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Holiday Crochet Project Habits

This blog post is part of today’s newsletter issue #96. That issue has a storewide 25% off coupon code in it as a thank you to my subscribers. Look for it in your inbox later today. Also check your spam folder because this is a high-volume week for email. (Not a subscriber? It’s not too late.)

The clean, bold holiday template I used for issue #96 limits how I want to write, so here’s the rest of the story. This year I look at my holiday crochet project habits over the years. (By “holidays” I mean from Thanksgiving in the USA to New Years Day.)

Holiday Crochet Project Types

It turns out I look for about eight kinds of holiday crochet projects! Sounds like a lot but they usually overlap. I wonder if you are the same way? I’ve compressed my list into three in no special order.

Feel the Peace of the Season

Relaxing & rejuvenating holiday crochet projects of Decembers past (2011-2017)
Image #1. View full size.

Crochet is my go-to to relax and recharge, and it has been ever since I was nine years old. (When I learned how to do Transcendental Meditation, my first thought was, “This is like crocheting.”)

The crochet that replenishes me during the holidays is an instinctive thing and unique to each year. I loved looking back at these!

Clockwise from top left of image #1:

  • Big Hook Bucket of 2016 (I made three). Seeing it daily in my studio makes me happy.
  • Luckyslip Mitts of 2013: I just kept making ’em in all kinds of yarns, sizes, and stitch accents.
  • Antoinette Sparklescarf of 2011: The one shown is made with the same breathtaking yarn that inspired Starwirbel later. I made about ten and turned some into reusable gift wrapping ribbon.
  • Solstice Bangles of 2017. I really needed a lot of gem-like bling last year. Each was a tiny retreat: I got totally immersed for short moments because the materials were tricky, but each bangle was quick to complete.
  • Bling Bam Bangles of 2014: Took me by surprise. I wondered what it would be like to crochet Lotus yarn with a strand of sequined thread and I couldn’t stop. Very simple. A mindless, familiar rhythm.

Last-Minute Gift Making

I’m easily inspired by great new gift ideas to crochet, but I typically don’t have a sense of occasion until the last minute. (Fortunately crocheting smaller items is fun. They often become new designs instead of gifts though.) I greatly admire event planners and others who can plan ahead well, like those who have crochet gift lists they work through months ahead.

Last minute gift crocheting puts a burden on a crochet pattern to be easy to understand, and to call for no-fuss materials. It’s sort of like freelance crocheting for magazines in the sense that it’s tight deadline crochet.

If the item is a crowd pleaser, then it’s production crochet territory. Ideally the pattern is easy to memorize for make multiple items from it, efficiently (and still be fun).

Niche Crochet Gifts

Crochet patterns for niche gifts: no-fuss materials, easy pleasers.
Image #2, Niche Gifts. View full size.

Niche items are about specialized appeal and could be the perfect thing for someone. I focused on some in the newsletter: men, boys, teens, tweens, teachers, and mothers-in-law. These are the patterns shown clockwise from top left of image #2:

  • Expedient Cowl: Has trend appeal for teens and 20-somethings, including as a skirt! What makes it fast and easy enough is the super-bulky yarn, big hook size, and simple stitches.
  • Aran Rozsana cuff: Folk-boho jewelry trend. A mood boost to crochet with fingering or sport yarns and embroidery flosses because of the colors. Mostly single crochet (UK/AUS: dc).
  • Petticoat Cozy: Just a token gift item. It’s the double layer of lace that appeals to people. Same yarns as Aran Rozsana.
  • Frostyflakes: A really popular pattern and addictive to crochet! It has special appeal to women over 30. Use any yarn; I even made a bookmark with size 20 thread.
  • Gallon Friend: This curio is very niche. Make them for grade school and ESL school teachers, children, and for home cooks. I’ve always wanted to try a keychain size in thread!
  • Lucky Twist Mitts: One of the patterns that comes to mind for men. Has sizing for both sexes, same with Luckyslip Mitts.
  • Slip Slope: The scarf is a crowd pleaser and Google Trends tells me the boot cuffs are still trending high for younger folks! Also see the Lucky Twist Boot Cuff pattern in Ravelry.
  • Burly (center) and Burly Bias: The basic Burly scarf for men and boys, and the niche diagonal Tunisian necktie for the man who has everything. I love making the ice creamy one and like how it settles on my shoulders and frames my face.

