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Author Archives: Edie Eckman

  • Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: The Finish Line

    We're almost there!

    I've finished making all my motifs and, since I was joining them as I did the last round of each, I don't have any additional joining to do. However, many of you chose to wait until now to join your motifs, a method I often choose. Since I know at least ten ways to do so, I have a choice of options at this point. Sewing motifs together with a tapestry needle and whip stitch is a non-starter for me. Meaning: I never do it. Waaaaaaay too slow and finicky.

    Single crochet seam

    This seam can be done either on the wrong side or the right side of the piece. It is a sturdy yet flexible join. It makes a nice ridge, which can be used as a design element to frame the motifs. Some people think the ridge looks "wrong"; I think it's a lovely three-dimensional element that adds interest, and I often choose to put it on the right side. I've used a contrasting color yarn so that the seam shows up.

    To work a single crochet seam on the right side, hold the motifs with wrong sides together and sc through the adjacent stitches and chain-spaces on both motifs.

    In this design, I would probably work a bunch of short seams to create long strips of hexagons, then join those long strips with long zigzag-shaped seams lengthwise down the afghan. You'll have to figure out the best way to handle the corners when 3 motifs meet.

    On my sample, I joined the 3rd motif to the 2nd one from chain-spaces to chain-spaces, then chain 1, and joined the same chain-space of the 3rd motif to the next chain-space of the 1st motif, continuing along that edge to the next corner. (This will make more sense when you have a lot of pieces in your hand and you try it yourself!)

    Here's what the sc seam on the right side looks like:

    Here's what it looks like on the wrong side:

    Note that this last photo shows more or less what the seam would look like if you worked it on the wrong side. To work a single crochet seam on the wrong side, hold motifs with right sides together and sc through the adjacent stitches on both motifs.

    Single-crochet/chain seam
    This join is a bit looser and more flexible than the single crochet seam. Again, it can be done either on the right side or the wrong side of the work. Instead of working into every stitch and chain-space as shown above, join with a sc at the corners, *ch 1, skip 1 pair of stitches, sc through next pair of adjacent stitches; repeat from * across the edge to the corner. As for the single crochet seam, you'll have to experiment a bit to figure out how best to handle the corners where 3 motifs join. It may require a chain 1, 2 or 3 at the corner to lie flat.

    Single Crochet Join on Final Round
    My final suggestion is a hybrid of the join-as-you-go method that I showed you before. In this method, add an additional round of single crochet around each motif, joining as you go.

    On the first motif, work a complete round of single crochet, placing 1 sc in each dc and (sc, ch 1, sc) in each corner space. Fasten off.

    On the second motif, work a round of sc to the next-to-last corner. Sc in corner, ch 1, join that chain in the adjacent chain from the first motif (as described here), sc in same chain-space of current motif, join that sc to the adjacent sc from the first motif, and so on.

    As you work, you may find that you need to put 2 or 3 chains in the corner to make the corners tidy—don't be afraid to play around with it to get the perfect technique for your situation.

    Which of these (or any other methods) is best? By now (hopefully), you'll know what my answer is: only you can decide what's best in your situation. Play with variations on these joins and decide which one you think is just right for your needs. For example, you may find that the join-only-in-the corner method that I showed you in a previous post is quick, but not sturdy enough for hard use, or you may think it gives the perfect lacy look you prefer.

    Weaving in ends

    Everyone has just been itchin' for me to talk about weaving in ends. Your time has finally come. In an earlier post, I wrote about working over yarn ends as I create new stitches. I will do often do this, but I find that in an item that gets handled a lot, like an afghan, the worked-over ends are not secure enough. I prefer to weave in all my ends with a tapestry needle for the final finish.

    Yes, this is tedious. It's not nearly as much fun as stitching cute little hexagons. However, it IS a critical part of the afghan-making process. A couple of nights in front of the TV should do it.

    I use a blunt-tip tapestry needle with a big enough eye so that I can easily thread it, yet not so big that it has trouble fitting through the stitches. You do know this trick for threading a tapestry needle, don't you?

    Weave the yarn tail in a couple of different directions through the back of the same-color stitches. The more different directions you go in, the more secure your tail will be.

    Some people choose to use a sharper needle and actually skim through the back of the stitches, splitting the yarn. If you have a latch hook, you might find it easier to use it to weave in your ends.

