It’s happening people. Coronavirus is coming to a town near you, very soon. There are already 2 confirmed diagnoses in my county, but probably many, many more cases because tests and supplies to take tests are so short. One friend told me her doctor’s office had 11 swabs to last the rest of the flu season. ELEVEN swabs to test for ifluenza, strep, and Covid-19. She’s saving the swabs only for potential strep cases because strep requires antibiotics.

People are hunkering down. My son’s Robotics competition was cancelled for the weekend. That’s 3 days of busy busy busy activities, a hotel visit, restaurant orders, coffee runs, all cancelled. And, I have 3 solid days at home now with nothing scheduled.

So, how does that impact my crafting? MORE! I’ve ordered more yarn, and am preparing to rewatch Parenthood from the beginning. Obviously I won’t get through it this weekend, but I foresee a good month of activities being cancelled, maybe even longer.

How are you coping?

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!

Wool. There’s merino, superwash, alpaca, mohair, highland, llama, cashmere, qiviut, camel, angora, lambswool, ACK! Oh, and some parts of the world refer to yarn generically as wool, so do they buy wool wool and acrylic wool????

With so many wools to choose from, how do you know what to get? And what do you do with it when you’re done? Is there anything that really SHOULD be made from wool as opposed to cotton or a synthetic?

I’ll try to help, but a lot of the answers come down to personal preference and experience. I never cared for wool before I got serious crocheting. It was all too scratchy for me. Even mohair made me sniffly and itchy. I’ve since learned that the way wool is finished can affect how much I like wool, but there are some that I like better than others.

To finish most wool projects, I soak in a lanolin no rinse solution. I like Eucalan Unscented but Eucalan Lavender is also nice if you can tolerate light fragrances. This softens up the fibers considerably and helps set the stitches in places in place when you block your finished project. You do not need to use Eucalan every time you wash a wool item, but every few washes is good. I add one capful to a sinkful of water and let it soak at least an hour. The great think about Eucalan is it does not require rinsing, so you can just block or shape your item to dry after it’s soaked. If something is making me particularly itchy, a Eucalan soak frequently solves that problem.

A good, safe wool to start with is Merino. You don’t want it to feel super scratchy in the hank or skein when you buy it, but a little bit of scratchiness is okay – that will improve with a soak. Merino has a huge advantage in that in almost all cases, it’s washable. If it doesn’t specifically say “machine washable” the best way is just to soak it in something like Eucalan, as I mentioned above.

Merino is considerably softer than what I expected wool to be before I started using it. It comes in a wide variety of textures and weights, so that will play a huge factor in project selection. Finer wool makes thinner, drapier projects, but can still provide warmth, breathability, and even some water resistance. So it’s great for things like shawls, sweaters, clothing items in general. As long as you wash it gently, Merino doesn’t tend to pill and has really nice stitch definition.

Alpaca and Llama yarn are very similar. They can be extremely soft, so they are nice when used close to the skin or as an added fiber to soften a coarser or scratchier wool. I simply LOVE this yarn and it’s very affordable. (mention my name, Caroline Cameron, and you’ll get 15% off your first purchase!) Alpaca and Llama have a little bit of a halo, which is the fuzzy bit that kind of glows off the project. This doesn’t make my nose tickle the way Mohair can, but it does irritate some people. You should probably feel it before investing too much in a project.

Highland wool comes from not Scotland, but Peru’s Highlands. It does tend to be scratchy… at first… but over time it softens up and is highly durable. It provides extra warmth and will last your entire lifetime, and probably your grandchildren’s lifetimes too!

There are many, many different types of wool but these are just a few of my favorites. I’m making a scarf right now with a very popular wool that I haven’t used before. I’ll post a review when I’m done, and the pattern.

Important note: All wool must be washed carefully lest you shrink and/or felt your project. An adult man’s sweater could come out toddler size if you wash it on hot and put it in the dryer!

Happy hooking all!

There are a lot of different sources for picking a new pattern. Yarn label, magazines, social media, blogs, websites, yarn stores, clubs – the list goes on and on. Obviously picking one single designer is never going to fulfill all your pattern needs. So, what do you do?

There are several websites dedicated to selling patterns, both for crochet and knitting. I’m going to list a few of my favorites and in future posts will include tutorials on how to find what you’re really looking for. It can be overwhelming but a few tricks will really make things simpler.

So, first stop: Ravelry one of the early adopters to online pattern selling, Ravelry set up shop in 2007 as a source for designers to promote and sell their patterns and crafters to curate their favorite patterns. It’s still one of my favorite sources, as I have years worth of projects and purchased patterns stored on their website. I admit to not being as good about uploading every project as I would like, but for a few years I was awesome! So, I have a documented list of finished projects with pictures! Ravelry boasts over 400,000 patterns (this includes knitting as well as crochet) so they are arguably the largest resource out there.

