Crochet Along with Me: 5-Panel Blanket

5-Panel Crochet Blanket

For the next several weeks, over on the Plymouth Yarn Magazine blog, I’m going to be hosting a free Crochet Along (CAL). I’d love to have you join us.

5-Panel Crochet Blanket Crochet Along

We’ll be crocheting a 5-Panel Blanket. Each panel is made with a different stitch pattern, and along the way I’ll show you not only the stitch pattern, but tips and tricks for making your crocheting easier.

Don’t love the colors? Not a problem! Choose colors that suit your decor.
Find all the details here.

Gather up your yarn, and join me and Plymouth Yarn as we crochet along together.

Past Crochet Alongs

Last year I hosted a crochet along here on the blog and on Ravelry. You can buy the completed pattern for the Skill-Builder Blanket Crochet Blanket CAL.

Skill-Builder Crochet Blanket

St. Distaff’s Day

Pietro_Antonio_Rotari, Young Girl with Distaff

Distaff Day, or St. Distaff’s Day, occurs on January 7. The twelve days of Christmas are over, and it’s time to get back to work, for real.

Distaff Day is a way to recognize and celebrate women’s work in the home. Spinning was hugely important throughout history, and in European traditions it became synonymous with women’s work.

Pietro Antonio Rotari-Young Girl with Distaff

Today, some spinners celebrate January 7 as a kind of event, getting together for spin-ins and other fun.

Even if you’re not a spinner, I think it’s good to stop and think about all that unrecognized work that women have done to keep generations of people clothed. If you work with any kind of fiber to create fabric, you are doing the same thing. And we don’t need to be gender-specific here. Let’s recognize and celebrate all fiber crafts done by everyone!

What is a Distaff?

A distaff is a tool used to hold unspun fibers. The fiber is loosely wrapped around the distaff. The distaff can be held under the arm when drop spinning, or attached to a spinning wheel.

Man and Woman with Distaff
From 1941. Notice the woman and walking and spinning. [FOTO:FORTEPAN / Schwertner Ágnes, Woman, man, double portrait, street view, moustache, distaff, weaving, hat, village Fortepan 73437, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Woman spinning from distaff
1907 German postcard, spinning flax

There are different styles, but a basic distaff is simply a smooth stick with a finial of some sort. Russian-style distaffs look more like boards, and can be highly decorative.

collection of Russian distaffs
Russian Distaffs [shakko, Russian distaffs 01 (Ferapontov), CC BY-SA 3.0]

Who was St. Distaff?

Nobody. There wasn’t an saint, or even a person. (My opionion? The name probably came about because it is the “13th day of Christmas” and somebody back in history was trying to be clever.)

The 17th Century poet Robert Herrick wrote about shenanigans that happened on “S. Distaff Day”.

Saint Distaff’s Day, or The Morrow After Twelfth Day

Partly work and partly play
Ye must on S. Distaff’s day:
From the plough soon free your team,
Then come home and fodder them.
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow;
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maidenhair.
Bring in pails of water, then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give S. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good-night;
And next morrow everyone
To his own vocation.

If you’d like to read a bit more about the history of St. Distaff’s Day, and spinning in general, check out these links:

Saint Distaff’s Day
Chambers Book of Days

Back to Work

To celebrate St. Distaff’s Day, I suggest you pick up your favorite fiber tools, gather some fiber (already spun yarn counts!) and get back to work.

6 Crafting New Year’s Resolutions I Can Keep

6 Crafting New Year's Resolutions I Can Keep
6 Crafting New Year's Resolutions That I Can Keep graphic

Conventional wisdom says that sharing New Year’s resolutions with someone else is supposed to keep us accountable and thus more likely to achieve success.

I’ve come up with 6 reasonable and sustainable goals for my crafting life in the New Year. With your help, I think I can achieve them. Who wants to join me with these New Year’s Resolutions?

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support me but don’t cost you anything extra.

Resolution #1: Allow My Yarn to Mature

Resolution #1 Mature Yarn: skein of natural-colored Candide Yarn
This classic yarn has been in my stash for many years.

Not all yarn needs to be used immediately. Sometimes it needs to age until it is ready to reach its full potential.

