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.
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".
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.
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?