It’s Time for Cotton!

Summer is approaching and for crocheters that means an opportunity to lighten things up and crochet with cotton! Today we would like to share some information about cotton and a few projects that you can make from this wonderful fiber.

Natural Characteristics: Cotton is the most-used fiber in the world today, whether woven into fabric or spun into yarn. It has the following natural characteristics:

  • Comfortable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Soft hand
  • Absorbent
  • Good strength
  • Drapes well
  • Easy to care for
  • Durable
  • Dyes well

Yarn spun of 100 percent cotton tends to have similar qualities to woven fabric and little, if any, natural elasticity. For example, you’ve probably noticed that the more you wash a pair of 100 percent cotton pants or flannel pajamas, the shorter they become over time. And, T-shirts tend to not only shrink in length but to grow in width.

Unlike mohair and silk yarns that grow in length with wearing over time, cotton gradually shortens and widens. Keep this characteristic in mind when selecting patterns and determining both body and sleeve lengths.

Cotton has durability and absorbency up to 27 times its own weight. A longtime favorite for warm weather, cotton breathes, making it comfortable to wear in any climate. While many man-made fibers hold heat closer to the body, cotton naturally conducts heat away from the body, making it more comfortable to wear in warmer climates. This quality makes cotton especially good to use for spring or summer throws, baby items, jackets, camisoles, wraps, hats, beachwear and other warm-weather garments, accessories and home accents.

Carefree Cotton Top  Crochet World, June 2015

Carefree Cotton Top
Crochet World, June 2015

Mercerized Cotton: Sometimes known as “pearl” cotton, mercerized cotton is put through a treatment process of alkali that alters the cotton and increases both luster and absorbency. The process of mercerization leaves yarn both softer and shinier. Cotton is introduced to the mercerization process while under a state of tension.

Mandala Wall Art Crochet World, June 2015

Mandala Wall Art
Crochet World, June 2015

Originally this process was found to be a way to improve the finish/sheen of cotton, but it also resulted in an added bonus: greater absorbency when the cotton is exposed to water or dye. Mercerized cotton undergoes certain changes in characteristics and is generally more desirable than non-mercerized cotton.

Hot Tropics Tote Crochet World, June 2015

Hot Tropics Tote
Crochet World, June 2015

Blended Cotton: Cotton is often blended with other fibers, most often polyester, to enhance performance and to improve the overall appearance of the finished product. Yarn manufacturers select and blend certain proportions, so the best qualities and characteristics are retained. You’ll find that combinations of fibers and percentages vary from yarn to yarn.

Buttercup Dishcloth Crochet World, June 2015

Buttercup Dishcloth
Crochet World, June 2015

If you’re looking for minimal care, check labels for cotton-blend yarns that are 50 to 60 percent polyester. Most blends within these percentage ranges are both machine washable and dryable. You’ll still have the best qualities and the look of cotton with the blend, while the polyester adds durability and resistance to wrinkles.

Tips for Crocheting with Cotton: Always make a swatch before beginning any project. This is especially true for cotton, as working with it is different than with most other yarns due to the lack of elasticity. Cotton stitches stand alone, unlike acrylic, microfiber and most other yarns where the stitches snuggle next to one another. The gaps created while forming stitches with cotton remain gaps and do not fill in.

Fancy stitches worked with cotton yarns tend to be more distinct and stable than those worked with other fibers because of the “stand alone” factor. Cables take on more depth, relief stitches stand out more, popcorns are more stable, and other fancy patterns are enhanced when crocheted in cotton.

Candle Shadows Crochet World, June 2015

Candle Shadows
Crochet World, June 2015

Soft and pleasant to work with, cotton yarn feels good running between your fingers as you crochet, and feels equally good worn next to the body. A great choice for children, it readily releases soil when washed. Because of its easy-care factor, it’s also the ideal fiber for kitchen items like pot holders, dishcloths and towels. Acrylic yarns should never be used for pot holders or hot mats because, unlike cotton, they tend to melt when exposed to high heat.

We hope you find some time this summer to crochet with cotton and enjoy the wonderful properties of this amazing fiber!

The projects shown are featured in the June 2015 issue of Crochet World which you can purchase here. Projects were crocheted from Omega Sinfonia, Tahki Cotton Classic and Premier Home Cotton.

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It’s in the Finish!

Blocking Basics

Blocking is an important step to making your crocheted pieces look more professional. It’s a way of “dressing” or finishing your projects using moisture and sometimes heat. Proper blocking of a crocheted garment can go a long way toward making it look and fit better. It sets the stitches and can even enhance the drape of the fabric. Seaming and edging are easier on blocked pieces, and minor sizing adjustments may be made during the blocking process.

There are different methods for blocking crocheted pieces and knowing which one to use for a particular project can make all the difference in achieving a successful result. Choosing the correct blocking method depends on what the item is and what type of yarn or thread is used. Some items might not be suitable for blocking, such as three-dimensional pieces that are difficult to handle or very small items such as Christmas ornaments. Certain fibers might also not be suitable for blocking.

