Crochet Coloring Pooling Tricks and Tips

After two weeks of experimenting, I finally got crochet color pooling to produce an argyle pattern. For anyone interested in trying it, here are my tips for this technique.

crochetcolorpooling_web
Crochet color pooling using Red Heart Super Saver “Wildflower”

1) Before you do anything else, watch some good videos. I recommend these by Marly Bird: a how-to that walks you through the basics and her secrets for success which include ten great tips. She mentions that this is a “fussy” technique. This is an understatement.

2) Definitely follow Marly Bird’s Secret Number Three: when stitching the first row, stitch around the foundation chain instead of through it*. With all the tension changes you have to do throughout the piece, the last thing you need is the bottom edge bowed because the tension in later rows doesn’t match the first row (and it never did for me, no matter how many times I tried this).

firstrow_inchain_web
This is what happens when you stitch into the chain for the first row. No amount of blocking will fix this.
firstrow_cu_web
A close up of the first row with the stitches around the chain. You can slide them back and forth to match the tension later, giving you a flat, square piece.

3) Figure out the usual number of stitches (where “sc ch 1” = 1 “stitch”) you can get out of each color. (This is my adaptation of Marly Bird’s Secret Number Four.) This is easily discovered. Just crochet in granite/moss pattern. Don’t worry about making the color pooling work. Note down how many stitches you are getting for each color instead. Do four or five color repeats. Then, when you start your color pooling project for real, make sure your first row has the most common number of stitches for each color. Move to a different section of yarn if it doesn’t. This makes things go much more smoothly later.

4) Be less than perfect. While Marly Bird’s argyle patterns are crisp and inspire us to reach for perfection, I had to lighten up when it came to some sections of yarn. I found that the greatest variation in color length happened when two similar colors or two colors of similar value were adjacent to one another. My yarn (Red Heart Super Saver “Wildflower”) has a section of teal that changes to grass green. You almost can’t see the color change, which makes it hard to find the transition. Also, this section seemed to be the least consistent in color length. Sometimes I got 4 teal stitches, sometimes 3. And the grass green could be 2 or 3. What I found was that together, the teal and grass green usually came out to 6 stitches, no matter how the stitch number varied for each color. So I made that my goal and stopped worrying about where the teal turned green. This also happened with a light green to light blue section, so I did the same thing there. Because the values are so close, this compromise doesn’t affect the overall pattern very much.

color_cu_web
If you look closely at the blue-green stripe running from upper left to lower right, you’ll see that in any one row, the number of grass green and teal green stitches vary. Keeping the total number of blue-green stitches the same is easier to do.

5) Be prepared to work slowly. There is lots of ripping back and stitching again. Once I got my yarn working for me (using the tips above), I was able to do more straight crocheting without changing hooks. But there are still plenty of places (usually the edges when I turn) that I wind up re-making the same stitches two or three times.

6) Be prepared to concentrate. This is not a project to make when you are sitting in meetings or lectures. Even after lots of practice, I find I can’t pay much attention to anything else while working on my project. The TV can be on, but it has to be mindless (sporting events or something I’m not really interested in). Educational TV is out; I miss most of what’s said.

*For those who didn’t watch the secrets video: when you turn to start the first row, stitch in the chain for the first granite/moss stitch. After that, it’s around the chain for the rest of the row.

The Upside of Stubborn

I saw this video on how to make an argyle pattern with a crochet stitch and got all excited. I had to try it. I went through my stash and found a yarn I thought would work (based on their explanations) but after several tries, I hadn’t succeeded.

earlyattempt_sockyarn_web
One of many failed attempts (this one used a sock yarn I had in my stash). NOTE: I’m pretty sure I could get this yarn to work now that I know more about it.
crochetargyle_web
Intentional crochet color pooling, or how to get an argyle pattern using only one yarn.

Determined to make something using this fun technique, I went out and bought a yarn that was on one of many lists of yarns that have been tested and work. I bought a crochet hook (I) to match the yarn and went to it.

I tried. And I tried. And I tried. I started using smaller and smaller hooks to see if I could get the pattern to work, but nothing was working. I went through 5 different hooks (I had to buy 3 of them). I crocheted, then ripped it out, then crocheted some more. Lots of ripping it back out.

I had ideas I thought would fix my problems and none of them worked.

But I still wanted to succeed.

So I watched another video. This one had a few details I had missed before, plus it cleared up a misconception I had about how the pattern should develop. She was much more adamant about the fussiness of this technique. I knew I might need to adjust tension now and then. She explained it was something that must be done constantly.

I started again, this time with a set of 3 hooks (G, H, I). I kept close tabs on how the colors were showing up in the stitches, and would change hooks to fix the tension (pulling out stitches to re-make them) until the colors were in the right places.

It is a fussy technique, but at last, I got it working. And I realized that stubbornness (more kindly referred to as determination) only makes us successful if we recognize that something isn’t working and we change what we are doing. To keep doing the thing that doesn’t work over and over again doesn’t get us anywhere.

I changed hooks. I gathered more ideas about how to do it by watching another video. I made more notes to help myself figure out how to get the colors to come out right.

