There are so many little things that make your crochet easier, or have a better finish, and I thought I would share some of mine here! (UK terms). This is tip number one, but I have a few more up my sleeve. The techniques I plan to blog about are to make crocheting garments easier and support the ways I construct garments in my patterns. Note: this is not intended to be a beginner "how to" crochet. Once you have the basics down really well, hopefully these little tricks help make it easier!
To show how these tricks work over a few blog entries, I will crochet a little swatch with this gloriously squishy Our Tribe yarn from Scheepjes, crochet an edge around it and demonstrate some seaming techniques (and what to do when your seams don't match up!! - and no, its not throw it on the ground, even though you want to....)
For this blog entry though, let's just cover reversing the starting loop, the wonders of foundation double crochet and how I use turning chain.
I seriously love the lime green colour way Pistachio Branch (878) of the Our Tribe seen below. I will use that for the edging, and the Silver Birch (880) for the swatch itself.
The label suggests 2.5-3mm knitting needle or crochet hook, but I have used a 4.00mm hook so the stitches will be relaxed and their structure will be easier to see in the photos. (After swatching I actually think a 3.50mm hook is perfect for Our Tribe yarn).
The starting loop is normally made by wrapping the working yarn over the tail, then looped through from the back to the front, so pulling the working yarn tightens the loop. When you reverse the direction (wrap the tail around the working yarn, then loop the tail through from the back to the front - as shown in the picture above), pulling the tail tightens the starting loop. It's a bit harder to work the first chain (hang on to the knot made by the working yarn as you make the first chain, not the tail), but the rewards come at the end of the return row.
This picture shows the first 2 rows. Row 1 is fdc (foundation double crochet), where you work the chain and the dc at the same time. Row 2 is 1tr (treble crochet) in each of the fdc. The very first chain made at the start of an fdc row always hangs out a bit as seen in the picture above. I don't count it as a stitch, and I use the reversed starting loop to make it go away! Just gently pull on the tail...
This makes me very happy as I hate a little bulge at the corner. I am sure I am not alone!
Reversing the starting loop can also be used to firm up the first regular foundation chain if it gets a bit stretched when you work into it at the end of the next row, but don't pull too tight. Even if you are joining on to a motif with the next round of a new colour with a dc or a tr, starting with a reversed loop as you work that first stitch means you can firm it up later and better hide your start point when you sew your ends in.
Foundation double crochet is a favourite for me, as the length of the fdc will drape along with the rest of the fabric of the garment. When starting with regular chains and making fabric where there are no chain spaces, the body of fabric will tend to be more loose than the initial chain. You can, of course, increase the hook size by 1mm (or 2 sizes) for the initial chain as compared to the hook you use for the main fabric, but I prefer the fdc to start, so you really know that if you are making a bottom up top or sweater, the starting rows will stretch a bit over the hips and move as part of the general fabric of the garment.
So on to turning chains. I don't follow the rules.
I confess, I do not work 3 turning ch for a treble row. I use turning chains to match the number of stitches I plan to edge the piece with. I use 2 turning chains for a treble row and generally speaking, I will have those turning chain count as the first treble of that row. Below is a stitch chart of my completed swatch, showing number of turning chains I use for the basic stitch set. (Knowledge of crochet symbols is assumed).
Note, the tightened first chain is no where to be seen on the chart as it does not count as a stitch and is at the very beginning of the piece.
Also note, when the turning chain counts as the first stitch of the row (ie when the pattern specifies this), it means on your return pass, you work the last stitch into the top of that turning chain even though the pattern says "in each stitch to end" or "each stitch across".
Here is the completed swatch:
Bonus: working 2 turning chain for a treble row (which is normally 3), and 3 turning chain for a double treble row (which is normally 4), produces less of a hole at the beginning of that row. Yay - right?
But this is my theory: Vs with hats. Every time you yarn over and pull through when working off a crochet stitch, you produce a "V with a hat" segment. A double crochet for instance is 1 "V with a hat" (as seen as you work it, ie with Right Side facing you), and is the height of 1 chain. A treble has 2 segments of "V with a hat" so in my book should be 2 chains in height, and a double treble has 3 segments of "V with a hat" so should be 3 chain in height (and so on for taller stitches). Look for the V segments of the Right Side rows in the photo above. The half treble stitch is the exception and I go with 2 turning chain as it is definitely taller than 1 chain in height.
It makes crocheting edging across the ends of these rows much easier - the number of turning chains of any given row is the number of edging (dc) stitches that will be worked into the side of that row, which matches the number of "V with a hat" segments. Edging and Secret Sew finishing will be in the next technique blog.