Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Knitting Epiphany

Guess what, Internet?  I'm bi-craftual now!  After years and years of trying, I've finally figured out knitting!

There's a simple reason why it's taken me so long to catch onto knitting: I'm an idiot.

I am a left handed person.  I am well aware that when I crochet, I do it in the opposite direction of right handed people.  It never occurred to me while I was trying (literally for several years) to learn to knit that just maybe I would do that in the opposite direction, too.

So here's me, set up like a righty, trying desperately to make knitted swatches.  And to be fair, I could produce a swatch.  It took forever and was super awkward to do, but I could make a little knitted square.  It doesn't really help that when most people on the Internet referred to "left handed knitting," what they really meant was "right handed Continental style knitting," where the stitches are worked from the left needle to the right needle and the yarn is held in the left hand.  And here's me, a left handed person, failing desperately at "left handed knitting."  I could only produce stitches by throwing the yarn ("right handed knitting" or "English style").

I could never figure out what people liked so much about knitting.  It was agonizingly slow and awkward.  I'd get frustrated, put it down for a long time, and then see all these beautiful knitting patterns and be inspired to try again, and the cycle just started all over.  And then one day, a couple of months ago, it hit me like a freaking thunderbolt:  maybe left handed people work in the opposite direction when knitting, just like in crochet!

A quick Google search proved that I was right: lefties can work oppositely if it's more comfortable to them, and it's called "mirror knitting" (NOT "backwards knitting!!!").  So I found some Youtube videos that demonstrated mirror knitting, cast on a few stitches, and went to town

And it was so easy!  I produced garter and stockinette swatches in ten minutes that had taken me an hour in right handed knitting!  Continental knitting, which had mystified before, was completely natural and actually kind of felt like crochet.  I quickly completed my very first knitting project, (a hat that's only slightly ugly) and went on to try several small projects that let me sample basic increasing and decreasing, lace, cables, and double-knitting.  I've even completed a lace shrug for my sister that almost fits her!

So knitting wasn't nearly as hard as I had originally thought all those years.  I was just approaching it from the wrong direction.  What I discovered is that even though knitting is a two-handed activity, there is still one hand that does more fine manipulation than the other.  Right handed knitting is set up so that stitches-to-be-worked are held on the left needle and the right hand manipulates them onto the right needles.  Mirror knitting is just the opposite: the right hand/needle holds the stitches-to-be-worked and the left hand manipulates them onto the left needle.

If there are any lefties out there that have been trying (and struggling) to learn knitting in the right handed way, I definitely suggest trying mirror knitting.  In particular, check out this awesome website by Bill Souza called Yarn Crafts for Lefties.  He has an amazing of variety of free instructional videos for mirror knitting in both English and Continental styles.  I really couldn't have learned without him.  Also, if you aren't already a member of Ravelry, go ahead and join.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Learning to Spin

So, something that I've been doing and not blogging about is spinning.  More specifically, I am teaching myself to spin yarn, mostly on spindles.  I started this learning this past October, and the Internet with all its resources has been an amazing learning tool.

At the moment I have three yarns in progress: a beautiful tropical colored Polwarth roving that I'm putting on my Turkish drop spindle, a pink and blue Border Leicester/Merino/Silk blend on my new wheel, and naturally fawn-colored cotton on my tahkli.  At the moment I'm mostly focusing on the cotton.

The tahkli supported spindle hails from India, and it's designed to spin very fine threads from short, fine fibers.  It's typically made out of metal and has a pointy end, so most people prefer to spin it in a bowl.  I bought my tahkli at this year's Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and I am incredibly happy with it.  It spins so quickly and smoothly, and it makes cotton spinning so easy!  I was afraid cotton was going to be really difficult to spin, but it's not so bad.  I still have trouble making a perfectly even thread, but I have the same trouble spinning wool yarns too.  Hopefully as I practice it will get better.

Even better, spinning cotton on the tahkli is portable and extremely relaxing.  It's almost a zen process.  I bought some cheap plastic cases that artists use to carry paint brushes, and my spindle and some fiber fit in there very nicely for outings.  The only thing that doesn't fit is my bowl, so I either have to get a bigger case or a smaller bowl if I want everything to be perfect.

Here's the cotton that I've spun so far, still on the tahkli.