    A Finishing Round
    Once I had all my ends woven in, I used a steam iron to carefully block the entire afghan. You may have heard that blocking is not necessary with acrylic yarn, but I find that blocking gives a finished look to any crocheted piece. I was careful to use the lowest steam setting on my iron, and I NEVER touch the iron to the fabric, as it it is possible to "kill" acrylic yarn and thus alter its drape. I just skimmed the iron over the afghan, keeping it about 2" above the fabric.

    Then I decided that a final round of single crochet would be a nice touch and would help strengthen and secure the edges. I worked 1 sc in each dc around, putting (sc, ch 1, sc) in each "outer" chain-space corner, and 1 sc in each "inner" chain-space corner.

    Final Results

    Can you see where I threw in a few off-pattern motifs to keep it interesting? Adding another color would have been fun, as well.

    The finished size is about 37" x 53". That's reasonably close to what I predicted. It is a bit small for a traditional-sized afghan, but I could easily have added motifs to make it larger. As it is, I decided it's a perfect lap-ghan size to throw over my legs while I'm crocheting.

    Also as predicted, the weight of the finished afghan indicated I used a total of about 8 balls of yarn. The breakdown of colors was about 5 balls of Taupe, 3 balls of Linen and 2 balls of Cranberry. (Yes, these add up to more than 8 balls, because the final ball of each color was not used up.)

    It's Just the Beginning

    Those of you who have stuck with me this far, congratulations! I hope I've been showing you things you didn't know before, and that you have been having fun and gaining confidence while working along with me. I haven't been able to share half of what I know and love about crocheting; if you want to learn more, read more here at the Lion Brand website, refer to The Crochet Answer Book and Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, and take classes. All my fellow crochet teachers and I are anxious to share our love of the craft with you.

    I hope you'll keep stitching and striving to grow your knowledge while enjoying what you are doing. No stress, no "wrongs", just opportunities to learn. I'll be hanging out here at the Lion Brand Notebook for another week or so to answer questions and respond to comments. After that, you'll still be able to find me on the Ravelry CAL group or on my website.

    Stitch On--and HAVE FUN!

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  • Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part II

    Let me welcome those of you who have joined this crochet-along already in progress. Rest assured that you are not behind, and you can do this at your own pace! As a matter of fact, even if you started with my first blog post, I hope you feel that you are working at a pace that is comfortable for you.

    This week I'm going to answer some questions that you've been asking, and show you a couple of new tips. First, however, I'm going to give you a little pep talk. At least, I hope it seems like a pep talk!

    At many times in our lives, we run across people who correct us—tell us we are doing something "wrong" and show us the "right" path. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Our parents and school teachers guided us to learn and grow. We come to depend on the feedback we get from these mentors, and we seek their approval. At some point, however, we must grow up and decide for ourselves what is right for us.

    Relax. Breathe.

    This is crochet. There are no tests, no final exam, no grades. There is no "right" way or "wrong" way to do something, only things you don't know yet. Fear and trepidation should not be in your vocabulary.

    Are you having fun

    YOU are the person who must be happy with your work. If you are happy with the way your project looks—and it functions well— then it's right. If you are unhappy for some reason—you don't like the way the stitches look, the joins fall apart—then take action to figure out what is going wrong, and fix it.

    As a teacher, I can suggest ways to improve the look and function of your work. You must take ownership and responsibility for the results. Solicit opinions if you must, but be confident that you can and will make the right choices for you.

    Whether you are a newbie or an experienced crocheter, branch out! I'll bet you don't even know what you don't know! Read crochet books, explore new techniques, search the internet, take classes. I'm always seeking to learn new and interesting techniques, and most of these I learn from other people. Don't get so frustrated that you give up. So-called "experts" are only experts because they had an inquiring mind and the desire to learn more. With perseverance, anybody can be an expert.

    Relax. Breathe.

    OK…are you feeling more confident? I hope so.

    Weaving in Ends as You Go
    One of the main questions I've had is about weaving in ends. I tend to do a combination of weave-in-as-I-go, and weave-in-later. If I have a slip knot from beginning the round, I might just pull it tight and weave that end in, tiny knot and all, or I might unpick it so there is no knot at all. It depends on my attitude at the moment.

