I’m Not a Hooker

Not anymore, anyway, unless under extreme duress. Sometimes you just need a bit of edging and I must acknowledge that for edging, crochet is often the easier tool. Since I began knitting, the only crochet project I have worked on was the afghan I was already working on when I learned to knit.

The reason for this is that I have a chronic inability to count stitches in crochet. Once I lose track, I’m done for. Finished…at least when I’m working flat. Working in the round has always been easier for me, which is perhaps odd, but hats always seemed to work out better than afghans.

Afghan number one was a very simple zig-zag pattern. Not much to mess up, right? Except that I consistently managed to drop a stitch on one side of the afghan, so it has a strange tail. That project is where I set the precedent that I don’t rip back…even if it means I have a mutant on my hands.

Afghan number two was actually quite a pretty lace number, but my (unswatched) gauge was very loose, which meant that (a) it turned out to be ENORMOUS, (b) the lace was too open to make it useful for keeping a person warm, and (c) it’s disconcertingly fragile for a blanket made of a tough acrylic yarn. It’s also the only one currently not in storage or in someone else’s house, so you can see just how unintentionally open it is…

Afghan number three almost started a war between my aunt and mother (not really) because I made it for the fun of it and gave it to my aunt on a whim, since she had admired it. That led me to make afghan number five–same pattern, Mom’s yarn choices. It was a pleasant, easy lattice pattern, but I began with an absurdly large number of stitches, which led to a need for extra length to make the thing proportionate…which took years. Five, to be approximate.

Afghan number four is where my love of crochet really died. I had a combination of not particularly attractive grays and greens that I was working in strips that would need to be sewn together. My gauge was all over the place, but I didn’t check the strips against one another until I had worked all eight of them…. Goodwill got eight extremely ugly scarves for Christmas that year and I packed away my hooks in disgust (until Mom bought the yarn for afghan number five, anyway).

So when I saw an adorable giraffe that I just HAD to make for my sister Joy, you can imagine that I might have felt an inkling of dismay when I realized it was CROCHET. Shudder. Still, it’s impossible to not fall in love with Gigi Giraffe. She’s just SO CUTE! It took me half an hour of digging to find one of my crochet hooks, but I unearthed the rusting (okay, not literally) tool and braved the excavation of my dusty crochet knowledge.

Keep tuned for part two, in which I reveal whether my hapless hooking creating an adorable fuzzy thing or a horrible monstrosity…

What the Gauge?

Alright, pro-knitters: explain something to me. I’m working on a pair of socks. I was none too sure of the sizing when I started, so I was careful to knit, wash, and block a gauge swatch. I went a step further and researched sock sizing online to make sure my gauge times the pattern directions would make a large enough sock for the foot in question. The pattern was designed for elf feet, I think, so I increased it by a dozen stitches and carried on. I was very proud of myself for taking the time and care to sort all this out, even though it meant the headache of doing the math myself to turn the heel and work the gusset pick-ups and decreases. I measured the sock carefully as I went to make sure I would have enough length. And yet…the sock is too small. It’s not just a little too small…it’s stupidly too small. As in, “How could anyone ever have thought that the math would work out to a large enough sock?”

I have double and triple-checked my math and my mind is still blown. This is not the first pair of socks I’ve made and curse it, I do know how to make socks that fit. So can someone please explain to me how I ended up with a sock that is easily three sizes smaller than what I was aiming for?

Also…if you know anyone with size 6 feet who likes pink and purple, I have a pair of socks available.

Sincerely,

Utterly Baffled and Feeling Like a N00b

P.S. Don’t judge me. I don’t rip back entire socks, and I don’t waste hours of work, so yes…I am knitting a second too-small sock with no idea who I should give the pair to. Admit it, you’ve done crazier things, right?

P.P.S. But toeless socks, those are a thing, yeah?

UPDATE:

I finished the socks and mailed them off to a friend with small feet who has been known to go by the name “Fun Socks Girl.” For once I had the self-control to send a present without warning (I am notoriously bad at keeping presents I’ve made a secret) and it arrived on her doorstep at a moment when she was in a need of a small happiness boost. They fit her perfectly, so at least I got the proportions right and Mission: Knitting Kninja Joy was accomplished.

