarkable? Musicians need to tune their instrument first, and weavers need to string a loom first. Even knitters need to cast on more than one loop.

    About the “yarn”: To start crocheting with a loop implies that you need a length of something that bends into a loop, right? If you’ve never, ever crocheted before, start crocheting right now with a piece of cord that’s at least 36” long (almost 1 meter). Ideally your cord is smooth, limp, and a light enough color to see well. Kind of thick – like craft yarn, cotton clothesline, or rope. Not stiff or wiry, neither bristly nor bumpy, and not as skinny as kite string. From here on I’ll refer to this as “yarn.”

    At this point some folks are thinking, “You sure are taking a long time to get to the slip knot!” That’s because a starting loop is not necessarily the same as a slip knot. When a simple loop has crossed ends, you’ve got a starting loop for crochet; see first photo above. (All of crochet is based on loops that have these crossed ends in them.)

    The two crossed ends of a loop have different roles in crochet. We’ll get to this important detail in a future post.

    A quick and easy way to think of this Crossed Loop is to imagine that you’re writing a cursive letter “e”. You can do it in the air or “write” with the yarn on a table. See how the Crossed Loop in the first photo above could be a cursive “e”?

    If you’re right handed, pinch and hold it with the fingers of your left hand where the yarn crosses itself. It now appears that two strands are hanging down from your hand. With your right hand, pick up the strand on the right that crosses in front of the other strand. Bring it around behind your loop. Bend it so that you can pull a new loop through the first loop, from behind. Leave it sort of loose, and set it down.

    The essence of crochet: it's this easy to create a new loop.

    If you’re left handed, turn it around, and pinch and hold it with the fingers of your right hand where the yarn crosses itself. Or, you could write a cursive “e” backwards. It now appears that two strands are hanging down from your hand. With your left hand, pick up the strand on the left that crosses in front of the other strand. (see below) Bring it around behind your loop. Bend it so that you can pull a new loop through the first loop, from behind. Leave it sort of loose, and set it down.

    The essence of crochet: it's this easy to create a new loop.

    That’s a stitch. You’re already crocheting. When you pulled the bent or “looped” strand through the initial loop, you finger-crocheted.

    Here are the important takeaways from this post:

    1. The Crossed Loop is one loop away from being a Slip Knot. Once you pull a new loop through a simple Crossed Loop, just tighten it to reveal that it’s actually a Slip Knot. (To tighten, pinch the loop and tug on the other strand to watch the knot tighten around the loop.) Notice that you can also adjust the loop size of the Slip Knot, and the knot part preserves the size of the loop. By the way, the Slip Knot goes by several names and varied forms; more on this later.

    2. The Slip Knot is the standard, official way to start crocheting, especially for beginners. This is probably because beginners also usually start crocheting with a crochet hook in their hand, and the Slip Knot is great for this. You can tighten its loop around a crochet hook and wave it around, and it will stay put. Very handy!

    3. You start crocheting once you pull a loop through an initial Crossed Loop. It’s called finger crocheting. A Crossed Loop is a fine start for finger crocheting. You don’t need a relatively “formal” Slip Knot to keep a loop on your finger because you can easily hold it. There’s no crochet hook to maneuver also. Just keep pulling a new loop through the next loop and you’re crocheting.

    4. Special to Beginners: There’s a bigger reason why you don’t have to start with a Slip Knot. You don’t even have to worry about whether you’re making it correctly. We’ll see later that after you’ve crocheted a few more chain stitches, they are “self-sealing.” If you undo the initial Slip Knot later, tug on the yarn end near it, and the very next stitch automatically becomes the new starting knot.

    This is why some crocheters can leave the initial knot loose and undo it later. Some leave it loose enough to be able to crochet into it later, as if it’s another stitch. And, others start crocheting with something other than a Crossed Loop or a Slip Knot…

    • May 26th, 2015 by Vashti Braha

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