April 2008: Combining stitch patterns
The pattern for the « Arrows » stole is now available in the pattern shop!
Combining stitch patterns :
A major advantage of the crochet technique is its extraordinary possibilities for creating different stitch patterns. Many, many creative souls have been inspired to try out different ways to make their hook dance and create new types of fabric. This means we have a huge heritage of different stitch patterns to dive into whenever we want to crochet something – and new ones are invented all the time.
I must confess immediately that I’m not an inventor of stitch patterns from scratch. It is simply not the way my brain is wired. However, I think I’m getting pretty good at seeing the design possibilities in a stitch pattern someone else made up – and at modifying it to suit my ideas.
Pieces worked in a single stitch pattern are fine, and can be absolutely wonderful. But the temptation is great to combine two or more stitch patterns in the same project – and it can, indeed, be a good idea.
This is actually what you usually do when you add an edge to a crocheted piece. Since edgings were the focus of the last newsletter, this time we are going to discuss how to combine different stitch patterns in the body of the fabric. I will dwell on two different issues – how to make the patterns fit into the same width of fabric, and how to select them to go well together.
Number of stitches vs. gauge:
To combine two stitch patterns, counting the stitches is not enough. This is so important, and I’ve seen it misunderstood even by quite experienced crocheters, so I’ll say it once again:
Counting the stitches is not enough.
Crochet stitches vary in height, but also in width. This means that a stitch pattern worked over a specific number of stitches will take up more or less space depending on the type of stitches included.
A simple example:
This swatch is worked over 30 stitches from bottom to top. The first 10 rows are in solid dc. The stitch pattern then shifts to 10 rows of a dc mesh, alternating 1 ch and 1 dc. The difference in width is quite striking, don’t you think?
This happens because the chain stitches are narrower than the double crochet stitches. (Incidentally, this is also why the bottom end of a crocheted fabric has a tendency to pull in, unless you work the base chain with a larger hook.)
Now, this might be exactly what you want to achieve. When looking at this swatch, I say to myself that this could be a great way to incorporate waist shaping in a beginner-level pattern – switch from one simple stitch pattern to another, and there you have your decreases for the waist! Turn the swatch upside-down, and you have a narrow cuff at the bottom of your sleeve. I’ll stop there, but you get the point.
However, if you want your stitch patterns to work together to produce a fabric of the same width, this is most certainly not what you’re aiming for.
In my Gudrun jacket, two stitch patterns are used:
The bottom part of the jacket is worked in a simple pattern I call dc columns (I actually made that one up, but as you can see, it’s not very complicated), composed of double crochets and chains, and the upper part is a shell pattern. Note that even if both stitch patterns are composed of the same type of stitches (double crochets and chains), they don’t have exactly the same gauge – which means the same number of stitches worked in each pattern will not yield the same fabric width.
If I had only counted stitches, keeping the same number of stitches throughout, the upper part of the jacket would have been smaller than the lower part. That was not what I wanted to achieve. So, don’t worry, I did my job as a designer and adapted the instructions for the first row of the shell pattern so the jacket doesn’t get any smaller at the bust than below.
There is nothing mystical about this. You just have to work up swatches, measure them carefully and do some basic math.
Making stitch patterns work together:
This is perhaps less down-to-earth technical than the gauge issue. Which stitch patterns go well together? Frankly, it’s a matter of taste, and no hard rules can be given.
I can, however, share my current thoughts about this. Come back in a year, and they will certainly have evolved – but today this is my way of approaching the matter.
As an example, I will refer to my thinking about the Arrows stole (pictures in the sidebar – it’s the pink lace shawl). In this project it was absolutely crucial to make the stitch patterns work together.
I wanted to use a lace-weight yarn, and for some reason, my thoughts circulated around pointy, arrowlike shapes. There are a lot of crochet stitch patterns with lovely rounded or flowerlike shapes, but I started to hunt for pointy ones.
The hunting was not terribly hard on me – I’ll go on a hunt requiring me to curl up in my favorite armchair surrounded by stitch dictionaries anytime. I found plenty of nice patterns, and I had to decide which ones to use. Copious swatching ensued. As always in my design process, a lot of patterns were discarded after swatching – too airy, too solid, not as nice in real life as in the book, too complicated to make… There are many reasons not to use a stitch pattern.
So, which ones to choose from the remaining ones? Again, a matter of taste, of course, but also some practical considerations. I wanted the selected stitch patterns to be somewhat alike from a structural point of view. I looked at which individual stitches made up the patterns. Some used mainly single crochet; others relied on very long stitches, like double or even triple trebles. However, there was a large choice of stitch patterns based on the good old double crochet – and that’s what I went for.
I wound up with a number of stitch patterns. Some I discarded because they looked too much alike (that would be too boring) and some because they were too different from each other (they would look out of place). This was already, of course, very subjective. The final selection was based on the most subjective criterion of all – I picked the ones I liked best.
And after that, it was back to swatching and doing math again!
See you soon!