Do you ever have pain when you crochet? I do, and I’ve tried a bunch of different things to figure out how I could keep up my creative outlet and still be pain free. I was a hairdresser (in cheap heels!) in my 20s which really wreaked havoc on my now 50 year old body. So I have to be extra sensitive to my wrist health. I never had surgery but have a few tips to keep your wrists in peak form.

First, consider your hook. When my old pain started flaring back up, I got the fastest solution I could find. The Crochet Dude Ergonomic Crochet Handle It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s available at most big box craft stores, so you can get your hands on one easily. It fits most aluminum crochet hooks, whether you’re a Bates or a Boye loyalist, so that’s extra handy.

Which brings me to the next consideration. How do you hold your hook? I prefer a knife hold personally, and my pinkie is what grips the hook in pace against my palm. The egg works great for knife holders like me, and I’ve read that pencil grippers also like it. Try it out if you’re in an urgent need.

The downside of the egg handle is that it requires extra parts and I’m prone to losing things. Because it’s designed to be univeral, and crochet hooks are not all the same diameter, it requires a rubber stopper to be placed around the hook and then through the inside (which screws apart) to secure it in place. Great concept, but if you lose a stopper, you’ll need to improvise or your hook will rattle around and the egg won’t hold it tight enough.

You can also buy foam grips which slip over your hook. They come in multiple sizes and are typically inexpensive enough that you could probably purchase a few and leave them on your hooks permanently. This is a good solution if the grip is the right diameter for you. I, personally, need a larger grip to open my hand up and prevent cramping.

Which is how I started searching for alternative ergonomic hooks. I started with inexpensive sets from Amazon like this one. They’re cheap enough that I keep a set in my car for emergencies, but they had a few problems. First, I’m a Bates Hooker, and these are more Boye like. It’s exceedingly hard to find an ergonomic handle with a Bates hook. And secondly, the diameter is just not big enough for my grip.Paragraph

My search continued until I found these beautiful wooden hooks from Too Shay Crochet. I started with a 7 hook set and I’ve ultimately replaced every hook in my everyday collection with them. I’ve even sent them my favorite steels and they placed handles on them for me.

Once I figured that out, my wrist pain has virtually disappeared. I do have to pay attention to my posture and make sure I’m seated comfortably and my work is well supported.

It was touch and go there for a while though! I was afraid I would have to give up my beloved hobby. But, I persisted and found a solution that works for me. If you encounter pain, just know that there are a number of options before you have to give up. Try a few things out and I bet you’ll find the solution!

Ugh frogging. If you don’t know what it is, it’s not because you haven’t done it. Because we all have. It’s the nickname for the dreaded task when you undo your work. Because you “rip it, rip it”. Get it?

When I first started, I would do anything to avoid frogging. It felt like the ultimate admission of failure. That my work just wasn’t good enough and I’d wasted my time.

I’ve changed my perspective on that though. Yeah, those stitches might not be good enough, but *I’m* good enough to not settle for anything less than great. I will undoubtedly spend all my free time crocheting, so what’s the difference if I’m redoing something I’ve already done or forging forward in unfamiliar territory? I have a better chance of achieving perfection if I’ve already gone through and attempted once. I probably won’t make the same mistakes again, right? Okay, sometimes I do, but the odds are less.

There are some mistakes you can just live with – you seem to be one double crochet short but don’t notice any gaps anywhere. Or you did a chain 2 where you should have done a chain 3 but you’re working stitches over that chain so it will probably stretch a little. That’s not worth frogging over. But if you have 11 repeats where you should have 12, that’s a major problem and it won’t go away with an extra increase here or there.

I’m working on a shawl design and realized that I don’t have enough yarn left to finish the way I’d originally planned, so I frogged. Heartbreaking, but I really want this to look the way I want it to look and I’d rather deal with that little bit of irritation than the major irritation of it not looking right.

There are sometimes alternatives to frogging. Sometimes you can get away with a few increases or decreases if your stitch count is off. If the probably is in the row you just finished and you don’t want to rip all the way back, you can also make a tiny snip, undo some stitches carefully, attach a new strand with a magic knot, redo the incorrect stitches and sew in your ends. This is especially good for very long rows but it’s tricky so only tackle it if you’re really confident. You can even go down a few rows as long as you remember which direction each row is going.

Just remember, everyone makes mistakes. But if you don’t frog, that mistake will live there forever. Are you going to be more bothered by looking at the mistake or by redoing a few rows? For me, it’s always better to frog and be happier with the finished product.

