Friday, July 21, 2017

DIY Charts with Stitch Fiddle

  I do believe I've mentioned the Stitch Fiddle website a few times, but surely not enough. Today, let me give this amazing (FREE) program more than just a mention... Let's play and learn how to use it!

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  Although you can use Stitch Fiddle for free, the options are somewhat limited. Of course, you could buy your way into using all the gizmos if you want. Before I spend money on something, I like to try it out. And that's why I love that you can actually USE the software with the free version - It's not just some free trial that ends in 7 days. (I'll show you those limits at the end of this post.) Now, let's learn a few of the things you can do with this amazing free tool:

  First, choose your craft. You can create knitting and embroidery projects, too, but I'll only be showing you the crochet side of Stitch Fiddle.

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  And one more thing: It would be great for you to turn off your ad-blocker if you use one. The nice people at Stitch Fiddle have made this awesome tool available to us, and the page is not distastefully plastered with ads - It's just one little one at the bottom of the page. Be nice back (like you do for me, right?) and let them make a few pennies.

  Now, what do you want to create? Choose "crochet with colors" to create a picture graph, "filet crochet" to easily make a filet chart, or "free form" to make anything your heart desires:

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1. PICTURE GRAPHS

Design your own, or upload any picture you want to turn into a graph. Here are a few I've created:

(They are minimized for the sake of space... Click on the graphs to see what they really look like when expanded.)
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chart, crochet, crochet symbols, diagram, DIY, downloadable, filet crochet, free, graph, how to, make your own, Stitch Fiddle, tutorial


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chart, crochet, crochet symbols, diagram, DIY, downloadable, filet crochet, free, graph, how to, make your own, Stitch Fiddle, tutorial


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chart, crochet, crochet symbols, diagram, DIY, downloadable, filet crochet, free, graph, how to, make your own, Stitch Fiddle, tutorial

  Those are all very detailed pictures that would be hard (for me) to convert into crochet by eye. And they wouldn't be easy projects, either... I had to increase that sunset to a grid of 300 x 300 to get the resolution clear enough. I used photos that were already resized to a smaller image, but I tried again with one resized to more pixels. I also wished I had increased the colors to include the purple of the clouds, so I tried that, too:

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  Okay, so maybe this is something better done with a less-detailed picture. I just love that dramatic sunset, and I wish I could turn it into an afghan. Now that I know 20 colors still won't get me the image I'm looking for, I don't think I want to take on such an elaborate project.


2. FILET CHARTS

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  I'm not sure if there's a glitch in the site or if it's on my end... I couldn't get the "make your own" chart to load. (Summer thunderstorms have been causing internet trouble again, so I bet it's me.) So just to show you, I used the same photo of the amaryllis flower from above to create a filet grid:

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I did the same again with the picture of the cat:

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  Uh... Obviously, this is another case where a less-detailed photo would convert to a better project. But to be fair, I've yet to use this feature to create a real filet project. I was only playing around to see how the pictures could compare in different forms.


3. FREE FORM

  My favorite! You'll get a blank space to create a design in any shape or form you like. There are options already available for basic stitches when you begin your project:

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Select the option shown above to add more advanced stitches that aren't found in the main options:

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To make your chart easier to work on, use a new layer for each row or round:

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Not good at putting the symbols in place manually? Select all the symbols in the layer at one time, then right-click:

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Choose whether you want to align them in the round, vertically, or horizontally:

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  And remember to create a new layer for each round/row! I like to add a new symbol to change the color, to make rounds more distinguishable...

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chart, crochet, crochet symbols, diagram, DIY, downloadable, filet crochet, free, graph, how to, make your own, Stitch Fiddle, tutorial

But, you can make the chart all in one color if you like. It's easier that way.

  When you're all done, you'll find options under "file" to save, download, copy, or print. You can also share your design with the world, or upgrade to Stitch Fiddle Premium for more options:

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  As for the limits of the free version: I find they don't limit me much at all! But if you want to be able to download your chart in another file form or size, then you'll need to upgrade to premium...

