It's been great reading all of your comments and hearing how excited you are about this crochet- along. I've sure been making progress this past week, creating the front and back panels then joining them to work the majority of the body. Traditionally beginning a crochet project means creating your starting chain then working your first row back into it, but personally I like combining those steps with the "no-chain foundation". This technique simultaneously creates a starting chain and your first row of stitches, half-doubles in this project, resulting in a very clean and stretchy edge.
Here's how to do it: For the half-double starting chain, begin by chaining 3, then yarn over and insert your hook into the third chain from the hook. Yarn over and draw up a loop, then yarn over and pull through only the first loop on your hook. Then yarn over once more and pull through all three loops left on the hook. Voila! It may not look like much yet, but that's your first chain with its attached first half-double stitch. It's just like working a half-double, but with the addition of drawing through one loop before the final yarn over and pull through three -- that additional loop is essentially creating the starting chain.
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First one done! Now just repeat, working into the bottom stitch indicated in panels 3 and 4, labeled "first chain". Again, yarn over and insert into chain created previously, yarn over and draw up a loop. Yarn over and pull through first loop only, then yarn over and pull through remaining three loops. See the video below for the full process!
Repeat until you have the correct number of half-double crochets (hdc) - this will be one less than the number of chains indicated by the pattern, but the same as the number of hdc indicated at the end of row 1. In my case for the small, I made 54 for the back and 28 for the fronts. Once you have the number of stitches you need, just turn and proceed as usual, remembering you are already on Row 2 and to work into that first chain 2 at the end of the row.
Of course, you are more than welcome to use a standard chain to start as well, just wanted to share one of my favorite crochet techniques! Please feel free to ask any questions here in the comments or in the Ravelry group; my user name there is UberOrange.
Having completed both the back and two front pieces, it's time to join them for the body (Row 15 in the pattern). This is pretty simple: just work across the Right Front, then into the corner of the back and across, then into the corner of the Left Front and across, resulting in one long row to work. One thing I did as I joined was work in the ends of the pieces by crocheting over them as I worked into the stitches. This just saves time so there aren't as many ends to weave in when you're finished, something I hate doing!
The instructions are a little wordy, but just remember you are maintaining that 5 hdc border on each edge for this join row. Row 16, however, is where you switch to creating chain 1 spaces all the way across, with the border only at the beginning and end, and repeating this for another 13 inches (more or less if you prefer to change the length). I'm going to get going on the rest of this body, and next week I'll talk about the armhole shaping, blocking and seaming!
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