As a crochet designer or just a maker of any variety, our work area is very important. You might be sitting for a long time, so it must be comfortable. You might (like me) use a lot of different tools for your crafts so you need lots of storage. If you’re following a pattern, you need a place to read that pattern that isn’t in the way of your work, is close enough to see and can accommodate a variety of reading materials. If you’re writing a pattern, you also need a writing surface.

I spent a lot of time creating the perfect work station for me, and I think I’ve nailed it. It all centers around my adjustable table.

It’s a handy computer desk that I can adjust to different heights. The base sits under my ottoman and I keep the table in front of me and to the right as I work. The best part of it? It’s magnetic! I had no idea how important that would be until I started using it. It is seriously my favorite feature.

Here’s a close up of the surface as I use it.

That’s a lot of stuff! But, it’s all at hand’s reach and I can manage each thing pretty much with only one hand. The magnets are the key to making it work so well.

  1. Push Pin Magnets Love these! They look like push pins, but they’re magnets. Pretty self explanatory, lol.
  2. Pop Socket Phone Holder Makes it easy to tilt my phone for various reasons and keeps it out of the way.
  3. Burt’s Bees Lip Balm I happen to live very close to the Burt’s Bees home office, so it’s near and dear to my heart.
  4. My ceiling fan remote! Isn’t it easy to lose those things? So much easier to keep track of now and always at hand’s reach.
  5. Locking Stitch Markers I cannot have too many of these. I lose them constantly. So I keep this box full and my backups are stored in a drawer nearby.
  6. TV Remote – I stuck a magnet on the back of this so it just snaps into place and I never lose it anymore!
  7. Cuticle Cream What is more annoying than a hangnail when you’re crocheting, right?
  8. Composition Notebook I buy these at back to school time when they’re super cheap. I keep a few dozen hand to last through the year.
  9. USB C Phone charger, and there’s a white micro USB Charger on hand for older devices. My Kindle for example.
  10. Tape Measure
  11. Embroidery Scissors I like these because they come with extra point guards so the pair I keep in my bag doesn’t stab me.
  12. Bent Tip Needles I talk about why I like these in this post.
  13. Nail File I’m a bit of a nail fanatic. I like my nails to be pretty, but I really hate when they snag yarn. So, I have tons of these!
  14. Pencil Cup – built in and holds my crochet hook when not in use so it doesn’t slip between the couch cushions
  15. Tweezers A good pair of tweezers will last forever. I used to be a professional hairdresser (before having kids) and I’ve had this pair for over 20 years. They help with fiddly little bits like nothing else.
  16. Pocket Knife I swear by this thing. I have two of these. I thought I’d lost one so I bought a second because it’s indispensible. We were in the middle of a major move, though, and it turned up about a year later. I keep one on my key ring and my spare on my work station. I’ve been known to give these as gifts because it almost always comes out at crochet nights.
  17. Miscellaneous other papers – this one happens to be my daughter’s Starbucks work schedule for next week, but this could be a pattern, notes from a previous project, a yarn label, anything!

That’s a whole heck of a lot of stuff to manage and it’s all in one place. If you don’t have a magnet board near your work area, I’d highly recommend one! I have a couple dozen of these magnets scattered around ready to be stuck to non magnetic things or grab whatever loose items I might have.

How do you keep your work area organized?

Anyone who’s crocheted for any amount of time thinks that the WORST part of projects is sewing in ends. Okay it’s me. I’m anyone. And I hate sewing in ends.

I’ve experimented with a variety of methods and spoken to many crocheters about it and I’ve decided the absolutely MOST IMPORTANT TIP is to leave your ends long enough. Like about 12 inches. Unless you’re playing yarn chicken, and then you do what you have to do.

If your end is long enough, you have room to sew in ends right. You won’t use all this length, but you’ll use maybe half of it. If your end is too short, that last little pass through will be extremely hard and you might have to resort to some special tricks to make it work.

First, start with the best needle. I like stainless steel best. Aluminum gives me the heeby jeebies. It squeaks and sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. So don’t fall for the pretty colored needles. Unless you like that sort of thing. 😉

These are my favorite needles. Clover Bent Tip Tapestry Needles The little bent end makes it super easy to get in the tiny spaces between your stitches. And since they’re stainless steel, they’re also magnetic, so they stick to the magnets on my work easel. Major bonus points on that one.

Next, once you have your yarn threaded, you weave your ends into the bottom of your stitches for at least 10 stitches, making sure you poke in between the plies on your last stitch. Next, turn around and go back through the same stitiches, but be certain you don’t go back through that first yarn split. Again, with the last stitch, you want to go between the plies on the final stitch. You may do this a third time depending on the project. I usually do, because I want that extra length available in case something goes wrong after the project is done, but it should be secure enough with just two passes if you have a delicate project and you don’t want the bulk to show through.