And I succeeded.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED: Click here for the tips and tricks that helped me most.

When has being stubborn paid off for you?

The Colorful Crochet of Marinke Slump

I’m in the middle of knitting my block for the All We Are Saying peace blanket project. I probably should have tried crocheting it, but I’m still feeling like a bumbling beginner. As a beginner, I’m on the lookout for simple patterns that interest me so I can get some practice in while making something I love.

Recently, I came across the work of Marinke Slump (also known as Wink). I’m in love with the bright colors she uses, as well as her mastery of making simple projects look elegant. Her website provides lots of free patterns, as well as a few for sale.

What first caught my attention was her mandalas. I love circles and they seem to be a natural shape to crochet. Hers vary from the most basic concentric circles to intricate flower-like structures.

Standard Mandala by Marinke Slump
Standard Mandala by Marinke Slump
Picot Mandala by Marinke Slumpe
Picot Mandala by Marinke Slumpe

Her little hearts are definitely on my list of things to try. I can imagine these cuties hanging from a Christmas tree or as a pin with some beads or embroidery added.

Little hearts by Marinke Slump
Little hearts by Marinke Slump

The other thing Slump does well is make use of granny squares. Her crochet squares bag makes an unusually shaped carry-all from a stack of granny squares.

Crochet squares bag by Marinke Slump
Crochet squares bag by Marinke Slump

The single-color granny squares in her kaleidoscopic lap rug give an old stand-by a fresh, modern look.

Kaleidoscope lap rug by Marinke Slump
Kaleidoscope lap rug by Marinke Slump

I keep talking about Marinke in the present tense, but I first learned about her through the Mandalas for Marinke project which was created in response to her suicide in June 2015. Knowing that she struggled with depression and crocheted to help herself deal with it just makes all these projects seem that much more precious to me. She was able to capture the light with her hook and yarn. It’s sad to think that the dark defeated her.

Dinosaurs From the Knit-aceous Period

My recent dragon fixation has shifted to dinosaurs. I’m not sure how I got the itch to combine dinosaurs and yarn, but I’m apparently not the only one. There are some amazing dinosaur patterns out there, in a full range of styles.

For fast and cute, you can’t beat these adorable crocheted baby brachiosaurs (free pattern) designed by Jana Whitley.

Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley
Baby Brachiosaurus designed by Jana Whitley

You can also knit a more complex and stylized stegosaurus (free pattern) designed by Tina Barrett.

stegasaurus

In fact, Deramores has a plethora of free dinosaur patterns for both knitters and crocheters, including the two I mentioned above. Definitely check out their other offerings, including with the exciting news that archeologists have discovered the first knitting dinosaur, the Derasaur. (They posted that on April 1. Do you think that means something?)

If you want a more practical dino, how about a hat? Free patterns are available for both crocheted (Danyel Pink)  and knitted (Kris Hanson) hats with dinosaur spikes on top.

Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Dinosaur Spikes crocheted cap designed by Danyel Pink
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson
Knit Dino Cap, designed by Kris Hanson

Of all the dino knits I found, however, my favorite is Christine Grant’s Tracy Triceratops, which has the level of detail I love in an animal knitting project.

Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant
Tracy Triceratops, knit pattern by Christine Grant

While I’m sharing fun dino-knits, I can’t pass up sharing Katie Bradley’s charming tortoise “cozies”. She knits these covers (or costumes, depending on how you look at it) for her many pet tortoises. She’s made them pumpkin covers, shark fins, and, of course, dinosaur spikes.

Katie Bradley's adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style
Katie Bradley’s adorable Tortoise Cozies, dinosaur style

To get the full fun of her creations, watch this short video of her pets modeling their cozies.

I’m not willing to tell you what exactly I am up to with my own dinosaur knitting project. So here’s a teaser picture to give you a hint.

Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???
Tyrannosaurus Rex + yarn = ???

Any dino-knits in your life? Feel free to share them here.

A Flight of Dragons to Knit or Crochet

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about knitting myself a dragon. While I love the body shape of the knit Nessie I made a few years ago, I have yet to figure out how to adapt it to make a dragon. So I looked online for patterns to see if someone else has already come up with a design I would like. I found more cutesy dragons than realistic ones, but perhaps that’s not so surprising when you consider they are all made from friendly, fluffy yarn.

The crochet projects are particularly cute. Darby the Dragon (Dragons Don’t Knit) has a sweet baby dragon look that would make it a great child’s companion.

Darby the Dragon by Dragons Don't Knit
Darby the Dragon, designed by Dragons Don’t Knit

A more complex crocheted dragon is Smaug the African Flower Dragon which is made using colorful pentagonal sections that look like fancy five-sided granny squares.

Smaug the African Flower Dragon by Heidi Bears
Smaug the African Flower Dragon by Heidi Bears

For How to Train Your Dragon fans, there is this adorable Toothless crocheted hat designed by Alexandra Britt.