    If I have enough solid stitches in a row, I'll hold the yarn to the back and work around it over several stitches, as shown here.

    Even when weaving in as I work, I still leave a short tail to be woven in another direction later.

    However, if I'm skipping some stitches, as on Round 3 of our motif, I tend to save that end to be woven in later. I usually don't cut off my ends until I'm doing the finishing, just in case I have to rip out a motif for some reason. You can see the results of my mixed efforts (so far) here.

    You can see that I have finished off some of the ends in the center "stripe" of the afghan.

    More on Join-As-You-Go
    Last week I showed you how to join all along one edge. Here is an example of how it might look if you joined just at the corners.

    Some of you have asked about the order in which I'm joining. Because the join is done on the final round of the motif, I need to join each new motif to the previous one(s) on the final round. I can do it in any order I choose, as long as I don't forget and leave out an edge that needs to be joined. I use my planned sketch (or the diagram from week 2) to remind me how they fit together. I've been doing it more or less in strips--one length of 9 motifs to start, as shown here.

    By the way, I think I'm going to add another 2 "stripes" to my afghan, to make it wider. I have enough yarn. Guess it depends on how much I get done between now and next week, right?

    I have decided that my afghan looks best if I join at the corners AND all along one edge. While you can begin Round 4 at a corner, I prefer to begin it in the middle of one of the edges, because I prefer to end a round with a dc-to-dc instead of a ch-to-dc.

    Work up to the first corner to be joined. Dc in that corner, ch 2. You are now at about the center point of the corner, as shown:

    Drop the stitch from the hook, insert the hook from front to back into the first corner space to be joined, then back into the dropped stitch. Pull the dropped stitch through the chain-space.

    Ch 1 to complete the ch-3 corner of the current motif, then dc in the same corner ch-space and join that dc and the remaining dcs along the edge to the afghan, as I showed you last week.

    At the next corner, you have to join to chain-spaces from 2 different motifs. Ch 1, drop the stitch from the hook, insert the hook from front to back into the next adjoining corner space, then back into the dropped stitch. Pull the stitch through the chain-space.

    Ch 1, then join in the corner of the next motif.

    Ch 1, complete the dc in that corner and join along the edge, into the next double corner, and into the next edge as before. On the final corner, ch 1, join to the chain-space of the other motif, ch 2, complete the dc in the corner, and work to the end. Here's what you have done:

    Relax. Breathe. Unhunch your shoulders.

    Are you wondering how I learned to do this join? I started with a problem: how to create a strong, flexible, nice-looking join that could be worked on the last round. I also had a deadline: when I started this Crochet-Along I didn't know what joining method would work and I knew I had to come up with something to share with you! Then I experimented with several different techniques until I "unvented" one that worked in this situation.

    It isn't the first or the second or even the third thing I tried, but eventually I discovered what I think is just the right join for us. I don't say this to make you feel bad, but instead to encourage. You, too, can use your brains and problem-solving skills to create new (or new-to-you) techniques to improve your stitching!

    Are you having fun?

    Reader challenge: As I've worked on this afghan, I've decided that I get the best results by beginning with a standing double crochet not started with a slip knot on my hook. That is not within the scope of this blog, but I'll bet you can figure it out yourself. Take the bull by the horns and figure out how to do a standing double crochet without a slip knot!

    Please don't be intimidated into keeping your own cool techniques to yourself. I want to learn from you! Share with all of us your favorite tips, especially those that will help in this project. You know more than you think...

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  • Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part I

    Last week I showed you how to start a motif in the round using a sliding loop. This week and next, I'm going to share a few more tips that might make our stitching more attractive and attend to some of those nagging details that keep our motifs from looking their best.

    Now that you've got a few motifs under your belt, take a good look at them. Are you happy with the way they look? I'm not talking about the color this time—that was last week. Now I'm talking about their overall appearance. It's hard, but try to be objective. This is just you looking at your own work—nobody else is in the room, so you can be as harsh a critic as you dare.

    Are the stitches even? Are the corners symmetrical and the sides straight? Is there a wonky chain-stitch line where you've been beginning the rounds? Do you have an ugly bump at the end of the round where the join occurs? If you've been working in ends as you go, are the tails peeking through on the right side?

