Category Archives: Crochet


More progress on Dragon.

I had hoped I’d have finished off the entire top border by today, but I’m three rows away from finishing.

A couple of people have written to ask for a more detailed explanation of how I’m managing the vertical join between the old and new parts. I’d posted some thoughts on this before, but then contradicted myself and said I was doing it another way. To top it off, I neglected to describe exactly how.

If I’ve got an two empty meshes stacked one on top of each other at the end of my row just before the join, I’m working my penultimate square as usual, then I’m working a horizontal half double crochet to connect the new work to the old. Then I chain up two, and work another horiztonal half double crochet. Finally I flip my work over and proceed back in the direction I came.

If I’ve got two solid meshes stacked on on top of each other at the end of my row just before the join, I work my penultimate square as usual, then work two DCs into either the stitches or the space of the row below. Then I join the last of these DCs to the established edge with a slip stitch. The existing edge of the old work makes the fourth stitch to complete the new square. To make the next row a bit more even, I do a backwards slip stitch into the stitch one before the stitch on my needle; chain up two, and work another slip stitch into the next attachment point. Then I do another backwards slip stitch as before. Finally I flip over my work and work two more double crochets to finish out the filled square that commences the new row.

Here’s a schematic. More or less. Apologies for the lousy picture quality. I’m wrestling with Visio right now. I installed Office XP Service Pack 2 (the big security update) and it messed with Visio. I then installed several layers of Visio upgrades to get it working, but the export to JPG feature isn’t quite fine tuned yet.

Mindless Kvelling over Gen III

The kidlets are captivated by knitting!? Who would have thought it, because before the Knit-Out neither one showed much interest. I myself never could sit still long enough to learn from my mom (Knitting Goddess, mostly retired). I’m amazed that they have come so far, so fast.

The Larger One sprang right from her initial "learn how" bit of garter in livid green acrylic to a garter stitch scarf done in a fuzzy yarn. She polished it off in two days, then went out and got more fuzzy yarn to do another for her friend. The Smaller One found a thick yarn and big needles easier to manage than worsted weight and size #7s. She knit a?6-stitch wide strip from a superbulky yarn, then asked me to end it off into an earwarmer. She began it Friday, and wore it to school this morning. Now that they’re comfortable with the knit stitch, this week’s lesson will be purling and casting off.

I may have created two monsters though. Both are now eyeing my stash and asking what they can make next. The Larger One is searching the web because she wants to do "a bag from that yarn that shrinks."? The little one wants to do a blanket for her favorite stuffed animal, and appears to have an affinity for hand-dyed variegateds. I’ll offer up pix of the proud knitters?once they’re home from school. Now off for a new experience:? Hiding Yarn From Children.


I’ve been having discussions with folks on other blogs, and in eMail about crochet and its strengths and weaknesses. I’d posted about this before.

My objection to most contemporary crochet patterns is that they try to take advantage of crochet’s strengths but ignore it’s shortcomings. For example, they try to present easy to make/quick to finish projects. That plays on two of crochet’s strengths – namely how easy it is to learn, and how quickly it can be worked. But in doing so, they scale up textures and stitches to use with DK and heavier weight yarns. That leads to the lumpen, potato-bag, refugee-from-grandma’s-sofa look, a good example of which is the skirt on the cover of IK Crochet:

This same texture pattern would be exquisite in a much thinner yarn, done up in panels in a sweater or blouse. You may disagree with me and say that I’ve got no taste, but to me this skirt is heavy and unattractive, there’s nothing about it – not drape, not fit, not texture that flatters the wearer.

Now crochet in heavier yarns can be quite attractive. Crocheted fabrics are thick and warm, and resist stretch better than some knitted ones. A dense crochet in a heavier yarn is perfect for a coat or outdoor jacket. Even a hat or bag will benefit from the body and thickness. But not an indoor/outdoor or indoor garment.

What do I like in crochet?? Here’s an example.

