Fair Isle vs. Intarsia

Fair Isle vs. Instarsia

Many knitting patterns involve color changes while most crochet patterns do not. Why is that? Having changed colors in knitted and crocheted projects I will say that it’s not because it’s easier to do when knitting. I actually found it easier to change colors while crocheting. There are two ways to change colors when knitting or crocheting, Fair Isle and intarsia. I have used both methods and the method I use depends on the project being made.

Fair Isle

Fair Isle, also called “stranded colorwork”, has several characteristics.

  1. It’s usually done in the round, like hats and sweaters.

    Flame Hats and Mittens

    Flame Hats and Mittens

  2. It traditionally uses only two colors per round. Other rounds may use two different colors, but each round uses two.
  3. The yarn is not cut but is crocheted over or dropped (to the back/wrong side)and picked up when needed. This leaves a strand of yarn on the back. For mittens, it is easy to snag the strands on the inside with a finger when putting the mittens on.
  4. The Flame Hat and Mittens are great for learning Fair Isle as the color work is only along the brim of the hat or the fingers of the mittens.

Intarsia

Intarsia has several of its own characteristics.

  1. It’s usually done in rows on flat pieces.

    Panda Set

    Panda Set

  2. A ball or bobbin of yarn is used for each color section and is dropped and left dangling until is it picked up and used on the way back.
  3. The yarn is always dropped to the project’s wrong side. Because it is worked in rows, sometimes it is dropped to the back and sometimes it’s dropped to the front.
  4. The Bamboo Blanket has only two color sections, black and white, making it a great beginner piece for Intarsia work. That means there are only two skeins or balls to keep track of when crocheting. The bamboo stalks are crocheted separately and sewn on.

Both Fair Isle and Intarsia use charts/graphs instead of written out instructions. Generally one box in the graph equals one stitch. Graphed work looks best in single crochet though half double crochet can work, depending  on the graph. Keep in mind, stitches in crochet do not line up one on top of another like knitting does. When trying to make vertical lines and things like letters, they will end up looking a little wavy. The stitches will line up a little more when working in rows. A vertical line will tend to lean right when working in the round.

There are just a few other tips for creating a successful piece of color work.

  1. When changing colors, you should use the new color for the last YO that is pulled through the loops on the hook.
  2. Tension can be a problem. If part of the project changes colors and part of it does not, sometimes one section is tighter than another. Be aware that you may need to relax during the color changing section.
  3. It is also easy to make a tighter section if there are long sections where a color isn’t used in Fair Isle. Crocheting over the unused yarn every 2-3 stitches helps keep the tension relaxed. Imagine trying to put on a hat that has no give because the strands are too tight.
Van Pillow

Van Pillow

My first projects were hats and scarves. They were small enough to practice on and I could pull them out and try again if something wasn’t quite right. With a little practice, it is possible to get into a rhythm with dropping and picking up the different colors. There is no reason Intarsia and Fair Isle can’t be just as popular in crochet as it is in knitting.

For a fun Fair Isle project, try the Flame Hats and Mittens.

For a fun Intarsia project, try the Bamboo Blanket or VW Van Pillow.

Craftsy References and eGuides

Craftsy References and eGuides

To-Do-ListWe don’t blog about it much, but we are fans of Craftsy. It’s a wonderful place for online classes. The videos are high quality, the teachers are knowledgeable and there are lots of subjects to choose from. I (Dana) recently learned that they have a bunch of free references and eGuides. Oh, yeah…sign me up!

The References are like mini classes packed with nuggets of wisdom. They can be downloaded to your computer or viewed on a browser. Here are a few of their eGuides:

Photography
eGuide: Understanding Exposure for Better Photos Now: Beginner Photography Tutorials
Cake Decorating
eGuide: Not-So-Basic Buttercream Decorating Ideas
Food & Cooking
eGuide: Delicious Doughnut Recipes You Can Make at Home
Paper Crafts
eGuide: 6+ Stash-Busting Paper Craft Projects
Drawing
eGuide: Drawing the Human Face: A Primer
Painting
eGuide: Beginner’s Guide to the World of Watercolor
Gardening
eGuide: Success With Container Gardening
Woodworking
eGuide: Woodturning Basics for Beginners

Being a former paper crafter, the eGuide for 6+ Stash Busting Projects is one of my favorites. And as someone who needs to take better pictures, the photography  eGuide is one I’m going to be memorizing. Of course, they have eGuides for crochet and knitting, too. I really like their Metrics Conversion Guide! I’m definitely going to print that out and put it by my work station (ok, it’s going on the coffee table in front of my couch).

Fun References on Craftsy

There are other fun (and free) references on Craftsy, too. As someone who likes to plan, the To Do List and Project Planner definitely resonate with me.