Getting Started

You’ll need a blocking board, rustproof pins, a steamer or steam iron, a spray bottle and your yarn or thread label(s). The blocking “board” needs to be a flat surface that’s large enough to hold the piece or pieces you want to block. Pieces should fit completely on the board so that they are not hanging over the edge. If you have limited space, smaller blocking tiles which are joined together to make a larger surface, work great and are easy to store.

blocking

Your blocking board will need to be in a location where it can remain undisturbed until the blocking is finished, which can range from just a few minutes to more than a day, depending on the circumstances. The board needs to be able to handle pins, moisture and heat. To block large items such as afghans or shawls, for example, a guest-room bed or a large, well-padded table — even a sheet-covered carpeted floor — works great.

Choose Your Method

Blocking methods may be described as “wet,” “dry” or “cold.” The actual method you choose will vary depending on yarn content, final use and your own preferences. Consult the yarn label. If different fibers have been combined in the same item, the most delicate fiber takes precedence.

Most natural fibers such as wool, cotton, linen and mohair may be either wet or dry blocked. Some synthetic fibers do not benefit from blocking and may, in fact, be ruined by careless blocking. Novelty and metallic fibers may need special care and may not be suitable for blocking.

While it’s always advisable to make a test swatch for any pattern to check gauge, an added benefit is that you will also have a piece to practice blocking to make sure you are using the proper method. For example, did you know that too much heat can “kill” acrylic yarn, making it shiny and limp? It’s better to wreck a swatch than a whole afghan.

Wet blocking is suitable only for those fibers which tolerate submersion. Wash the piece first if desired, or thoroughly wet it and gently squeeze out excess water. Do not wring or twist! For two-dimensional pieces, lay the piece out flat and gently pat and shape it into the desired finished measurements. Pin the piece securely in place using rustproof pins, special blockers or blocking wires. For three-dimensional pieces, stuff the piece with rolled-up plastic grocery bags or other waterproof stuffing. For round pieces, blowing up a balloon to the desired size inside the item works well.

Leave the piece undisturbed until it is completely dry. You can hasten the drying process by setting up a fan to blow over the area.

Dry blocking is suitable for fibers which can tolerate moisture and heat (steam). Pin the piece into the desired shape and size on the blocking board. Pins should be close together and evenly spaced to as not to distort the fabric. Blocking wires also work well. Holding a steamer or steam iron an inch or more above item, steam the fabric well. Do not allow an iron to touch the fabric and do not press. After steaming, leave the piece undisturbed until it is completely cool and dry.

Cold blocking can be used for fibers which can tolerate moisture but not heat. Pin the piece into shape on the blocking board as for dry blocking. Mist with a spray bottle of clean water until the piece is completely wet. If stubborn areas resist lying flat, use additional pins as needed, or press with your hand for a few seconds (it’s amazing how the gentle warmth from your skin can help!). Leave the item undisturbed until it is completely dry. Again, a fan can help speed things up.

Now that you know the different ways to block your projects and which method works best, depending on the circumstances, hopefully you’ll feel more confident to take that extra step to give your projects a more finished look. But don’t forget to practice on a test swatch first!

For a more in-depth look at blocking watch this video on Annie’s Crochet Stitch Guide.

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Crochet in the Sun!

The weather is finally starting to warm up and signs of spring are everywhere! The trees are budding and the tulips and daffodils are glorious!

Our thoughts are beginning to turn to summer and all the warm weather activities we look forward to each year; bikes rides or walks through our neighborhood; planning a Memorial day picnic with family and friends; or just taking time to enjoy life at a slower pace, relishing the warmth of the sun as we garden or relax in our own backyard.

As warmer weather fast approaches, I hope you will keep your crochet hooks busy! While working on an afghan may be too warm for summer, we think several of the projects from the June issue of Crochet World are perfect for warm weather stitching! All are small and portable and will keep you enjoying your favorite craft throughout the summer!

Here are some of our some of our favorites.

Mandala Wall Art_June 2015_CW

Our Winner’s Circle project, Mandala Wall Art is crocheted in Omega Sinfonia, which features a large color palette, so you can choose just the right hues to complement your decor.

Buttercup Dishcloth_June 2015_CW

Spread a little sunshine and crochet up a few bright and cheery Buttercup Dishcloths stitched in Premier Yarns Home Cotton.

Summer Story Scarf_June 2015_CW

The Summer Story Scarf would be a perfect accent to a favorite summer outfit. Crocheted in Universal Yarn Little Bird, you’ll be tempted to make a few as gifts too!

Pillow Lace Band_June 2015_CW

For our crocheters who love to work with thread, the Pillow Lace Band is a fun easy accent for decorative pillows. Stitched with Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Cotton you’ll find colors to match any decor.