Alexandra Britt's crocheted Toothless beanie
Alexandra Britt’s crocheted Toothless beanie

The knit dragons are a little more realistic in appearance. Crafty Mutt’s scaly dragon uses elaborate metal sequins to add hard scales to the dragon’s soft body.

scalyDragon_web
Scale Mail Dragon by Crafty Mutt

But you don’t have to knit your dragon in three dimensions. A beautiful flat dragon knit is Kathleen Taylor’s Dragon Ride Shawl.

Dragon Ride Shawl by Kathleen Taylor
Dragon Ride Shawl by Kathleen Taylor

I still haven’t decided which, if any, of these to make. I may have to try my hand at designing my own after all.

Do you have a favorite pattern for knitting or crocheting a dragon? If so, please share it with me!

Star Wars + Yarn = Fabulous Geeky Knits and Crochets

I recently saw a wonderful kit for crocheting amigurumi versions of various Star Wars characters. All I have room to show you is Yoda, but you get the idea. Awesome cute! You can see more of Lucy Ravenscar’s wonderful Star Wars designs at her website. (Note: She’s listed as Lucy Collin on the book, but seems to go by Ravenscar online.)

Amigurumi yoda, design by Lucy Ravenscar Collin
Amigurumi Yoda, design by Lucy Ravenscar (Collin)

It got me thinking: I could be knitting fan stuff. My first knitting project ever was the fourth Doctor’s long striped scarf (it turned out four feet wide), but I don’t think I’ve paid attention to geeky knits since. Ravenscar’s adorable patterns got me thinking I should let other things that I love inspire my knitting.

Looking around for other geeky yarn projects, I stumbled across a goldmine. Geek Crafts has plenty of DIY ideas for the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book fans out there. Many of the projects have patterns or instructions available. Geek Crafts showcases every needlecraft there is, plus lamps, rugs, furniture, cars — you name it, someone has poured their fan love all over it.

To give you just a taste of the wide variety of wonderful stuff at Geek Crafts, here are some of the knitted and crocheted projects that caught my eye.

They have the basic projects you would expect, like geeky hats and scarves. This knitted Yoda hat and crocheted TARDIS hat are both mentioned in a winter hat review.

Knit me, you should!
Knit me, you should!
Bigger on the inside.
Bigger on the inside.

More ambitious fans have made entire outfits, like this knitted Captain America costume and this crocheted Starfleet uniform.

knitCaptAmerica

crocStarfleet

They even have mini-projects for people like me, in a wide range of styles. Everything from fairly ordinary (but cute!) knitted planets to the rather odd (and still cute!) Avenger snails.

Wouldn't these make a great mobile?
Wouldn’t these make a great mobile?
I know, I know. Totally odd. I think that's why I love them so much.
I know, I know. Totally odd. I think that’s why I love them so much.

For the true die-hard fan, they even have directions for making your own tools. Who needs lightsaber knitting needles or a lightsaber crochet hook? We do!

Do yourself a favor and go check out Geek Crafts. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the wonderful geeky goodness of this site. You’ll be amazed by the wide range of fans that they cater to and the mind-boggling variety of crafts that they display.

Have you ever made a geeky craft or been tempted to? I’d love to hear about it! Please share.

Tired of Snow? Here’s Some Color Therapy to Warm You Up

I love snow and I hate snow. I love how peaceful the world feels as it’s falling. Everyone hides inside and waits for the storm to end and we wind up with a world that looks new and magical in its fluffy coat. Unfortunately, I don’t tolerate the cold well, and all that whiteness eventually gets on my nerves. It doesn’t take long before the dreamy, peaceful landscape seems barren and dead. I need some color to help warm me up.

When I lived in upstate New York, the darkness of the winters would weigh me down. My favorite antidote was color therapy: I’d spend my lunch hour at my favorite quilt store, wandering through the rooms, absorbing all the colors displayed on the shelves of fabric. I’d usually go home with at least a fat quarter of something new to play with, but the real benefit was being exposed to color to counter winter’s white, black, and gray.

Thanks to the internet, you can get color therapy without leaving the house. While I was soaking up the beautiful colors in other people’s projects, I realized the things I found were too cool not to share.

Part of my color therapy is just working with bright colors myself. Recently, I made some more crochet owls using Bunny Mummy’s free pattern. While I think the pattern is really cute, I was pretty sure smaller would be even cuter, so I dug out scraps of sock yarn and got to work. I’ve included the owl I made using worsted to give you an idea of the size difference.

Owls

A brightly colored project that made me smile, Graziela Leah’s DIY tea cozy uses an unusual crochet stitch. Click through to see some pictures of how the crocheted chain that goes up the side of the pot is made.

DIY Tea Cozy Leah

Another rainbow project that caught my eye was Rocky Char’s knitted equalities cowl. A simple idea with colorful results.

equalitiesCowl

Also for knitters, I found Nikki M’s stranded colorwork. She’s making a scarf full of different patterns in order to practice the technique. Smart!

colorwork

Perhaps the most elegant dose of color I found is this knitted shawl by Mollie and Claire. (I think Claire did the knitting; Mollie is apparently a dog.)

ShawlMollieandclaire

Do you need color therapy to get through the winter? What do you do to get it?