That’s it! Snip the yarn as close to the end as you can, and I normally rough up the edges just a bit to hopefully tangle them together and add a measure of security. This is particularly effective with wool and other knotty yarns.

Happy Hooking!

So it’s the New Year, 2020. Hard to believe. And the topic of the moment is “What resolutions have you made?” I’m not a resolution person myself, so that question inspires nothing in me but rebellion. I resolve to not make resolutions!

But, not making resolutions doesn’t mean I’m not constantly making goals for myself. I just don’t like to associate them with the start of a new year because I’m constantly reevaluating my goals to keep them current and in line with my progress.

One goal I’ve got laid out right now is to blog twice a week. Over the holidays, I slacked off a a little but, but the holidays are over and I’m back on track.

I also plan to release at least one new pattern per month which I started in December. That one is a little scary to me, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So far I’ve been a lot of talk and a little action. I need to make that more action and less talk. 🙂

Also this…
You can almost hear them purring, can’t you?

So, what’s on your list of goals these days? Anything yarn related?

Until fairly recently, if you wanted a variety of colors in a project, a basic crocheter was limited to two varieties of color changes variegated yarn or manual changes.

Variegated yarn has short color changes which generally repeat regularly and produces irregular color changes, sometimes pooling in one patch of your finished fabric. Pooling is a term used for the way variegated yarn can line up and with careful planning can be used to create beautiful plaid fabrics. This technique is called “planned pooling, and we will explore this in a later post.

This photo below shows a short color changing yarn in a ball and in the finished cabled fabric.

You can see the short stretches of light color in the ball and they show up as just lighter areas in the fabric. And the darker stretches do the same thing. You end up with a lightly mottled effect which is beautiful, especially when contrasted with solids or very similarly colored variegated yarns.

A longer color change produces a very different result. This yarn has long, almost striping length color changes. The changes are blended well, unlike some other striping yarns (which change abruptly, sometimes in the middle of a stitch!) but you get a fun contrast of many colors with just one ball.

This yarn is also presented in a really fun way so you see the clusters of color as they will stripe! It worked really well in this sweater below. This is not the identical colorway, but it’s the same yarn. The stripes are probably about 30 yards or maybe a little bit more. Enough that you can definitely make a pair of socks that stripe nicely, and probably some nice stripes on a sweather, but stripes would be very thin and may not extend the full width of larger projects, like a shawl or afghan.

Notice how the petals are striped and the ribbed area has a more ombre effect. Long, gradual color changes produce both of these variations with the stitchwork accenting them in different ways.

Recently, the hottest trend is extremely long, gradual color changes. These color changes happen over a 100 yard length or even more. These are generally four ply yarns (in several different weights) and the colors are changed very gradually, one ply at a time so it can be very hard to determine where the change happens once a project is finished.

This example has some pretty dramatic changes so you can get an idea of what that really looks like. Look at where the blue and lavender meet. There are some strands that almost appear candy striped. It does not look that dramatic in a finished project though.

This is an example of an ombre version of that yarn. It goes from black to white and then I bordered it with more black. You don’t really see where the change happens, but the overall effect is fabulous!

This is not the finished version of this shawl. I hope to have it released soon in it’s final version though!

So you can see, there are a number of variations on color changing yarn. I am not fond of the cakes of yarn that are sold with abrupt color changes. The aesthetic just doesn’t work for me. I find myself constantly staring at the one stitch where the change happened and it bugs me immensely. But, the colors and availability of that yarn are hard to resist! If you’re like me and that stitch will bother you, you can always cut the yarn at the end of a row when you think there isn’t enough of the same color to finish another row and start the new color early. It’s much easier on the eyes to have stripes start with a new row than interrupt another row.

Hope that’s helpful! Happy Hooking!

Counting counting counting, blah! It’s one of the most dreaded tasks second only to sewing in ends. But, it’s almost the most important. Even the most seasoned crochet professional needs to count. One stitch off can throw everything into chaos and your finished project will be crooked.

I have a couple tricks I use to keep track on really long stretches. This is where stitch markers come in handy. There are a number of different styles, but I definitely have a preference. And note, stitch markers for crochet work can be different than stitch markers that knitters use. We crocheters want our stitch markers to mark our actual stitch, so they need to be removable. Knitters sometimes use markers on their actual needles so they don’t go around the yarn and slide back and forth on the needle. Make sure you buy stitch markers and not stitch RING markers.