This process may take years. Since yarn doesn’t go bad if properly cared for—in moth-proof storage, for example—there’s no time limit on when it must be used. I have yarn that is more than 25 years old. It’s still a nice color. It’s still wool. It just hasn’t decided what it’s going to be.

My yarn stash serves as high-quality housing insulation.

I resolve to not stash bust this year.


Resolution #2: Allow My Yarn Stash to Grow

Resolution #2: New yarn from Stunning String Studio
Who wouldn’t want this beautiful pink yarn from Stunning String Studio? And some cute stitch markers, too?

Forget “yarn diets”! They just make me feel guilty about buying new yarn. Yarn doesn’t have calories and it doesn’t make me fat, so why should I diet?

Instead, I want to embrace the joy that purchasing a beautiful new yarn brings: the expectation of a future project; the zen of repetitive motion as colorful fiber slips through my fingers; the prospect of unlimited options.

Budapest Yarn Shop
I bought souvenir yarn with my last forints in this shop in Budapest.

Yarn makes an excellent travel souvenir. Every time I see that ball of yarn I bought in Budapest, I remember the adventure I had finding the yarn shop. I couldn’t read the street signs, the store was on a small street away from any tourist areas, and no one around spoke English (or Spanish or French, which were other languages I tried). When I found the shop, we all had a marvelous time visiting and admiring each others’ work, despite some pretty significant language challenges. They helped me figure out how many forints I could spend and still have enough change to take the tram back to the boat. If I had been on a yarn diet, I would have missed that entire experience!

I resolve to buy more yarn this year.


Resolution #3: Allow My Yarn to Range Free

Resolution #3 messy studio space with free-range yarn
The sad truth is that my studio is never Instagram-worthy.

Some people like a very tidy desk, a very tidy house, and a very tidy studio. I am not one of those people. While I like a neat kitchen, living room and bedroom, when it comes to my creative spaces, “tidy” is not a word that any one would use.

When I’m being creative, I want to see things out in the open. As I sit and crochet with one yarn, I like to let my eyes rest on other yarn that I have yet to use. I allow my mind to wander and dream of my next project. If everything is tucked away from sight, I can’t do that. I prefer free-range yarn.

I resolve not to organize my stash this year.


Resolution #4: Allow Some Yarn to Depart

Resolution #4: bag of yarn to donate
Not all yarn needs to live at my house.

This resolution may seem at odds with Resolutions #1 and #2, but it’s not. I do have a finite amount of storage space, and an even more finite amount of open (free-range) space.

Sometimes as yarn matures, it tells me it needs to leave the house and spread joy elsewhere. (Infrequently, it tells me this the moment it arrives at my house, but often it takes a bit longer.)

Maybe the color is not my thing, or the fiber content. Maybe I swatched with it and just couldn’t get it to behave in the way I wanted it to. These are the yarns that are ready to spread their wings and depart my nest.

There are plenty of people who would love my unloved yarn. I’ve given to senior centers, elementary and middle schools, and church groups, and they are always happy to accept donations.

I resolve to give away yarn this year.


Resolution #5: Use the Best Tools

Resolution #5: Circular knitting needles stored in The Circular Solution
I don’t love every single one of these needles. It’s time for some to find a new home.

I have a lot of crochet hooks, and even more knitting needles. I have tape measures in every drawer and project bag.

However, some of those tools aren’t the greatest. Needles may have blunt tips or sticky finishes that I find annoying. A few circular needles have a catchy cable-to-needle join. Certain brands of crochet hooks don’t fit my hand and make crocheting awkward and uncomfortable. A couple of those tape measures are surely stretched out and faded.

Some of these items should be discarded entirely, while others would be perfect for another crafter. Why am I keeping these tools?

I resolve to use only tools that make my crafting more enjoyable.

Resolution #6: Practice Safe Crafting

Resolution #6: Knitting Comfortably cover

If I want to keep knitting and crocheting for years to come, I need to take care of my body. This means avoiding repetitive stress injury, getting up and moving instead of sitting at my computer and behind my needles/hook. It means getting sufficient full-body exercise. It means using a body-friendly bag when I go to teaching gigs, fiber shows and shopping sprees. It means paying attention to proper lighting, keeping my yarn and electrical cords out from underfoot, and more.