The Dish on Dishcloths

My youngest sister, Charlie, is getting married at the end of May. While this is an enormous event in my personal life, it wouldn’t matter much for the blog except for one small detail. For her bridal shower, my mother and former boss at the restaurant I worked at in high school crocheted dishcloths as favors for everyone who attended. Before using my homemade cloth, my attitude towards handmade dishcloths was something like, “Pffft. Who would spend all that time making something you’re going to clean a scuzzy sink with?” After using the cloth, however, I decided the effort was worth the reward. It’s so much sturdier and less prone to developing gym-locker scent than my store-bought, woven dishcloths. Who’d ‘a’ thunk?

I went a little crazy when I popped into A.C. Moore to buy some dishcloth yarn. First, my husband and I have been doing some food photography and crazy dishcloths have potential as props. Second, the yarn was on sale. Third, the colors were completely enchanting. I had a hard time forcing myself not to buy one of everything. 600+ yards makes more than enough dishcloths for a household of two people who don’t use more than two a week.

When I surfed over to Ravelry to find a pattern, I expected to find one or two iterations of basic patterns that everyone uses. I did not expect to find the wealth of really interesting designs that I did. Dishcloths, apparently, are a perfect trial ground for complex pattern stitches to be worked out on a project that can look like crap without hurting anyone’s feelings. ¬†They’re also a deliciously quick “finished project” fix. They’re also a source of some valuable lessons…even though the dishes won’t care, it is possible to screw up a dishcloth.

Anyway…here are the patterns I worked on and what I thought of them. (N.B. You may need to have a Ravelry account to view some of the links, but if you’re a knitter and you don’t have a free Ravelry account, you should get one anyway.)

Stockinette Dishcloth

This is the most common style of cloth I saw, pretty and simple. This pattern is easy to parse, though to be fair, if you can’t write this pattern understandably, writing patterns might not be your calling. Important lesson learned: Gauge matters. Not that it matters how big or small your gauge is, but it matters that you have square stitches, i.e., you should have the same number of rows and stitches per inch. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a diamond, like this:

Reverse Mitered Dishcloth

I didn’t like this as much as the first, mostly because I hate binding off, and you end up binding off half the diameter of the perimeter of the darn thing. Same lesson applies as with cloth #1–square gauge = square cloth.

Vignes (Vineyard) Dishcloth

Although it seems to have been translated into English from French, this pattern was the most straightforward of the lot. It may become my go-to pattern, because there’s just enough to think about to make it interesting. Repeating the pattern stitch three times made for a large cloth (and possible not square, if the picture can be believed), so I made it a 2×2 repeat. The pattern is worked over a multiple of 15, with 4 stitches on each side for a garter stitch border. I’m going with a seed stitch border on the next one–I mildly loathe garter stitch.

Yvonne’s Double Flower Cloth

Use loooong double-pointed needles for this–even with five, I kept dropping stitches off the end. The pattern is easy to follow. It’s also a hoot to make, but either I worked the binding off too tightly or my gauge was off, because this is really more of an quirky yarmulke than a dishcloth.

Circular Facecloth with Lace Edging

By far my favorite finished cloth, I will probably never make this again. For one thing, it’s just too darn pretty to use to clean anything, face or dishes. For another thing, it’s garter stitch, and I’d try reworking it for stockinette first. Be warned: the pattern is not especially clear and adds in some semi-useless information about the stitches in a uselessly confusing way. It is a great beginner project for lace and circular shaping through short rows, though, so I’d recommend giving it a whirl.

These only used up three of my six balls of yarn, so I may do a second part to this review sometime in the future. In the meantime, here are some patterns that I found particularly tempting and/or amusing…

Playful Plaid Cloth

An exercise in what looks like a new way of playing with color, for me anyway.

Double Diamond Circular Facecloth

More lace and circular shaping that will probably be too pretty to actually use.

Doctor Who TARDIS Dishcloth

Because, honestly, shouldn’t a dishcloth be able to travel through time and relative dimensions in space?

Stargate Earth Dishcloth

And dishcloths should always point the way home…or something like that.

Tuscany Tile Ensemble

The pattern seems to have disappeared for this one, so I may assign myself the challenge of recreating it, just because those cables are cool. Like bowties.

If you know of any other supremely awesome patterns, by all means, toss some links up in the comments. I’m supposed to be working on a shaped, severely cabled sweater for myself, and quite frankly, dishcloths are proving to be delightful scary-sweater-avoidance fodder.

Rose Cottage Slippers

This is not so much a pattern as it is a framework for resizing a pattern by another designer, who I credit in the pattern. These slippers are quite fast and simple and present a nice chance to play with gauge if you’re new to the concept.

Rose Cottage Slippers (Click to download or print.)

[scribd id=57711017 key=key-2n925cho3mbgw2i7ftvt mode=list]

Original Post