Since our markers go on and off our stitches, they have an opening somewhere. Some people like the kind that slip on an off with one hand. Like these:

Those are split rings, so they’re open on one side. Super handy to put on when you have one hand available, but as easy as they slip on, they slip off that easily too. So, not favorite for a project I’m putting in and out of a bag. Maybe okay for at home use though?

So my favorite markers are locking stitch markers. And for me personally, the more the better! These babies have a way of disappearing on me. They’re small and when you’re working quickly, sometimes they don’t get put back in the case so they slip to the bottom of the bag, and you know the rest. I also have a tendency to pull out a bunch when I’m getting ready to crochet a long chain so I can access them quickly. And a few inevitably fall off the arm of the chair I’m sitting on, or off my lap, etc, etc. So buy a BUNCH! I like these myself:

I’ve also tried these, but they are not as easy to slip on and off, so I prefer the safety pin style. The little point on the safety pin makes it easier to put your marker precisely where you want it.

Once you have your stitch markers in hand, they are super handy when it comes to counting. Let’s say I’m starting an afghan and it has 212 starting stitches. Keeping track of 212 stitches can be a nightmare, even if you’re all alone in a room with zero distractions. So, I start placing a marker every 50 stitches. Now this number can change the more distractions I have. If I’m watching a tv show with my family, it goes down to 25, but if I’m chatting with my girlfriends at a coffee shop, that can go all the way down to 10 stitches! So I chain my 10 stitches, count, add a marker and keep going. Once I’ve placed that marker, I trust that the number of stitches before it is correct and then I only have to count my markers. This way I’m never at stitch 195 and have to start all over again. Saves me a lot of frustration!

For basic patterns I frequently keep a marker in place every 25-50 stitches, moving them up in my work either as I go or every couple of rows. But, if I move them, I ALWAYS count to make sure they’re still in place. Ever had an afghan that looks perfectly fine, but when you fold it in half you notice the edges are not the same length? We don’t want that to happen so count, count, count!

I do find that the less complicated the pattern, the more frequently I have to use markers. 100 stitches of double crochet is much harder to keep track of than 20 shells of five double crochets, even though they are the same number of stitches. So don’t be stingy with your counting and using markers just because the pattern is easy!

Happy Hooking everyone!

Omg, what has taken me so long to try this yarn??? It has instantly become my new favorite. Maybe it’s the cold weather, but it has totally renewed my love for wool.

First, it has amazing stitch definition. I’m remaking a scarf in a pattern I developed last year using a locally made hand spun and dyed yarn. The scarf has cables framing the center and they just pop right off the background.

Popping cables!

Next it comes in a rainbow of colors. It’s rare to find a high quality yarn with such a wide range of shades. LoveCrafts stocks 51 colors and has it on sale right now for $5.85. It’s typically $6.50 and doesn’t go on sale often.

But, the reason I adore this yarn is because it’s so soft and squishy. Like wrap yourself in wool and feel the lovely texture against your skin soft. It’s amazing on my hook, sliding smoothly and evenly. It is a tiny bit splitty but the stitches are so crisp I’ve caught any splits quickly.

I’m so excited to work with it I’ve already ordered more and have a turtle themed shawl planned to make with it. I can’t wait!

If you order from LoveCrafts, mention my name in the referral and you’ll get 15% off, as will I, so it’s a win/win!

Happy Hooking!

Yarn comes in so many varieties. We’ve talked about size of yarn and matching yarn to your pattern, but just because yarn is the same size as a pattern calls for it isn’t always the best choice for every pattern.

So, what are the qualities or characteristics of yarn? How can you really hone in on what makes a yarn work in a certain pattern?

Fiber content, ply, twist, feel, drape, sheen, elasticity, memory, resiliency, non pill – these are all words we use to describe yarn. And there are many MANY more!

Fiber Content generally breaks down into three categories

  • animal based fibers
  • plant based
  • synthetics

Animal based fibers are wools of all types: sheeps wool (merino, highland, natural, cashmere, mohair, among others. They are essentially the hair or fur of an animal that is harvested while the animal is still alive, cleaned and spun into the product we call yarn. Silk is also an animal fiber, although considerably less allergenic than most other animal fibers.

Plant based fiber is exactly what it sounds like, fibers derived from plants like cotton, hemp or linen. These yarns are exclusively plant grown fibers that are spun into yarn in a variety of methods and blends.

Synthetic fibers are just about everything else. They are not found in nature, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. They are chemically processed and blended to create yarn. You can also find semi-synthetics like bamboo, which fall in this category.