The easiest way to access the Craftsy References is to visit their blog and click on references in the left sidebar.

Enjoy!

 

Tips for Crocheting a Bean Bag Chair

bean bag

Tips and Tricks for Crocheting a Cover for a Bean Bag Chair

Crocheting a cozy to cover a bean bag chair is easier than it looks. It’s similar to making a cup cozy…just a bit larger! Here is some designer feedback with tips and tricks to help you as you crochet your own bean bag creation.

#1 – Make it a tight fit

Stretching CozyThe first and foremost important tip: make the cozy smaller than the bean bag chair. You want it to be a really tight fit, as in…super tight.

I didn’t think there was any way the bean bag would fit into the cozy.
- quote from Deborah

 

Yarn stretches. Which is helpful when stuffing the cozy. But not so good after people have played with and sat on the bean bag chair. After lots of use, the yarn will stretch to the point that the cozy may sag. To prevent future issues of sagging, make sure the cozy is a tight fit around the bean bag.

yarn sags after play

The Owl Bean Bag, pictured above left, is one of our first bean bag projects. Several nieces came over for a visit one afternoon…and after only a few hours of play, the yarn on the owl was loose and sagging…a lot! Needless to say, we corrected the issue and every bean bag project we work on has a much tighter fit (as seen in the Soccer Ball on the right)!

#2 Tie it up

tie bean bagBean bags by nature are malleable; they reshape with a little bit of pressure. This makes them more tricky to stuff into a cozy. So, we recommend that you tie up your bean bag with yarn into a tall cylinder type shape. After it’s stuffed into the cozy, remove the ties so the bean bag chair is free to reshape when people sit on it.

Use yarn in a contrasting color and tie a bow with long tails. This will make it easier to locate the tied yarn through the cozy so you can pull it out.

#3 You only need a few rounds to close it up

For some bean bag designs, you’ll stuff the bean bag into a partially finished cozy, then crochet a few rounds to close it up locking the bean bag inside.

I didn’t think the pattern had enough rounds left to close up the cozy.
- quote by Dana

 

bottom of bean bagWhen the bean bag is stuffed into the cozy, there will still be quite a bit of the bean bag left uncovered. Surprisingly, you won’t need very many rounds to finish off the cozy. As tip #1 says…you want a tight fit.

Work a decrease round, then tug on the cozy to stretch the yarn as you stuff the bean bag into the cozy. Crochet the next decrease round, tug and stuff. Repeat a few more times. The last step is to grab each loop in the last round and cinch closed with yarn.

Bean Bag Chair Crochet Patterns

We have several Bean Bag designs. Here are a couple of fun sets:

How to Make a Center-Pull Ball of Yarn by Hand

How to Make a Center-Pull Ball of Yarn by Hand

how to make a center pull ball of yarn by hand

We’ll show you how to make a center pull ball of yarn by hand…no tools or special gadgets required. This simple technique will keep your yarn stash neat and your yarn tangle free.

yarn wound in various forms

A center pull means that the yarn can be pulled from the center of the ball or skein. The ball stays stationary and does not flop around like it does when yarn is pulled from the outside of the skein.

Yarn comes packaged in several different ways.

Ball – Yarn wound in a round shape that has a center pull (purple ball top left in photo above).
Hank – A loose coil of yarn wound in a large circle with no center pull (red hank bottom in photo above).
Skein – An oblong ball of yarn with a center pull (yellow skein top right in photo above).

yarn in various states

There are several reasons for making a ball of yarn:

  • The skein is 3/4 used up and its shape is floppy and starting to turn into a tangled mess.
  • The hank is easier to work with as a ball of yarn.
  • A project has been frogged (ripped out) and needs to be turned into a ball.
  • A previous ball of yarn is starting to unravel.

How to Make a Center Pull Ball of Yarn by Hand

thumbs up for making a ball of yarn

1. Lay a yarn tail across your fingers with your thumb pointed up and the tail of the yarn dangling below your little finger. Close your fingers around the yarn. You’ve now got a thumbs up to go ahead with the yarn ball.

first wrap

2. Wrap yarn around your thumb at and angle…I usually wrap it on an \ angle. Wrap the yarn around approximately 10 times.

3. Twist that group of yarn about 1/4 turn to the left (clockwise).

2nd wrap

4. Wrap yarn around your thumb at the same angle \ as you did in step 2, again wrapping the yarn around your thumb about 10 times.

almost done wrapping yarn

5. Repeat steps 3 and 2 alternately until your ball of yarn is made.

how to make a center pull ball of yarn by hand

6. Remove your thumb from the center of the ball and that is where your center pull is.

Note: There are a lot of alternatives for this method of making a center pull ball of yarn.

