It’s a short update today. Checkout this pretty photo I took this morning of a brand-new star stitch class swatch. This is what the Starwirbel Cowl stitch pattern looks like when it’s done in flat spiraling rounds. (It still has the scrap yarn marking the spiraling rounds.) I’m testing the shaping information in the Starwirbel Way class handout.
Thanks for joining me as I blog the 50 days of preparation for the crochet conference this summer! It’s Day 11 which means I’ve blogged one-fifth of the 50 days.
Have I completed one-fifth of my tasks? Frankly, I don’t know. There are so many little things to do that they’re hard to count accurately. If my gut says I’m moving through things at a good pace, I’ve learned I can trust that and enjoy the constant river of details that get done as they flow through me. I’m halfway through my list of things to do for the Starwirbel star stitch class.
It was my gut that said, “For the 2016 conference you’ll have from half to two-thirds of 2015’s river of show booth details to manage. After several years of teaching you’ll have slightly less than half of a river of teaching details, so GO FOR IT! DO BOTH!”
Clickable resources for my 2016 Starwirbel class (How to Shape Spiraling Star Stitches). Includes patterns for designs shown, and inspiration for new projects and variations. Also articles & books recommended in class. Click an image to enlarge it.
Note: sorry, this class SOLD OUT in April, but keep checking back at the registration page. Sometimes a space opens up.
“A Star Stitch For Every Purpose” is a sold out three-hour crochet class that I taught in July, 2014 at the 20th anniversary annual conference for the national crochet guild (CGOA). I researched over 200 sources from the 1840’s to the present. Class materials included a spiral-bound booklet of Star stitch patterns and a step by step how-to section.
Click on an image in the gallery below to learn more about it. Scroll past this gallery for more resources.
My Star Stitch Crochet Board in Pinterest. It was specially promoted by Pinterest admins earlier this year: “We think your board is amazing, and it really demonstrates what Pinterest is all about!”
The earliest example of Star stitches I’ve found so far is in an 1881 issue of a Norwegian magazine. It’s remarkable to me how seldom Star stitches have appeared in crochet books since 1881!
Key historical sources:
1881: Nordisk Mønster-Tidende.
1886: Knitting and Crochet.
1891: The Art of Crocheting, by Butterick.
1891: Home Work, by A. M. (Toronto).
Late 1800’s: Weldons Practical Crochet, First Series (London).
1910: Fleisher’s Book #8.
When Star stitches do appear in a book or online, they can vary in many ways both subtle and dramatic. This is mainly because a Star stitch is a compound stitch, so there are opportunities to vary each step along the way. This is true not only when completing each Star, but also when crocheting the next row into it, and what stitches are in that next row. For example, you can crochet Stars into Stars – with turning or without. You can alternate a row of Stars with a row of, say, single crochet stitches. All of these simple choices change the look of the stitch, and the experience of crocheting them.
I’ve been unable to locate a print copy of two Japanese “Star Crochet” books, but here is the ISBN for one of the volumes: 978-4-579-11323-1.
When tall stitches look very different from each other, or lumpy, stringy, loose, or too short, we just need to take more control of them. Especially vexing is when the top loops look loose and loopy! My solutions below will help you crochet even the very tall stitches that look downright handsome. First, some basics of crochet.
Tall & Taller Crochet Stitches
A basic rule of crochet is if you already know how to do the double crochet stitch (US: dc, UK/AUS: tr), it’s easy to understand how to make the taller ones. Here’s how to crochet the dc into a row of stitches:
Yarn over andinsert your crochet hook under the top two loops of the next stitch of the row. Yarn over and pull up a loop; you now have three loops on your hook. *Yarn over and pull the loop through two of the loops on your hook, then repeat from the * once: only one loop remains on your hook.
An amazing feature of crochet is there’s no limit to a stitch’s height. Start with the double crochet stitch as the model for crocheting any taller stitch. Here’s how to make a treble, the next taller stitch:
Yarn overtwo times (instead of once for a dc). Insert your crochet hook under the top two loops of the next stitch of the row like you would for a dc, yarn over and pull up a loop; you now have four loops on your hook. *Yarn over and pull the loop through two of the loops on your hook, repeat from the * until only one loop remains on your hook—for a treble, that’s twice more.
With each taller stitch (double trebles and so on) you yarn over more times and then work the loops off of the hook in pairs, just like you do to make a dc and tr. The only difference is that you have more pairs of loops to work off.
What About Tall Stitch Variations?
Note that I’m sticking closely to the basic stitches here. That means I’m leaving out:
other types of tall stitches, such as the extended ones of half-step heights,
These non-basic stitches have the same problems with loose top loops. My tips below will help.
A Better Start
Our goal is no slack in our loops beyond what’s needed for crocheting at our normal smooth and easy gauge. This is not about crocheting tighter. It’s about identifying where we let extra yarn creep in.
Buff your crochet hook surface.
Even slight, imperceptible residue will cause you to need a bit more slack in your loops. For a few seconds I vigorously rub the whole stitch-making zone of the hook with a soft cloth (preferably microfiber or chamois). I do this when I start a new project, resume crocheting one after a long break, or daily during peak summer humidity.
Adjust the initial loops.
The loop that’s already on your hook will become the top two loops of the new stitch. I tug on it gently to tighten. The loop should still slide freely along the main part of the hook (not the narrower tapered neck of it).