No matter what the fiber content, yarn is spun out and several things happen next. It can be spun into very fine threads which are then grouped together and turned into a larger strand called plied yarn. These plies can be either twisted or not twisted forming different styles of plied yarn. Twisted yarns are easier to work with in general, as it’s (mostly) easy to grab all the plies at once with your hook. If the loosely twisted, yarn is sometimes called splitty which means you might grab only two or three out of four plies, leaving uncaught loops in your finished product. If yarn is tightly twisted it might be kind of stiff and harder to work with. This can affect drape which describes how a finished product hugs the curves and edges of your body.

Yarn can also come in one large strand, and this is called roving. This is not to be confused with roving that spinners use, so be sure that you are actually buying yarn, and not a fiber which will become yarn later.

You can also find core spun yarn. This is yarn where the enter core might be different than what’s on the outside. These usually, but not always, involve a synthetic fiber of some sort with a mesh or other strands containing or entwined in the core fiber. Chenille is a common example, and you can actually see the core fibers holding the softer, velvet fibers in place.

So, when would you choose each of those qualities? And why? What is the different effect?

These are HUGE questions and I’ll be going into more details, updating links in this post, as I expand upon these answers.

For now, Happy Hooking!

When deciding whether to block or not, the fiber of the finished project is key in deciding your methods.

The doilies I showed in my previous post are 100% cotton. Cotton blocks well, especially in a lacy pattern. In most circumstances, you would soak in plain water. But, if you have a variety of bright colors in one project, you might want to consider adding some vinegar and/or salt to your soaking solution to help set the dyes and prevent colors from bleeding. Nothing is more heartbreaking than soaking a finished project and seeing your red thread has turned all the white threads an irregular shade of pink. I use about a half cup of vinegar and a couple teaspoons of salt in my bathroom sink full of cool water.

The downside of blocking cotton is that you will need to do it every time you wash your project. Cotton will revert back to its original shape when wet, so in order to open those stitches back up, they need to be stretched out again.

But, what about wool? Wool behaves very uniquely when soaked and blocked. It has memory, so the placement of stitches during your blocking locks them in place during the blocking process, and depending on the fiber, will withstand machine or hand washing and retain that shape. Pretty cool! Follow the fiber instructions before washing though, as not all wool can be machine washed.

Wool feels and performs better after washing if you soak in a lanolin no rinse washing solution. I like Eucalan. And as someone sensitive to scents, I prefer unscented Eucalan. Like this one.

I add one capful of Eucalan to my sink of cool water. I normally let it soak for at least 30 minutes, but sometimes I get distracted and left something soaking as long as overnight with no adverse effects.

Acrylic, or other synthetic fibers don’t necessarily *require* blocking, but in my opinion, everything looks better after blocking. I would treat any synthetic fiber much the same as I would cotton. Check for color fastness and add vinegar and salt if needed.

After I remove anything from soaking, whether it’s cotton, wool, or a synthetic, I use the same method. I have two thick beach towels reserved just for this. Make sure they’re clean and dry. You don’t want to contaminate your project with anything unplanned!

Remove your project from the soaking liquid and gently squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can without wringing. If it’s something small, I normally squish it against the side of the sink until I can lift it without it dripping too much.

I then lay it out flat on my already spread out beach towel. If it’s bigger than your beach towel, go ahead and use the second towel. Or more if you need them! Then, I fold the towel over if I can, or lay a fresh towel on top. When the top and bottom are covered by dry towels I gently roll up the towels, keeping my project flat inside, kind of like a cinnamon roll. Once your have your towel cinnamon roll, you can press down on the towels as hard as you can. The project is well protected inside your roll so just go to town! Don’t wring though, because that places undue pressure on your stitches. The more water you can remove at this stage, the less time the next step will take.

Once you’re confident you’ve done your work, you can unroll your project and set to pinning it on your blocking surface. If you have blocking boards, that’s my preference, but I also will block directly on a mattress (over a sheet).

Depending on the size and fiber of a project, drying can take just a few hours, to a few days sometimes! I have a ceiling fan in the room that I use for blocking, so I turn it on high and shut the door to keep my kitties away. (And lock it to keep out my naughty Percy who’s long enough to open my doors!)

You can check periodically and see how the drying is coming along. I encourage you to not unpin the whole thing until you are 100% sure that is completely dry. Pinning for blocking is even more tedious than sewing in ends, in my opinion, and you don’t want to do it more than once!

Once it’s dry, you’re ready to go! Admire your work, you deserve it!