Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gramma's blankets

My great-grandmother used to make the most wonderful afghans. I inherited her crochet hooks, actually, when she died, but she didn't teach me how to make the blankets. We weren't close. At all. To be honest, I inherited her hooks from my grandmother, who gave them to me mostly because she didn't want them. But still - my great grandmother's hooks. They're the awesome steel kind. Most of them are little lace-making hooks, utterly useless to me since I don't have anything like enough patience to make lace things, but a few of them are big enough to make other things. Say, blankets.

Recently, someone gave me some yarn. Yeah. Enough yarn to make a pyramid. That's not all of the yarn, actually; I didn't include half-skeins because they were too floppy to support the pyramid. But anyway. I got some yarn from a lady at my church. And I thought, what the heck am I going to DO with all of this yarn?! As I've stated in previous posts, I live in a dorm! I don't even have enough room for the yarn I already have!

So, my yarn pyramid will stay at home, and while I'm home over breaks, I'm going to try and make blankets like great-grandma used to.

Before I jump in with this, let me say, I'm NERVOUS. These blankets (I think we have something like ten or twelve of the ones great-grandma made) are precious to my family. They're the closet thing we have to family heirlooms. The dog isn't allowed to touch these blankets for fear that she'll chew them up and/or get hair all over them. And now it's my turn. To possibly make something that my great-grandchildren will one day treasure and not let their dog sleep on.

Oh boy.

I've decided, for the first blanket, to use the variegated blue and the off-white. (Red Heart "Ocean" and Red Heart "Aran".) I'm using an H hook and the pattern my mother wrote down for me.

Here's the pattern I'm working off of:

Chain however many you like, depending on how long you want the blanket. 44 is a good number. Make two dc stitches in the fourth chain from the hook. Chain one time. Make three dc stitches in the next chain. Chain one. Make three dc stitches in the next chain, and so on until the last chain. Make four clusters in the last chain. Work around the back side of the chain with clusters in the spaces. Make a slip stitch into the top of the first cluster.

Chain three and make two dc stitches in the same space. Make two clusters in the next space. Make one cluster in the next space and two in the one after that. Make one cluster in each space down to the corner. Make two clusters between the first and second clusters of the corner. Make one cluster in the next space and two in each of the next two spaces. 

For future corners, make two clusters between the two clusters of the previous corner.

Clearly, my mother is not a pattern writer.

Did I already say "Oh Boy"?

Alright, the first instruction is easy enough. So let's get started!

Great-grandmother always did at least two colors, and usually a stripe of some kind. I thought I would do the middle section in blue, then a thick stripe of off-white, then another, thinner stripe, again in blue. I don't know how many rows of each I should use... I don't know how much yarn this is going to take, either. I've never seen anything but the finished blanket before, except for the tiny part my mom made when she was telling me how to do it. I'm flying by the seat of my pants.

1: 2 dc in fourth ch from hook. (ch1, 3dc) ea to last.

Right... well... I'm four clusters in and this thing is curving around itself in a spiral already! I'm really sure it's not supposed to do that. But I refuse to freak out just yet; I'll wait and see what happens. Except... now I'm eight clusters in and I don't remember my mom's looking like this. I think she meant for me to skip a chain between each cluster.

1: 2dc in fourth ch from hook. (ch1, 3dc) ea to last. 4 (ch1, 3dc) last. (ch1, 3dc) shall now be known as "cluster". 1 cluster in the ch sp along the back side.

Okay. Now I'm just about ready to join, except that... I don't have enough clusters in the very first chain. I misread mom's instructions and now I have to go back and do it all again! Also, skipping one chain between clusters looked strange... I'm still going to go with it and see if it will straighten itself out. For now, back to the beginning.

1: 2dc in fourth ch from hook. 3 clusters same st. (sk 1 ch, cluster in next) until last. 4 clusters in last. 1 cluster in each ch sp along the back side. Join to top of ch3.

And, uh, yeah. Still doesn't look anything like correct. So I asked my mom and guess what? The first row doesn't have clusters! Well then! Let's start over.

