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Help! I'm Cheating On My Knitting!

So I've foolishly decided to try crochet. Not instead of knitting--no chance, no way--but as a useful adjunct to knitting. Sometimes patterns say "just crochet a chain/stitch/double-half treble triple stitch" as if we all learned crochet in Brownies and turned to knitting later when we became s'phisticated adults, but that's not the case for me (I was in Cub Scouts, one year only, and I learned left from right and how to play Capture the Flag and that's about it).

Therefore, any sensible knitter would have a few crochet stitches in their arsenal. But, as any reader of my blog is probably already aware, Uncle Stashley is not a "sensible" knitter. Nope. I decided to take up crochet because I have fallen passionately, desperately in love.

Here's what happened. I was visiting local yarn shop Three Bags Full (and really, at this point I'm not sure the word "visiting" applied. Do you "visit" your dining room, or office, or front yard? I'm certainly at the local yarn shop more often than I'm in many parts of my home). And there, artlessly spread out on the central table, was a thing of beauty. It was colourful. It was textured. It called to me. "Ashley!" it cried, sounding a bit like Scarlett Johansson but as if she didn't always have a cold. "Ashley, make me, make me, make me!"

"What is this maddening creature?" I asked, and then the full horror was unveiled. I, a knitter, had inadvertently fallen in love with a crochet project. It was Abie's Irish Rose* all over again.

The project was Sophie's Universe. Apparently there's a whole Sophie's thing going on--it started simple, like Sophie's Flower, then if you crochet more stuff around the flower you get Sophie's Garden, and if you crochet more stuff around that you get Sophie's Mandala, and if you crochet more stuff around that you get Sophie's Universe, and if you crochet more stuff around that you Go Mad! Bwahahahahahahaha!!!

Instructor Melissa Caines (who taught me Fair Isle knitting and many other worthwhile endeavours) was working on this beautiful beast of a project. How big is Sophie's Universe? So big that its designers released a 210 page book containing the pattern! The book is almost impossible to find, but they still have copies at Three Bags Full (4458 Main Street), so check it out.) So it's incredibly well documented, and step-by-step videos also exist.

Surely I, a novice crocheter who has never so much as held a hook in my hand before, should have no problem completing this:

(Crocheted by Ravelry user "delighted40" ... just look at those ravishing colours and sumptuous texture!)

Here's the final item, as pictured on the book cover (of course I bought it) I'll be making it in the Worsted Weight* version and similar but not identical colours to the colourway* shown here. (Oh, and speaking of colourways--if you want a good laugh, go to Ravelry, find Sophie's Universe, click on Projects, and giggle away at the occasional unfortunate choices there. You'll know when you see them. I mean, this had to take months and months of work, and they chose to crochet it in those colours? Yikes! Yes, I'm bitchy).

All right. Learning Crochet. Should be a cinch, right? I mean, the reputation of crochet among knitters is basically this:

  • It's so easy they used to teach it to two year olds so they've have something to do during sermons that kept their idle hands busy

  • Useful for making stiff, unyielding garments that remind you of the 70s.

  • Necessary if you have an obsession with small unnecessary items like tiny crocheted bread loaves or sea otters.

Compared to knitting, this should be a walk in the park, downhill, late Spring. But no! I became deeply confused very quickly, even when triangulating between books, pamphlets, web sites, and youtube video instructions.

  • They kept talking about the "height" of stitches. Turns out none of them actually meant height, they meant length (like if your scarf is 4 feet long, that's its length. Maybe it's maybe up of 12 rows of 4" long stitches. But in the crochet world, you say "height" instead of length. (In the knitting world, all the rows are basically the same length, so we don't have the same obsession--but in crochet, the various stitches you learn all have different lengths, sorry, "heights.")

  • It took a while to figure out that most instructions for creating stitches were really instructions for creating stitches in a square of crochet when you have reached the end of a row and are turning it over. They give extra information that isn't part of the stitch, just prep work, but if you're a new crocheter it's impossible to ferret out the stitch from the prep for the stitch.

  • The hardest part is reading the stitches. Unlike beginner knitting (where you knit through relatively obvious loops on your left needle) you have to stick your crochet hook's giant head into your crochet fabric at the right place. When your fabric looks like a big, thing, lump of porridge, it's very difficult to discern where to attack.

  • I'm still confused by this one: everyone seems to agree that you shouldn't stick your hook through one strand of yarn (it causes unsightly gaps), but through two strands of yarn, either the front-facing two (the V) or the top of the V and the butt stitch behind. Here's my issue: If there are three strands in a stich (two in the V and one in the butt), every time you stick it through two on one side, you're sticking it through only one on the other side. I mean, that's just math. Take 2 away from 3 and you're left with 1. So I don't get it.

Anyway, slowly I'm learning. Because I have more money than sense, I am practicing with Noro Kureyon yarn (i.e. Expensive) even though my final project is destined to be on Cascade 220 (reasonably priced). I have made Round 1 of Sophie's Universe three times, and am finally pleased with the result and ready to move on to Round 2. Wish me luck!

On My Needles

(I will mark with a ! when I have advanced beyond last mention)

  • Sophie's Universe (Round 1 done)!

  • GGN Norwegian Ski Sweater (Chart B row 4) !

  • Vice Versa scarf (double knitting!) finishing the third row of squares (now with windows inside the outer ones) !

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (row 23 of the second hexagon) !

  • A Random Blanket (about 1/4 through) !

On the backburner:

  • Feather Duster Lace Shawl (I'm repeating, for the first time, the body section)

  • A Church Mouse sock (prior to heel)

  • World's Simplest Mittens (prior to thumb)

  • A Hitchhiker Scarf (started over a year ago. It's for when I'm needing mobile knitting and every other project is stuck at a complicated point. I will be in the middle forever, I guess)

  • Simply Ribbed Scarf (again, it's ancient, intended for emergency mobile knitting, and I'm in the middle)


*Abie's Irish Rose = a long-running play from the early 20th century about the romance between a Jewish man and an Irish woman--at the time it was considered the height of hilarity that people from different socio-cultural backgrounds might fall in love. Nowadays, of course, it's still often considered the height of hilarity, although usually because the man is fat and plain but the woman is slim and attractive.

*Worsted Weight = one of the most-used yarn sizes (yarns are sized by diameter, not weight, despite the term--it's about how many stitches can fit in an inch), right in the middle between teensy sock yarns and clunky chunky yarns. Good for sweaters, blankets, hats, scarves, etc. Because we try to keep you on your toes, there is also the term "worsted spun yarn" which is not a size but a method of creating yarn. You can have worsted weight yarn that's not worsted spun, and non-worsted weight yarn that is definitely worsted spun. Sorry, but I came late to the party and have no influence on naming conventions.

*Colourway = a suggested set of colours that all work together for a particular project. Some projects come with a variety of colourways, but most come with just one. You can always ignore and substitute your own preferred colours, but at your peril if your taste is questionable.

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