It looks really pretty in the picture, but if you really look at the thread I'm producing, it's not very even.  I hope it will look pretty after it's been plied and washed.  I still have plenty of cotton to spin, though, so I won't be done for a while.  Two ounces goes a really long way when you're spinning so thin!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Novel Construction

I really do suck at this blogging thing.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to update more regularly, but it just never seems to happen.  Also, I might have to change the name of the blog since all I do is write about yarn. ^_^

I haven't written any patterns since my Checkered Hat, but I still have some ideas that I want to develop.  It just seems like I hardly have time anymore, so when I do crochet I tend to follow patterns for small, instant-gratification items.  However, wanting to design more has made me pay more attention to texture and construction of crocheted items.  It's amazing how much there is to learn out there.

When I stumbled upon the basic method of tapestry crochet years ago, I fell in love with the idea of the technique.  A way to work in several colors without having to weave in a bazillion ends?  It's heaven.  Suddenly, I had a technique that I could adapt to make colorful hats without the tedious chore of weaving in lots of ends.  The addition of color to a simple pattern can really make an item pop.  For instance, my checkered hat is just a simple head hugging beanie, but the checkered pattern makes it eye-catching and unique.  The same pattern worked a single color becomes a lot less interesting.

Ever since I discovered tapestry crochet, I've been paying attention to beading patterns, cross-stitch patterns, and anything else that looked like it would translate well into tapestry crochet.  I've been doodling on graph paper, trying to draw little pixel pictures that would look okay in crochet.  It never occured to me that I was still thinking inside the box (literally) until I saw this.

It's a tapestry crocheted bag I bought at a local fiber festival, featuring a llama motif and made out of llama fiber.  However, I didn't buy it merely because it's pretty. (But isn't it gorgeous?)

The crocheted image is worked in a circle, which completely blew my mind.  It never occurred to me that I wasn't limited to constructing my images in squares.  Even when I work in tubes (aka hats), the images I was envisioning were still basically squares, because all a tube is is a square (or rectangle) that has been gently folded back on itself..  The price for the bag was extremely reasonable ($20) so I snatched it up and geeked out over the construction technique.  My dad, who knows nothing about crochet, was less impressed. 

Now, I don't know if I'm smart enough to actually design anything like this, but my mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities.  It's items like this that remind me that I don't know as much as I think I do.  But y'know, that's a good thing. ^_^

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Terrible Blogger

I really suck at blogging.  I just don't do anything particularly interesting enough to justify letting the internet know.  My apologies.  However, I'm hoping that if I start writing about my crafting more, it will inspire me to actually craft a bit more.

I've been a bit lazy with my crafting lately.  Right now, I'm (slowly) working on the Isabeau Top, a pattern featured on the cover of Doris Chan's book Crochet Lace Innovations, which I highly recommend.  It was kinda funny, 'cause I couldn't figure out how the top was supposed to fit until I skipped stitches for the sleeves, and now it all makes sense.  This is only the second crochet garment I've worked on, so I still have a lot to learn when it comes to clothing construction.

For a beginning crocheter who has a firm grasp of the basic stitches (slip, single, half-double, double, etc.) and who wants to make an attractive garment, I really recommend Mary Jane Hall's Crochet That Fits.  The Checkered Hat Pattern that I've posted already is based off the methods laid out in this book.  By merely working stitches of different heights across a row, you can make a beautifully fitted garment without increasing or decreasing.  This means that the patterns are extremely simple to follow, and the main pattern is easily memorized for crocheting on the go.  What's better is that the side to side construction means that it's effortless to adjust for your own size and desired yarn substitutions by adding or substracting beginning chains.  I made the Cap-Sleeve Top on page 49 (also shown on the back cover) in Vanna's Glamour and was easily able to alter it to my specifications.  (Basically I just had to add beginning chains in order to add more stitches to accomodate my bust).  My finished product is immensely flattering and just gorgeous, and someday when it gets a bit warmer I'll add pictures.

In fact, aside from inspiring my Checkered Hat, Crochet That Fits has also inspired me to try to make a top for myself based on her techniques but using my own pattern.  I've bought the yarn I think I want to use, but it's still in the planning stages for now.  Hopefully it works out for me.

So anyway, I think this has turned out to be a pretty respectable blog post, which is good because I had no idea what I wanted to write when I started typing.  So this is dhaskoi, wishing you all a good night and happy crafting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Checkered Hat Crochet Pattern

I've written my very first crochet pattern.  If you find any errors or have any questions, please let me know right away!

Caron Simply Soft in red (A) and black (B)  (This should be obvious, but use whatever colors you want!)
H (5mm) hook
yarn needle


Okay y’all, this is actually a really easy pattern.  The hat is worked side-to-side instead of top down.  The pattern is modified off of a pattern by Mary Jane Hall in her book Crochet That Fits (which is pretty cool, by the way).  By using shorter stitches at one end of your rows, you end up with basically a trapezoid shape.  By sewing up the side seam and gathering the short end for your crown, you end up with a hat.  There are no increases or decreases.