Let’s start a triple treble (US: trtr, UK/AUS: quadtr). I yarn over four times and immediately slide all the loops together while tugging a bit on my yarn. This removes unnecessary slack. They should still slide well on the hook as a neat, snug group. Keep your thumb or forefinger on the group so that they don’t loosen as you start crocheting.
It’s easy to overlook how much extra yarn we add to a stitch if the yarn overs spread out along the hook. (Keep this in mind for lacy Tunisian crochet too!) This will become a quick automatic movement after a while.
Better Stitch Making
While working the loops off of my hook in pairs, I pull up a bit on the loops. This has two benefits.
Lifting adds elegance.
If you think of the base of a stitch as having two “feet” planted in a stitch, then pulling up a bit higher while working the stitch creates longer “ankles” and a streamlined body. I first learned this about the dc from Pauline Turner in her Crocheted Lace book (Martingale, 2003). She explains why even experienced crocheters can have trouble getting a doily to lie flat if their stitch heights vary from the designer’s.
Lifting while making your tall stitches will help you get row gauge for filet lace projects. Feel free to add a chain to your turning chains if lifting makes your row a whole chain taller.
Use the “reserve” yarn.
Not all of the yarn is coming from the ball of yarn to complete the stitch. Some comes from the “reserve” yarn that’s wrapped around the hook. As I crochet I’m almost miserly about the yarn coming from the ball as I pull up a bit, yarn over, and pull through two loops at a time.
Try it: go slowly and watch how more yarn gets pulled off of your hook if you restrict the flow of yarn from the ball.
Part of this motion is that I’m also tilting my hook at a sharp angle. The head is pointing almost straight down as I pull a loop through the next two loops on the hook. This helps the yarn slip from hook and into the stitch at a pretty angle.
The stitches comes out uniformly neat and orderly looking. These subtle crocheting adjustments will become automatic and feel natural.
The Yarn Matters
Crocheting a tall stitch involves a lot of wrapping. A right-handed crocheter wraps the yarn around the hook in a counter-clockwise direction. It either untwists a yarn, or adds more twist, depending on whether the yarn starts out with a clockwise or counterclockwise twist (a.k.a. “S-twist” or “Z-twist”).
This is really noticeable sometimes. The tall stitches look stringy or uneven for several reasons:
It’s hard to work the loops off the hook evenly without splitting the plies of yarn.
A yarn flattens when it loses twist. This affects how the stitch looks.
Separated yarn plies add a stringy look to the surface of a completed stitch.
The fiber blend matters. Slippery yarns add challenge, and so do yarns with uneven bumps. Sometimes trying different crochet hooks helps (remember to buff them first).
When you’ve tried everything, it’s not you. Occasionally,tall stitches are going look looser no matter what you do! Blocking might help.
Tall stitches love a good blocking.
This probably sounds about as fresh and exciting as “take time to check your gauge” but the transformation is so worth it.
Tall crochet stitches are structurally complex. Blocking gives the yarn strands a chance to absorb the energy you added with all the wrapping and looping, and to meld evenly into a stable column.
Your tall stitches will respond even more handsomely to blocking if your yarn does. Natural fiber content helps because it responds so readily, but you can also block some 100% acrylic yarns with steam very carefully.
Crochet’s lacy beauty really shines through with the tall stitches, doesn’t it? I fall in love with crochet all over again when I use them.
Many crocheters have been trained to see the slip stitch as a humble little stitch that is very useful, though limited. It has such a simple structure that there couldn’t be much to it.
Or could there?
Pictured above: “Bosni-Misti-Möbi”, a recent teaching project. It’s a true mobius (i.e., seamless infinity rounds with no turning) of 100% Bosnian-type slip stitches, with stacked color pooling and a Bosnian lattice border engineered to maintain the same color uptake (stacking) of the rounds as the rest of the stitches.
A venerable old subcategory of Slip Stitch Crochet is known in many countries by different names. English speakers have called it Bosnian Crochet, Muslim Crochet, and Shepherd’s Knitting. In Norwegian it is pjoning, and in Swedish it’s krokvirkning, smygmaskvirkning, and bosnisk virkning.
It may be the oldest form of crochet.
Many crocheters and knitters remember seeing their relatives from other countries such as Morocco, Bosnia, Poland, Norway, and Sweden, crochet thick, dense socks, mittens and hats with slip stitches. The fabric is so dense that mittens made from it are very warm, durable, and soft.
Some of these traditional slip stitch items are even waterproof.
Not only is the fabric practical, it’s beautiful! Two simple versions of the slip stitch can be all that’s necessary to create the intricate patterns of textures and colors of this centuries-old art form.
Slip Stitch Crochet is an Unmapped Frontier
Unmapped frontier in English, anyway. The known territory for us is tiny: new crocheters learn that they need slip stitches when joining a round, or for traveling invisibly across other stitches, such as when crocheting doilies, granny squares, and other motifs.
Unfortunately we also learn that this is all it’s good for. Please see my Slip Stitch Fake Facts page, which corrects the persistent misinformation.
It’s precisely because the diminutive slip stitch has such a simple structure that a seemingly insignificant change in how it is crocheted results in large-scale effects. Merely changing the hook size or yarn type can be enough to create something stretchy enough to be worn as a “magic tube” scarf, or slinky enough to seem to pour over the shoulders. Change the entry point of the stitch, change the direction of entry, change the direction of working, change the ‘yarn over’ that completes the slip stitch, and more.