These are not new resolutions to me, but it helps to remind myself of them. One of my go-to resources for reminding myself of these things is Carson Demers’ excellent book Knitting Comfortably. (Read my interview with Carson.)

I resolve to pay attention to crafting ergonomics this year.

Final Thoughts

Of course, I could make more traditional goals that would make me more organized, tidier, and maybe even more financially responsible. But I probably wouldn’t keep them, and that failure would just make me feel bad.

I’m content with the way things are, and these goals fit into my lifestyle this year. If they don’t fit into yours, that’s fine. Perhaps you need to save money and thus should use stash yarn all year. Maybe an untidy crafting spaces gives you the creeps, or UFOs make you nervous. Perhaps your living space doesn’t allow for more yarn.

Embrace what works for you, and set your goals accordingly. This fiber-crafting thing is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Make it so.

What about you? What are your goals for the New Year?
Share in the Comments below.

How to Knit Intarsia in Garter Stitch

Garter Stitch Intarsia
Garter Stitch Intarsia Swatch

Intarsia knitting can be a fun color knitting technique! The trick is in understanding how to prevent holes at the color changes. While a lot of intarsia projects are knitted in stockinette stitch, it’s easy to do in garter stitch if you know how.

Let’s work through this simple intarsia sample together, and I’ll show you how wonderful it can be to knit intarsia in garter stitch. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a video.

This post may contain affiliate links which may provide a small income to me if you buy something, but don’t cost you anything.

What is Intarsia Knitting?

Intarsia is a color knitting technique that uses one yarn color at a time to create blocks of color. You work across stitches in one color, then drop the old color and pick up the new color to begin working the next stitches.

The yarns are twisted around each other at the color change to prevent holes.

Compare this to stranded knitting techniques where you hold multiple colors across a row, or slip stitch techniques which use just one yarn and just one color across the entire row.

yarn balls and yarn butterfly
I’m using three colors. The pink is wound into a yarn butterfly.

You can use separate full balls of yarn, or wind your yarn into yarn butterflies or yarn bobbins.

In this sample I used full balls for the blue and the green and a yarn butterfly for the pink. I’m using Marly Bird’s Chic Sheep from Red Heart, and Clover Takumi bamboo knitting needles, size 5 mm.

Intarsia in Stockinette Stitch vs. Garter Stitch

If you’ve never done intarsia before, it can seem intimidating. Just remember that you are only holding one strand of yarn at a time, so how hard can it really be?

There’s a simple rule for remembering how to twist the yarns at the color change:

  • Hold the old color to the left
  • Pick up the new color from underneath (and to the right of) the old color
  • Begin working with the new color.

The trick is to cross the yarns on the wrong side at each color change to prevent a hole. In stockinette stitch this becomes intuitive, because the yarn is just where it needs to be, at the front or back of the knitting, as you come to it. In garter stitch, however, when you are knitting wrong side rows, you have to bring the yarn forward between the needles to allow that yarn crossing to happen on the wrong side.

Confused? Me too. I’d rather show you.

Reading a Chart

Garter stitch is usually worked from a chart. While there are different ways of presenting the information for a garter stitch chart, we’ll be working from this one.

Intarsia in Garter Stitch chart

I’ve made a printable pdf of the chart available to make it easier for you to follow along.

Download the PDF for chart Button

This chart is read in the ordinary way, with each rectangle representing a stitch. Right side (odd-numbered) rows are worked from right to left and wrong side (even-numbered) rows are worked from left to right. Note that all the rows are knit.

Intarsia in Garter Stitch chart

Cast On and Row 1

Garter Stitch Intarsia Cast on and Row 1
Cast on 10 stitches in each color.

You’ll read the chart beginning with Row 1, a right side row. If you use a long-tail cast on, you can count the cast on as Row 1. This is what I like to do when working garter stitch.

Using a long-tail cast on, cast on 10 stitches in blue, then 10 stitches in green. At this point, the cast ons will not be connected to each other.

Row 2

Row 2 is a wrong side row, read from left to right. Knit 10 stitches in green.

Garter Stitch Intarsia Row 2, photo 1
Bring old color between needles to the front.

Now that you’ve finished with the green for this row, it’s time to change to blue, but you need to twist the yarns to prevent a hole. This twist needs to happen on the wrong side. Since this is a wrong side row, that means that the twist needs to happen on the side closest to you.