1: 2dc fourth ch from hook. (ch1. dc 3.) to last, do not skip any ch. 4 clusters last ch. (ch1, dc 3) to last. 3 clusters same ch as beginning. sl st to join. sl st 2 to next chsp.
2: 2 clusters in that chsp. 1 cluster next. 2 clusters next. 1 cluster each to last 4 in row 1. 2 clusters, 1 cluster, 2 clusters. 1 cluster ea back. sl st to join.
3: for all future rows, 1 cluster ea ch sp. For corners, 2 clusters between the 2 clusters of previous corner.

There! Now... just go. And go. And go. Until it's big enough or you run out of yarn.

Well, the pattern is figured out now! I'll have another blog post with my progress eventually.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Ugly (but useful) Hanging Bag

Well, I live in a dorm room and we don't have much storage space on the floor. We have four of those awesome stackable crates, and two of the standing three-drawer bins, but somehow we still seem to be out of space. And how does that work, anyway?

I've decided that what I need to do to clear up some space is to make myself a big old hanging bag to store my yarn (which is currently taking up two crates) in. To that end, I'm using the color I have most of, which is currently the ball of magenta I bought on a whim and never got around to using.

My plan for this is pretty simple:  an open-work bag, with smaller holes at the bottom than the top but not by much. I want two loops on one side from which to hang the bag on 3M hooks, and a button closure.

So here we go!

The first thing I'm going to try is 18 dc in a circle, increased quickly and then more slowly.

mc 18 dc
2: ch4, sk 1, (dc ch1) ea
3: ch4, (dc, ch1) first, 2(dc, ch1) ea
4: ch4, (dc, ch1) first, (dc, ch1) next, 2-1

And, actually, this is boring me a little bit, so I'm going to try something else! The sweater I'm making has a really cool pattern which isn't very hard to do, so I'm going to try and adapt that.

mc 18 dc
2: ch7. sk1, sc next 2. repeat around. sl st under first ch, turn.

And here I've come to a problem... The join on the pattern I'm adapting actually forms one of the ch loops. So I need to figure out how to get the last st at the top of a ch loop.

2: *sc 2. ch7, sk 1* to last sc. for join, ch3, tr into first sc. ch1.
3: sc3 first ch loop, (sc3, sc7, sc3, sc7, sc3) ea ch loop to first/last. (sc3, ch7, sc 3, ch3, tr in first sc)

Well, the holes are just a little big for my liking, so I'm going to go back and cut out the skipped stitches. I'm also going to decrease the chaining by one. Since the holes will be smaller, the third row will have to have less stitches.

2: *sc2, ch6* to last 2 sc. sc 2, ch3, tr into first sc.
3: sc3 first ch loop, (sc 2, ch 6, sc 2, ch 6, sc 2) ea ch loop to first/last. (sc 2, ch6, sc 2, ch6, sc2)
4. sc3 first ch loop, ch6, (sc3, ch6, sc3, ch6) ea ch loop to first/last. (sc3, ch6, sc3, sc3, tr in first sc)

.... And that's too quick an increase. It's making the shape warp in funny ways. To solve that, no problem, just insert a row without increase.

4: sc3 first ch loop, (sc 3, ch 6, sc 3) ea ch loop to first/last. (sc 3, ch 3, tr in first sc)
5: sc3 first ch loop, ch4. (sc 3, ch6, sc3, ch4) ea ch loop to first/last. (sc 3, ch2, tr in first sc)
6: sc3 first ch loop, ch1, (sc 3, ch6, sc 3, ch1) ea ch loop to first/last (sc 3, ch2, tr in first)

And um... halfway through, I decided I don't like this pattern anymore. I'm going back to the one I said was boring. This is just taking forever! So back to the first pattern.

mc 18 dc
2: ch4, sk 1, (dc ch1) ea
3: ch4, (dc, ch1) first, 2(dc, ch1) ea
4: (dc, ch1) ea
5: ch4, (dc, ch1) first, (dc, ch1) next, 2-1

This one is still curling, so I'm going to insert another row of no-increase between four and five.

4: (dc, ch1) ea
4 5
6: ch4, (dc, ch1) first, (dc, ch1) next, 2-1

Okay, that's much better. Note to self:  two rows between increase rows. I have 54 ch sp right now; that looks like enough for me, so  I also want to slowly start making the holes bigger. I'm going to begin by increasing from ch1 to ch2, and eventually work my way up to (I think) tr, ch3.