Crochet Gifts for Mothers-in-Law

Seems oddly specific, doesn’t it? I’m surprised by the number of times someone has told me they used one of my patterns, or took one of my classes, specifically so that they could make the item for their mother-in-law. (My own mother-in-law wanted a white angora hat to keep her ears warm.) The mother-in-law patterns:

Hostess Gifts

Some Decembers I go to so many parties. A pile of small crocheted gifts on hand would be great. Maybe a sack or decoration for a wine bottle, to decorate the lid of fresh-spiced nuts, etc.

Last year I had extra Solstice Bangles to toss onto a wine bottle neck—so festive! And the hostess ends up with new bangles.

Trend-Inspired

I checked on this season’s knitwear trends and this is what I found:

  • Creative use of fringe remains a strong fashion trend. My first thought is the Starpath Scarf because at this time of year it’s easy to set it down and remember what you were doing when you get back to it. Also, no ends to weave in, no matter how many colors you use.
  • Giant yarns, stitches, and accessories. Burly and the Expedient Cowl in super-bulky yarn (see Image #2 above) are tame compared to what’s on the runway. A Q-Star Coverlet in bulky yarn would be a lavish winter blanket! Or rug/bath mat?
  • Asymmetry, and diagonal/multidirectional seams and surface grain. Hello, Burly Bias (see above).

Go Luxe!

Splurge-worthy for 2018: Doris Chan patterns, Vashti's investment patterns, yarns, hooks, and the new Delicate Crochet book
Image #3, Splurge-worthy. View full size.

The holidays is when I splurge and reinvest in my craft. I hope you also treat yourself or another crocheter. Beyond shopping and spending, to me it’s about using this time to crochet with my fanciest yarn stash and maybe break in some new crochet hooks.

Other years it has been about bling. This year I’m feeling very angora-luxe. I’ve been hoarding angora yarn for too long.

If someone asked me what they should get from my shop and money was no object for them (or they want to make the most of the coupon code in the newsletter), these come to my mind in no special order:

I wish for you the experience I aim to have with my 2018 holiday crochet projects: peace, cheer, inspiration, and warmth inside and out.

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All Crochet Hook Sizes in Charts

Crochet Hook Sizing with easy to see size gaps: my size charts (for steel, for medium-range, and for jumbo hooks) include the MISSING sizes.
Download the three charts shown above—with extra columns!—as a free PDF. See below. There was no room for this material in my newsletter issue about crochet hooks. It pairs well with this one: Deluxe Crochet Hook Diagram.

 

Hey there, New Crocheter?: On the face of it, crochet hook sizes are beginner-level stuff. Question one quirky thing and you can end up in a maze. I did. Over the years I’ve had five key realizations. They build on each other in a logical order, below. I wish I could have read this post when I started questioning! Bookmark this if you’re not quite ready for it yet. Better yet, add a comment about where you’re at.

Crochet Hook Sizes Explained

Charts of all crochet hook Sizes! Easy to see size gaps. My size charts (for steel, for medium-range, and for jumbo hooks) include the MISSING sizes.
Vashti’s Charts of Crochet Hook Sizes

First, download my Crochet Hook Size Charts, and then the Deluxe Crochet Hook Diagram. You might want to refer to them as you read further.

I originally created these charts for my own use.The PDF has more information than the three charts pictured at the top of this blog. For example, two more columns, and how to use the charts and understand the size increments. Each chart is a full-page size:

  1. All Steel Crochet Hook Sizes in 0.10 mm increments: 0.40 mm – 3.50 mm
  2. NON-Steel Crochet Hooks, medium-range in 0.25 mm increments: 1.75 mm – 7.75 mm
  3. NON-Steel Crochet Hooks, jumbo sizes in 1.00 mm increments: 8.00 mm – 36.00 mm

Crochet Hook Sizes, the Five Keys

1. I watch exactly where on the hook I make each stitch.

I especially watch the starting loop on the hook because it will become the top two loops of the new stitch. My goal is to avoid forming stitches on the tapered part (“throat”) of the crochet hook.

Some hooks have such a long throat that I can’t avoid making my stitches there. This is a big deal with some stitches. The taper will give my tall stitches loose top loops.