Garter Stitch Intarsia, Row 2, photo 2
Pick up new color from underneath so that the old color crosses over the new color.

Bring the old color (green) to the front between the needles. Hold it to the left. Pick up the new color (blue) from underneath the old color and bring it between the needles to the back.


Bring new color to the back and knit with new color.

Begin knitting with the new color, and knit to the end of the row.

Row 3

Garter Stitch Intarsia, hold old color to the left
On right side rows, hold old color to the left.

This is a right side row, and the color change will happen on the back (wrong side). Knit 10 with blue, then hold the old color (blue) to the left


Garter Stitch Intarsia Pick up new color from underneath old color.
Pick up new color from underneath old color.

and pick up the new color (green) from underneath the old color. Knit 10 with green.


Row 4

Once more on a wrong side row, for good measure: Knit 10 blue, bring yarn forward between the needles. Hold the blue to the left. Pick up the green from underneath the blue and bring the green to the back. Knit 10 with green.

Row 5

Garter Stitch Intarsia Add pink on Row 5
Add pink on Row 5.

It’s time to add a third color! Knit 9 stitches in blue. Leaving a long tail, knit 2 stitches in pink. Hold the pink to the left and pick up the green from underneath, knit 9 stitches in green.

Rows 6-24

Work in pattern according to the chart, crossing the yarns when the colors change.

Bind Off and Weaving In Ends

Garter Stitch Intarsia Bind off closeup
Knit the last stitch of the blue with green yarn.

Bind off on a right side row, using the following trick to make sure you maintain a clean color transition. Beginning with blue, bind off until there is 1 blue stitch on your right needle and 1 blue stitch on your left needle.



Garter Stitch Intarsia completed bind off
This bind-off method prevents the blue from creeping into the green section.

Knit the next stitch in green (turning the blue stitch into a green stitch). Continue binding off in green.


Garter Stitch Intarsia Weave in ends.
Weave in ends.

Use the remaining pink tails to close up the holes at the beginning and end of the diamond, then weave in those ends on the wrong side of the pink section. Weave in remaining ends.

What are you going to knit next? Will you give garter stitch intarsia a try?

Stocking Stuffers for Knitters and Crocheters

Stocking Stuffers for Knitters & Crocheters
Stocking Stuffers for Knitters & Crocheters

Stuff a stocking with tools and notions for a fiber artist in your life. They’ll love you for it, and you may even get a handmade gift in return! Here are some suggestions for stocking stuffers for knitters and crocheters.

Scroll over the image for more information, or click the links to learn more.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide a small income to me if you buy something, but won’t cost you anything extra.

Stitch Markers

Every crocheter and knitter uses stitch markers, and if they don’t, they should! And markers have a way of getting lost, so we always need more.

There are several different styles of marker. Even if the gift recipient has a current favorite, it’s always a good idea to try new products. Try them all!

Hint: Crocheters need markers that open. Look for the words “locking”, “split ring”, or “opening” in the title to make sure you are getting the right kind.

Scissors

A good pair of scissors is always appreciated. I’m always on the lookout for tiny scissors that pack easily but are sharp enough to cut well.

Wondering about scissors in your airplane carry-on? According to the TSA, scissors with blades less than 4″ are allowed. However, razor blade style circular thread cutters are not allowed.



Small Tools & Notions

Besides stitch markers and scissors, there are all kinds of little tools that make a fiber artist’s life easier. Here are some suggestions.

Hint: Check before buying tape measures. They either have WAY too many already, or not quite enough.


Note Cards & Paper

We can’t play with yarn ALL the time! Sometimes we have to write old-fashioned notes, on paper.

A Google search will lead you to lots of knitting and crochet-themed paper products. Here are some of my favorites.

Things to Drink From

It’s important for crafters to stay hydrated. Whether that’s water, soda, or wine, there are plenty of options for yarn-related beverage containers.

Once you open your eyes to the possibilities, there are lots of stocking stuffers for knitters and crocheters.

Want ideas for larger gifts? Read 12 Gifts for Knitters and Crocheters, and Sheep-Themed Gift Roundup.

If you find something I’ve missed, please share your ideas in the comments below.