The thread size/texture pattern are graceful and in proportion to the garment. I also l ike the style. Sleeves are fitted, and there’s some evidence of a bit of body shaping, even though this cropped pullover is boxy in general shape. Please don’t write to ask for the pattern or provenance. A friend eMailed me this photo, and other than her say-so that it’s from a French-language crochet magazine, I haven’t a clue as to when/where it’s from.

Even the usually dreadful granny square motif can be attractive if it’s scaled in relation to its usage. Here’s a nifty example from the UK’s Knitting and Crochet Guild on-line collection pages:

The caption page attributes this piece to the 1950s. It’s done in 3-ply – a yarn that’s would be considerd light fingering in the US, and would probably knit up at between 8 and 9 stitches per inch on US #1s. The sweater’s multicolor?motifs are crocheted, but?the rest of the sweater is knitting. Be sure to go to the caption page to visit the sweater’s detail shot, so you can see the fineness of both the knitted and crocheted sections, and how the gauge of the two compare. (Also if you want to support this nifty collection, there are notecards illustrating some of their most spectacular pieces for sale at the end of the collection.)? [/End shameless plug of worthy cause.]


Grrr. Apparently no effort of woman nor beast can nail down an exact reference to an item in the V&A database because linking is dynamic and is recalculated for each new session. Therefore if you really want to dig through and find the items I mentioned yesterday, you’ll have to search on their accession numbers yourself. Open any V&A search page, and enter these numbers:

CT55633 – to see the crocheted purse
CT59053 – to see the knitted purses
CT57667 – to see the sampler

Apologies for all wild goose chases that ensued.

Filet of Dragon

Progress on Dragon is both positive and retrograde:

?The good news is that thanks to advice so graciously shared by Vaire and Kathryn, attaching the side strips as I work them looks much better and more even than I hoped. I’m not using the exact method I posited in my last post. Instead, I’m doing a scrumbly combo of techniques. If the joining mesh is empty, I’m doing Vaire’s method of horizontal DC as bride. If the joining mesh is solid, I’m doing a combo of a technique Kathryn sent plus more advice from Vaire. I’m working that join mesh up to the point of the join (first leg, plus first "inside" dc), then on the second "inside" dc, I’m doing a slip stitch to mate it to the mesh leg of the existing work. After that I’m chaining up three, doing another slip stitch to mate the little chain to the old work, then working one "inside" dc plus another as the next mesh leg. The little chain up serves as the first dc of the "inside" pair. And there’s more good news in that the double-height empty blocks I am leaving for the curtain rods fit well and work great.

But all news is not good. See that little strip sticking up in today’s photo?? It’s gone. I’ve ripped it completely back and started again. It turns out that the original pattern I had selected for the horizontal strips is too wide (again the gauge problem). I am going to use an entirely different strip pattern, plus finish the entire thing around with two rows of solid DC to ensure a stable edge.

So there you have it. Dramatic progress, and dramatic failure. All in one day.


Remember two days agoI said I’d be delighted to show off any projects that other people did either from or inspired by my designs? I’ve started the blog category "Gallery" for just this purpose. First off, here’s a nifty example of a piece adapted from a stitching design in my book:

This hat is part of an Elizabethan costume made by a fellow participant in greater Boston, MA area SCA activiites. The stitcher’s SCA name is Lady Lakshmi Amman, and the recipient (and model) is Mistress Morwenna Westerne. Click on the photo for more detail shots ofLakshmi’s work, including graphs forher adaptations ofmy winged undine from Plate 75:1 of The New Carolingian Modelbook. (Lakshmi’s photo appears here by permission.) Because the piece was made to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of Mistress Morwenna, Lakshmi’s undines each carry something associated with Morwenna’s favorite pursuits. There’s an embroidering mermaid, a cooking mermaid, a performing mermaid, and several others. Very clever!

More on Crochet

I’ve gotten some more feedback and help on ways to attach edging and borders to pre-existing filet pieces; and advice on how to better keep 1:1 true square proportionality when forming meshes.