7: (dc, ch1) ea
8: (dc, ch2) ea
8 9 10 11 12

So, at this point, the bag is still a circle (not beginning to start vertically yet). It's also a lot bigger than I thought it would be! Unfortunately, that means I'm going to have to rip out a lot of stitches and go back to row 5. I'm going to increase row six by 9 st instead of 18. I currently have 36 ch sp, and I want 45. I need to increase to 5 for every 4 of the previous row, which means 3 st between increases.

Also, I've decided that I want it to have a sloped bottom, not just a circle, so I need to insert more rows between increases. So! Back to the beginning, I'm afraid to say. I may as well not trouble myself with increasing 18 every row. I'm going to increase 9 instead. It means more increase rows, but might be better for the shape I want.

3: ch4. (dc, ch1) first 2. 2-1 (27)
4: (dc, ch1) ea
5: ch4. (dc, ch1) first 3. 2-2 (36)
6: (dc, ch1) ea
6 7
8: ch4, (dc, ch1) first 4, 2-3 (45)
9: (dc, ch1) ea.
9 10 11
12: ch4, (dc, ch1) first 5, 2-4 (54)
13: ch5, (tr, ch1) ea.
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

At this point, I'm out of the magenta I've been using, so I'll switch to maroon.  It's looking a good shape - nice and spacious - so I think I'll use the maroon to finish it out.

24: sc ea ch sp and tr.
25: sc ea (108)

Alright... I want five straps total, three of them with buttonholes. I want four of them evenly spaced (26 st apart) and the last one between two of the other straps. I think I know how to do this. Let's see.

26: sc 12, ch 11. (sc10, sl st 2 of bag, sc 7, ch2 sk 2, sc last. ch1 turn, sc 10.) sc 12......

Okay, now I'm confused. Let's try this again:  the bag has 108 st. Each of the four long straps will take up 2 st, so that means 24 st between them. The small fastener strap will also take 2 st, and I want it centered between two straps. That means there will need to be 11 st between each strap and the edge of the fasten strap. Okay. And the four main straps will be varied length:  the two front ones shorter, the two back ones longer, and the fasten strap between the two longer back straps. The two front straps will have buttonholes; the two back ones will not.

26: (ch19. sc 18. sl st 2 into bag rim. sc 14. ch3, sk 3, sc 1. ch1, turn. sc 18.) sc 24. Repeat ( to ). sc 24. *ch53, sc 52, sl st 2 into bag rim, sc 52, ch1 turn, sc 52* sc 11, (ch10, sc 9, sl st 2 into bag rim, sc 6, ch2sk2, sc last. ch1, turn, sc 9). sc 11. Repeat * to *. and sc to end. fasten off.

Right-o! That looks good. Now just sew on some buttons, wherever you want really, and it's done. I'm too lazy to go track down three matching buttons, so I'm just going to use some leftover scraps of magenta to just make some circles.

Easy enough. G hook, worsted weight yarn. Make at least three, or however many you want.
mc 8 hdc
2: 2-1 sc (12). fasten off.

In the end, it isn't a pretty bag, but it's going to be useful! And hey, I finally got rid of all that ugly magenta.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On Pattern Writing

I became aware lately that the way I write patterns is very... unique. For example, I'm making a small bear right now for a friend's baby. (I have to finish it by tomorrow, actually. I'd make up my own pattern otherwise.) I found a pattern that I think is absolutely adorable, but it's taking me forever to read it! I guess I'm too used to the way I write patterns! I've only been using my own patterns for things since... about last March or something. Maybe January - all of March and April was taken up with knitting, not crochet, so no patterns were really involved. (I made myself a thirteen and a half foot scarf.)

But here's what I mean.

Here's a snippet from the pattern I'm working with. It's a perfectly fine pattern, nothing wrong with it at all, and the woman who wrote it is actually quite nice and very smart - so I'm not going to tell you whose the pattern is and I'm not going to post a picture of the bear when I finish it.

1st round: 6 dc into 2nd chain from hook. Join with a slip st into 1st dc.
2nd round: 1 ch, 2 dc into same stitch as chain, [2 dc into next dc] 5 times. Sl st into 1st dc. (12 dc)

3rd round; 1ch, 2 ch into same stitch as chain, 1 dc into next dc, [2 dc into next dc, 1 dc into next dc] 5 times, sl st into 1st dc.

