When it's the Crocheter's Option
About that image up in the header: it's a 3.5" square planned pooling experiment of size 10 variegated crochet thread. I've been posting swatches to Instagram.
Crochet encompasses an amazing thriving culture of customizations.
For a long time I've thought about specific, nuanced differences between more experienced skill levels in crochet. A big part of going from Intermediate to Advanced Intermediate, to Experienced, is the modifications and substitutions we're aware of, why we choose them, and how and when we apply them.
No matter your crochet skill level (for any given technique or project type), muse with me for a bit on our beloved craft. In every crochet project I see five parts of the process a crocheter might wish to modify:
- The materials (this one's the most common. Substitute a yarn, change a hook size and style)
- The technique ("This is knit but can I crochet it?" "I tried using Tunisian for this instead" etc.)
- How we start it ("I'd rather use foundation stitches instead of chains". Or, a magic ring.)
- The stitching of it ("I couldn't get row gauge until I extended the stitches")
- The finishing stage ("I changed the edging, used a different seam, and added a drawstring")
Risk - Reward Ratio
The more experience crocheters have, the more we know what the risk-reward ratio is for each option. For example, substituting one technique for another is usually more risk than reward for me. The reward is greater if I go about it as a whole new design, not just a modification of one.
At the finishing stage, the risk tends to be small, with a high reward. It's easy to try out different seams, edgings, and fastenings for the most part. You might need to plan ahead for buttonholes, but not often. This is what I love about "self-healing stitches": I don't have to plan ahead where openings like armholes go. It removes so much risk.
For the actual stitching of an item, though, I revel in modifying them, even if the result is invisible. I consider it moderately risky yet very rewarding. It's—a sport!
So, it turns out I tweak stitches a lot (on purpose) and probably many crocheters do, whether accidentally or on purpose. Surely it's a big part of how crochet has grown from a few basic stitches in the early 1800's. It's how I come up with many of the class topics I've taught:
- Love Knots—You can modify the Love Knot stitch and how you crochet into them so many ways. These mods are surprisingly invisible. Other designers have their own unique Love Knot tweaks.
- Same thing with star stitches, but in this case many mods are dramatically visible. For example, whether the star centers are open or closed, or whether they are reversible. Invisibly, you can customize a star stitch to be faster to make for the way you crochet.
- Planned Pooling—the ultimate example of invisible modifications! It's all about customizing stitches to the color that is on your hook. In this case, the more experienced your are as a crocheter, the more clever you can secretly get.
- Diagonal Tunisian is a special case because it's about increase and decrease methods. Crochet experience nets you a dizzying list of shaping options. Which kind of increase or decrease do you choose, where and how often? Shaping mods are riskier when you're on the diagonal because the effect becomes cumulative. That's when you find out if you chose the right one!
After I made a list of the risk-free stitch substitutions crocheters tend to make (over in the sidebar; or if you're on mobile, scroll down further), I thought about the ones that I've found to have hidden risk.