Fruit of the twine

First Principles: The Humble Crochet Square

Posted by yarnberry on November 18, 2007

I promised my beginner crochet class that I would post plain-English directions for a simple granny square (below).

There’s something about this pared-down version of the granny square. It’s the simplest crochet square that you can make. Once you master it, you can easily make them in front of the TV, or even a book. And yet, when you add a bunch of them together in the right colours, you can get something as elegant as the Babette Blanket.

Although working in the round can be a bit of a mental challenge at first, I hope that this square will make a good starting point for my class. It covers the basics and is also a great springboard for the wide, varied world of crochet squares.

crochet square

Simple square

Make a slipknot on your hook, then make four chains.

Round 1: We are ready to start the first “round” of the crochet square.

Find the fourth chain from your hook — this is the one next to the knot. Working into the 4th chain:

  1. Make 1 double crochet.
  2. Make 2 chains, then 3 double crochets.
  3. Repeat line 2 twice more.
  4. Make one more double crochet.

Stretch out your stitches. There should be 4 “corners” made where you made 2 chains. There should also be 4 “sides.” Three of these sides have 3 double crochet stitches. The fourth side is where your square begins and ends. At the beginning of the round is one “turning chain” made from chain stitches, and one double crochet. At the end of the round (where you are right now) is one double crochet. Make a slip stitch into the top of the turning chain. This joins the beginning and end of the round together.

Round 2: Make three chains. You are now going to work into the stitches of Round 1. The next stitches in front of you are a double crochet followed by a chain-2 space. Double crochet into the double crochet.

Step 1: Working into the chain-2 space, make all of these stitches:

  • Make 2 double crochets.
  • Make 2 chains.
  • Make 2 double crochets.

Step 2: Now work along the side of the square, making 1 double crochet into each of the double crochets below.

Repeat Step 1 + Step 2 twice more, then repeat Step 1 one more time. There is one double crochet left from Round 1, before the turning chain that begins Round 2. Double crochet into this last double crochet.

Stretch out your stitches again. Find the 4 corners and the 4 sides. This time there are 7 double crochets on each side. Make a slip stitch into the top of the turning chain to join the beginning and end of the round together.

Round 3: Make three chains. Double crochet into each of the double crochets from the previous round until you get to the chain-2 space at a corner.

Step 1: Working into the chain-2 space at the corner, make all of these stitches:

  • Make 2 double crochets.
  • Make 2 chains.
  • Make 2 double crochets.

Step 2: Now work along the side of the square, making 1 double crochet into each of the double crochets below.

Repeat Step 1 + Step 2 twice more, then repeat Step 1 one more time. Double crochet into the remaining double crochets, until you get to the turning chain at the beginning of the round. Make a slip stitch into the top of the turning chain to join the beginning and end of the round together.

Round 4 and above: Repeat Round 3 until the square reaches desired size. 5 rounds is recommended.


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More Knitting In Public Day

Posted by yarnberry on June 11, 2007

I celebrated “official” Knitting in Public day by spending twenty minutes knitting in the patio furniture section of Rona while my husband shopped for network cable. There was a great little cedar swing and people mostly ignored me, except for a couple who apparently thought I was there to take advantage of the air conditioning. I’ve been working on a little project with some beautiful handspun (left). The colour is gorgeous, although no one has been able to figure out what the fibre is.

On Sunday I went out with a few people in my knitting group to have a belated Knitting in Public Day. Here is Gailene doing a little Tunisian crochet.


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More Sock knitting vs. Thesis

Posted by yarnberry on June 8, 2007

I deposited my thesis Monday morning, in preparation for my defense on the 18th. Tuesday night I discovered that I had messed up my sock knitting. I had managed to knit a pointy-heeled sock. Observe (you may want to compare to some lovely round-heeled socks knit by someone who read the pattern correctly):

This is not a reassuring thing to discover the day after handing in your thesis. If I could get all that way down the foot without realizing my heel was completely wrong, might I have done the same thing with my Conclusions section, for example? (I hope not!) Let’s hope the lesson is Don’t try to knit something complicated when your mind is on Fisher’s Exact Test. (And please, cross your fingers that my thesis doesn’t contain any inappropriately pointy heels.) I’ve resigned myself to ripping back the sock and starting again.

So, to cheer myself up, I spent Wednesday weaving

and then hand-felting a project I’ve been planning for a while.

Sink felting was much easier than I expected. I put on some rubber gloves and kneaded the fabric in very hot water and dish-washing liquid for about 20 minutes. This project is going to be a small purse with some ribbon embroidery in matching colours. Now I need to get some purse handles and do the assembly… maybe having a great purse to carry to my thesis defense would inspire more confidence.

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kNIP – Knitting In Public

Posted by yarnberry on June 7, 2007

This Saturday is World-Wide Knitting in Public Day.

To be honest, every day is Knitting in Public day for me. I have a long bus ride to work/school, and it’s a great time to work on a project.

