So much blogging and swatching and photo styling and other class prep!

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: 

  1. The materials (this one's the most common. Substitute a yarn, change a hook size and style)
  2. The technique ("This is knit but can I crochet it?" "I tried using Tunisian for this instead" etc.)
  3. How we start it ("I'd rather use foundation stitches instead of chains". Or, a magic ring.)
  4. The stitching of it ("I couldn't get row gauge until I extended the stitches")
  5. 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!

"Customized" Stitches

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.

Flowerfall Vest overfloweth with modifications!
Here she is with removable waist ties.

Stitch Subs with Hidden Risks

Linking stitches (such as linked dc or tr) are great! They can close gaps between stitches and have a beautiful texture. They're like adding a touch of Tunisian texture wherever you want. Among unlinked stitches, linking them will change the stitch gauge: the stitches tighten and the row will be narrower. The wrong side also doesn't blend as well if you're turning each row.

Increase or decrease methods: I find they're often not interchangeable.

"Centered" stitches a.k.a. "stem doubles" (crochet under three loops instead of just the top two, such as for filet crochet): This is one of my favorite stitch modifications but just keep in mind that it lowers the row height a bit.

Reverse single crochet edging (revsc): Some crocheters don't enjoy it and substitute with, say, [hdc, slst]. Revsc gives an edge a lot of ease and stretch, though, so make sure your sub does too.

Edgings: If you're using someone else's pattern, you don't know why the designer chose the edging. What if it's multitasking

Foundation Stitches: If a designer (I'm thinking of Doris Chan here!) specifies foundation stitches, using foundation chains might not work. Especially if it's a neckline.


New diagonal Tunisian pattern Burly Bias will be published soon after you read this. Watch for it here (my site) and here (Ravelry).
Three-color diagonal Tunisian skinny scarf: its Ravelry project page.
This one is a skinny tie version: three attached colors plus another random stripe. Also see a 1-ball chunky wool and a 2-ball Fibonacci version.

I made a quick video: "Snip & Unzip an Armhole" while I worked on the Flowerfall Vest. It's under 2 minutes.
Snip & Unzip an Armhole! Quick video (1.5 minutes)

I was on Mary Beth Temple's Getting Loopy podcast a few weeks ago! You can still listen to the episode (I come in at about 6 minutes).

Created a deluxe photo tutorial for The Starwirbel Way class handout and then blogged it.
Foundation Star Stitch Step by Step, a deluxe graphic (too big; only part of it shows here)

Just a heads up about my July classes, they're close to being sold out (one already is). 

Interested in helping me test something while I do class prep for the Tunisian on the Diagonal class?
Schematics for Four Peaks Scarf and Five Peaks Shawl
I want to know what it's like for people to use the Four Peaks Scarf pattern (start in one corner) to create an L-shape wrap (like the Five Peaks Shawl). And then maybe even a Six or Seven Peaks thing...please see this forum thread.

Risk-Free* Stitch Substitutions

Picots (scroll to the list at the end of this 2010 blog post)

Starting the center of a motif (methods)

Joining rounds (methods)

Attaching a new color: air stitches (a.k.a. standing stitches) vs. slip stitch and chains

Beads (how you add them)

Cords, drawstrings.

Stitches you don't crochet the next row into, such as picots, reverse single crochet, and other edgings.

*usually risk-free. Or, low risk.

Fun Links

The Future is Knit, second half of article: "The Future is Squishy". (Everything they say about knits is true of crochet too, except that the knits can be machine made: "You have more control in terms of dimensionality than you have with woven fabric.")

Crocheted sculptures by Russian textile artist Yulia Ustinova! "At 11 I entered a professional artistic school learning the Academy of pictorial arts. There I used to practice painting, graphics, sculpture, and during my spare time – crochet. I've crocheted everything—clothes, simple toys, things for interiors."
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