At the end of the last real-life class two weeks ago, some of the girls had finished their hearts and pretzels, or were close to it, and some hadn't. But they went ahead and finished on their own, so everyone was ready for a new project.
Here are the notes I had written before today's class:
First, some basic techniques:
We are going to go back over some of the basics today--making sure that you work into every stitch, remembering to chain one at the end of each row of single crochet, making sure that everybody knows how to turn their work and start the next row.
How do you change colours in crocheting? The usual way is to start a stitch with the old colour, and when you get to the last bit of the stitch (like the last pull-through), bring the new colour over the hook and finish the stitch with that, leaving a short tail. Do the next couple of stitches in the new colour to anchor it, then pull on the loose end to firm up the first stitch. Cut the old colour (unless you're going to be coming back to that colour in the next row or something), also leaving a tail. When you're all finished the piece, weave in all the loose ends. Some crochet sources will tell you to tie the two tails in a knot, after the piece is finished, and then weave in the ends. I've never found it necessary, at least in the kinds of things I make, and I always thought the idea was to avoid knots in the first place--I just go ahead and weave the ends in unknotted. But if you're making something that's going to take lots of stress and you think the join might come undone, then go ahead and knot.
How do you make ribbing in single crochet? Ribbing, if you don't know, is the tight-but-stretchy stuff that you usually find on sweater cuffs and turtlenecks, with a bit of a ridge on each row. It's easy to do: after you've done your first row of single crochet into the foundation chain, just work each single crochet stitch of the following rows into the back strand or loop of the previous stitch, rather than under both strands. (You don't make rows of "regular" stitching in between--just keep back-loop crocheting all the way through.) The leftover strands form a ridge, or bump, in the crocheting. This is a common way of starting a hat: you make a strip of ribbing, crochet or sew the ends of the strip together, and then work single crochets (or other stitches) across the ribbing--that is, perpendicular to the direction you were going before.
But the band of ribbing itself is our first project option today: you can make one (without the rest of the hat) and use it for a Doll's Hairband or a Person's Hairband. Here are the directions: chain 7 (or desired length), single crochet across the chain (so six single crochet stitches), and keep crocheting row by row, working only in the back loops. Note again that you're working across the short rows here, rather than deciding on the length in advance and making a really long chain--otherwise the ribbing would go along the length of the headband and you'd lose the stretch. When it's as long as you want (measure against the intended head), end off and sew the ends together. Decorate as desired--hairbands are a good place to add crocheted rosettes and other fancy motifs.
Bonus note: back-stitch crochet is good for more than just ribbing: you can use it for a textured effect on things like coasters and dishcloths.
The second option today is a Doll Purse--with stripes if you want to practice colour changes. But if you don't have a doll, you can make some other kind of small bag, cozy, or case--or a larger one if you're ambitious. Single-crochet a rectangle twice as big as whatever you have in mind--because you are going to fold it in half and sew up the sides. With worsted yarn and approximately a 4.5 mm hook, you might go with about twelve to fifteen stitches across, for an average doll purse, and work for--I don't know, twenty rows, maybe more? Just stop when it seems big enough.
If the doll would prefer a plain tote bag, then fold it exactly in half, and add whatever kind of handles you like; if she wants a more stylish shoulder bag or clutch, then leave enough on one side to fold over for a flap. How are you going to keep the flap closed? Your choice--sew on a button, a snap, some Velcro, a hook and eye--whatever you have. If you're short on hardware, you can stitch a big French knot onto the front of the purse, and then make a yarn loop on the flap--that is, thread yarn on a needle, take a couple of small stitches on the flap, make a small loop with the yarn as if you were making a lazy-daisy embroidery stitch, and anchor it down again with a couple more stitches. The loop goes over the French knot to hold the flap closed.
For a simple strap for the shoulder bag, attach yarn to one corner of the bag with a slip stitch, then chain for the length required. At the end, slip stitch to the opposite corner, then end off and weave in the cut end. Or you could use ribbon or something else for a strap. For a wider strap, make the chain, then work back across with single crochet. You'll end up back where you started in that case, so you'll have to attach the loose end of the strap with a slip stitch or a couple of sewn stitches.
Our real-life class will be ending in only a couple more lessons, so we're going to be moving on next time to crocheting in the round--very useful, and a big step towards making some of the cute amigurumi stuffies that the girls are oohing and ahing over. We're also going to make a really easy shamrock bookmark, and start learning about increasing and decreasing.
How has your crocheting been going?