Having knitted a jersey for William just in time to take on our UK trip – a simple but boyish ribbed pattern in Drops Merino blue – I am without a knitting project of any kind. This is a very unusual state of affairs for me but is actually quite deliberate as I had promised myself to have a go at other things too, this year. Feeling inspired by Adrienne who is learning to crochet and Sarah who is incredibly creative with a crochet hook, I’ve decided to have another go myself. I learned to crochet as a child but I’ve never really moved beyond the basic granny square blanket stage; I did manage a length of flowers and hearts nursery bunting and a couple of hats when Ben was born, but that’s it. What I really wanted to do was to follow a pattern properly and crochet a garment. First, I armed myself with a 1.5mm lace hook and a ball of Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Thread.
That hook is tiny!
Then I set out to crochet . . . a dishcloth. Okay, okay – so it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll but there was method in my unadventurous madness. I’ve never crocheted with cotton or such a fine gauge hook so I needed a chance to try those things as well as practise the different stitch techniques after so long in a crochet-free world. Working back and forth across a square seemed the perfect activity for this, as well as giving me the chance to pay some attention to tension – never my forte – and stitch consistency. Also, I quite like the idea of making my own cotton dishcloths, it seems to sit comfortably with my simple, homespun approach to life. I have to confess to a moment of decadence, though: I chose to pass on plain white cotton and went for the ‘Monet’ colour scheme instead. Hell, life is too short to be dull so why not bring a little Impressionism to the dirty dishes?
Even such a simple activity had its hitches, however. For a start, I’ve discovered that American crochet terms and stitch names are different to the ones I’m familiar with so I need to be careful which patterns I choose. Also, although I started with 66 stitches, I seemed to ricochet between 64 and 68 in various rows; I suspect this had something to do with how I was turning at the row ends and I needed to get it sorted before attempting a garment.
Next, I decided to try something more challenging that involved following a pattern. Not being a lace doily sort of person, I opted for a bookmark. Gingko bookmark pattern I certainly haven’t matched the Crochet Dude for tidiness and consistency, but it was good practice all the same – and by some kind of minor miracle, I managed to keep the correct number of stitches throughout (even if it doesn’t look that way!).
Possibly, the most sensible thing to have done at this point would be to carry on practising different techniques but we don’t need a house full of useless crocheted ‘stuff’ and anyway, I’d had enough of Aunt Lydia and Monet for the time being. I was itching to get started on a garment.
My plan was to transform this lovely soft cotton yarn into a pretty little crocheted vest top for Annie, hoping she wouldn’t mind being my guinea pig – although, should it all go pear-shaped, I could always resort to unpicking and knitting instead!
The first bit – a shoulder strap – was pretty straightforward, except that several centimetres in, I wasn’t happy with the size of the holes. They just seemed too big for a toddler’s top, better suited to a hay net for Missy if I’m totally honest. Although the pattern had stated a 5mm hook, I undid the lot and started again with a 4mm one: much better. Having recently knitted jumpers for Annie and William, I can judge the size of a two year-old fairly well by eye and the smaller gauge just seemed better all round. I managed to work the increases for the body and settled into working straight rows.
At this point, I made an important discovery. The bamboo hook I was using was much nicer to hold than a metal one, but very slow: at this rate it would be next summer before the top was finished. As I have a metal hook in the same size I switched to that and was suddenly zipping away at five times the speed. Interesting. Another discovery is that crochet grows far faster than knitting: I had the main colour body done in no time.
The contrasting lace panel certainly slowed me down a bit, not because it was complicated – it wasn’t – but because I really didn’t like the pattern itself. The holes were huge, it just seemed too big and clumsy for a dainty top: forget hay net, this was trawler net. I unpicked it and tried reducing the stitch sizes; the result was the complete opposite, a very dense and heavy pattern where all the lacy holes disappeared. In the end, I switched to a different pattern altogether and that seemed to work. (Important discovery number three: crochet is much easier to unpick than knitting – good job in my case!)
Edging the borders brought everything together and joy of joys, there was NO sewing up to do. I’m happy!
The only finishing touch required was a button for the left strap. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything suitable in my sewing box . . . but then I discovered that you can crochet buttons.
The verdict? Well, I’m getting along with crochet much better than I imagined and I feel inspired to do more. The next project I have in mind is going to be much bigger and massively colourful. Forget Monet. I fancy crocheting in rainbows. Well, why not? 🙂