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  • Hand Chaining How To’s

    This is post #9 of Vashti’s How to Crochet Book, blogged. Click here to scroll through all posts in this ongoing series.

    How to videos are a great way to learn hand chaining. I viewed several this past week, and I’ve posted my favorites below. (Bear with me while I get up to speed with my own crochet videos.)

    After watching so many of these hand chaining videos, I found that only some show how to do it the crochet way. Other videos show a knitting style, or as a form of knot tying.  I’ve chosen a few video links for each approach so that you can try them and see which you like best.

    This is the chenille yarn that Kathleen Sams shows in her crochet video (see link below).

    How to Do Hand Chaining the Crochet Way

    Hand chaining the crochet way means you’re using your fingers or whole hand the same way that you’d use a crochet hook. In crochet, if we put a loop on the crochet hook by winding the yarn around it, it’s called a yarn over. It’s also possible to just “grab” the yarn with the hook and pull it through with no actual yarn over. This has sometimes been called a yarn under. The yarn over is the standard, correct one. I’ll get into why it matters in a later blog post.

    Be aware that some hand chaining videos show the yarn over, and others show the yarn under. It’s tempting to use the yarn under when hand chaining, because you can just reach through a loop, pinch the yarn, and pull it through. The simple pull-through of the yarn under makes for very quick hand chaining! However, if you plan to do most of your crocheting with a crochet hook, the yarn over is a very good habit to establish. 

    These three videos demonstrate yarn overs:

    These next three videos show yarn unders:

    • Donna Wolfe of Naztazia.com starts off her video showing hand chaining by pinching the yarn with her two fingers to pull it through a loop: a yarn under. When she shows how to do the same thing with a crochet hook, she uses a standard yarn over.
    • Watch Kathleen Sams make hand chaining look so fast and easy with yarn unders and the thickest chenille yarn ever!
    • ThePreschoolMommy adds adorable sound effects to her yarn unders: “The fingers go ‘Hel-LOO’ and bite the yarn and pull it through.”

    By the way, in most of these the adjustable slip knot is made instead of the locking one. Donna Wolfe uses the locking slip knot. Now try some of the other videos below for contrast. Whichever one you enjoy the most is the best one for you!

    How to Do Hand Chaining the Knitting Way

    Hand chaining with a knitting approach means that a finger or hand is held like a knitting needle while a loop is worked off of it. A possible advantage is that one tends to work at a smaller scale, keeping the loops closer to the fingers. This can help one to control the size of each chain stitch.

    • This video is a good example of a knitting style of hand chaining. She keeps a loop on her left finger, wraps the yarn over it with her right hand, then pulls the loop over the new loop and off the finger. (It reminds me of spool knitting, if the spool had only one peg.).
    • Laura Eccleston of Happyberry Crochet does it the same way.  She cautions that it is fiddly, not very easy.
    • Here’s a variation by Beadaholique. She uses beads and beading thread for making a necklace.

    How to Do Hand Chaining the Knot Tying Way

    The most noticeable thing to me about a knot tying approach is the terminology. A rope is bent, which is called a “bight,” and then pushed through a loop. Terms like “sinnet” or “knot” are used; never “stitch.”

    There are a few other differences too. The purpose of hand chaining in these videos seems to be of practical interest mainly to men who need to make long lengths of heavy rope more manageable for storage, cleaning, or for a “quick deploy” survival bracelet. It’s also called a “zipper sinnet” and “chain shortening” because it quickly unravels when the rope is needed. It ranks as one of the Four Knots You Need to Know.

    Here are a few knot tying videos on hand chaining:

    Which videos do you enjoy? Which one can you do the most quickly? Which one produces the nicest-looking chain stitches for you?

    • June 24th, 2015 by Vashti Braha

    How to Crochet Slip Knot Variations

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

    Here’s the follow up how-to for yesterday’s “More Ways to Start Crocheting” post. I’ve created photo step outs for two useful variations of the traditional starting slip knot. The first is what I call the Buff Slip Knot. The second is the Three-Loop Starting Slip Knot.