You can make this hat longer or shorter by altering how many beginning chains you work.  Just remember to alter the size of your color blocks accordingly.  For my gauge, five double crochet and two rows made a block that was approximately square.  If your gauge or yarn is different, or if you just want different sized checks, don’t be afraid to experiment with the pattern to get it right for you.

This pattern assumes that you know how to work a color change.  It’s always done in the last step of the last stitch that you work in the previous color.  I’m not going to tell you when to work the color change in the pattern, but I will tell you what stitches will be in each color.  Since each color block is five stitches long, you will be working color changes at the end of the fifth stitch.

All stitches are worked over the unused color.  This is known as tapestry crochet.  When it’s time to change color, you bring up your unused strand to complete the last step, and then continue with that color, working over the previous yarn.  This technique allows you to work in color patterns without constantly cutting your yarn and having to weave in all those dang ends.  If you don’t quite understand what I mean by this, check out Carol Ventura’s site.

When you turn your work at the end of the odd numbered rows, you have to bring up your unused strand as well and it will show up pretty obviously.  You can cover this up by working an edging, or you can do what I did and designate the side that these show up on as the wrong side, thus hiding them inside the hat.  Or you could do both.

All stitches are worked in back loop only.  This gives the hat some stretch, as well as creating a bit of a ribbed texture.

All pattern terminology is in American English.


ch      chain
st       stitch
sl st   slip stitch
sc      single crochet
hdc    half double crochet
dc      double crochet


with A, ch 31

ROW 1:  WITH A- sl st in second ch from hook, sc in next 3 ch, hdc in next ch, WITH B- dc in next 5 ch, WITH A- dc in next 5 ch, WITH B- dc in next 5 ch, WITH A- dc in next 5 ch, WITH B- dc in last five ch, ch 3, turn (ch 3 counts as first dc of next row)   (30 st)

ROW 2:  WITH B- skip first dc, dc in next 4 st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B- dc in next 5 st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B- dc in next 5 st, WITH A- hdc in next st, sc in next 3 st, sl st in next st, WITH B- ch 1, turn (30 st)

ROW 3:  WITH B, sl st in first st, sc in next 3 st, hdc in next st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B- dc in next 5 st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B, dc in next 5 st, WITH A- dc in last 5 st, ch 3, turn (30 st)

ROW 4:  WITH A, skip first st, dc in next 4 st, WITH B- dc in next 5 st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B- dc in next 5 st, WITH A- dc in next 5 st, WITH B- hdc in next st, sc in next 3 st, sl st in next st, WITH A- ch 1, turn (30 st)

By now, the pattern should be pretty obvious.  Continue in this fashion until the hat is long enough to wrap comfortably around your head (or the head of whoever it’s for).  For me, this took 36 rows.  Remember, each stitch type is worked into the same stitch type of the previous row: for example, each hdc is worked into the hdc of the previous row, each sc in the sc of the previous row, etc. 

Make sure you end on the pair of rows with the alternate color sequence of the one you started with (so since you started A, B, A, B, A, B, end with B, A, B, A, B, A).  Cut both yarns and bind off.


With the wrong side facing out and using a strand of color A and your yarn needle, whip stitch the side seam (side seam=the bottom of your very first row and the top of your last row).  It you sew through both loops of one row and only one loop of the other row, you can continue the ribbed pattern of the hat.  Refer to your own work to figure out which loops to sew, or you can just stitch through both loops of each row if you want.

Using a strand of either color and your yarn needle, weave through the top of the hat (your short side) to gather and pull tight to close the hole.


What with the color changing and the gathering, the very top of my hat around the hole is just a little messy looking.  If you want, you can easily cover this up by attaching a pompom.

I didn’t add an edging, but you might want to.  You can do it in one color, both colors working together, or even the alternating checkered pattern.  It’s up to you.

You might also consider experimenting with ear flaps.  You can make them separately and sew them on, or you can work them straight onto the hat (top down, so to speak).

If you don’t like the ribbed pattern, try working the stitches in both loops, like normal.  I haven’t tried this myself, so I don’t know how it will turn out.  If you do it, let me know!


And there you have it.  My first pattern.  If you find any mistakes or typos, or if you have any questions, please let me know right away!  Also, I’d love to see pictures of anything you make off this pattern.  ^_^