Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Icelandic Turtleneck

Here's a crochet project I've been working on for months (four months, to be exact): the Icelandic Turtleneck from the book Crochet Me: Designs to Fuel the Crochet Revolution, which is so far my favourite crochet pattern book ever.

This was my first attempt at making a large project using fine yarn, in this case Patons' Lacette, which is a fingering-weight mohair blend. I'm very pleased with how it came out, although the yarn is a bit itchy to wear. But after all the effort I put into it I'm going to wear it itch or no itch! With a cami under it it isn't bad.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brown Sugar Shrug

So the resident teenager asked me to make her a shrug to go with her new skirt. I was happy to, of course - I can't resist being asked to make someone something.

This wasn't exactly an exercise in creativity, however. She picked out the yarn and colour (Sugar 'n cream, brown), approved the stitch pattern (plain dc), and the ornamentation (none). I wanted to add a bit of decorative edging, but that was vetoed, so I contented myself with sc’ing all around to finish it off neatly. Still, I have to admit it looks cute on.

Rough Pattern / Tutorial

This started as the Crochet Anthropologie-Inspired Capelet, but I made a few modifications (apart from changing the yarn) and the construction ended up being different enough that I thought the pattern might be worth recording. This was much easier to do than it is to explain, though. Please leave a comment if there is anything that I need to clarify, as I have a feeling that I may have overexplained the simple to the point where it becomes complicated.

For this I used Lily's Sugar and Cream cotton yarn in Caramel (from the confectionery colours line) and a K hook. The confectionery colours come in huge balls, and I used rather less than half. The directions should work equally well for any yarn/hook combination.

To start, you need three measurements. You can take these directly from the person who will be wearing the shrug, or from a decent-fitting jacket or top.
  1. Neckline. Not the actual neck but the shrug neckline, the length around where the person wants the shrug to sit.
  2. Shoulder. Length from the neckline to the end of the shoulder/start of the sleeve.
  3. Arm circumference. You want this at the point with the largest circumference, and make sure to include some ease so this can be worn over clothing.
A note on gauge and swatching: in a "pattern" (term used very loosely) like this traditional gauge is pretty irrelevant, but it is still a good idea to make a gauge swatch using your selected yarn and hook. Measure your swatch, wash and block it, let it dry, then measure again. Use the percentage increase (if any) to adjust the measurements you took above.

So, if you made a swatch 20cm by 20cm...

If your swatch grew from 20cm wide to 22 cm wide (the width is measured along the rows) or by 10%, after blocking, and your original neckline measurement was 40cm, your new neckline measurement would be 40 cm divided by 1.1 = about 36.5 cm. (Note: these numbers are completely made up and don't match any actual neck or swatch that I know of.) Adjust the arm circumference by the same percentage.

If your swatch grew from 20 cm to 21 cm in hight (height is measured across the rows) then you need to adjust the shoulder measure by 5%, or by dividing by 1.05.

Ok. Got that? Using your new adjusted measurements, make a chain the length of the neckline. The chain should be a multiple of 6 stitches + 4. You can fudge this a little if needed.

The body is divided into 5 parts: left front, left sleeve, back, right sleeve, right front, with one extra stitch between each two parts. To figure out where your increases go, subtract 4 from the number of stitches in your starting ch and divide this number by 6. The resulting number is your Shrug Unit. If you had 70 stitches in the starting chain, (70 - 4)/6 = 11. The fronts and sleeves are each one Shrug Unit. This would make 11 stitches in each front and sleeve. The back is two Shrug Units wide, and would have 22 stitches.

Put a marker in the extra stitch between each section. (Or you can just count.)

Time to start crocheting into the chain. Ch 3 (counts as first dc) dc into the fifth chain from the hook, dc into each ch until you reach the first marker. In the marked stitch do an increase of 1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc. Continue to dc between markers and increase at each marked stitch until you get to the end (4 increases). Turn.

For each subsequent row, just dc into each stitch until you get to the increase from the previous row. Make sure you dc into the dc's that make up the sides of the increase (this makes your increase for the new row), and 1 dc, ch 2, 1 dc into the ch 2 space.

Measure the height (across the rows) after each row. When the height equals the shoulder measurement you took way back, it's time to make the sleeves. Measure the current width of the sleeve section. Compare this number to the arm circumference measurement. If the sleeve width is smaller than the arm circumference, record the difference. Start the next row and dc until you get to the first increase, and make a chain that is equal to the difference measurement you just took. Join the end of the chain at the second increase, and continue on. Repeat to join the third and fourth increases. You now have two sleeves.

Continue to dc on the body part, including into the chains you made, without increases until the shrug reaches your desired length. Fasten off, rejoin at a sleeve, dc around until it is long enough for you, repeat on the other sleeve.

For a tidy finish, sc around the body, or add any edging you like. Wash, block and you're done!

Recent reading

I've finished Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series - ended with Reader and Raelynx. Left me wanting to go back and read the first one again. Such nice, friendly, romance-fantasy-friendship comfort reads. The second - The Thirteenth House -was the best, I think- there was a little more tension, and she wasn't quite so kind to her main character.

Elizabeth Bear's duology - Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water - was something quite different. At least, I thought it was a duology - looks like there's another? This is not an author that could be accused of being too kind to her characters! A very harsh, elemental version of Faerie. I then picked up her earlier book Hammered, but so far haven't really gotten into it.

I picked up The Queen in Winter, a collection of four romance/fantasy novellas. Enjoyable, but not as much so as the earlier To Weave a Web of Magic, which had an utter gem of a story by Patricia McKillip. The Sarah Monette disappointed me the most, mostly because my expectations were high. I think romance isn't really her natural milieu.

Anything else? A romance or two from the library on the plane to a conference, but I can't remember the titles, so they were probably neither great nor terrible.