  • You can wrap around two or three fingers instead of your thumb.
  • You can wrap around a knitting needle or crochet hook instead of your fingers or thumb.
  • You can twist your hand/thumb instead of twisting the yarn.
  • You can wrap the yarn around a piece of cardboard or plastic bobbin.

We use this center pull ball of yarn method ALL the time. We often find that after the center pull ball of yarn has been used a while, we will need to remake it. The partially used center pull ball tends to collapse and tangle (as seen in the black ball in the photo above).

 

Crochet Stars Pattern & Tutorial

Crochet Star Pattern & Tutorial

We’ve played around with crochet stars for various projects. Each star has it’s own unique shape…and you just never know when you’ll need one design over another.

crochet stars

The stars above were crocheted with an H/8/5.00 mm hook using Vanna’s Choice: Mustard (worsted weight). We often crochet them with a C/2/2.75 mm to get a smaller star with tighter stitches.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Crochet Star Pattern Tutorial

A couple of these stars require you to slip stitch into the top of a previous stitch. See the tutorial below for more information on how to do that.

Large Crochet Star Pattern

large starThis star could perhaps double as a sun. The holes that you see in this star actually disappear or become less visible if a smaller hook is used than what is recommended on the yarn label.

As seen on: Lid of the Flag in the Cup Cozy Collection.

Size: 2 3/4″ (2.75 inches)

  • Worsted Weight Yarn
  • Hook: H
  • Ch 2
  • Rnd 1: 10 hdc in 2nd ch from hook. Join with a sl st. (10)
  • Rnd 2: In back loops only, sl st into next st. (work next group in the same st as sl st you just worked) * work: ch 2, dc, ch 1, sl st into top of dc, ch 2, sl st. 2 sl sts into next sts of Rnd 1* around.
  • Finish off leaving a long tail for sewing.

 

“Starfish” Crochet Star Pattern

starfish starEach point of this star is constructed from the chain stitch…giving it a more fluid look.

Size: 2″ (2 inches)

  • Worsted Weight Yarn
  • Hook: H
  • NOTE: The 1st ch made is the “base ch”.
  • Ch 5
  • Rnd 1: Sl st in 2nd ch from hook, ch 2, sl st into base ch. (first point made). *Ch 4, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, ch 2, sl st into base ch* 4 times.
  • Finish off leaving a long tail for sewing.

 

 

 

Solid Crochet Star Pattern

solid starThis star is petite yet beefy all at the same time.

Size: 1 1/4″ (1.25 inches)

  • Worsted Weight Yarn
  • Hook: H
  • NOTE: The 1st ch made is the “base ch”.
  • Ch 2
  • Rnd 1: Sc in 2nd ch (base ch) from hook, ch 1, sl st in top of sc, sc in base ch. *Sc in base ch, ch 1, sl st in top of sc, sc in base ch* 4 times.
  • Finish off leaving a long tail for sewing.

 

 

 

Classic 5 Pointed Crochet Star Pattern

small starThis star is very classic with 5 pointed ends and no holes in the center ring.

As seen on: Captain American Cup Cozy.

Size: 1 1/2″ (1.5 inches)

  • Worsted Weight Yarn
  • Hook: H
  • Ch 3, join with a sl st.
  • Rnd 1: Sl st into ring. *Ch 3, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, ch 1, sl st into ring* 5 times.
  • Finish off leaving a long tail for sewing.

 Slip Stitch to Make a Point Tutorial

A couple of these crocheted stars ask you to slip stitch into the top of the previous single crochet (or double crochet). This will make a nice point on your star. The loop(s) you grab will give effect the way your star looks.

Here’s how we worked our Solid Star:

work a sl st on top of a sc

After you chain 1, insert your hook through the front loop of the single crochet, then the side loop of the single crochet (where the blue marker is hooked in the photo above). Yarn over and slip thought all loops on the hook.

Working through the front loop and the side of the stitch will help your stitches lay nice and flat.

Other Uses of These Star Patterns

We’ve used these star patterns on numerous projects.

other patterns that use stars

From left to right:

  • Mug Cozy uses Large Star – Hook H
  • Mason Jar Lid uses Large Star – Hook H
  • Cup Cozy uses Classic 5 Point star – Hook C
  • Captain America uses Large Star – Hook C

For more information about our cozies:

 

Wool Festivals – Free Fiber and an Education

Wool Festivals are great places to get free fiber and an education!

tents

We picked up some free wool at the 2013 Estes Park Wool Festival. And not just a little wool…as much as we wanted! It was unprocessed, dirty and smelled of pooh…but it was free!

sheep shearingWhere did we get it? Well, there were several free educational demonstrations offered throughout the wool festival. They ranged from sheep dog demonstrations to llama limbo to sheep shearing. It’s at the later demonstration that we picked up the wool. It was the first clipped fibers from the belly and butt of the sheep and it was full of lanolin, straw and pooh…and it was free for the taking (can you imagine that)!

