Brenda Stratton Designs

Innovative Crochet Designs Since 1987

Crochet Tips

Avoid tangled yarn. When using center pull skeins, the yarn can begin tangling when it nears the end of the skein. There are two ways to avoid this. The quick fix is to fold the paper skein band around the remaining yarn fairly tightly (much as it was when the skein was full). Wrap a rubber band around the skein band or tape the ends of the folded band together. The tightened skein band will prevent the yarn from tangling in the same way it did when the skein was full. If you have a yarn winder, you may want to wind the skein of yarn into a center pull ball before beginning your project to avoid the problem altogether.

Baby powder. If your hands tend to perspire, especially when working with heavy yarns in hot weather, apply a small amount of baby powder to your hands as needed. It will absorb the excess moisture and leave a light, pleasant scent on the project you are stitching. If the person you are making the project for is sensitive to scent, be sure to use an unscented powder!

Beginning chain. When making your beginning (foundation) chain on a new project, take care not to work too tightly to avoid making it hard to insert the hook into the chain on the first row. If you find it difficult to get the right tension, try using a hook one or two sizes larger than the hook you will use to work the rest of the project.

Beginning a new crochet project. Before beginning a new project, read all the way through your pattern first. It will give you the opportunity to be sure you have everything you need on hand, and it will help you discover any problems before they occur.

Ch-3 at the beginning of a row. The ch-3 worked at the beginning of a row on a dc piece often makes the edges of your crochet work look untidy. To help alleviate the problem, try substituting a ch-2 in its place. You may find that you need to draw the 2 chains up just a bit higher than you normally would, but not as high as the ch-3 would have been. It will tighten the hole that forms at the beginning of the row. It’s not generally critical whether you use a ch-2 or a ch-3. The point is to gain enough height on the beg ch-2 or ch-3 to allow the next st to stand straight and tall with no gap between them.

Counting rows. Keeping track of the number of rows and stitches, especially on a large project, can be made much easier by inserting a split ring marker at the end of every tenth row or after every 10th stitch. Instead of counting each row or stitch individually, the markers allow you to count them by 10.

Drag. Drag is a term used to indicate that the yarn is not flowing smoothly over your hook. How to help alleviate the problem depends on the type of hook you are using. If it is a wooden hook, try using a small piece of a brown paper grocery bag to “sand” the surface to smooth it out without damaging it. With an aluminum or steel hook, wash it in warm soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. As a final step in each case, apply a light coat of wax (I use Pledge spray wax) to the surface of the hook after cleaning or sanding.

Gauge swatches. Making a gauge swatch for a project is very important if it is to be fitted or worked to a specific size. If you are not working to the exact gauge the designer specifies, you run the risk of a garment not fitting, and it’s possible that you could run out of yarn. However, there are times when gauge isn’t as important. (For instance, I don’t work swatches for things such as scrubbies, dishcloths, etc. I have plenty of yarn on hand, and I don’t care if the project is slightly larger or smaller than specified.) But, for a larger project, it could be a real problem if the item is significantly larger or smaller than I thought it would be when I started it. So, make an informed decision before you start a new project in regard to whether to create a swatch or not. Consider the amount of yarn or thread you have on hand (and whether you can get more if needed), it’s cost and whether the item is to be fitted or stitched to a specific size. To make a gauge swatch, crochet a 4″ x 4″ swatch in the pattern stitch your project uses. Check the gauge against the gauge stated in your pattern. If your gauge is smaller, try a larger hook. If your gauge is larger, try a smaller hook. (Tip: Save your gauge swatches and sew or crochet them together to make a patchwork blanket, pillow, scarf or whatever you like.)

Keeping track of your place in a written pattern. Use a small Post-It note to mark the row you are working on. The Post-It note can be moved from row to row many times before it needs to be replaced with a fresh one. Since it leaves no residue, it will not damage to your pattern.

Prevent center-pull skein collapse. When working with a center-pull skein, sometimes the skein collapses when the yarn is about half used. The yarn then tangles as you pull it from the skein. To correct this, fold the skein band tightly (but not so tightly you can’t pull the yarn) around the skein, and secure it with a rubber band or a piece of tape. The tension on the skein band will cause the yarn to flow smoothly again.

Stringing beads without a needle. To string beads on crochet thread without a needle, dip the end of the thread in white glue, straighten it out and lay it flat to dry. You can then use the stiffened end in place of a needle to string your beads.

Storage solutions for small items. Small, clean medicine bottles or plastic spice bottles make excellent storage solutions for needles of all types, row counters, stitch markers and other small crochet tools that can be easily lost. Larger plastic bottles, including some of the larger spice bottles,  are ideal for crochet hooks, pens and collapsible scissors. When you’re ready to pack your crochet bag, these items travel safely without fear of them poking through the bag and getting lost.

Tension. Do your best to keep your tension the same each time you sit down to work on a project. If you are upset when you are stitching, chances are you will tighten up on the tension and throw your gauge way off, which can be devastating to your project. Before you sit down to crochet, take a deep breath, and relax. Remember why you are crocheting or knitting in the first place…to relax and enjoy the process!

Threading a yarn needle. To easily thread a yarn or tapestry needle without a needle threader, wrap the yarn around the needle once so that both ends of the yarn are facing the same direction. Pull the yarn tightly around the needle, then pinch the folded end of yarn and remove the needle, then push the folded edge  of yarn through the needle’s eye, pulling the short end through.

Weaving in yarn ends. Weave in yarn ends as you work to avoid facing a daunting task at the end of your project. You can save yourself a lot of work if you crochet over the ends wherever possible. In those places where you can’t, thread the yarn into a yarn or tapestry needle and invisibly hide the yarn end in your work on the back side wherever possible.

Winding yarn from skeins or balls. If you have a ball winder that winds yarn into the flat, round “cakes”, here is a two-fold tip. 1) To keep the skein or ball bands with your yarn for later identification, flatten the band and roll it up from one end. Then, as you pull the ball off the winder, slip the skein band inside the cake. (It is easier to do this way than after you pull the cake off the winder.) If the skein band is too wide and is taller than the yarn cake, take a snip off each end of the band to make it shorter, preserving the information on the band. 2) To secure the free, outer strand of yarn (the one last off the winder), use a crochet hook to pull the end through a few layers of yarn on the outer edge of the ball. It’s a great help in keeping your cake from unwinding when it is handled.

Work even. This term indicates that you are to continue working in an already established pattern (which could be a specific pattern repeat or something as simple as single crochet or double crochet) without increasing or decreasing. The stitch count will remain the same on each row.

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