    Crochet Slip Knot Variation I: Buff Slip Knot

    Crochet Slip Knot Variation #1: Vashti's Buff Slip Knot

    This knot works like a crochet slip knot: it offers a slip loop that you adjust by tugging on the longer yarn end. Tying it is much like tying a beginner’s slip knot, so it’s not likely to be difficult for most crocheters. If you’re a beginning crocheter, feel free to skip this for now.

    I listed ten possible functions crocheters might need from the starting slip knot in yesterday’s post. The Buff Slip Knot is an especially good candidate for#5 and #9 on the list. Try it when you need or want a visible crochet slip knot that is nice looking. It’s symmetrical in more than one way. It’s also beefier in case you wish to start with a large-holed bead accent.

    Crochet Slip Knot Variation II: Three-Loop Slip Knot

    Crochet Slip Knot Variation #2: Three-Loop Slip Knot

    This one may seem odd. Why would anyone want a crochet slip knot with three starting loops? It’s a great way to start right off crocheting with a finished, usable end. Later on I’ll have some patterns that use this. It’s handy for jewelry and other types of cords and straps. See a simple example in photo #6 below.

    Crochet Slip Knot #2: Resulting Three-Loop Slip Knot

    Adjust and tweak the final desired size of the loops first before tightening completely. Then, pull the knot tight enough to give it a streamlined look.

    In case you’ve wondered why I often refer to the slip knot as a “crochet slip knot” even though no crochet stitch or hook is involved, it’s to distinguish it from similar slip knots that are used for other reasons by non-crocheters.

    • June 10th, 2015 by Vashti Braha

    More Ways to Start Crocheting

    This is post #6 of Vashti’s How to Crochet Book, blogged. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.

    Crochet happens when a simple loop can be pulled through another loop: such creative freedom in this! What follows is not meant to confuse newbies. My goal is to empower, demystify, and inspire. If you find it confusing, just skip this post for now. See next post for some photo tutorials on how to do two handy slip knot variations.

    That initial knot and first loop that we use to start crocheting can perform other special functions. I list several below. For now I’ll explain a few of them. The other functions will come up in much later posts as we come to new designs and crochet skills. After today we’ll start crocheting for real!

    Traditional Advantages of the Crochet Starting Knot/Loop

    The role of the traditional beginner’s slip knot is to be:
    1. Invisible (mostly, or completely).
    2. Strong.
    3. Permanent.
    4. Simple and quick to make, remember, adjust, and use to start crocheting the first stitch.

    The beginner’s slip knot is a great choice for #1 through #4, with a few minor exceptions. More on this after the rest of the list.

    Other Possible Functions of a Crochet Starting Knot/Loop

    5. Visible. A clearly visible starting knot could be purely decorative, especially if it looks symmetrical and has a fancy texture. It can also be functional: a dense and bulky one would serve as a stopper for a large-holed bead. (I’ve often needed a good knot for this purpose.) It could also add weight to the ends of fringe for a nicer drape.

    6. Temporary. Some crocheters and knitters have a blanket “no knots” policy. A temporary knot is easy. Just make a really loose slip knot so that you can undo it later. This way, the knot makes it easy to start crocheting, but you’re not stuck with it permanently.

    7. Start crocheting with more than one starting loop. (See first image above.) I keep discovering more uses for starting with more than one loop. Make a simple slip knot variation that produces two (or more) starting loops, then start crocheting with one of them. The remaining starting loop can be used as a button loop or hanging loop for your finished project.

    8. Reinforced strength.  Just adding a twist or an extra wrap while making the starting slip knot adds strength and security. I need this reinforcement when using extra slippery or wiry yarns and threads.

