Teaching Beginning Crochet

This week my older fiber arts class began learning to crochet. We started with a simple chain stitch. For students familiar with finger-knitting* this was an easy transition.

Once students mastered working with the crochet hook to create chain stitches, I substituted some yarn I’d worked up the night before. Crocheting into chain stitches, which beginners invariably wrangle into impossibly tight bumps, is an exercise in needless frustration. I crocheted a string of 10 chain stitches and then a row of half-double crochet stitches with nice open spaces for students to begin their first row. Only four students out of twelve made it this far in our hour class.

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One student continued to work in the background during my subsequent class. She brought this great triangle to me after the second hour. Without any direction from me, she had figured out how to single crochet. I was so proud of her ingenuity and diligence.

If a triangle is what you are trying to create then voila! Stitching together a whole bunch of triangles would make a great pattern. If a rectangle is more to your liking, then at the end of each row, crochet a single chain stitch. This allows your hook to ‘climb the ladder’ to the next row.

Everything I know about crochet I learned from Debbie Stoller’s Happy Hooker. Another great title is Kids’ Crochet by Kelli Ronci.

One of the things that makes me most fired up is the intersection between art, math, science and community. In 1997, Daina Taimina was the first mathemetician to model hyperbolic geometry; the method was crochet. Coral are one of the lifeforms that exhibit hyperbolic geometry with their expanding planes which maximize the surface area through which nutrients can be absorbed.

Margaret Wertheim presents the intersections between the theory, the art and activisim in her 2009 TED talk “The Beautiful math of coral“. I had downloaded it to play for the class, but we didn’t have enough time. Margaret and her sister Christine have created a brilliant community art project to raise awareness about the environmental damage being sustained Great Barrier Reef due to global warming using crochet. You can read more here: http://crochetcoralreef.org/

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The day before I class, I taught my intern, Zelda, how to crochet. Without any direction from me, she created a coral form by crocheting two stitches into each stitch in the previous row. As the form grows, it naturally curls over on itself. Should she continue this nubbin, it will create an enormous whorl, the likes of which you might see if you dive down to the Great Barrier Reef.

*I bristle whenever I hear people refer to a string of chain stitches as finger-knitting. It grates on that nerve dedicated to nomenclature and precise language. For the love of dog, let’s call this process what it is: finger-crochet.

SALE – Silver Crochet Jewelry

In an effort to consolidate my inventory, I’ve marked all the silver crochet jewelry down 15%. Free shipping when you buy two or more pieces. I’ll also package your pieces in an upcycled felt pouch. If each piece is intended as a separate gift, please specify this in the comments so I can make an extra pouch.

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While I do enjoy working with beads and crochet, I’d like to focus my energies on felt. I hope that in selling off the jewelry, it will make my shop look a little more coherent. Custom orders are always welcome, and I expect to make these items for gifts in the future, but I don’t think they belong in this store.

Silver Crochet

The night before we planned to leave for a wedding, I had a terrible time falling asleep. Before flashy events, I tremble with anxiety about what to wear, and lately what I can make to wear. 

On this particular night, visions of a crochet necklace danced in my head. It occurred to me that if I could knit with silver wire, I should be able to crochet with it, and why couldn’t I crochet some beads into it at the same time? I realize this is not a unique notion, but I had not seen it executed and I’m not particularly adept at crochet, so the possibilities made me quiver with excitement.

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My first attempt was a simple chain with tiny red seed beads. The kink created by the coiled wire manifested itself in a slightly wavy shape in the finished piece. Because of the flexibility, I used 28 ga sterling silver dead soft wire and an I hook.

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My second attempt was another simple chain with dyed freshwater pearls hooked on every other stitch. I used 30 pearls for this necklace which sits just on the collarbone.

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My third attempt started with a plain foundation chain, then a row of single crochet with the beads, followed by a third row of single crochet. While I started with a chain the same length as my second necklace, each successive row shortened the necklace, resulting in a choker. As I said, I’m not very experienced with crochet, so I forgot to take this into account. Each piece was finished with a sterling lobster claw crocheted into place just like another bead. I created a loop on the opposite end and wound the wire around itself to close it up.

Thank you to my lovely neck model, Heidi, for her gracious assistance.

Two Three Birds in One Day

A work-in-progress finished:

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The 100 Crochet Flower Scarf, made with only 22 flowers. Ran out of yarn, but really just the right length for me. Any longer and it would dangling in the squash soup.

This project was so fast it didn’t even have time to make it on to the project pages. I thought of it this morning and it was finished by noon. For the record, that never happens to me. I spend a good deal of time stewing, mulling, gathering, and procrastinating. This time I knew exactly what I wanted to make and actually had all of the materials at hand so I could just start.

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My mother bought a new digital camera last week, which didn’t come with a case. I thought it would be nice to whip something up for her, as a thank you gift for being so great. I used scraps from my fulled dog pillow project and a zipper that was in my sewing.

I started by needle felting the design, then sewed on the zippers just in time for my mother to walk in the door, twenty minutes earlier than she had predicted. I so wanted to finish it before she arrived, but since I was using her hand-me-down machine, I was having trouble getting the sewing machine to work through two layers of felt, her timing was perfect. Rather than sewing a straight stitch down the sides, she used an overcast stitch that bound the two pieces together along the edge, as if she was finishing the edges of a frayed fabric.

Lance thinks this is a lovely little bag, but a poor camera case; he is worried that loose fibers will make their way into the mechanics of the camera. The next version will be lined.

I almost forgot a new block print:

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In honor of my father’s birthday next week, I made this block print for him. It was part of a gift that included a denim shirt embroidered with a guitar on the chest. He’s a swell dad whose been working hard to learn the guitar in his retirement; he is working so hard I thought he deserved two guitars.

A Study in Form: Crochet Flowers

Inspired by Applehead‘s 100 Crochet Flower Scarf, I decided to learn to crochet a couple of months ago. Since I was so new to the form, I really couldn’t make sense of the instructions for her flower, so decided to explore all of the variations I could find.

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My explorations led me to two conclusions:
1. no other flower will do
2. Crochet with wool is far too sticky; a cotton/silk blend is much easier
3. The first and last petal always look wonky because I can’t connect it up at the end

None of the shapes I found online, or invented really pleased me; they were either too large, or too complex. I want something small using a dk weight yarn so I can string them together to make a sweet scarf.

This left me no choice but to return to Marianne’s pattern and work at it until my flower looked like hers.

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Fifteen flowers later, I think they look pretty close, but I will not have enough yarn to make one hundred flowers.