Pictured at right is my first crochet hook (green) and one of my current favorites (gold). My green crochet hook made my stitches look more stringy and uneven than they had to, even for a newer crocheter.

A big revelation for me (thank you Nancy Nehring) was that the crochet hook’s true size is where my stitches are made on it. So the other reason I watch where I make stitches on the hook is to know where to measure the hook size.

2. I treasure my slide gauge tool.

Needle gauges, the kind with holes, are everywhere. They’re even given out for free at yarn shops and conferences. I tossed them all out and only use a slide gauge. If I could find a reliable source for my favorite slide gauge I’d have it in my shop already. Lacis has had this one for a long time. It’s now also at JoAnn Fabrics, Amazon, Walmart, etc. Here’s another one. You can also search for millimeter calipers.

Once I know where on the hook I make my stitches (see #1 above), I measure that with a slide gauge or caliper. I get my true size of each hook in a jiffy. No forcing a hook in or out of the holes of a needle sizer with the risk of scratching the hook in the process!

When I did this with all of my crochet hooks, I found out that about a third of them were not the sizes I thought they were (based on how I use them).

3. I base my stitch gauge on my hook size.

Beginner slip stitch crochet with a big hook!
So stretchy! Easy slip stitch Expedient Cowl.

At some point in my crochet life I realized why we have so many crochet hook sizes. When the stitch gauge is based on the hook size and not on the yarn thickness, or personal habit, some amazing crochet fabrics are possible! Starwirbel, Weightless, stretchy slip stitches, and many more.

There are two more reasons: it’s the way to get the most polished stitching gauge for each project. It also standardizes our results as an international crochet community.

Before this realization I thought the different hook sizes were there to make crocheting with different yarns more pleasant. “I think this yarn is too thick for this hook. Must mean I need a bigger hook size”. That’s a fine reason, but if it were the real reason for the sizes, we’d only need about eight sizes—one per yarn thickness category. See the How Many Crochet Hooks? section of my other crochet hook post.

4. I think in millimeter (mm) sizes.

Instead of the “H hook” of my childhood I now think “5 mm hook”. It has improved every day of my crocheting life. I no longer have to deal with traditional hook size systems that are riddled with overlaps and exceptions.

Not only that, the mm sizing makes it plain where there are gaps in the standard hook sizes, and how large each gap is. This in turn opened up to me a wonderland of in-between or nonstandard crochet hook sizes. Hello handmade crochet hooks, imported hooks, and other collectibles, including odd manufacturing runs of established brands.

5. The actual number of crochet hook sizes? Infinite.

The American Craft Yarn Council (CYC) maintains a chart of 29 steel and 28 non-steel crochet hook sizes according to American and British standards. It’s a good start and includes equivalent mm sizes. I build on it in my crochet hook sizing charts by adding Japanese hook sizes and placeholders for missing sizes.

The millimeter measure accounts for all possible hook sizes, including the sizing standards of other countries. I love seeing how US, UK, and Japanese hook sizes all fit together.

Does an infinite number of crochet hook sizes seem overwhelming? Every crocheter needs a different number of sizes. Check for yourself with my list of five factors.

How Did We Get Here?

I think of the non-metric crochet hook sizing systems as being two great crochet traditions (cotton/silk threads vs. wool yarns) that got mushed together, then sprinkled with sizing standards of different countries. It’s quite the heady brew.

Steel crochet hooks were designed for lace crochet with thread. Steel is very strong for even the finest hook sizes. They’re numbered from 00 to 14 (sometimes 16). The larger the number, the smaller the hook.

Non-steel crochet hooks, whether made of aluminum, wood, bamboo, plastic, or glass, get numbered and lettered sizes (from B to U so far) according to an American system. Sizing systems in other countries use different numbering systems. Unlike the steel sizes, the large the number, the larger the hook.

Let’s talk about the size “G” hook. The CYC lists three non-steel G hooks: 4.0 mm, 4.25 mm, and 4.5 mm. Each one is a useful size. Labeling all of them size “G” is unnecessarily confusing.

The Way of Peace

Just focus on the millimeter size. A crochet hook that measures 4.0 mm (on the part of the hook where you make the stitches) will always be that size for you. It won’t matter what it’s made of, where you live, or which country manufactured the hook. Feels peaceful, doesn’t it?