First, advice from Vaire, the Innocent Abroad onmaking my squares square. She says that try as she might, she was never able to achieve true squareness using the base-4 style mesh I’m using. Instead she switched to base-3. That’s one double crochet between the legs of the mesh to form a filled square, and one chain stitch between the legs of the mesh to form an open one (I do two of each right now). She said that this reduced the width spread of her squares.Vaire went on to suggest another method of increasing mesh size: using 3 ch betwen trebles, instead of 2 ch between doubles. This makes a larger, more airy mesh, and opens opportunities for partially as opposed to solidly filled squares (tr, ch, tr, ch, tr). Thank you, Vaire! Both are intriguing ideas, well worth experimentation.

My pal Kathryn also continues to ply me with great ideas too numerous to all list here. Several have been for methods of joining filet sections. There’s been a step-style join that makes a mitered corner. I need to try that one out before I can explain it better. At first I was afraid that my not-square squares would throw the miter off, but used in combo with Vaire’s base-3 idea, it sounds like it would work quite well. She’s also sent me quotations from pre-1920 books that discuss methods like overhand basting to hold sections together; and picking up and working an edging in another style of crochet.

Finally Vaire also suggests using double crochets as horizontal "brides" (reseau) to attach the new bit to the old. This is also a nifty idea, and one I considered, but I was doomed by a poorly planned design choice. I want a two-mesh strip of empty meshes all the way around the piece. I’ve already made that. To do the bride method, I’d have to have done only one, as the row of attachment would provide the second. Since I want most of the joining row to be solidly worked, were I to do it with horizontal double crochets I’d run afoul of the proportionality problem again. Again, thank you! A good idea for a future project, but I’ve pretty much painted myself into a corner on this one.


Another in-absentia post. This one reports progress as of 1 July. Again sorry to be not here.

Crochet in General

Crochet is not a dirty word. I know there’s an ongoing friendly rivalry between knitters and crocheters, but I think the two crafts aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I teach a one-day workshop entitled "Crochet for Knitters" offered sporadically at my LYS and to local guilds (when scheduling allows). It covers basic crochet techniques, then veers off to cover techniques of special use:

  • Crocheted chain cast-on, both free and done onto a knitting needle
  • Crocheted buttons and button loops
  • Simple crocheted edge treatments, including the dreaded Shrimp Stitch (reverse single crochet)

Crochet and knitting do produce fabrics with very different properties. Knitting by nature makes the thinnest, most flexible non-woven textile possible from a strand of yarn – loops are single-thickness, and lie as flat as possible. Given yarn and needles of equivalent size, crochet produces a much thicker, heavier, denser fabric – multiple loops drawn through each other form the basic stitch unit. Knitting has an elasticity and drape that no crochet can equal (again given equivalent weight yarn and needles).

On the other hand, crochet has its own set of advantages. For the most part, it lies flat compared to knitting – especially to stockinette knitting. It produces a very durable, stable fabric. It’s also less constrained to "typewriter" row-based production (back and forth or round and round on a single plain of work). This makes things like relief work (think Irish Crocheted Lace), and 3-D freeform production possible. The learning curve for basic technique is also less steep. Crochet has only one basic movement – hooking a loop and pulling through another loop. Knitting has several?- forming knits, forming purls, and their several variants.

I learned to crochet long, long?before I learned how to knit. Like knitting, I taught myself from a book.I was around 7 when I?began making odd little squares with no particular use in mind, ?but I was a strange kid who read early and liked sitting quietly and making things.Knitting by contrast I didn’t pick up seriously until after college graduation. ?One of the reasons I found Continental style knitting easy and natural was that I was already well schooled in holding and tensioning thread or?yarn with my left hand, an artifact of this previous experience. In fact, I believe that people having problems learning Continental style might benefit from a brief side-trip to crochet because doing so would acustom them to this skill.