    Whenever you are working from a pattern, you should realize that the designer had to make certain assumptions, and perhaps to obey certain pattern-writing conventions that make patterns more standardized. In other words, the designer can't possibly put into each pattern every single "improving" technique that she might know. It's up to the crocheter to learn and apply some of these techniques for herself (or himself). Now, before you get into a huff about this, think: it's no different from cooking. Recipes don't tell you every single move to make, but you've learned cooking techniques and apply them all the time. It's the same for crochet.

    By now, hopefully you have a pretty good idea of how the motif is made, and perhaps you are stitching without even consulting the pattern. Fine! But now let's take a closer look at how the motif is constructed. I encourage you to refer to the chart for this part.

    Changing the beginning of the round
    The motif we are working on was written as if the entire thing was going to be worked in one color, or with one continuous strand of yarn. Those of you familiar with reading crochet patterns will have deduced this already, because the rounds flow directly from one to another using joins to end a round followed by chain stitches to bring the hook up ready to work the next round.

    As written, the pattern calls for a hdc join at the end of Round 1. This hdc takes the place of a (ch-2, slip st) join; it creates a "ch-2" space, but leaves the hook in place to begin Round 2. I could do it exactly as written, adding my new color on the final joining stitch. However, because I am doing every round in a different color, I am going to finish off the color at the end of every round, then join a new color for the next round. I don't need to use the hdc join, because once I finish Round 1, I'm going to be changing colors. I can start my new color anywhere.

    End Round 1 with ch 2, slip st in 4th chain of ch-6.


    If I change the location of the first stitch of Round 2, I can keep those beginning chain-stitches from stacking up on top of each other and creating an unsightly line. Refer to the chart and just pick a spot—any spot—to start your Round 2. You may begin in a chain-space, or in a double-crochet stitch. It really doesn't matter, as long as you make sure to do six sets of 5-dc groups, separated by ch-3 corners.

    Standing double crochet

    But hold on... I so dislike the look of a beginning "ch-3 (counts as dc)" that I avoid it whenever possible. In this instance, I can just start my Round 2 with a double crochet. Wait, did you say, just start with a double crochet? How is this possible?

    As I mentioned, the purpose of the beginning ch-3 would be to get the hook up to the top of the next round. Once I've finished off Round 1, however, my hook can be anywhere it wants. Therefore, if I just start with a slip knot on the hook, I can insert the hook into any stitch or space and work a double crochet. I do end up with a slip knot kind of hanging off the back of the work. I'll get rid of that later when I am weaving in my ends. I call this technique a "standing double crochet".

    Begin with slip knot on hook, yarn over and insert hook into stitch or space.


    Pull up a loop, then yarn over and complete double crochet in the normal way.


    Completed double crochet


    Reader challenge: See if you can spot the beginning and ending of Rounds 2, 3 and 4 in the photo at the top of the blog.

    OK, I know this is the part you've all been waiting for. There are many ways to join motifs as you go. The best method is the one that gives you the results you like in your particular project. With each new project, I find it necessary to experiment with several methods to figure out which one is going to work best for me. That's why I asked you not to finish off your final round, so you can rip back a bit and play with different joining techniques.

    Today I'll show you the join-as-you-go method that I've determined suits me best for this particular afghan. If you don't like it, or if you don't like the way it looks with your project, stay tuned. Later I will be giving you additional options for joining, including another joining method and a relatively painless way to join motifs after they are all complete.

    Work the final round to the point where the stitches are to be joined. Note that I dropped the stitch from the hook to make it easier to see how the stitches


    Complete the last double crochet in the corner, then drop stitch from hook. Insert hook from front to back under corresponding stitch in first motif, then into dropped loop.


    Pull loop through to right side to complete join


    Here you see the second double crochet stitch at its half-way point. Continue working all the way across the edge, completing each dc, then joining it to the corresponding dc on the first motif.


    A completed join. Finish this round with ch-3, join with slip st to first dc. In this case, the corners themselves are not joined. Continue joining motifs along their side edges.


    Cool, huh? I'll be talking about some additional technique refinements next week, and you can find these and many more in Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs.

    I'm sure many of you more experienced crocheters have your own tips that you'd like to share with us. We would all like to hear from you. What are your favorite tips and tricks?

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