Where to Put the First Stitch of a Crochet Row

Most new crocheters question where to put the first stitch of a crochet row. It’s not always clear from reading a pattern where that hook should go. If you don’t get it right, you may gain or lose stitches and have uneven edges.

Knowing where to put the first stitch of a crochet row in every situation will help you maintain the same number of stitches and keep your edges straight!

This article uses American crochet terminology. I’m assuming you want to keep the same number of stitches on each row, and to have straight sides. Be sure to watch the videos listed below to get a good close-up look of where I’m putting the first stitch of the second row in different situations.

Turning Chains

The key to knowing where to put your hook lies in understanding turning chains. Turning chains are the chains at the beginning of a row that bring your hook up to the level of the next row, ready to work the new row.

Your pattern will tell you how many turning chains to work, and whether that turning chain counts as a stitch. If the pattern doesn’t indicate whether the turning chain counts, you can decide for yourself.

Type of
Stitch
Typical
Turning
Chain
Does Turning
Chain Count
as a Stitch?
scch 1usually not
hdcch 2sometimes; you can decide
dcch 3usually but not always
trch 4usually but not always

When the Turning Chain Counts as a Stitch

If the turning chain counts as a stitch and you don’t want to increase or decrease, the second stitch of the row or round (the first “real” dc, for example) goes into the stitch that is one stitch to the left of the stitch at the base of the turning chain. Or one stitch to the right if you are working left-handed.

The last stitch of a row goes into the top of the turning chain from the row below. The last stitch of a round goes into the last stitch of the previous round.

Here’s what that looks like in a stitch charts and on a swatch. This swatch and stitch chart begins with a foundation chain of 13 and has 11 stitches across each row, because the turning chain counts as a stitch.

Photograph showing where to put the first stitch of a row when the turning chain counts as a stitch.

Watch How to Work Double Crochet to see me transition from Row 1 to Row 2 on a swatch, and count the ch-3 turning chain as a stitch.

In How to Work Treble Crochet, I also count the ch-4 turning chain as a stitch.

Photo showing location of last stitch of row when ch-3 counts as a stitch

When the turning chain counts as a stitch, if you put the first stitch into the same stitch as the base of the turning chain, you’ll increase. If you don’t remember to put the last stitch into the top of the turning chain, you’ll decrease.

Photo showing same number of stitches on each row using turning chain as a stitch
There are the same number of stitches in each row, counting the turning chain on each row as a stitch.

When the Turning Chain Doesn’t Count as a Stitch

If the turning chain does not count as a stitch, and you want to maintain the same number of stitches, the first stitch of the second row goes into the stitch at the base of the turning chain because you completely ignore the turning chain.

The last stitch of the row goes into the last “real” dc, because the turning chain is ignored. Here’s what that looks like in a stitch chart and on a swatch. This swatch and stitch chart begins with a foundation chain of 14 and has 11 stitches across each row, because the turning chain does not count as a stitch.

Photo showing where to put the first stitch of a row when the turning chain is not a stitch

Watch Single Crochet with Edie Eckman starting at about 3:32 to see me transition from Row 1 to Row 2 on a swatch, but not count the ch-1 turning chain as a stitch.

In How to Work Half Double Crochet, I do not count the ch-2 turning chain as a stitch.

Photo showing end of row when turning chain is not used as a stitch
Photo showing same number of stitches on each row not using turning chain as a stitch
There are the same number of stitches in each row, not counting the turning chain on each row as a stitch.

When the turning chain does not count as a stitch, if you skip the stitch at the base of the chain and work into the next stitch, you’ll decrease. If you put the last stitch of the row into a turning chain, you’ll increase.

Reminders: Where to Put the First Stitch

Remember: When the turning chain counts as a stitch, treat it like one.

It has magically become a stitch (because the pattern told you so). Why would you put another stitch in the same place? And why would you not work into it on the way back?

Remember: When the turning chain does not count as a stitch, ignore it completely.

Your edges will be straight, your stitch count will stay the same, and you’ll stop worrying about where that stitch should go!

For more about turning chains, read 5 Ways to Prevent Gaps at the Beginning of Crochet Rows. To learn more about this and other ways to improve your crochet, check out my Improve Your Crochet: Essential Techniques on Bluprint.