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.
Crochet rocks flat circles, as the wonderful mandalas designed by Marinke prove. However, I have a lot more experience with knitting, and since I need a square to go around my circle, I decided to knit instead of crocheting.
MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: Thinking “I should knit this!”
I know that knitting a flat circular shape is possible. In fact, I was certain it would be easy. The sides of the East Meets West Satchel I made a few years ago were originally knit as one big flat circle. (Actually, it’s a decagon — a polygon with ten sides. But it approximates a circle and generates a circular pattern, which is what I wanted.) The only trick was figuring out how many stitches to increase by as the circle got bigger.
My first “circle” was a complete experiment. I just added stitches when it felt right. Not surprisingly, when the piece was big enough to transfer from double-pointed needles to a circular needle, I discovered that my circle was actually a circle and a half and not even remotely flat.
MISTAKE NUMBER THREE: Winging it.
Since I had a deadline to meet, I stopped re-inventing the wheel. I got online and found a pattern for knitting flat circles. The pattern was simple and what I expected. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. After 10 rows, my flat circle looked like a mouse hat. I figured I was doing something wrong, unraveled it, and tried again. I got a cup, when I wanted a coaster.
By now, I was annoyed. The pattern promised a flat circle but didn’t actually make a flat circle. The pattern didn’t say anything about gauge (the size of the stitches). The instructions were extrapolated from another pattern, and the knitter must have used yarn and needles similar to those called for in the original pattern, because the circle in the picture is flat. I tried to fix the non-flat circle pattern with my own adjustments. Things improved, but the circle wasn’t flat no matter what I did.
MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR: Trying to fix something that was clearly broken.
I stepped back and thought about what I was doing, and that’s when the light bulb went off. If the size of the stitches mattered, then I needed to apply geometry.
THE THING I DID RIGHT: Stopping a minute to think about what I was trying to do.
THE OTHER THING I DID RIGHT: Realizing geometry was the answer.
Math often comes up when knitting, so I wasn’t completely daunted. However I got a C in geometry in high school, something my husband loves to tease me about since I also worked as a computer programmer for years. Although I am good at math in general, I’m not quite as confident when I have to use my ancient C-level geometry skills.
The key was to think about the circles my knitting was making. I looked up the equation for calculating the circumference of a circle (2πr) to make sure I had it right. Then I got out my gauge swatch (which I already had for this particular yarn and needle size) to measure both the height and width of my knit stitch.
I calculated number of stitches for the outside edge of each successive row of my circle and noticed a pattern was forming. The difference between the outer circumference of adjacent rows of knitting was a fixed number and that number told me exactly how many stitches I needed to increase in every row to get a flat circle. When I did the algebra (which is probably where I should have started), I found the single equation used in my simple pattern.
I sat down to knit, finally certain I would have my circle. However, increasing by five stitches in the same places every round gave me a pentagon, not a circle.
MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE: Spacing my increases at regular intervals.
I started again, this time knowing what I needed to do: increase by the same number of stitches in every row, at irregular intervals. Finally, I got something circular in design.
That I had to chase my tail a bit before realizing the elegant and simple solution to my knitting problem could be construed as proof that my C in geometry was well-deserved. However, I’d like to think my teacher would be proud to learn that more than 30 years later, I am finding ways to use geometry in my everyday life.
Of course, my ordeal was not yet over. I had to solve the problem of adding corners to my circle to make a square, plus my first block came out too large and I had to do it all over AGAIN. In the end, I think all the effort was worth it. My finished work is on display, starting today, along with the other textile contributions about world peace at the All We Are Saying show in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
Any dino-knits in your life? Feel free to share them here.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to spend my birthday money. The list has gotten so long that I now have way more I want to buy than money to spend. The list includes everything from new headphones to a new dictionary to yarn for a big project to a new purse. Suddenly, it hit me. What if I combined two of my wants into one? I could cross two things off my list and save a little money in the process.
I ruled out knitting headphones and went straight for knitting a new bag. Not that I need any, really. I’m a bit of a bag junkie. I’ve got plenty of them lying around and yet I’m always ready to add one more to the collection. I’ve knit some bags before, including the colorful East Meets West Satchel designed by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence. So I know the joy of making my own bags.
As soon as it occurred to me that I might make my new bag myself, I was online looking for ideas. Here are some of the ones that appealed to me most. (None of them actually look like the bag I think I need, but that’s not that important, right?) Some are projects made by individuals, others are available as patterns or kits from distributors. I’m not endorsing or guaranteeing anything or anyone, just sharing the things I found interesting.
The first project that caught my eye was a wonderful crocheted house bag by The Twisted Yarn. An original design, this bag has lots of lovely detail on the outside plus some good design features (like a lining) that would make it a bag you can actually use. (The pattern is not available yet, but she says it will be soon.)
While I am theoretically looking for a new purse, I found myself perusing backpacks instead. The patterns were more whimsical and appealing to my “I refuse to be a grown-up” tastes. Morehouse Farm carries a bunch of kits for animal-themed bags and backpacks that are probably intended for kids. My favorite design? The elephants, both the backpack and the little purse.
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.
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.
The pattern is very detailed and easy to follow, with lots of photos to help explain things. I used yarn instead of beads for the center of the eyes, but otherwise I followed directions. I even made the wings, although I don’t think it necessarily needs them.
My yarns were not all the same weight, so I doubled up on the thin ones. Instead of using a single yarn doubled, however, I put together two different light-weight yarns of similar shade, which gave the final project richer colors. The yellow (except for the beak) is two yarns, and the dark blue-purple is one strand of blue, one strand of purple.
The only thing I don’t like about this project is the size. I was hoping for a more petite owl, so I will try this again with a sock yarn and see if I can deal working that many stitches that small.
My other project from the week is a necklace I made while in Tucson. My sister gave me the beautiful cockatoo bead as a thank you for helping her out and I bought the rest of the beads at the show. Then she helped me finish it since my jewelry-making skills are rusty. I love how it came out.
Have you finished an art or craft project recently? Share it here!