After some prompting from peers on the matter, I’ve decided to at least occasionally write about technique on my blog. I’ve crocheted for over 33 years now, so there’s a lot of information and observations in my head and much of it is outside of the box. I don’t always think about it, but some of it might be helpful to others as we continue together to promote and explore the art of crochet. So though I’ll have to work on these entries in bites, we can add all this to the learning community. I’ll also see in the future if I can get some of my peers to chime in and lend their expertise as well. After all, crochet is a very large umbrella with many specialties. And who knows, maybe we can drum up some give-aways here at some point. I’m short on time, but I’m up for some game time fun. You too? Please remember though, if you find a post helpful or interesting, please be sure to give it a star rating, thumb it up and share it with others. I appreciate it!
Today I want to illustrate the possibilities in creating soft structure that remains as comfortable to sensitive skin all crocheted up, as it feels on the skein. I have learned a lot over the years from creating crochet for chemo patients who have extremely sensitive skin. I also have always marveled at what people will create and put on babies, especially preemies and newborns, who also have very tender skin. A good test is to rub your proposed end fiber (in a stitched swatch) on your inner wrist for a few seconds. If it feels even a little uncomfortable, it’s not going to be comfortable to an infant. And unfortunately, not only can they not tell you, they can’t stop you either. This is always an issue to me when it comes to donations for preemies – please remember your end product’s actual comfort! Use quality materials and careful stitches. You can read more about crocheting for preemies here and chemo patients here.
OK, so let’s talk about structure. What you see pictured here is just one of three different proto-types of a pattern I’m working on. I wanted an eclectic look, something outside the usual “rectangle” style scarves you see. However, I did not want to sacrifice warmth or the soft feel either. One of the reasons a rectangle scarf is a classic is not only its ease of creation, but the physics behind a single layer of stitches wrapped around a neck.
However, everyone has a classic style scarf. When you are competing for attention, or simply want something different, you need a new edge of some sort. In this case, I chose a new “twist” to the idea of soft structure. This is one of my favorite design pieces, just for achieving a striking unique look and comfort simultaneously via stitch work alone. This numbly scarf is buttery soft, made from some of the softest materials I’ve ever worked with. And it was carefully crafted with the right kind of stitches so the feel of the yarn was preserved in-stitch.
Wondering what I mean? Well, your stitches really do have a lot to do with how soft your end product will be, no matter how soft your fiber is on the skein. It is entirely possible to take an incredibly soft (and expensive) yarn and crochet it into an incredibly uncomfortable and scratchy feeling garment on the skin – all based on your stitches.
One of the easiest ways to ruin the feel of your garment is to make your stitches too tight. Tight stitches have their place. You need them in many lace techniques. You need them for many amigurumi techniques too. But when you are working with something to be worn against the skin, take extra care to watch your tension. Too-tight stitches make it difficult to frog errors and to work with fine yarns altogether. And unless you are creating an industrial style piece that needs to be stiff and strong, I recommend a looser tension or a larger hook to carry out your goals.
As far as our example here, this particular scarf design also utilizes a-typical stitches as well, which lend to the shape as well as the skin sensation at the touch. So when you are getting ready to create something new, take notice of the structure of the stitches you are preparing to use. Some stitches are best suited for strength, as when being applied to a belt or a purse. Others are more conducive to flow. And some, like broomstick lace, are somewhat of a combo, with the large flowing stitches that show off the beauty of yarn, combined with locking stitches. When softness is important to you, I highly recommend swatching, not just to be sure your gauge is correct and that your yarn will look good in that stitch, but also to test on your wrist and feel the result of the texture you will create. You are also testing to see how your fibers behave. You can get different results from equally soft yarns in the same stitch based on how those yarns are structured and what they are made of as well. Alpaca and cashmere do not behave the same. Equally, when you mix either with silk. All are incredibly soft, but may feel dramatically different in the stitch.
So give it a whirl and make some swatches to see what I mean. Leave your comments or write an article about your experiments and link it here.
I’d love for you to share your experiences and photos here to help others while we continue to promote the art of crochet and expand our creativity.
See you soon!