It's a normal set of instructions in a pattern. Quite normal, in fact. I'm used to my own short-hand, though, and it took me about five minutes to read my way through the above. So when I wrote this snippet down so that I could take it with me to class yesterday, this is what I actually put:

mc 6 dc
2: 2 ea (12)
3: 2-1 (18)

I dunno, it's a little worrying. On the one hand, this means I can write down my patterns very quickly and briefly and still understand exactly how to create an item. On the other hand, it means I have enormous trouble reading other people's patterns and, probably, that no one will ever understand mine. Which makes me a little sad, really.

Once this bear is finished (and the sweater I'm working on, which is a pattern from a yarn brand's site and takes a million words to describe very simple instructions), normal crochet experiments will resume. In fact, I've got about seven things I want to work on, and people are always asking for new things. It should be a fun time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Converse Slippers

The last time my feet got cold, I made myself a pretty cute pair of Mary Jane slippers. But, well, they're covered in dog hair at the moment and - let's face it - everyone has a pattern for Mary Janes! So I thought, hey, why don't I make myself a pair of Converse?

So I checked around the web. Lion Brand's website has a pretty cool pair of Oxford slippers, but that's not what I want right now (although, let's be honest, I would love to show up somewhere in a snazzy pair of crochet Oxfords and will probably make them in future).

I didn't find what I wanted, but I found a pair of slippers for babies, made out of crocheted thread. (Embroidery thread, I assume, but since I use yarn I didn't really pay that much attention.) So there we are! I have a pattern and I can adapt it to fit my massive feet.

Second step is to make the original pattern, learn how it works and see what I want to change.

This is about halfway through row 4 - I'm working my way up the side of the sole. You know, how converse always have the chunky white part at the bottom?

It's pretty clear that, even with a major increase in thread size and hook gauge, this is going to be way too small for me. Also, you can't really see it that well, but the stitches are pretty loose because they're for infants and, therefore, just for the cuteness factor. I'm going to have to use hdc, not dc, and that might play havoc with the increases. Well, we'll see.

Right, well, as you can see I've started the colored part of the converse, and at this point we've run into a bit of a problem. (Well, a pretty big problem, if I'm honest.) The number of stitches the pattern says I'm supposed to have doesn't match with the number of stitches I have. I've done the math on the numbers in the pattern, and they all add up, so I've probably done something wrong. Whatever it is, I've done it consistently wrong the last seven times I've tried, so I'm well and truly ready to move on.

I think I know the pattern well enough now that I don't need to actually finish this, though, so that's alright.

Things I don't like about the original pattern (as applied to adult feet):
--the stitches are too loose to protect against cold tile floors
--the way the pattern increases in the sole makes it difficult to get it flat (probably not a problem when you have it on, but it would bother me while I was making the shoe.)
--it's neither wide enough nor long enough for my feet.

Things I'll need to do to change the pattern:
-- use hdc instead of dc, simple enough.
-- increasing the stitches more gradually should take care of both the width problem and the way the slipper folds in on itself.
-- increasing the length is easy, just add more chains to the beginning. At first, I'm going to start off with the same number, because it'll be easiest to get the width and worry about the length later.
-- I notice that there's no provision for neatening the edges of the slipper. That's fine for cotton and probably embroidery thread too, but I'm going to think about ways I can tidy that up since I'm using acrylic yarn.

So this is the first sole I made, with a slower increase so that it's wider and longer, and flatter. It looks good! I like it a lot! The only problem is, it's about two inches too short for my foot.

That's not really a problem, though. The solution is one of those that makes people go "Oh no! How could you undo all that hard work?!" I'm just going to rip it out, add a few more chains to the beginning, and that shouldn't affect the shape or the position of the increases - I just have to make sure that, however many chains I add, I add the same number of stitches to each side.

I added 8 ch to the original chain and the sole that resulted from that fit my massive foot almost perfectly! It was just a tiny bit short. Instead of ripping out all of that, I decided just to add a row of sc.

It looks pretty much the same, though, so I'm not actually going to bother putting a picture of it.

So I carried on and got the red part of the converse finished! But, well, it's never that easy. I don't like how the sides go pretty much straight up - it makes the fit awkward once it's actually on your foot. I need to take them back more, and to do that I need to decrease in between the lace holes....

Actually, finding the right way to decrease was a real pain! I was beginning to worry about whether I'd have enough yarn to finish the pair, too, so I wanted to do it with as few extra rows as possible. It would have been a lot easier to decrease in sc, but I needed the height of hdc or (better yet) dc.