I’ve added this to an experimental blog post series: Vashti’s How to Crochet Book
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Stitch Pattern Spin-Offs from Eilanner

A "spin-off" stitch pattern from Eilanner design, here tested in tencel thread and draped on a mannequin
This is the gauge swatch from the new Eilanner Shawl pattern, but I used tencel thread and a giant hook for kicks. So airy! It inspired me to try draping it on a mannequin different ways. View full size.

 

I released a new Tunisian crochet pattern the other day. There’s a lot going on in it! I think of the design as containing modules of mini-patterns. Some of them hint at new stitch patterns.

Seeds of New Stitch Patterns

Often if you change one thing about a stitch pattern you can get a whole new effect that’s cool enough to count as a new stitch pattern. (This would be a good newsletter issue, come to think of it…) Here are some I swatched while Eilanner was being edited, and the things I changed to generate them. I posted them to Instagram.

Change the Yarn and/or Gauge

An obvious way to get a new effect with a stitch pattern is to use a dramatically different crochet hook size, or yarn thickness/fiber type, or all of these (as in that first image above). Super summery look! Reminds me of tall grasses.

There’s something else going on with it too: it’s really just a gauge swatch pattern. The skill level for Eilanner is Experienced. Getting the exact gauge is not important for the pattern but I thought it would help some crocheters to focus on just the main stitch pattern without the fancy edging at both row ends and the constant increasing.

Know what else started out as “just a gauge swatch”? Fish Lips Scarf-to-Shrug!

By the way, if you’re interested in Eilanner but worry it’s too challenging, work up to it with its predecessors. Shakti is like “Eilanner 101” and Islander is “Eilanner 102”. (I named Eilanner after Islander.)

Repeat a Special Stitch Group All Over

Another way to do a stitch pattern spin-off is take a stitch group and repeat that. Here’s Eilanner’s “tattoo flower” eyelet group repeated as an all-over motif.

This right here is a fraction of the possible new stitch patterns to generate this way! For example, the eyelets could be grouped differently, or stacked in columns instead of spread out in an alternating way. Moving eyelets around is an art form in itself.

I haven’t even tried sprinkling in stitch texture contrasts. Have a look at what happened when I added a similar stitch texture: love knots!

I woke up this morning with another idea for a stitch pattern that will probably show up in Instagram once I swatch it up. (The way Instagram displays images helps me contemplate designs.)

Isolate One Key Stitch

Not every stitch pattern has a key stitch to isolate. Eilanner does, though: the shallow-extended stitch I blogged about last week. The swatch below is pretty rustic and it’s not easy to see what is different about the stitch, but have a look.

It’s kind of loose so that I can see what the stitch texture is doing. I chose Icelandic wool for this because I love that the shallow-extended stitch is like a reversible and non-curling version of Tunisian Knit stitch.

If you like seeing my experimental swatches, follow me in Instagram where I tend to post them first. And please tell me what you like or don’t about them! It inspires designs and class topics.

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V-O-T-E Early and Often with Crochet

Crocheted letters V-O-T-E against sunrise-colored crochet background
View the image above full size.

Last week I used a new Tunisian crochet stitch to swatch up a few letters of the alphabet. You can see four of the letters above. (The background is something I crocheted for the kitchen years ago.) Just look at what I can spell! I also made an ‘L’ to spell LOVE. I’ll explain how to do the cool Tunisian stitch below.

Eight-Color Poster

Tunisian crochet letters spell V-O-T-E against a rainbow aran crochet background.
It came out to approx. 12″ x 14″. View full size in Ravelry.

I’m working on a newsletter issue (#95!) about COLOR. It gave me the idea to crochet a “poster” background for the letters using as many of my Lotus yarn colors as possible.

Does the stitch pattern of the background look familiar? Maybe not—it’s rarely done with color changes. (Not sure I’ve ever seen it in more than one color. I think it’s traditionally thought of as an Aran crochet texture in off-white wool.)

I used this stitch pattern for the Chainmaille scarf, in just one color. The shiny alpaca-tencel yarn gives it a very different look!

Chainmaille: Free for October

Add the Chainmaille pattern to your cart then use the code free-poster-stitch.

For the poster, just use four pattern repeats of the Chainmaille scarf. For the flatter middle section where the letters go, I did the [ch 1, skip next ch-space, sc] part of the stitch pattern across each row for about 18 rows, then resumed the Chainmaille pattern again. Use a shallow single crochet instead of a regular single crochet if you know how. (Keeps the background a bit denser.)

