Saturday, February 11, 2012

Crochet Class Number Three: Make a Pretzel Magnet, or a Valentine Heart, or...

I have a couple of difficulties writing this one.  First, the real-life class has jumped ahead of the posts, but it wouldn't be very nice of me to just assume that anyone working along with us here has done the same.  Also, this week's project appeared in Crochet World, May/June 1989, and also in a book by the same publisher called 101 Fun to Crochet Projects.  So I assume that they wouldn't like me to just copy out the whole pattern as written.

However, I can give you the basic idea, and also show you how I turned the same pattern into a Valentine Heart.

But first, back to the basics.

A couple of yarn tips, in case you are not already a crocheter/knitter or just not used to buying yarn.  First of all, don't assume that, if the directions say "one skein" of something, the skeins you find will be exactly the same size as the ones described.  I have a  pattern booklet based on 8-ounce skeins of Super Saver; but all the Super Saver yarn I've seen around here is either in 5- or 7-ounce skeins.  Maybe it's like the groceries, and the packages have shrunk since the book was published; maybe it's a U.S./Canada difference, I don't know.  But just remember to check twice when you're figuring yarn amounts.

Also, most yarn labels will have a dye lot number on them.  (Some yarn is labelled "no dye lot.")  If you're buying more than one skein of the same colour, make sure it's all from the same dye lot.

New skills for this class:

By this time everybody has learned to chain, make single crochet stitches, and do a slip stitch (what you do to join the ends of a round together).  Right?

Okay--now we go from the equivalent of knowing the alphabet to really reading.  On this page, look for the "how to single crochet video" by Edna Kurtzman.  Yes, I know you know how to single crochet by now, but this time you are going to make a chain first, and then work your stitches into the links of the chain.  That's how you make the first row of single crochet, if you're working in rows--the chain doesn't count as a row.  Keep working all the way down the chain, putting one single crochet into each link, until you get to the end.  Don't work into the knot. End off when you're done (that is, cut the yarn and pull the tail tight through the last loop). That's how we made a Long Skinny Bookmark at the last real-life class--a length of chain with single crochets worked into it.  If you want a two-colour bookmark, you can make the chain and end off the yarn, then slip-stitch a second colour into one end, single crochet down the chain, and end off again. 

A couple of the young real-life crocheters found this kind of hard; their stitches were uneven, or the chain got twisted.  To be honest, working into a chain is not the easiest or the most fun thing to do.  But if you want to work in rows, you just have to put up with it to get the thing started.  And if you really, really dislike it, then stay away from afghan patterns that start with "chain 350."  Learn to crochet in the round (an upcoming lesson), make doilies or granny squares or amigurumi animals or something.  Crocheting isn't always about long chains.

Some of the girls, on the other hand, found it so easy that they wanted to know how to make the next row of single crochet.  I think the same video shows you that, but this is how:  you chain one stitch and turn your work, so that you're still working right to left, but going back across the stitches you just made.  See how the tops of the single crochets you made look sort of like chains?  Working under both top strands of each stitch in the previous row, make a single crochet stitch into each one, all the way across.  When you get to the end, chain one, turn, and start all over again.  When you're single crocheting in rows, you make the first stitch right into the last stitch of the previous row (that is, the first place you could make a stitch in this row), and work across only as far as the last true single crochet of the row before.  I'm saying that because when you get into "taller" stitches such as double crochet, the rules change: you skip over the first stitch in the row and then make your last stitch into the previous row's turning chain.  But don't worry about that for now.  Go ahead and practice going back and forth for a few rows...I'll wait.

And if you can do that, you've really learned to crochet.  There are still things to learn, like increasing and decreasing, and how to make the other stitches, but from here on it's just practice, and reading patterns.  If you can single crochet back and forth, you can now call yourself a crocheter.  You could pretty much copy the zippered case that I made last week.  Mine was done in half double crochet, but it works just as well in single crochet--it would just take a bit longer to make.  Anyway, the point is that you could make one of these, or anything else in a basic square or rectangle, with the crochet skills you now have.

By the way, this is a good time to talk about yarn tension, and how you hold the hook, the yarn, and the work without dropping it all.  You will notice, if you're watching instructional videos or looking at diagrams, that a lot of right-handed crocheters wind the yarn around a couple of fingers of their left hand, in the same way that a sewing machine has hooks and loops that you put the thread through to keep it tight.  If you do most of the hook-moving with your right hand, it's all right to have your left hand slightly "tied up" with the yarn while you work, if it helps to keep the stitches even.  You might also want to keep hold of the work itself with a couple of the fingers of your right hand, especially if you're making a long chain.  Not everyone holds the hook and yarn in exactly the same way, so just figure out what's most comfortable for you.  And again, watching a few videos can give you more of the idea.

So now we're caught up with the girls, and today they're going to make the Pretzel Magnet or Valentine Heart, which are crocheted exactly the same but just put together a bit differently.  You will need a size G/6 (American) or 4.5 mm (Canadian) hook, some worsted-weight yarn (brown for a pretzel, pink or red for a heart), scissors, and a yarn needle.  Also magnet tape if you want to make it into a magnet, and glue if the magnet tape isn't sticky-backed.  Also crystal or sparkle paint for decoration--crystal for salt on a pretzel, sparkle for a bit of Valentine glitz.  The original pattern suggests embroidering French knots for the pretzel salt; but I think the embroidery looks a bit lame, at least in the photographs.  Decide for yourself.  Also here.  I prefer crystal paint, but it's up to you.

This is what you do:  chain 51, single crochet in the second chain from the hook, single crochet all the way across, chain 1 and turn.  You have 50 stitches in the row.  Make five more rows of single crochet, making a chain 1 at the beginning of each.  At the end of the sixth row, fasten off, leaving a length of yarn for sewing.

Thread the yarn needle onto the tail of yarn.  Fold the crocheted strip in half, lengthwise.  Whip stitch the edge closed, all the way down the strip.  You will have a long, flat crocheted tube.  Lay the tube down flat, with the sewn edge facing away from you.  Mark the center of the tube (temporarily) with a pin (or a bobby pin, or a bit of yarn pulled through one of the stitches). 

For a heart, just overlap the ends slightly and sew them together, squeezing the bottom to give it a heart shape. 

For a pretzel, curl the right-hand edge 1/4 inch to the left of the center mark. Sew the end in place (see photos in those links for placement). Curl the left-hand edge over top of that, and sew it 1/4 inch to the right of the center mark.

Decorate as desired.  Glue on a magnet strip, or use in any other way you want (maybe crochet a chain to make it into a necklace?).

How else could you sew the flattened tube together?  It could be crossed over near the bottom and would resemble the different-coloured ribbons used as logos for various charitable causes.  Maybe you can think of some other variations.

Homework this week?  Keep practicing single crochet in rows.  Make a dishcloth, a coaster, a gadget-cozy, or a teddy bear scarf.  For a long rectangle like a scarf, it's up to you whether you start with a short chain and then go back and forth lots of times, or with a long chain and make fewer rows.  If you're chain-phobic, work across the shorter rows.

I'll post another Crochet Class in two weeks to fill in some details (colour changes, ribbing, and handy stuff like that)--then we'll start increasing, decreasing, and working in the round.

All photographs: Ponytails. Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

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