Some people have theorized that knitting in public can be a feminist statement1, a way of rebelling against the way feminine pursuits have been sequestered in the home, or reclaiming the value of traditionally female work2. I like that idea, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I started knitting in public because it never occurred to me that people would find it weird. After all, plenty of people read in public.

I hadn’t bargained on knitting’s antiquarian reputation. Debbie Stoller has said that when she started knitting on the bus, she “might as well have been churning butter, it was so strange” to the other passengers1. Friends who live in bigger cities have told me that KnIP doesn’t attract too many stares on the subway anymore, but I guess the movement hasn’t arrived here yet. People are constantly surprised to see someone my age knitting or crocheting. I get a lot of comments — especially lately when I’ve been knitting socks. There’s something about those size 00 dpns that people find fascinating.

Unfortunately for me, one of the reasons I knit in public is because I’m a bit of an introvert. I like to zone out with my knitting or crochet project and ignore the crowded bus around me. I never know what to say when people ask me about my knitting, especially when it’s one of those “hey the sky is blue” comments like “wow, those are really small needles!” (“Yes, yes they are”) or “Why are you knitting with more than one colour?” (“Because the pattern has stripes”).

I know that people are just trying to be friendly and make conversation, but I don’t seem to play well with strangers. This leads to a lot of awkward, knitting-filled pauses. I hope this kNIP thing catches on soon, so I won’t stand out so much.

  1. Brown, J. (2001). Do it yourself. Salon.com.
  2. Minahan, S. and Wolfram Cox, J. (2007). Stitch’nBitch: Cyberfeminism, a Third Place and the New Materiality. Journal of Material Culture 12(5)

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Yarn tourism: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick

Posted by yarnberry on May 29, 2007

My husband and I are planning on taking a trip to the Maritimes this summer to visit family. It looks like a perfect opportunity for a little yarn tourism — there are some fantastic farms, mills, and shops in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The well-known Fleece Artist / Handmaiden Yarns are in Nova Scotia, but it doesn’t look like you can drop by.

I’ve compiled a list below of the sites that look interesting to me. Top on my to-visit list is Baadeck Yarns and Lismore Sheep Farm, I think. I can’t choose a short list! Guess I had better save my pennies until August. And try to convince my husband of the joys of yarn shopping…

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

  • Cotton Craft Fine Woolens in St. Andrews
    • Sweater kits and Briggs & Little yarn in exclusive colours.
  • London-Wul in Lakeburn
    • A spinning museum, studio, dye garden, and shop.
  • Briggs & Little Woollen Mills in York Mills
    • Canada’s oldest woollen mill, with factory tours and shop. They don’t use the carbonizing process (acid bath) for removing straw/debris from the yarn.

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Sock knitting vs. Thesis

Posted by yarnberry on May 27, 2007

I am eight days away from depositing my Master’s thesis in preparation for my defense on June 18th.

I am also knitting my first sock, after several false starts. (Please don’t ask me about the Patons Canadiana sock debacle.)

Knitting a sock is a relatively straightforward process. Its shape is pre-defined, its demands are clear. When I begin, there is a pattern to follow. I know that I have 80 stitches per row, and if I wanted to I could probably calculate how many stitches I must knit in total, and how long it takes me to knit a stitch on average, and from there approximately how many hours it will take to finish this sock.

My thesis won’t be done until it’s done. At every stage, it has been very difficult to predict how long each step will take. Some large tasks have whipped by very quickly. Other (seemingly) small tasks have taken (seemingly) forever to finish. There is a rough guideline, but in fact, it only now, when I’m almost done, that the overall pattern of my thesis is coming clear. Each section and paragraph is slowly slotting into place. At the very end, maybe I could draw you a schematic.

It is so rewarding to see the sock spool out of my needles, stitch by stitch, row by row. After 20 minutes of knitting, I can hold the finished result in my hand and admire it.

There will be no finished product of my thesis until the very, very end, and that product will just be a stack of paper destined for the basement of the library. As I near the finish line, I am finally starting to feel like my research is Vaguely Interesting and possibly even Slightly Useful. But the sock — ah, I think a well-made, hand-knitted sock is something that can be loved.

The sock is so much more forgiving. Certainly, it was a little frustrating at first. But once I’ve finished knitting a section, I don’t need to go back and edit it 167 times. I don’t need to send the sock out to other people to read and comment. When it’s done, I won’t need to stand up in front of a bunch of people and defend any errors, inconsistencies, or confusing aspects of my sock. Unless it’s a true disaster or it doesn’t fit, any mistakes in my sock can be accepted as part of the “handmade charm.”

Through the endless months of this process, crafting has been my antidote to my thesis. Its tangible, row-by-row progress is soothing after hours of chipping away at my writing, trying to make my intangible ideas make sense to someone else. So, after I’ve been up until 2am on a Saturday night, writing and re-writing — I will knit for a while, and finally relax.

