Monday, December 31, 2007

The Meaning Of Life is Really a Granny Square!

I belong to an online Yarn of the Month Club. Every month, I get 4 or 5 mini skeins of different yarns in colorways that are all coordinated to work well together. I have been a member for a couple of years, so you know I have lots of mini skeins of yarn around. Recently, I had to swatch some granny squares, and decided to use some of the yarns I received. This is a picture of the two squares I made.

Then, I started to think about Granny Squares, and how much I love them! I have written about them ( Hooked! A Crocheter's Stash of Wit and Wisdom, edited by Kari Cornell) designed with them (many, many projects - both published and not-yet published - more info on that later as the patterns get published) and always try out new yarns by making granny squares! My first encounter with the GS was in 8th grade, when my teacher taught her class how to make them. I already knew how to crochet, so I picked up the GS pattern quickly. We made squares, and put them together in afghans to donate to veterans. When I told my mother what I learned that day, she sat me down and asked me to teach her. (She crocheted, but didn't know the GS pattern.) I taught her, and she took off running - making GS afghans for everyone in the family, all our friends, all the new babies, and anyone else she could think of. She was a fast crocheter (that's where I probably got my speed!) and was able to finish one afghan of 140 squares in 2 weeks, working at night, after working all day at her job!

When I took over as the provider of baby afghans to our family, of course I made a GS afghan. And I haven't stopped making GS afghans and other GS designs since. I often use GSs to work out a pattern, because I can finish one quickly. After the GS version of the design is finished, I can decide whether I want to work the design using another stitch pattern. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. :-)

I am protective of the GS! The pattern I use for the basic square is simple to do, and easy to remember. And, it is the very same pattern that I taught my mother - I can see it in some of the GS afghans and sweaters that she made for me (and that I still have, of course!) I know it shouldn't bother me, but when I see square motifs called Granny Squares, I don't like it! They are motifs that happen to be square and may be worked in rounds, but they are NOT Granny Squares. At least, they are not the Granny Square that I learned oh so long ago!

So, here is the technique I use for the GS. The basic pattern usually consists of groups of 3 dc stitches separated by one chain stitch, except at the corners, where there are 2 or 3 chain stitches. This is supposedly to make a "square" corner. (When you work a corner, you usually put 3 stitches in one, to make it square!) Now, if you are familiar with my designs, you would know that I like to keep things simple and easy to remember. I like non-complicated patterns. So, in the corners of my GSs, I just work one chain. Each group of 3 double crochet stitches is now separated from the next group of 3 double crochet stitches by one chain, and you don't have to remember to add that second chain at the corner. So you can get into your "zen" crochet, and just crochet! Now, what about that rule of "3 stitches at the corner to make a square corner"? Well, you HAVE three "stitches", or groups of stitches. 1. a group of dc stitches. 2. one chain. 3. a group of dc stitches. That is three "things" - so that makes a square corner.

Another benefit of chaining only one at each corner - the granny square you make will be more "together".

Stay tuned for another discussion on how to join the ends of rounds!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Three Cotton Yarns

I am a big fan of Lily Sugar'n Cream cotton yarn, and have used it in many, many projects. When I need something sturdy, for a tote or bag, when I need something for a kitchen project - such as a dishcloth, hot pad, oven mitt, or kitchen rug, I reach for my stash of Sugar'n Cream. I have also used it for hats and kids' scarves. So, when I went to a lys and discovered some Kertzer yarn, Coolspun Cotton, that looked a lot like Sugar'n Cream, I had to buy a couple of skeins to try. And then, Coats announced that they had a cotton yarn, Creme de la Creme, and I went on a search for that. I found some on-line, and ordered some. (I do like having this blog - it gives me a great excuse for buying new yarns to blog about!) I got the Creme de la Creme a couple of days ago, and put it aside until I decided what to do with it. I had enough of one color to make a small project, and looked in some books that I had ordered and received the same day as the yarn. I'll blog more about these books, because I am going to work on an idea that I got from one of them, and I don't want to spoil the surprise! But - I decided to make a circle shape from the Creme de la Creme. I bought the color Old Bluejeans Ombre, and I wanted to see if the color "pooled". As I was crocheting the circle, I decided to work circles in the other two yarns, to compare them. When I found the CoolSpun Cotton, I discovered that I bought the same color - only it's called Faded Denim. And then I remembered that Sugar'n Cream has a Faded Denim color too, and I was sure I had a ball of that. And I did! So I crocheted circles last night, with all three yarns.