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chart, crochet, crochet symbols, diagram, DIY, downloadable, filet crochet, free, graph, how to, make your own, Stitch Fiddle, tutorial

  All the limited fields are marked with an asterisk, so you know right away that it's not available to you in the free version. Now that I've used the program for a few designs here on the blog, I think I'm ready to make the upgrade to premium. I can't wait to try out the conversion tool that will turn your filet charts into written directions... I hope you're ready for more free patterns after I make the purchase!


  This can be a great tool to turn a picture of a loved one into a memorial afghan, get started on a design in your mind, or to convert a written pattern into an easier-to-read format. Don't forget to sign up so you can save your unfinished projects, then come back later. It's okay... I've been a member for a while, and they don't spam or sell your email. And don't worry - All your designs are private unless you choose to share them. So, what are you waiting for? What will you create?

Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Improvising

  It looked great on the hanger. Not my color, but the kind of style I'd wear... So, I committed to adding it to my wardrobe and welcomed it into my home. Soon after, I realized this (clothing) relationship was going nowhere. 

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  It all started at the outlet store: This looked to be a dressy-casual blouse that could be paired with a jacket or other accessories. A modest V-neck, full back that ran into a short collar, and tank sleeves that sort of flowed into a pleated front. Again, not my color... But for $6, I could wear that! And the shirt has now been stuffed in my drawer for about a year. So, what happened? Where did it all go wrong?

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  Before I'm accused of impulse buying, I should explain what I'm like when I'm not yarn shopping... I really, truly despise having to shop for clothes. 1) They (almost) never have my size. 2) Not everything comes in black. 3) My sense of style is offended by the options available. 4) There are other people in the store. 5) I could be spending money on more yarn instead. 6) My skin crawls at the thought of trying on clothes. 7) Glitter. ✨ 8) Colors.🌈 9) The music is lame. 💩 10) And did I mention this is not the yarn store?

  To save my sanity, I have a system of shopping on a $10 per-item limit at outlet stores. It's something other than "impulse" buying. It's more like "please get me out of here" buying. I pick up what looks good within the budget, take it home and wash it first, then I try it on. I'm pretty good at judging things, but occasionally items don't fit and get dumped on The Kid or charity. Then there's this top, which fell into a shapeless mess after the first wash. "Machine wash, lay flat to dry", and FLAT is all I'll ever get out this pillowcase-like disaster of a garment that's a bit too large.

  The pleating (or is that ruching/gathering?) that ran around the underarms washed out somehow, which left the sides hanging loose. To add to the mess, my lack of size "up top" let the cross-over front close up around my neck. It looked more like a kimono. The sleeveless design hung too far out on my shoulders, and it was not flattering to my figure. This top is a disaster

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Or... Is it? I did some digging in the yarn stash and found a suitable color to match...

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Worked up a quick "band" of 8 foundation double crochet...

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And (temporarily) joined it around the too-wide sleeve with a slip stitch to check for fit...

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I then pulled out the slip stitch and joined with a false stitch for a nice smooth join, and wove the tail through the bottom end to close...

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It looked like a mess on the table, so I tried it on before continuing. Not bad! Okay, time to repeat for the next side...

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  I still thought it looked horrible on the table. But then, it looked great on the hanger, didn't it? This is just that kind of garment that doesn't take its true shape until you put it on. The bands served their purpose to tighten up the sleeves, and it brought back some of the pleated look to the front of the shirt.

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As for what was left of the ball of scrap...

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  The Kid was hovering while I worked. I wasn't sure if she was after my shirt or the fuzzy-soft yarn, so I offered up the yarn. She commenced practicing her pom-pom making skills. Having never made them with bulky-weight yarn, she seemed inspired to work with a new material. I was impressed by her idea. The cat... Well... Lucky was about as excited as I am with clothes shopping. I promise I gave her extra treats to make up for this indignity.