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Tutorial: Using ratios to calculate yardage

Posted by yarnberry on May 21, 2007

Sometimes I’m working on a project, and I want to figure out how many yards of yarn I’ve used to create it. I have to frog the project and measure it, or measure how many yards are left in the skein, right? There’s a much easier way: calculate how many yards I’ve used in the project, using the a kitchen scale and the yarn label.

Here is an example from a slipper pattern I’m working on at the moment. I want to make a second pair, but I’m not sure if I have enough yarn. The slippers shown here were made with a skein of Bernat Super Value Ombres, and I would like to make a pair out of some Schachenmayr Punto Shine.

Measure weight of the object (without needles, buttons, or anything else attached):
= 90 g
Check weight of skein from the yarn label:
= 142 g
Calculate percentage of skein used:
= weight of object / weight of skein
= 90 g /142 g
= 63%
Check yardage of skein from the yarn label:
= 275 yd
Calculate percent of yardage used:
= length of skein * percent of skein used
= 275 yd * 63%
= 174 yd

Remember that this is an estimate. The weight or yardage given on the label might not be quite right, your kitchen scale might not be balanced, you might have a slightly different tension when you make the object again with a different yarn. But it will give you a rough guideline of how many yards you need.

So I need approximately 176 yards of 18st/4″ yarn to make this project again. I only have 110yd of the Punto Shine, so I’ll have to use something else.

Some of you may be wondering why I don’t just calculate how much yarn I need by using the weights. I prefer to calculate project requirements using yardage because the weight of yarns varies so much by fiber content. I find that length requirements are more reliable.

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Knitting, math, and rules of thumb

Posted by yarnberry on May 20, 2007

Recently I have been reading about the history of knitting (more to come on that in future posts). Looking at the gorgeous, intricate sweaters that were knitted by ordinary people in earlier centuries makes me wonder: how on earth did they design these sweaters without a hefty dose of algebra and geometry, let alone long division and multiplication tables? Personally, it takes me graph paper and a calculator to design a sweater or to alter a pattern for a different size.

I discussed this with my dad over brunch the other day, and he suggested that many craftspeople in earlier eras used simple “rules of thumb” to figure out problems like what angle to set a roof at — problems that without the rule of thumb would involve complex mathematics.

I had a little fun today, googling “rules of thumb” to find some modern guidelines for knitting and crochet:

  • To get a neckline to lay flat, knit 2 stitches together in first round at each shoulder (here)
  • When knitting with ribbon yarns, use smooth, blunt needles (here)
  • When substituting the yarn used in a pattern, wool can substitute for cotton, but cotton does not substitute well for wool, especially in cabled patterns (here)
  • If a social function requires you to hold a cup of tea or a martini, it is best not to knit (here)
  • The fuzzier the yarn, the harder it is to crochet with (here)
  • To pick a needle size for knitting with handspun, select a needle that is the same thickness as two strands of the yarn lightly twisted/plied together (here)
  • Crochet requires 30% more yarn than an equivalent knitted pattern (here)
  • You can determine the double-stranded gauge of a yarn by multiplying the yarn gauge by 0.72 (here)
  • Hold your crochet hook like a pencil for precision and control, or like a knife for looser tension (here)
  • And my favourite: If it serves no purpose, don’t do it (here)

Most of those don’t sound like the kind of rules of thumb that would allow you to design a fair isle sweater “off the cuff” though (haha).

And here are some knitting books with rules of thumb. I’m not aware of any similar books aimed at crocheters, although you can apply many of the techniques as long as you account for the different height and width of crochet stitches.

More to come on this…

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Organizing the stash

Posted by yarnberry on May 19, 2007

Here is where I reveal my embarrassingly organized side. Trust me, my stash may be organized but the rest of my office is a mess.

A couple of factors came together — including Annette Petavy’s recent article in Crochetme — to inspire me to sort and catalog my yarn stash and the patterns I’m interested in making.

Petavy suggests cataloging by colour, and that made a lot of sense given the way I tend to design and the number of one-off skeins I have. This photo shows my stash, all exciting and ready for a project. It’s kept in an Ikea Billy bookcase with cabinet doors. We had some extra Billy glass shelves and cd-storage insert so I used those to make it easier to see what I’ve got.

I also have a catalog of my yarns and patterns. Embarrassing, but so useful. I originally started keeping this list to make fabric care tags for gifts. Then a friend mentioned cataloging her yarn in order to figure out what project she could start next. A brilliant way to figure out how to match up my list of pattern ideas with my yarn stash…

I have two spreadsheets in Word. The yarn spreadsheet lists the gauge, content, yardage per skein, and number of skeins I have for each colour. For the pattern spreadsheet, I look up the suggested yarn online, and record the gauge, content, and yardage required for the project.

This system is working out really well so far.

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Posted by yarnberry on May 19, 2007

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

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