Friday, May 25, 2012

Crochet Corner with Dora Ohrenstein!

I love the individualism and creativity that characterize the crochet community. The crocheters I meet are often self-taught, curious folk seeking creative adventures.   When you embark on an adventure, I believe, it's smart to be equipped with as much knowledge as possible.

Ethereal Shawl
 by Dora
 Ohrenstein
In my first post I spoke about how lovely crochet can be with finer yarns.  Of course, it really depends on what project you intend to make.  For some items, such as a winter hat, scarf, or mitts, a sturdy, structured fabric is best.  These are great projects for using worsted or bulkier yarns.  With these yarns, you can make a closed fabric, either with plain stitches like single or half double crochet, or a pattern stitch that creates a closed fabric, and be sure that the wearer will have protection against the cold. You can add even more warmth and structure with textured stitches like bobbles, puffs, and cables. For  these items you want to think about washable yarns that can take a lot of wear and care.
Impressionist Sweater
from "Crochet Insider's
Passion for Fashion"
 

If, however, you have in mind a sweater for indoor wear, I recommend looking at DK, sport or even fingering weight yarn.  Particularly if the pattern you are making is lace, it will be much more "legible"  if you use a thinner yarn.  The thinner lines of the yarn will give greater clarity to the lace stitch.   For the same reason, when working lace stitches, the yarn should be smooth, not textured, or the pattern will be difficult to see. Further, using a heavier weight yarn enlarges the scale of the pattern, often resulting in lace with really big holes, not so practical.  Who wants to get stuck on door knobs or cooking utensils?

Romantic Halter from
Inside Crochet magazine
 
What's equally important when it comes to crochet wearables is the question of drape.  Drape is the quality of fabric that makes it move and flow gracefully around the body.  It's much easier to create drape in crochet with thinner yarns.  In fact, I like to think of fabric drape on a continuum, going from items that require a lot to those where you want the opposite, more structure.  Moving from structure to drape,  I would put things in this order:

Bag, Belt, Hat, Jacket, Scarf, Cardigan, Summer Top, Lace Shawl.

Uptown Sweater: from
"Custom Crocheted Sweaters"
 
The more drape you want in an item, the easier it will be to achieve it with a finer yarn. There is nothing so gorgeous as a feathery light shawl in lace weight yarn!  Of course, it does require patience, but who says everything we make should be quick and easy?  I personally love digging into an intricate project, because I know how satisfied I'll be when it's done.  And I'm imagining all the lovely compliments I'll get when wearing it!

Aside from yarn weight, there are other things you can do to get more drape:  use open stitches, not closed. The more open is the lace, the more drape in the fabric.  Use taller stitches, not short (single crochet is not ideal for drape). Work in the back loop instead of both loops.  Lastly, choose a fiber that drapes well, for example, alpaca, silk, or bamboo.  Wools and cottons, generally don't drape as well, but depending on how the yarn is spun and treated, they can.  Acrylics like viscose can add to a yarn's drape. There are so many variables that can affect a yarn's performance that only broad generalizations can be made.  If you want to develop a feel for how yarns behave, hold a strand in your fingers and move it around, to see how pliable, or resistant, it is to movement. 
Bobble Hat by Dora Ohrenstein 

If, on the other hand, you want a more structured fabric for a bag or hat, you can do just the opposite.  Use heavier yarns with fibers like wool and cotton, that automatically lend more structure to the fabric. Use short stitches, or "fat" stitches that give the fabric more dimension, as mentioned earlier:  bobbles, puffs, and cables. Textured yarns are great for these kinds of items too.

Dolce Tote from
Crochet Today magazine
 
What about when you are substituting one yarn for another when making a pattern?  Of course, you're apt to stick with the same yarn weight, but you may not realize that the fiber content is also important.  A sweater designed in a silk blend yarn is going to look and act very different from one made in wool, and vice versa.  Silk is slinky, wool much less so.  Take a close look at the design and see how much it relies on the slinkiness of the silk, or whether it will be fine without it. 

I hope these points will be useful for your future crochet adventures!

And once again, I leave you with Dora's tip of the day:

When working two stitches in sequence over a bunch of skipped stitches, the loop of the first stitch can get very large as you stretch over the space between. To avoid that, make the first stitch, then hold the work so that the place you need to insert for the second stitch is close to the first stitch, in other words, scrunch up the fabric as necessary.  Make the 2nd stitch, and tug a bit at the yarn after completing it.  Voila - no more big top loop!

Happy crocheting!
Dora 

All designs on this page by Dora Ohrenstein.
_________________

Dora Ohrenstein is an author, designer and writer whose most recent book is Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit.  Her website Crochetinsider.com  is a great source for articles, interviews and techniques, and where she teaches online crochet classes.

No comments: