Challenges with Color Changes

Late last year, I had two back-to-back orders for baby penguins. Due to the holidays and typical year-end madness, I didn’t get around to doing a post about either of them.

In previous renditions when doing the color changes in the head (white eye areas on a dark gray/light black background), I have kept my two colors of yarn going simultaneously, but I have had mixed results with the color changes looking loose in the end product.

I made an executive decision as a woman who takes pride in her handcrafted goods. I changed things up by snipping one of the colors for each round (the white in the head) and tying secure knots with the loose ends. I found this to be much more successful in keeping the stitches tight (as color changes can produce looser or sloppier looking stitches), not to mention not wasting a lot of yarn carrying tails back and forth around the head. In the end, the dolls looked polished and professional, and I didn’t have to worry about a stray end coming loose if the doll ends up in the hands of a careless child or pet.

Finished penguin with tight color changes

Fast forward to the present moment. In one of the crochet groups I am in on Facebook, someone posted this blog article, where the author wrote about doing more seamless color changes in amigurumi.

I gave it a try the next time I worked on a doll (this time, a giraffe) — and I am pleased to say it is a successful technique!

Giraffe with new color changes technique used

As you can see from the photo, where the color change happens when you’re working in the round (without a join), the jog isn’t as noticeable. Check out the horns. It doesn’t glare out at you and you don’t get the “zig-zag” effect. Sometimes the zig-zag looks okay for a particular effect but for the most part, it looks nicer when it can be avoided.

Even my husband, who doesn’t notice much of what I’m doing with crochet most of the time since I’m always working on something, thought the this color-change technique was noticeable and one to keep using.

There are a couple of key points I discovered: slip stitching loosely is important, or the piece will look slightly shrunken on that round. If you’re going for the shrunken effect, slip stitch more tightly. The other point is to make sure there are enough rounds between the color changes that aren’t doing a lot of increasing or decreasing. In fact, it is ideal to change colors when there is another round of one single crochet stitch in each stitch around.

Lastly, the slip stitch round + doing the next round in the back loops with single crochet = one round. Knowing that helps with counting your rounds, since you’ll see the two horizontal lines next to one another. See photo below:

If I’m not mistaken, the blog post I linked to above has gone viral in the crochet world, because I have seen the “big time” crochet designers doing their own posts showcasing their successes with it.

Have you tried this out? What do you think?

 

Wending My Way Through Tunisian Crochet

For the better part of two years, I have largely focused on amigurumi projects, with a few baby garments and the random accessory here and there. Then I received a terrific book with all kinds of different patterns in it, entitled Crochet One-Skein Wonders. Isn’t that cute?


In it, there are several patterns which refer to Tunisian crochet. I had no idea what an afghan hook was or how this differed from what I had been doing, but I was certainly intrigued, especially by the pictures of the thicker, woven texture of the end products.

My book notes: this book contains projects that are largely for advanced beginners and advanced intermediate crocheters, so they do presume you have a baseline skill set. They give both written and chart instructions where they can, which is also helpful. Lastly, they organize the book by yarn weight, going from lightest to densest, which spoke to my little organized soul. It boasts a nice index.

I began heavily researching Tunisian crochet to see if I wanted to invest more time and money into new hooks and new techniques. Short answer: yes. From what I could tell, this was a distinct twist on my crochet skills that I felt I must have in my repertoire. My basic desire was to be able to create more densely made items that weren’t as “loopy” as standard crochet. For whatever the reason, knitting just does not call to me. So being able to create “knitted” things with a twist on a crochet hook held a strong appeal.

Once I acquired some hooks, books, and even more different types of yarn (mainly cotton blends so I could make All the Washcloths and Pot Holders), I also sunk a little spending money into two Tunisian crochet classes on Craftsy when they were having one of their big sales on classes. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy yet, I strongly recommend it. They are a go-to for any kind of major creative craft medium out there and feature tons of classes, shops, patterns, etc.

After practicing a lot of the stitches on a swatch (some quite unsuccessfully), reading through stitches and patterns, watching YouTube videos, and following along with a number of lessons in one of my Craftsy classes, I finally began to grasp the concepts without flailing about awkwardly with these stranger crochet hooks and different stitch techniques. Because Tunisian crochet is a blend between crocheting and knitting, it takes a bit of practice to get to a baseline comfort level. Once I got the hang of it, though, I started wanting to make more and more items. I’m excited to go to the next level in my class, which creates a colorful shawl/tunic.

Let’s get to the fun stuff; time for some show and tell! These are all beginner projects, mind.

The first two things are washcloths that were part of my online class. They’re the same pattern but in different colors. They utilize three different kinds of stitches to form a lovely embedded square pattern. Here are those stitches up close:

Stitches

Simple Stitch is as easy as it gets. Honestly what is difficult with Tunisian crochet is getting the hang of your tension and making sure the sides even out. Another aspect of Tunisian crochet that I like is, generally speaking, the stitches are universally named. One doesn’t have to convert from UK terms to US terms, for example.

Tunisian Knit Stitch is probably one of the more popular stitches to use, at least from a beginner’s standpoint. It looks exactly like knitting and gives a nice tight weave and beautiful look to the project.

Here is a full shot of the white washcloth after it was steam blocked and left to dry. It still looks a little wavy and uneven but that’s just due to my novice hand. I made this with KnitPicks Shine Sport. It is super soft and I have used it on my own very sensitive skin. I will be making more with this yarn blend of pima cotton and bamboo, but I’ll try out other colors.

First spa washcloth
Next up is the tri-color washcloth. I made this with CotLin, a blend of cotton and linen, also from KnitPicks.

The challenge here was changing colors at the end of each forward pass, each reverse pass, and keeping the sides even.

IMG_7223_webFinished and steam blocked (no pins necessary, thankfully):

IMG_7227_web
Once I conquered this thing, I wanted to go back to the book I mentioned before and try out the pot holder pattern I initially saw. Because it was entirely in Tunisian Simple Stitch and I wanted to create a slightly different look, I decided to wing it and make my own pot holder without any assistance from a pattern. I know, crazy talk! I have never just begun crocheting without a pattern. But I forged ahead.

I made two squares, same height and width, two different colors, with a third color for an accent color on the border when I crocheted the two sides together. Not too shabby!

PH side 1 PH side 2PH side by side
Because I was using up the CotLin yarn, this is definitely more of a lightweight potholder, but I still think it will do the trick. I’ll have to experiment with bulkier yarns for heavy duty pot holders in the future.

I feel like I’m on my way and I’m looking forward to tackling more complex stitches and patterns that aren’t in simple shapes. I have heard tell that you can do Tunisian crochet in the round, something that intrigues me as an amigurumi maker (since I can now crochet in the round in my sleep). In the second class I purchased from Craftsy, the end project is a fitted sweater vest, which involves shaping, increasing, decreasing, and other scary sounding verbs. I’ll get there.

I absolutely recommend learning this form of crochet for anyone out there who is on the fence, doesn’t know what the heck it is, or has the same desire I did, which was to create less holey items and learn new kinds of stitches. It is seriously fun and interesting, if you geek out over this kind of thing as I do. And I do.

Until next time, friends.