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lovely Lace

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  I love it when experiments work out in my favor! Today I have a little mini-lesson for you that contains a few different tips, like how to work this lovely lace stitch. But first, I'd like to share with you the story behind how I made one of my favorite mesh stitches into an even-more-delicate lace...

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  Rheumatoid arthritis is still doing its best to cripple these hands of mine, and there are days that holding an "average" size hook is difficult. When I can't close my fingers, I lose hold of the narrow hook and drop it continuously. But I crochet with more motion in my wrists than in my fingers, so I'd have no problem working if I could only keep hold of my hook!

  Sure, a set of ergonomic hooks with big handles might solve the issue, but there's no room for that in the budget after the financial hits I've taken lately. While working on a (top-secret) two-strand afghan with a large plastic hook, I noticed that the bigger hook wasn't causing pressure on my joints and it was easier to hold. I started experimenting with large hooks and worsted weight yarn (like for the textured 1-2-3-Beautiful Scarf). I was pleased with the results at first, but now I think I've blown my own mind with this new project...

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An unusual method:

A size "P" hook meets Woolike yarn by Loops & Threads... This is a super-fine (1) weight yarn with a little bit of stretch, perfect for lace. But WAIT! A 10 mm hook with such a light yarn??? YES. It was a minor battle at first as a tried to keep the springy yarn on the large hook without pulling my loops too tight, but with some practice I started producing a pattern. The result is the same lace mesh I love, but even better. The big loops created by the hook add a bit of a Love Knot look to the stitch. The super-fine yarn works up into a fabric that's light as air and stretches to fit.

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The stitch:

Chain 3, then single crochet in the next available chain space.

Worked in the round, I started this pattern with a magic circle, chained 1 (skip that when joining), and began with a single crochet. I worked a total of 8 chain-spaces in the beginning loop.

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But... How to join?

First, back up... Don't chain 3 for the last space! I showed you in the tutorial for the Be Square Top how to join with a single crochet for a chain-1 space. Now, there's a few options you can make for a chain-3 space:

If you want to begin the next round at the left side of your chain space, you can chain 2 and join with that single crochet. 1 single crochet = 1 chain high. So, 1 single crochet + 2 chains = 3 chains across.

(My method) To begin the next round in the middle of the chain space, chain 1 and join with a half-double crochet. (Half double = 2 chains high)

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To move your beginning spot all the way over to the right side of the chain space, just join with a double crochet stitch. (Double crochet = 3 chains high)


What's next?

This project is worked as a square (in the round), so the stitch pattern stays the same for each space across. To create corners, make an additional (chain-3, single crochet) in the corner space. (Joining space shown above is a corner.)

To start each round in a corner space, begin with one single crochet in the chain space. Work across and around the square, back to the beginning space. Make one single crochet in the beginning chain space, then join with your preferred method.

Here's a chart:
(Click to expand if needed.)

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Now, let me ask: Can you find the joining spaces in the pattern?

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BONUS ROUND!!!

With the corner stitch I'm using, you might think it would be better to join with (chain-2, single crochet) to begin at the left side, right? Yup, I started with that, but noticed my square twisting after round 2. I ripped it out and tried (chain-1, half double crochet)...

Keep in mind that I begin the round with a chain-1 that does not count as a stitch, then make a single crochet after it. This moves the beginning stitch back over to the left a bit, so that I'm not actually beginning the round in the middle of the chain space.

If you want to work a fully round (not square) pattern, you'll need to begin in the middle of that chain space. In that case, you can still use (chain-1, half double crochet), because you're not fighting the twist of a square.
-You can also use the double crochet for a join if you're skipping the beginning chain-1, because the first single crochet will be moved over as it is in my square... Try out different stitch combinations and see which you like best.


In closing...

  As for the rest, I'm keeping it top-secret. I want you to take one, two, or all three of these tips and go create what your imagination wants. Don't care to work with the big hook? You can still use the stitch pattern to work up some beautiful lace. Working a different lace stitch? Go ahead and try some of those stitch combinations for a better join.