A newcomer on the market is LoveCrafts. They started as an online yarn seller and have quickly ramped up their pattern collection, selling patterns for individual designers and yarn manufacturers. They are a good source for newer, current patterns. And, they frequently sell the yarn the patterns use! So, that saves a few steps. Love that. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

When I first started crocheting, I didn’t see why anyone would pay for patterns. There are so many patterns available for free! All Free Crochet actually only has free patterns. About 3,000 specifically for crochet. Pretty nice collection! The difficulty with free patterns is that they frequently have a lot of advertising (we gotta pay our bills, right?) and the patterns are not always well written or easy to follow. I find they’re great for novice crocheters, but once you move past beginner stages, you may want more complicated patterns. And, that takes some work. So, they probably won’t be free. But, again, great to build up your abilities.

Interweave is another great source. Their patterns tend to be more complex, but they have some beginner patterns as well. They also publish a magazine that I look forward to every quarter. Their patterns tend to be very on trend and are great for inspiration. Interweave is slightly more knitting focused, but they also feature other crafts as well. Most of us tend to be multi crafters, so they appeal to me on many levels.

Yarnspirations has recently merged with Craftsy and is a source for Red Heart, Caron, Lily, Bernat, Patons, Phentex, and Sugar Bush patterns. It’s pretty comprehensive and they’re all free!

Annie’s Catalog is another large collection that’s been around a while. They started as a catalog and quickly became a much loved resource for products, patterns, and anything related. Their patterns are generally paid, but you can also subscribe to Crochet! Magazine to get many of their paid patterns.

I’ll add to this list as I think of great resources.

In the meantime, Happy Hooking!

There are many ways to communicate a pattern – written pattern, charts, video tutorials, or just passed down from one person to another verbally. I think the most common way is a written pattern.

But, written patterns have a lot of flaws. Our language is not precise when it comes to crochet. I’ve mentioned this problem before with regard to yarn and hooks but the problem is even more obvious when it comes to patterns. A double crochet in the US is not the same as a double crochet in the UK, so you need to know which terms are being used by the patterns.

Even more confusing, many stitches don’t have standardized names. A lot of people use the terms popcorn, puff, and bobble stitches interchangeably, even though they are three different stitches.

This is why I love charts. Charts have no language, except maybe in the legend. But, that’s really unnecessary because the symbols are universal. So you can pick up a chart made in Japanese and still be able to follow along. Most of the time, you can presume US Terms, but in a UK pattern, the symbols are in UK Terms.

I’ve made a simple little chart here to help demonstrate how easy charts can be. This is for a simple granny stitch row, with two double crochets on each end.

The first thing you may notice is that there are two different colors. One is black and one is red. Black is pretty much the standard used to indicate right side and wrong side is frequently represented by red, blue or grey. It’s pretty easy to figure out for the most part.

Somewhere on most charts is a legend, which indicates which symbol represents each stitch. Mine is below, but sometimes it’s in a box on the side, or the top even.

Sometimes charts have numbers for the rows, sometimes not. Frequently you will see something small like this, which is representative of the whole pattern and not the entire pattern. There might be rows above and below that are not included in the chart, such as your first row of double crochets or something along those lines.

In this image, I’ve put a bracket around the pattern repeat so you can see it’s a two row repeat. I’ve also added numbers, so you can clearly see odd rows are black, and even rows are red.

Starting with row 1, you see two elongated Ts with a hash mark across them. In the legend, you can see that represents a double crochet. Here’s a little hint – the hash marks represent each time you wrap the yarn around your hook. One hash mark = one wrap before you pull up a loop = double crochet. Two hash marks = two wraps before you pull up a loop = treble crochet. And so on. There are no stitches below those first two stitches so you can assume that they go in the first two stitches.

The next stitch is a chain, which would correspond with skipping a stitch in the row below if we could see it.

The next stitch is a bit more confusing. In the legend, you see that it’s 3 double crochets in one stitch. To make things easier, I added a row of single crochets below so you can see where the stitches end up going. In my opinion, this is where charts really shine!

You can see that the 3 double crochets in one stitch lines up with a single crochet below. So you know exactly where to place those stitches. It is very hard to express this in worded patterns, especially with more complex patterns. I love the visual representation that charts provide!

After the 2 double crochets together is a chain stitch, and then you simply repeat that until the end, where you finish with 2 double crochets.

In subsequent rows, rather than place your 3 double crochets together in a starting chain, they will go around the chain space.

This is a very simple repeat, one that is very common in basic crochet patterns. It can be in rows or granny squares, but you will see this repeated over and over.

Feel free to test it out and see if you can follow along with no words. I plan to include a chart with all of my patterns as I find them easier to read and follow along with. When patterns get too wordy, my head scrambles things a bit, and the visual representation helps me a lot. My favorite patterns include both words and charts so I can refer back and forth to understand exactly what to do.

Which do you like better? Charts or words? And why?