Fun in the Sun Slouch_June 2015_CW

The Fun in the Sun Slouch is a favorite accessory for teens and adults alike. This one is light and airy enough to cover up your hair at the beach. Stitched in Caron Simply Soft, you’ll want to make a bunch in your favorite colors.

There are several more projects that are small and portable for summer stitching including the Puffy Posy Phone Cozy, the Fireworks Hot Pad & Coaster,  Love Your Mom Washcloths, Shell-Motif Napkins, Candle Shadows to name just a few! Check out all the projects and order your copy of the June issue of Crochet World here and keep those hooks flying!

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Everything Is Coming Up Posies!

Want to crochet a fun project to welcome spring and warmer weather? I suggest the Puffy Posy Phone Cozy from the latest issue of Crochet World. There is no way you can look at this cute project and not smile!

Puffy Posy Phone Cozy_June 2015_CW

The entire project is crocheted out of little puffy flowers in bright sunny colors. It is the featured free pattern from the June issue of Crochet World and can be found here.

The flower motifs take a little practice, so we asked designer, Debra Arch to share a few tips about her original design.

Deb Arch and her yarn stash

Debra says: “I made several flower samples with different sizes of crochet hooks and different yarn weights and fibers until I found the combination that I liked best for the Puffy Posy flowers for the phone cozy. I found that a size B crochet hook was best to make the tightly compacted petals of the posy.

I decided not to use a 100% cotton DK weight yarn because cotton yarns have a smooth surface, which gives a lot of definition to a stitch. That yarn characteristic was undesirable for this design because it made all the multiple yarn overs of each pedal too prominent, making them  “stand out” and not blend well together.

I decided to use a size 3, 100% acrylic yarn, because that yarn has a fluffier surface, which allowed all the multiple yarn overs to blend and meld together well to produce solid more uniform looking petals.

The visual differences I have explained above regarding  these 2 different yarn fibers are obvious in the photo below.

puffy posy flower samples, comparing acrylic versus cotton yarns

Since you will have extra yarn remaining in the skeins from this project, I recommend you practice making a few posies, so you become comfortable with the pattern and are able to consistently make the yarn overs as uniform as possible to produce neat and tidy posies.  After you have practiced making a few posies, you might decide to change the size crochet hook, so you can make make them slightly larger or smaller to fit your personal phone size or other electronic device.  However, these flowers don’t have to go to waste!  Why not add one a keychain, or scatter a few on the bill of a baseball cap. Or sew a few to a headband or the bottom of a curtain or guest towel?”

To see 100 of Debra’s most recently published crochet designs go to her Ravelry page. You can learn a little bit more about Debra and watch a free preview of her Learn to Crocodile Stitch: 4 Easy Techniques class here.

Ready to get started on your own Puffy Posy Phone Cozy? You’ll find some great yarn options at Annie’s Yarn Shop.

We hope you’ll add a little bit of spring to your day and have fun crocheting up a bunch of these cute posies!

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Learn Something New!

Do you remember when you first learned to crochet? Were you very young or did you learn as an adult? For most of us, it doesn’t matter whether we learned to crochet as a child or as an adult, we all began with the basics. Sometimes when we practice a new skill, we learn the simplest method; we may have been a young child and grandma didn’t want to overwhelm us with advanced techniques. Or as an adult learner we may have tried to teach ourselves and gotten frustrated when we couldn’t understand the instructions. And sometimes that means we are still crocheting the same old way, not challenging ourselves to improve our skills.

One of the reasons crochet is so appealing is because of the endless possibilities to create something beautiful with a simple hook and some yarn or thread! Add to that all the stitch pattern variations that can be combined with different yarns and colors and you have opened up a whole wide world of crochet exploration!

A great way to learn something new is through video classes. Annie’s, the publisher of Crochet World, produces some of the best crochet videos with professional teachers. Recently I watched Crochet! magazine editor Ellen Gromley’s Learn to Crochet Lace video.

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Ellen does a fantastic job teaching the basics of hairpin, broomstick and bruges lace techniques. Her conversational teaching style makes you feel like she is sitting right beside you. The great thing about video classes is you can learn at your own pace, with the ability to pause and replay as often as you want. Each class includes exclusive projects and patterns using the techniques covered in the class so you can practice and hone your skills. Watch the free introduction and demo videos here to learn more. And don’t forget to check out Ellen’s Learn to Read Symbol Crochet Diagrams class too!

You also may want to check out the Annie’s TV show Knit and Crochet Now! featured on many local PBS stations. Don’t worry if you cannot find the show locally, you can still join in the fun and learn something new!

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With an all-access membership you can watch all present and past episodes on demand, download all the patterns from every show and get a discount at Annie’s Craft Store every day of the year! You can also order DVDs from past seasons or even individual episodes.

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Sign-up now for the free newsletter and you’ll receive free patterns from the show. And we all know how a new pattern can inspire us to learn a new technique!

So go ahead and enjoy leaning something new about crochet and add to your skills! The possibilities are endless!

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