  I hope you find something new and fun in the stitch, the join, or by using a bigger hook. I had a more-detailed tutorial planned for the joining combinations, but summer thunderstorms have sabotaged my photos once again. So, I found some fun myself by trying to take some pretty pictures of this romantic lace in the moody lighting... Enjoy!

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Happy Crocheting!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Be Square Top - Part 4

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  The previous tutorials showed you most of what you need to create your own Be Square Top. But, what if your creation isn't perfect? If it came out too small, there's not much you can do... Rip it out, or finish it and donate it. But if you followed my previous tip that bigger is better, here's what you can do to make bigger fit better:


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  At first glance, I thought the issue here was in the armhole. But, wait! I tried it on already and it fit, so how is the armhole too big for the dummy? After some measuring and moving, I realized the problem is actually in the neckline. Because I have an extra-small top stretched over a size small form and the granny stitches around the bust aren't as stretchy as the taller V-stitches, there was some resistance. Instead of pulling the top down to where it would actually ride, I stopped pulling it when the neckline was where I thought it should be... So after getting that straightened out:


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  Notice how the shoulder seams are too low? I didn't need to make the armholes tighter; I (mostly) needed to pull the neckline up.


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  I had left my stitch markers in that mark the corner spaces, so it made it easy to keep track of decreases without having to do much counting.

  Although it seems like I needed to take some room out of the sleeves, the decreases are better done along the front and back. Decreasing too much around the shoulder seam will cause the sleeves to pucker.


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  I decreased the multiples of four (the 3-double crochet, 1-chain granny stitch) down to multiples of two (1-single crochet, 1-chain) across the bust and back.


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  The corner space marks the beginning of the sleeve, so that's where I stopped decreasing. Since making a few more variations of this design, I can say that I've discovered a better way: Decreasing less across the front and back then carrying the decreases a bit into the bottoms of the sleeves makes for a better fit that hugs your figure.


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  On this first attempt, the extra shaping still worked. I kept the stitch count the same along the sleeves with four single crochet in each space.

And notice how the stitches made a bit of a scalloped edge?


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  Well, I could have left the sleeves alone... The armhole hung just a bit too low, but I liked it because I don't want wool all the way up to my armpit, anyway. That scalloped edge, though... I liked it! So, I decided to copy it around each armhole:


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  The single crochet stitches aren't stretchy like the rest of the top, so I used that to my advantage. The problem with the fit wasn't so much the size as the stretch... And stiffening up the edge of the sleeves stopped the top from stretching too low.


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  I did throw a tiny decrease into the bottom of the armhole by shortening to three single crochet for the third-to-last stitch, and then just two single crochet in the last two. With that little decrease of five stitches, the armhole pulled up to the perfect place - Not to high, and not too low.


  Although I wish my first attempt had been perfect and not needed adjustments, you can use my fixes if your own first try isn't how you hoped it would be. But, I do hope my mistakes help you get a better-fitting top! With the experience of things I wish I had done differently, I can give you these tips:

-Making the sleeves thinner than you want and working around them later gives you more room to fix the fit if you're a little off on the size. If you get it right the first time, then you can just work around them while keeping the stitch count the same.

-Use stitch markers for more than marking stitches! I use my locking stitch markers to pinch room out of the top as I try it on. They're easy to move to try out different adjustments, and you can leave them in to mark where you want to make a change.

-Switching stitch patterns like I did in this version may not be the best design idea. 🙁 Had I used different stitches with similar stretch, then I wouldn't have needed to make so many adjustments along the way. But please, don't let me limit you... If you have an idea for something beautiful, try it! I'm just saying if you want to keep it easy, keep it simple.

-And do remember not to use wool if you live in Florida. 😉

In case you missed the other parts of the tutorial, here's the links you'll need:




  Progress on the tutorials for the other version is going slow... But that's because I'm making a video! It won't be the same exact pattern as this top, but it will be made using the same format. I'll update here when it's ready for those who are interested.

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Happy Crocheting!