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Stealth Ease: Crochet Stitches That Pour

You're reading Big Issue #22: I've somehow squeezed the main points of a dear-to-me crochet topic into it! I've been exploring this 'secret' strategy for years

It's big because it's about crocheters choosing the kind of fabric they want to create, instead of it being decided for them (by books, designers, or habit). Worse is when a crocheter concludes, "I guess if I want to make something chic (flowing, supple, graceful, floaty, swaying, slimming, caressing, etc) I need to knit it."

The Secret is in Breaking the Turning Chain Rule

This is the left front of my new Lychee Cardee. It is equally stretchy in every direction including along all edges, because Stealth Ease is built in, in case I need it. You don't see it because it's photographed still, flat, and unblocked. When I seam the pieces together, *I* decide how much I want to either use or limit the Stealth Ease. The turning chs do not have a say, therefore neither does the book in which I found this stitch pattern. I barred the foundation ch from voting as well.

One of my first newsletters issue #2 was about flexing the power of a basic crochet rule: Ch 1 to begin a row of sc, ch 2 to begin a row of hdc, etc. (See stitch abbreviations below.) It's just as powerful to selectively break the rule. There are several ways to do it. Some are illustrated at right and described below.

It may not be an official secret, but I don't see it discussed anywhere, and I rarely see evidence of people using it. Instead, I often *do* see:
- Crochet disrespected as if it can't be all melty 'n' willowy. 
- Crochet stitch dictionaries unwittingly encourage a more static, less flowing version of crochet stitch patterns.
- Blocking reveal whether the edges of a garment have less built-in ease than the rest of the fabric.
My guess is that these factors are related to crochet having a well-developed tradition of home decor and less so for modern wearable fashion. (Clothing crocheters are statistically outnumbered by home decor crocheters.)

Whether one designs or not, I wish for every fashion crocheter that s/he feels free to build ease into row edges for the same reason that many crocheters are now replacing foundation chs with foundation stitches at will. Turning chs are the equivalent of putting sections of foundation chs along both sides of your rows, and you risk introducing a hard limit to a fabric's total drape, the way that foundation chs do--unless you keep some simple strategies in mind, like the ones I use below. Then, I'll show you when they don't work.
essential for this tube scarf.
1. Add just one chain to the turning ch of at least some rows. So easy! Slip stitch crocheters like to say that turning chs are unnecessary, but Eva at left would not have that sensual curving rib without turning chs! And the convertible Mr. Stretchy? For the most extreme stretch I've ever done in slip stitch crochet, turning chs were essential for this tube scarf.
You don't have to add a ch to each row, but do be sure to add an equal amount to both side edges, such as with Lychee, above; SlatherFlorealeTunisian Diamond Dishcloths, Waterlily, at right.

2. Add to the turning chs of only one side for an easy shaping shortcut. At right, see Shamrock Coffee Cozy and Rimply

3. Use other stitches in place of or in
addition to the turning chs. This works best for as-you-go edgings. For example, Frostyflakes (at right), has picots along one side. They're crocheted at the same time as the turning ch of some of the rows, and they add invisible high-quality* ease. It works for the same reason that foundation stitches (a.k.a. 'chainless foundations') are stretchier than foundation chs: most crochet stitches have more innate ease than a ch! 
*When you can swing it, using other stitches is more elegant than just adding chs, in my experience. Taller stitches and stitch groups (such as picots) can invisibly absorb much more Stealth Ease than chs. For example, see Tunisian Islander at right.

About these images: Choosing images for this issue revealed to me what still photos can't convey. Stealth Ease is a dynamic thing. With a stretchy crochet fabric, you need to feel how soft and malleable the stretch is, thanks to Stealth Ease. Something can have drape, but to really know how responsive and relaxed its drape is, you need to see and feel it move. "Flowing" "swaying" and "caressing" need a video, not a photo!

Stealth Ease Gone Awry!
Extra turning chs just look loopy and sloppy when they can't absorb all of the extra ease. If you know you'll be edging and/or seaming it later, you won't see the messy chs. This worked out great for Mr. Stretchy! However, in this lacy red mohair "Shakti" wrap, I didn't plan to edge or seam it. It's not so bad in the photo, but while wearing, the loopy edge ripples like a doily that won't lie flat. The rainbow "Four Peaks" scarf is plenty drape-y, but in a sloppy way! I might just need to use a smaller crochet hook.

Abbrev's: ch=chain, hdc=half double crochet, sc=single crochet, sl st=slip stitch.
Whew, that's it for #22! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe:  If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!  -Vashti
Melting Choices
What One Strategy Do These Share?

Is Slather's blue collar draping like this for an easy or a difficult reason?
Floreale's fancy stitch pattern needs a simple special strategy if it's to keep this shape as it grows!

Is it an accident that Rimply softly hugs the curve of the neck, then splays in anticipation of the shoulders?
How can this Shamrock Coffee Cozy have no shaping yet custom-fit a cup?

What makes these Tunisian Diamond Dishcloths naturally symmetrical?

How can Waterlily Layer be worn upside down without its hems or seams puckering in response?

What gives Tunisian Islander wrap the supple ease to melt around the hips and thighs in the absence of shaping?

Frostyflakes only drapes like this because one edge purposely hugs the neck while the outer edge pours freely around the shoulders.

Links I Enjoyed This Week
Dora Ohrenstein is back from Istanbul and has released a new issue of Crochet Insider
"Why Facebook Can't Match Ravelry" a Slate article

DesigningVashti News
Pattern upgrades! I guess I've been publishing long enough now (11 months) that I have upgrades to announce. I created stitch diagrams (a.k.a. charts) for 3 designs this week. I awakened my old calligrapher self and created them by hand. Had an interesting conversation about hand drawn vs. software-aided diagrams in Facebook. 
(I predict that my next upgrade announcement will concern mini-videos!)
Frostyflakes Superpattern pdf now has the set up rows charted in colorcoded stitch symbols, just in time for a certain  visually-oriented RoseM to crochet it by the lake! If you originally purchased it at my website, I've reset the downloads so you can go download the new pdf.
Weightless Tunisian Wrap: its online photo set now has a stitch diagram, so click on the special pass from within the pattern pdf. I had to create a new symbol! Tunisian is like that :-)
Alzannah Convertible pdf now includes a color-coded diagram of the set up rows, and like
Frostyflakes, you can download the new pdf at the website if that's where you originally bought it.

As promised two weeks ago, I blogged:
- "Crochet Designing and TNNA 2011 
- "Crocheting a Triangular Shawl Point to Point This was inspired by the new Frostyflakes diagram that I created at the same time.
- "Knots in Yarn: Options
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