Crochet has many forms. The ones I favor are the finer styles of cotton crochet, done with threads of various thicknesses. Although I did quite a bit of it before learning how to knit, I no longer do much large-gauge crochet with yarn heavier than fingering weight. I find the resulting fabric too thick and stiff for most uses. Afghans, hats and bags are the exception, although I much prefer the airy drape of knitted blankets to the heft of crocheted ones. Hats and bags however can benefit from the additional?weight and structure. Note that I do not recommend fulling or felting crochet. I’ve never had a good result doing so, probably because I’ve never hit upon the right ratio of working looseness that would give the yarn enough room to shrink evenly.

A final note on crochet – I get lots of questions at wiseNeedle on how to go about converting a knitted pattern to a crocheted one. Although books have been written on the subject, my answer is usually "with difficulty, and probably not successfully with the original yarn specified in the pattern."? This goes back to basic stitch structure. For a piece of crochet to have anything like the same drape as a piece of knitting, it has to be made from a much thinner yarn. A knitting pattern written for worsted weight yarn cannot be crocheted in worsted weight yarn with the same result. I’d use a fingering weight yarn, light sport at the absolute heaviest. Then I’d draft out a pattern schematic from the original design, do a crocheted swatch, and re-draft all of the required pieces based on the gauge of that swatch. There are no short-cuts or magic formulae, just plain old trial and error and calculation.

Filet of Dragon

For all of crochet’s free-form possibilities, filet crochet is the most row-oriented form of the craft. Filet takes a graphed design, and interprets it in open mesh and worked mesh squares – sort of like net with some of the holes filled in. As I think I mentioned before, this is an aesthetic that dates back a long time, with several different crafts called into service to do it over the years. There are forms of darned netting and grounds, withdrawn thread work, and freeform needle lace that all produce roughly similar filled/unfilled box-based patterns. Crochet is the most recent, and (having tried most of the others), I can say?the fastest method developed so far.

Filet crochet production marches across a graph row by row. Reading charts for filet production is very much like reading a chart for stranded knitting done in the flat. You begin at the lower right hand corner, work across the first row right to left, then on the next row, return by reading across in the opposite direction. Filet crochet though exacting is a very easy technique. There are several excellent on-line tutorials. This one is my favorite. There are also quite a few filet pattens on line, but any design that can be graphed up on a grid using two values (open and filled squares) can be used.

All this being said, here’s the progress on my filet curtain panel:

The 4.3 rows shown represent about three hours of work. I’m a much slower crocheter than I am a knitter, as unlike knitting, I have to actually watch my fingers to ensure the stitches are formed correctly and are in the right spot. The piece is about 17 inches across. The dragon panel will happen in the center, with mirrored strips of a vine-like edging at top and bottom. The safety pins mark the transition point between the dragon panel and the framing vines.

I’m getting?a bit more than 5?meshes per inch using a 1.15mm Bates hook and Size 30 thread (thicker than sewing thread, but not as thick as perle cotton or bakery string). Each open mesh is formed by a double crochet followed by two chains (the next mesh forms the other leg of the box); each filled mesh is formed by three double crochets (again the first DC of the next mesh completes the box). For UK visitors, read treble instead of double crochet here, as for some reason terminology differs on the two sides of the pond.

My intent during this blogging hiatus is to keep plugging away on this thing. My curtain panel is about 30 inches wide x 17 inches tall. I’m working across the shorter dimension to save sanity. Once the panel is done, I need to go back and add another couple of rows top and bottom with larger holes through which the curtain rods will be inserted. I want to block out the piece before I do so, as the width between my curtain rods is fixed. Adding on these strips after the main motifs are completed will allow me to do any late course corrections to ensure a snug and proper final fit.

A final word – as I was starting out on this project I received some very valuable advice on filet crochet from a good friend and needlework buddy?of long acquaintence. Kathryn Goodwyn may or may not be reading this blog, but if she is – ten thousand thanks!? My dragon would not be crawling out from under his rock without you. (Kathryn is an exacting?researcher and needlework/historical clothing?re-creator. Her?favorite sig line "Too many centuries, too little time," which says?quite a bit?about the breadth of her interests and expertise.)

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