Should we get around to cleaning it, our plan is to use the raw fiber in felting projects.

Speaking of felting…while at the festival, we watched someone felt soap (in the kids activities area). This inspired us to felt some soap, too! Here was our first attempt at felting soap:

our felted soap

Lorien (from Organic Gypsy and EowynRose) made the soaps on the far left and right. Deborah made the artistic sunflower (middle left) and I made the daisy (middle right).

Wool festivals are great places to find beautiful yarns, to talk to ranchers, to pet some animals and to learn about fibers….lots of fibers! We saw yarns (and raw fiber) made from Yak, Buffalo, Silk, Angora, Wool, Cashmere, Vicuna and more.

wool festival booths

My friends and I talked about yarn for 2 days straight! We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast (A Mountain Valley Home) and had a delightful girls’ weekend. The first day of the Wool Festival was crowded, but we found time to talk to most every vendor. Sunday was very quiet (pictured left) and we could shop and linger in booths more comfortably.

If you love yarn and want to learn more about it, I recommend that you go to a Wool Festival.

know your wool class on craftsyCan’t make it to a Wool Festival? There’s a free Craftsy class that talks about Sheep and Wool…and they even filmed part of the class at the Estes Park Wool Festival! I’ve taken several Craftsy classes and they are top notch. Check out the free Know Your Wool class.

Here are a few more photos of my trip to the Estes Park Wool Festival.

with roving

Roving was a top priority on our shopping list for felting projects. Left to right is Deborah, Lorien and me (Dana).

big horns

The coat/jacket keeps straw from the wool. The horns are just plain intimidating!

with the vicuna

The Vicuna was one of our favorite animals. These guys are so adorable (and a bit skittish). We were seriously tempted to buy some of their ultra soft yarn…but at $100 per hank we opted to wait until next year’s show.

wooly eyed

Woolly eyed, these sheep have beautiful curly fibers. This guy reminds me of the sheepdog from Bugs Bunny.

estes park stanley hotel

We took a short hike across from the Stanley Hotel. Novelist Steven King stayed at this hotel and was inspired to write The Shining.

We had such a blast at the wool festival…we’re already making plans to attend next year!

How to Hold a Crochet Hook

How to Hold a Crochet Hook

I’m starting to become a little insecure about how to hold a crochet hook. It seems as though everyone around me holds it one way and I the other. Can you relate or am I the lone wolf here.

In fact, I recently watched a youtube video where the gal was demonstrating both techniques and she made some sort of comment about my chosen grip being awkward. Awkward? It doesn’t feel awkward to me. If anything, her grip is awkward. But apparently not to most of my friends and family!

20+ years ago my grandmother taught my twin sister, my mother and I how to crochet. And it’s engraved on my brain that the way I hold my hook is “the right way”. Really, I remember her saying there was a right and wrong way. As a new hooker, I wanted to do it right, so I chose my grip.

Now, I wonder, “Have I been wrong all these years?” Most crocheters these days say that either way is right. But do they really believe that or are they just appeasing people like me?

Case in point, I went to a knitters and crocheters group the other day and one of the gals was staring at me while I crocheted. Then, she and my sister started talking about how I hold the crochet hook…as if I was some sort of alien. “Hello,” I thought, “I’m right here in the room.”

So, based on their conversation, it should come as no surprise that Yarnovator (my twin sister) and I each hold the crochet hook differently. It was shocking to me when I recently found out that one of us holds it from beneath like a pencil and the other holds it overhand like a knife. It seems strange to me that we are similar in so many ways yet different here, on a matter of technique.

how to hold a crochet hook

And what about my mother? After all, she was there when my grandmother taught us “right from wrong”. She’s apparently not picking sides because she holds the crochet hook both ways. Literally…for every stitch she holds it both ways. She starts out her stitch holding the crochet hook like a pencil, then ends the stitch holding it like a knife! I have to admit, I’ve never seen anyone crochet quite like that. She definitely has both bases covered.

How to Hold a Crochet Hook – The Conclusion

So, what will I do about how to hold a crochet hook? Will I change my technique to blend in with the crowd or band together with others who crochet like me and start a crusade? I think I’ll just turn on the tv and work on my next project and crochet the way I know to be the right way.

How do you hold your crochet hook? Take the poll below letting us know.

How do you hold your crochet hook?

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