 The Tunisian Stitch I’m Excited About!

I don’t know what else to call it but a shallow extended knit stitch.

First you must do a row of Tunisian Extended Stitch (ExtTSS or as I much prefer to call it, TES). It’s how you crochet the next row into them that turns them into shallow extended knit stitches.

For the alphabet letters I did just one row of TES into the foundation chains: skip the chain nearest your hook, insert your hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop; at this point you’d leave it on your hook for a TSS. Chain 1 and it becomes a TES. To continue, [insert hook under the bump loop of the next chain, yarn over and pull up loop, chain 1] in each remaining chain of the row.

Standard return pass: chain 1, then [yarn over and pull through next two loops on hook] until one loop remains on the hook.

Have a look at your TES row. Compare them to TSS. The chain-1 you added to each TSS doubles its height and adds a horizontal loop on the back of the stitch. See it? See how it resembles the horizontal loop on the back of a single crochet stitch? (See this blog post about that “third loop”.)

Close up of how to crochet a shallow Tunisian extended knit stitch.
This is the front of an extended Tunisian stitch. (This one is an extended knit stitch: a TEKS.) If your hook went where the red arrow points—between the front and back vertical bars—you’d make a TEKS. Insert the hook where the yellow arrow points and it becomes a SHALLOW TEKS.

To do a row of shallow extended knit stitch: chain 1 to begin the row (count as first stitch), *insert hook knitwise (between the front and back vertical bars) and under the lower horizontal “bump” loop (as seen on the back) of the next stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, chain 1. Repeat from * in each remaining stitch of the row.

Return pass is the same.

As with all occasions when you’re crocheting shallow stitches, the looser your gauge is, the easier it is to pick up speed crocheting them.

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Crochet Conference Wrap Up (with worksheet!)

The new CGOA Master's Program pin. I've earned two charms so far: Writer, and Fundamentals (because I wrote a few chapters of it).
I like this new pin for CGOA’s new Master’s Program (view full size image). These pins were given out on a special night at the conference. I earned the Writer charm for writing two sections of the Masters in Fundamentals.

 

Do you know what I do on the plane flight home from a conference? I fill out a simple worksheet.  It’s a nice way to reflect on everything.

I’ve done this since 2008. That’s at least ten conferences. (In some years CGOA had two conferences, a national and a regional. I’ve also attended a TNNA show here and there.) It has really come in handy so I’ve turned it into a PDF that you can download below for free.

Here’s the story on two of the six entry fields of the worksheet.

“What Got Crocheted?”

This is the first question. What it really means is “Of all the crochet supplies I packed, what did I actually get to?” Can you relate? Originally it was to help me be realistic about how many crochet projects and balls of yarn I need to stuff into my luggage! I know I’m not the only one who packs too much crochet for a trip LOL.

Nowadays I just plain enjoy reflecting on it. Sometimes I’ve even crocheted more rows on a project because I look forward to saying so on the worksheet, so it’s also motivational.

This year, what got crocheted is a swatch idea I’ve always wanted to try: to substitute the chains in a spiderweb pattern with love knots:

I also added so many more rounds to “Astrowirbel” during the 5.5 hour flight to Portland that I almost doubled its size.

“Goals Met & Unmet”

This part of the worksheet used to be more freelance minded, such as, “I finally sat down with X editor.” It has become much more, though. It’s a way to commemorate new friends I’ve made. It has also helped me see that a goal I started with wasn’t very realistic for the event, or as important in retrospect. Or, that I accomplished more than I realized while I was having so much fun.

This year, an unmet goal was to go out into Portland and see lots of roses, the Powell’s City of Books store that sounds amazing, a Peets coffeehouse, and get some supplies for my room. I was too busy teaching, or making sure I ate well between classes.

Some goals I met are: no typos in my class handouts (except a minor one in the Self-Healing Stitches class). I met and spent quality time with Dela Wilkins! I got to know CGOA’s new management company, a great group of people. I think they’re going to be a great fit with CGOA.

Post-Conference Worksheet PDF

Direct link to the PDF: Vashti’s Post-Conference Worksheet.

Keep it in mind for CGOA’s 25th Anniversary Conference July 10-13, 2019, in Manchester NH!