Trying to decrease dc was a nightmare. Most of what I do is in rounds, so I'd never noticed before how much shorter a dc2tog st is than a normal dc st. Initially, I'd thought that a dc lace hole was too tall, as well, but the more I got looking at it, I decided that it would be fine. So that meant, alternate rows of dc and hdc with the decreases always in the hdc. That was a pain, really, and played merry havoc with things until I figured out a good way. I went through seven tries before I found the one that I liked best. They pretty much all look the same, especially since I have a decent-but-not-amazing camera, so here's a picture of the final version!

You can see how different it is from the first. The rows slope backwards and the lace holes are much bigger than in the original version.

Now all that's left to make is the toe and the tongue, and sew it all together! That didn't take much doing, actually. Semicircles are pretty easy to make. The trickiest part was making sure that it was just a little longer than it was wide, to match up better with the space left for it. I eventually solved that by combining hdc and dc in a row. Over three rows, the dc made the toe long enough while the hdc at the sides kept it from being too wide.

The tongue was easy, too. I only had one problem with the tongue. It was too wide when I first tried it, but that's easily solved - just throw in some decrease stitches every few rows and viola! Beautiful. The laces were also super easy, although they do have a tendency to curl around. That's not a huge deal, though, not enough for me to really be bothered over. Here's the finished slipper.

It's a bit chunkier than a real converse, but that just means it'll fit people with slightly larger feet than mine - which is just fine by me, since it'll save me headaches doing sizing later!

Well, that's a perfectly good slipper, but it was a little big for me and flopped all over the place. I didn't like how difficult it was to lace up, either. So I made some changes, although unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the process!

Here's a list of the changes I made:
-- increased the number of laces holes from three to six.
-- used a bigger hook and thicker yarn for the laces and just chained an unreasonable amount. Fortunately, I didn't have to sc ea.
-- improved the shape to be more converse-like.
-- made the sole shorter and, for the red stripe, did a row of sl st between two rows of white.
-- worked the toe directly onto the sole, which eliminated both the need to sew things and the toe's tendency to poof up and flop around.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

That one post which introduces the writer of this blog.

As excited as I am to get going posting this blog (and trust me, it's either this or go and do homework so I'm SUPER excited), I always feel like I should get something up about me first, you know? Not that I expect anyone to actually take an interest in this blog, you understand, but it's fun anyway and so I don't mind if no one reads it but me.

So let's start.

Hello! My name is Taylor and I'm a college sophomore. I'm a Christian and a Whovian (which means, for those not in the know, I love the television show called Doctor Who - and by the way, season seven this Saturday? I am about to keel over from anticipation.), and a fledgling Trekkie (trying to be, anyway, but so far no red shirts have died - I feel like the universe has lied to me!) Stephen Fry is just about my favorite person in the world, not for any particular reason but just because he's great. I'm American but my friends are convinced that I should have been born British. I love cars, thanks to Top Gear, and have a slightly embarrassing habit of ogling nice cars I see while driving with my friends.

And I love, love, love, love, LOVE to crochet! I just love the feeling of MAKING things! It's as good as writing (which I also do, and am good at, and very much enjoy) but when you're done, you can cuddle what you've made and it doesn't take any effort to convince people to look at what you did! It's pretty great.

Most of the things I've made have come about for a couple of different reasons:  either I find I have a need for it (I've made baskets and bags to get my dorm organized), I wanted to give it to someone (dolls and scarves make excellent Christmas presents), someone asked me to make it for them (I've made a lovely Dragonair plushie and a big, cuddly teddy bear), or I had a burning desire to use up some yarn (like the cuddly Daleks up above)!

My first step when I'm trying to develop a pattern is always to check around the internet and see if anything has a pattern like what I want. If they do, I'll just use that because I'm super lazy and making patterns is difficult. More often than not, though, I'll just look for ideas on how to start, or how to improve what I already know how to do.

Actually, thinking about it, I probably should have started this blog with that teddy bear debacle. That was a laugh and a half, let me tell you. (Read: it frustrated the heck out of me for months!) Oh well, live and learn!

(by the way, check me out on Etsy! If you like the things on this blog, you'll like my shop. And I love making things for people, so if you have something specific you want, let me know! Here or Etsy, either works.)