Monday, August 23, 2010

Making simple crocheted shawls & scarves...

a few crocheted scarves
Although I'm still figuring out the design ins & outs for crocheted triangle shawls, it's really simple to make rectangular shawls (& scarves, of course). The main things you need are a good stitch guide, an array of different-sized hooks, the yarn of your choice, & some common sense about making fabrics.

The bottom line when making anything knitted or crocheted (or tatted, or bobbin-laced, or whatever your needlework choice) is to understand that you are making fabric. And, no matter how you shape it, the fabric you make should work well for the purpose you're making it.  In other words, the fabric you want to make for socks is not the same fabric that works well for a shawl. Socks' fabric should be sturdy enough to keep your toes in, yet stretchy enough to fit over your foot, & not so bulky that they won't fit in your shoes. Shawl fabric, even for very thick, warm shawls, needs some drape so you can wrap it around you. It can have quite large holes & still be shawlish, but fabric crocheted or knitted too tightly will end up being more of a blanket (or table-protector :) than a shawl.

One reason I abandoned crochet almost entirely more than 25 years ago is that I couldn't make the kinds of fabric that I wanted to with crochet. I wanted to make sweaters, but the fabric I ended-up making (using patterns & working to gauge) was too thick. I wanted to make mittens & socks, sweaters & shawls, so I turned to knitting & only got my hooks out when I needed a crocheted edge on a shawl, or when I needed to make a repair on fabric I was weaving.

my wedding gift to my new mother-in-law, Sis
As I mentioned in a prior post, a crochet motif book caught my eye in a craft store in Japan, nearly a year & a half ago, & after all these years, I am crocheting (like mad) again. I think the main reason I'm having so much fun (& so little frustration) with crochet these days is that I've finally figured-out the fabric thing. Not only have I been making knitted fabric for all these years (more than 30, if you count my "serious" knitting years) and felt confident enough in my fabric-making to have been a knitting teacher for more than 15 years, but I finally took the plunge into weaving about 8 years ago, which is probably the ultimate in fabric-making. In all of these different endeavours, there is a common thread- swatches. The only way to really know what kind of fabric you're going to get with yarn & needles, or yarn & hook, or yarn & loom, is to swatch it- make a small sample see what you get. And feel it. Wash it, stretch it, smoosh it, drape it. Feel it again. The you'll know if you're making sock fabric or shawl fabric. And if you want to make socks & the fabric feels like a shawl, then you need to do some adjusting, either in your yarn or your needle(s).

shawl from crocheted motifs
I think that another reason I'm having fun with crochet these days is that I have had a lot experience with lots of yarns- all sorts of fibres, blends, & especially weights of yarns- over these years of fabric-creating. I remember a time when lace or fingering yarn would have given me the shakes (too thin! too much! it'll take too long!!), but now I have a house full of it (my husband heaves a sigh...  ;) At some point in my fibre explorations I became a process person, for whom the process was just as rewarding as the final product. This mindset really helps when working in fine yarns. (Learning to spin my own yarn also took some of the scary out of working with various fibres & weights of yarn...)

shawl (& small crocheted cap for Sage) for my friend Katie
So, from an adventurous perspective, & loaded with lots of skinny yarns, I'm enjoying the process of figuring out how to make lovely, drapey fabrics from crochet. One of the ironies is that, although I'm finding the skinny yarns to be very useful, most of the scarves & shawls in this post were made from Lion Brand Recycled Cotton yarn, which is a light worsted weight. I did swatch it thoroughly, & took notes as to which hook gave the best shawlish fabric. Katie's & Sis's shawl stitches came from Linda Schapper's "The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs" (Lark Books - & the companion book  "300 Classic Blocks for Crochet Projects" by the same author is also a favourite of mine). I added a crocheted-in fringe to Sis's, which worked well. The picture of Katie's (blue) shawl captures the drape of this relatively thick yarn. Two of the three scarves at the top are also made from Recycled Cotton yarn. The smaller, white & taupe one was made from an alpaca blend, sport weight yarn. It's the same stitch (from the same book) as the green one in that picture, but you can see the difference the weight of yarn makes... & I put motifs at the end to jazz them up a bit :) The orange shawl made from motifs is from lace-weight wool that I shibori-dyed (the colour gradations were very subtle, so they don't show up in the picture).  The motifs were put-together geometrically & simply, with no edging. Same for Katie's & Sis's shawls, which were made by repeating the same stitch pattern until it was big enough.

There is so much fun in producing something that works- does what it's supposed to do & feels good. I look forward to continuing my exploration of crocheted fabrics (& sharing them ;).

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