    9. Change the angle of the yarn ends. “Change the angle of the yarn ends” may sound odd, but for me, it’s a new way of looking at starting knots. When my yarn end is visible as fringe, sometimes it’s noticeable to me that it doesn’t hang straight. This is because the simple slip knot causes the yarn end to hang at an angle. I’m currently looking for starting knots that cause the starting yarn end to hang differently. I like the Buff Slip Knot so far.

    10. Join or attach to something else while adding a starting loop. I’ve needed a way to start crocheting while also neatly, elegantly attaching it to something when I’ve made: watchbands, a belt with a buckle, and certain pendants for necklaces. I’m currently looking for new favorite starting knots in this category.

    Advantages & Slight Disadvantages of the Traditional Slip Knot

    The common slip knot is not 100% invisible (see #1 above). Depending on the yarn and project, it might not even be mostly invisible. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the knot when you start crocheting. A knot in the center of a motif, or flower shape, or nose of a stuffed animal, can also make it more noticeable.

    A few things can weaken the slip knot’s strength (#2) and permanence (#3). If you start crocheting with the “adjustable slip knot” described here and the starting yarn end is clipped too short and/or the yarn is slippery, it’s not pretty. It could loosen, and even unravel in certain projects. Beginners: this is why I go into detail about the starting yarn end length, and the two ways to make the starting slip knot.

    Ever seen an old lace or granny square afghan with only the centers unraveled? It’s sad how easily this could have been prevented. Just make sure that you use the “locking” slip knot with a long starting yarn end that you weave in securely.

    ©2013 Reyna Lorele: Granny square blanket with just the center unraveled.

    ©2013 Reyna Lorele. Only the center of this granny square unraveled. From her “Yarn In Yarn Out” blog, April 2013 post.

    Another benefit of the beginner’s slip knot is that once you start crocheting, the slip loop (the starting loop of the slip knot) looks just like the rest of the stitches. This is because a crochet stitch actually has the same structure as the slip loop (see this post for more on that).

    Many crochet projects are actually “started” over and over. Here are a few: granny square afghans (each granny square starts in its center), Irish crochet lace (separate shapes are assembled later), and intarsia (patterns of colors with varying lengths of yarn).

    Crochet is perfect for everything from delicate lace dresses to sturdy beach totes and slipper soles, super strong pet leashes to artistic jewelry, weightless shawls to heavy coats and afghans, stiff fedoras to draping color work.

    Doesn’t it make sense that some of these crochet projects could benefit from specialized ways of starting them?


    About that NO KNOTS policy that some crocheters and knitters have: by this they likely mean tight knots. A tight knot can weaken the yarn over time. It’s also unsightly, interrupting a buttery, spongey look and feel. I almost always use knots when I start crocheting, but I don’t pull them into tight hard lumps. I rely on reinforcement from a long woven-in yarn end as well as a knot. I’m especially careful in areas of a project that will have to sustain strain and weight. That would be the shoulders of a sweater, the motif centers and seams of a blanket, the toes and heels of socks, a bag bottom and its handle attachments, etc.

    See next post for photo tutorials on how to do two handy slip knot variations.

    • June 9th, 2015 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

    Crochet Starting Knot Variations

    I’ve been trying out some variations on the usual crochet starting knot. After all, we really just need a simple loop to start crocheting. Have a look at a few experiments, below. I’ll be back later to finish this post by explaining how I selected some of the knots that I tried.

    Note: The previous post was about the standard crochet starting knot. In crochet it’s known as the slip knot or slip loop. It’s a common, fast, useful, and easy knot. It’s often thought of as one knot, but in reality there are two versions of it. Among non-crocheters these two versions may go by other names, such as Simple Noose Knot, Overhand Knot with Draw Loop, and Slipped Overhand (or Thumb) Knot. I blogged about the two kinds of slip knots here.

    This post is part of a blogged crochet book. Click here to see all posts in this ongoing series.
    • May 29th, 2015 by Vashti Braha

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