Newsletter November 2011: The humble chainNews:Big change in my world: I am now a book distributor. Or to be very precise, I distribute one book. Sounds more modest, right? But it’s not just any book, it’s Alana Dakos and Hannah Fettig’s beautiful opus, Coastal Knits.This book contains ten knitting patterns (five garments and five accessories) from two extremely talented knit designers. More information in the shop.The crocheters among you will be very happy to learn that a new shawl pattern from EclatDuSoleil is available: In the Shade of Leaves.This is a very elegant design: an asymmetrical triangle bordered by a lovely leaf edging. I’m playing with the idea of making this in two colours: the triangle in fingering weight merino and the border in Mini Mochi.You will, of course, find more information in the shop.Last month’s newsletter was a slip stitch tutorial. If you’re interested in this technique (and I know many of you are), there is now a pattern available for a lovely pair of mittens in traditional slip stitch crochet: Ruta. If working in two colours seems daunting at first, you can certainly start with a pair in a single colour. This is perhaps not a technique for beginners, but it’s a great addition to your skill set. More information in the shop.There have also been several additions to my yarn range.First, a new yarn, the beautifully soft worsted weight merino.A few new colours in existing yarns:Chocolate fingering weight alpaca.And two fabulous shades in Sausalito, Desert Dawn and Fall Herbs.The humble chain:I want to devote this month’s newsletter to the humblest of stitches – the chain. The chain is the first stitch you learn when you start to crochet. It’s a stitch you continue to use during your whole crocheting life – can you think of a crochet project that doesn’t include a chain?Let’s look at the basic starting chain. It has a right side, where the stitches look like V’s.This is the side that should be constantly turned towards you when crocheting a starting chain. If the chain turns while you’re making it, you will have a hard time working into it on the first row.At the back, there is a series of bumps – one for every chain. To obtain a very neat bottom edge on your work, try working into these bumps when making your first row. You must chain relatively loosely to be able to do so, or have a very pointy hook, but it’s worth the while.A look « from the bottom ».So, what else can we do with chains? Well, to start with, the chain is evidently the basis for the classic crochet net (or mesh). You need to add some sc as well (some people use sl st, but I find that a bit fiddlier), and in my version, a dc from time to time to keep things straight and neat.Ch a multiple of 5 + 2 (I chained 27 in my swatch). Row 1: 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook. *Ch 5, skip 4 ch, 1 sc in next ch*. Repeat from * to * to end of row. Row 2: Ch 2 (do not count as a st), 1 dc in 1st sc, 2 ch, 1 sc in ch space. *Ch 5, 1 sc in next ch sp*. Repeat from * to * until 1 sc has been placed in last ch sp. Ch 2, 1 dc in last sc.Row 3: Ch 1 (do not count as a st), 1 sc in 1st dc. *Ch 5, 1 sc in next 5-ch sp*. Repeat from * to * until 1 sc has been placed in last 5-ch sp. Ch 5, 1 sc in last dc.Before blocking, this is a great stitch for simple market bags that scrunch up in your pocket and stretch out to carry your produce back home.After blocking, it can be a lovely shawl, maybe with some crocheted flowers and leaves in appliqué.What else? Perhaps some fringe!Turn work upside down and work into the strands left free in the starting chain. Attach yarn with a sl st in first ch. *Ch 20, sl st in next ch.* Repeat from * to * to end of row. Fasten off.You can also imagine using the chain to make a fluid and airy fabric.Ch a multiple of 11+ 1 + 2 for turning ch. (I chained 33 + 1 + 2 = 36 for my swatch).Row 1: 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook. *Ch 10, skip 10 ch, 1 dc in next ch.* Repeat from * to * to end of row.Row 2: Ch 2 (do not count as a st), 1 dc in first dc. *Ch 10, 1 dc in next dc*. Repeat from * to * to end of row.In the upper part of the swatch, I made sc instead of dc, to obtain a denser result. However, this is still a very drapey fabric that feels almost like « gliding ». It would be very interesting to experiment with it in an evening shrug, for example.But you can also draw more complex, rounded figures with chains and a few other sts.This stitch pattern is made up of chains, sc and a few trebles to space out the rows.Let’s show this one as a diagram. The stitch pattern is worked over a multiple of 7, plus 1 ch for turning the first row.Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern.I hope this has given you some ideas for how to play around with chains. This very simple stitch can serve as the basis for so many beautiful things!See you soon!