These are the circles I crocheted. From left to right - Sugar'n Cream, CoolSpun Cotton, Creme de la Creme. I used a Susan Bates H8/5.00mm Silvalume hook for all three swatches. And I worked 10 rounds in all three yarns. Same pattern. As you can see, the Sugar'n Cream and the CoolSpun Cotton worked up to the same size. The Creme de la Creme was slightly smaller. The "pooling" of the colors was similar for all three yarns. Now - for the particulars about the yarns:
Sugar'n Cream - Faded Denim, 100% cotton, 2 oz., 95 yards, machine or hand wash, dry flat. Hook: 4.5mm, US 7.
CoolSpun Cotton - Faded Denim, Soft 100% cotton, 1.5oz., 73 yds, machine wash, tumble dry. Hook: 4 - 5mm, G/6 to H/8.
Creme de la Creme - Old Bluejeans Ombre,100% Combed Cotton, 2oz., 99 yds, machine wash, tumble dry. Hook US H8/5mm.

I don't know the difference between 100% cotton, Soft cotton, and Combed cotton, but I could definitely feel a difference between the first two and the last swatch. The Creme de la Creme felt softer. But - I'm sure a lot of that was because the yarn itself is thinner, and so the stitches have more space around them.

Look at this picture of a strand of each of the yarns. From left to right: Sugar'n Cream, CoolSpun Cotton, Creme de la Creme. You can see that Creme de la Creme is slightly thinner. What I find interesting, is that Coats recommends an H8/5.00mm hook for this thinner yarn. Lily recommends a US 7, 4.5mm hook for Sugar'n Cream, and Kertzer recommends between a G/6 to and H/8, which is 4.00mm to 5.00mm. What you should know, if you don't already (and I'm sure you do), is that the smaller the hook, the more firm (rigid, stiff - whatever you want to call it) the fabric is. So with a G6, or a G7 hook, with the first two yarns, you would get a very stiff fabric. Which is okay - if that's what you want!

One other interesting fact - all three yarns say "worsted weight" on their labels. Obviously, some worsted is not like other worsteds, and if you substituted one for another in a pattern, your gauge might not be the same. If gauge were critical, this could pose a problem!

My conclusions: I like all three yarns! Sugar'n Cream has many choices, and is readily available on-line and in stores. And you know I really like the Sugar'n Cream Stripes! CoolSpun has a good start! Nice colors, but not as many choices as SnC. Creme de la Creme looks like a winner, also. Soft drape, good colors. I can't wait until it's readily available in the stores! All three are not expensive, so when you just have to have a yarn fix, or need some yarn for swatching and trying out new stitch patterns, all three are perfect!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poncho and Sweater Patterns Available Free!

I just found out that Barnes & Noble has a new website - - that features projects from some "how-to" books. Two of my projects, from two different Lark books, are now available for free on their site! (WIth my permission, of course.) This first one, from Fabulous Crocheted Ponchos, is called "Faux Sheepskin Poncho. I made it with Berroco Suede and Berroco Softee, to get the sheepskin look.

The second project, from the book New Crochet, is the Fanciful Mesh Sweater. It's made in one piece - no seams - from the bottom up, then the sleeves are added on. And best of all, it stretches! Also, I tell how to customize it to your liking.
Check these two patterns out! And send me pictures if you make them!

Faux Sheepskin Poncho:

Fanciful Mesh Sweater:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Susan Bates Crochet Hooks

I have HAS (hook acquisition syndrome). I collect hooks. I admit it - it's an addiction almost as bad as YAS (yarn acquisition syndrome) and PAS (pattern acquisition syndrome). Both of which I also have! It could be worse! I have old hooks, new hooks, wooden hooks, hooks with beads, hooks with my name on them, tunisian hooks, cable hooks, steel hooks from my grandmother, plastic hooks, bone hooks, lucite hooks, clear hooks, etc., etc., etc. You get the idea. But there is always another hook to buy. And I recently found some that I am in love with!

When I am crocheting something with the thought that I may propose it somewhere to get published, I always crochet with a manufactured hook, not a wooden one. And my hook of choice is a Susan Bates Silvalume. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that SB was producing their Silvalume hooks with a bamboo handle! Yay! A good excuse (as if I really needed one!) to buy more hooks!

I found an M hook at a yarn shop, and the others - G through N, at local craft stores. I got all sizes (except G - I usually don't use a hook smaller than an H, so I didn't buy the G - I didn't know how I'd like crocheting with these. Well, I do, so I'll wait until the next coupon and go get the G!) I crochet with a pencil grip, and these hooks are great for that! But I also tried a knife grip (I use that sometimes with "difficult" yarn), and I found I could use the hooks with that grip. They work just like the regular SB Silvalume - they have the same inline hook. The sizes are: H - 5.00mm, I - 5.50mm, J - 6.00mm, K - 6.50mm, L - 8.00mm, M - 9.00mm, N - 10.00mm. These sizes are the same as the regular Silvalume. The really nice thing is that the larger size hooks, L, M, and N, are not plastic! They are the same material as the smaller hooks. So if you don't like the plastic or the lucite, you now have a choice! And - you can find the L and the M sizes without looking all over!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

more from the Orlando Needlework Show

Even though what happens in Orlando stays in Orlando, I had to share this photo with you. Just to show you that Vashti does wear her chaps everyday, not just on the runway! This was taken on Saturday, at the CGOA/TKGA booth. We were checking out the marketplace, one more time, in case we missed anything! (And, we did find some things we missed!) We stopped at the booth to talk to some potential members of CGOA. Check out Vashti's blog ( to see her modeling these chaps in the CGOA Chain Link fashion show in New Hampshire. (If you notice the mannequin in the background - her arms make a great yarn winder, when you're desperate!)

I finally felted the entrelac crochet basket I made in Darla Fantan's class. I worked it in Noro Kureyon, so I didn't have to change colors! :-) I liked the way it turned out, and I definitely will use this technique again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

365 Crochet Stitches a Year

This is another stitch dictionary I just got! 366 (including a day for leap year) patterns in a perpetual calendar. There are months and days listed, but no years. So this stitch calendar will last a long time. And with 366 great patterns, it will take a long time to try them all. But that's what I'm going to do. Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss are long-time crochet and knit designers, editors, etc. They have so much knowledge between them, and it shows in their books. This one is no exception. Jean said they went to lots of different sources to find patterns, and I can see that by looking through this book. They have lacy patterns - one looks like it could be a drop-stitch knit pattern - shell patterns, picot patterns, variations on scs, ripple stitch patterns, variations on filet mesh patterns and spider web patterns, and many more! They don't give hook size or gauge - you can work these patterns in any thread or yarn, and appropriate size hook. What they do give is the stitch repeat, so you can make the pattern however wide you want it.

There is only one thing missing from this book - stitch pattern diagrams. I like to look at a new stitch pattern, by looking at the directions, the photo, and the stitch diagram. All three used together help me learn the new pattern. And I have been teaching my students to use (or write for themselves) stitch diagrams. But, I will still recommend this book, because of all the new patterns that Jean and Rita present here!