Stitch Anatomy 3: Tall Post Stitches & Gauge

I often use dtr sts in my crochet designs because each row or round contributes more height to the garment, meaning fewer rows or rounds are needed. Yay, right!? Tall post stitches do have special gauge considerations though, and with my new Brigitte Lace Tee coming soon and the Beach Daze MAL just around the corner (Prep 2 is next week), I thought now is a great time to discuss tall post stitches and their relationship with gauge.

In Stitch Anatomy 2 we discussed how changing hook size had a greater influence on the width of the chain-hat (stitch gauge) than on than on the height of the stitch (row gauge) and so my advice was find the hook size to achieve stitch gauge first, then use the pulleys affecting the golden loop to fine tune your stitch height and match row gauge second.


It has been some time since I published the first 2 blogs in this series though:

Stitch Anatomy 1 (How hooking action affects gauge), and

Stitch Anatomy 2 (How hook size affects gauge).

So feel free to go have a read to refresh your memory and then come back as these blogs lay down some of the anatomical terminology that I will use here, and it’s a good overview. All my blogs are written using UK crochet terms.


My examples in Stitch Anatomy 2 were short to middle height stitches such as the dc and tr, and today I wanted to discuss special considerations for taller post stitches.



Overview:

The taller the stitch, the harder it is to avoid ending up with an overly-wide chain-hat and loose stitch gauge. Tall post stitches are also at risk of being cone-shaped rather than straight.


For the sake of our discussion, I consider:

dc = short post stitch

htr & tr = middle height post stitch

dtr or taller stitch = a tall post stitch


My observations suggest that there are 2 main reasons why the chain-hat becomes wider as the stitches get taller:

1. Inherent Stitch Structure. (There are more interlocked loops pulling on each other up and down the stitch post, so the fabric is inherently more stretchable – there is not much you can do about this, it’s just the character of the stitch itself).

2. Crocheting Technique. (The hook shaft is straining your active loop during the stitch while you load and work-off the other loops, so your technique definitely influences the width of the finishing chain-hat and therefore stitch gauge).


My observation as to why tall post stitches are at risk of being the shape of an ice-cream cone:

1. Crocheting Technique. (The amount of yarn in each post segment needs to be consistent for the stitch post to be straight. Your technique for working each segment is therefore critical, and the more segments you have to work to form that post, the more likely it will show up any problems with your technique).



There is another factor which may accentuate these things, and that is fibre-content of your yarn.

Merino is elastic and therefore somewhat forgiving about yarn manipulation during the making of a tall post stitch. Cotton, however, is not quite so understanding about these things…. Avoiding loose stitch gauge, or ice-cream cone shaped tall post stitches when working with cottons requires a bit more concentrated effort than when working with merino/merino blends, but it can be done!



Firstly, let’s look at the inherent “way things are” for stitch structure, and see how merino behaves.

I made the swatch seen below as an exercise for Pauline Turner’s International Diploma of Crochet a few years ago and it demonstrates that using the same yarn, hook size and stitch count throughout, the swatch becomes wider as the stitches become taller.


Left to right, this swatch is worked with a 3.5mm hook and a fingering weight merino blend sock yarn, and is composed of 4 rows of each of the following sts:

Ss, dc, htr, tr, dtr, ttr and qtr. (I have placed arrows across the top of the image to show the junction between each 4-row-set.)



So just lying flat on the table, you can see that as the sts get taller, the swatch becomes wider. More yarn in the stitch means the stitch can take up more space. This is both logical and evident particularly when comparing the ss and tr rows. It doesn’t look like there is too much difference between the tr and dtr rows, but compare the dtr and qtr rows, and you have quite a difference!


Now let’s see how stretchy it is:

Please note, the video might take a few moments to load...


The ss rows barely stretch at all, there is maybe a smidge more stretch in the dtr rows compared to the tr rows, and the last qtr rows -wow! More interlocked loops making up the taller post sts allow the progressive increase in stretch. But thanks to merino fibres, they snap right back, pretty much to where they started.


When crocheting tall post sts in merino (and wools in general), you probably won’t have to fuss too much about crochet technique specifically to avoid loose stitch gauge because the merino fibre is somewhat elastic. If your merino project was using rows/rounds of tr sts and then you switch to rows/rounds of dtr/ttr sts though, then for the same st count, the fabric will become both wider and more stretchable.




Secondly, let’s look at how your crochet technique for tall posts can affect stitch gauge, and see how cotton behaves. (The names of techniques that follow are just how I think of them - you won’t find them as official terms anywhere - I just have to call them something for ongoing reference).



“Pinching”…

This next video is to show the technique of pinching a lower segment as you progressively work-off the next segment of the stitch post. In the video I am making a series of dtr sts in the lower skirt of my Beach Daze Dress using Scheepjes Whirl (60& cotton, 40% acrylic) and a 3.5mm hook. I am exaggerating my pinching movements for the first few sts to show you what I mean, and then I speed up (it does become a natural tiny movement with a bit of practice).


Please note, the video might take a few moments to load...


Pinching stabilizes the lower segment(s) so the already worked lps don’t get pulled tighter as you continue to work up the post and is the best way that I know to avoid ice-cream cone shaped tall post sts. The segments are created with consistent size.


Something else to notice in the video is that the chain-hats of all the dtr sts seen here generally are sitting quite wide. This is because I am using a 3.5mm hook with the Whirl to purposefully create taller and wider stitches for the lower skirt (a smaller hook is used for the bodice and gauge swatch). Since cotton is not elastic the chain-hats hang wide, but they have straight (not cone-shaped) posts.


If you don’t pinch to stabilize the previous segment as you form the next one, the lifting pressure of the hook shaft when working the higher stitch segments borrows yarn that should have stayed down in the lower segments. By the time you get to the top the post and finish the stitch, the lowest segment is quite narrow and all the “borrowed” yarn accumulated at the top leaves you with a wide chain-hat (and an ice-cream cone shaped st).


I tend to pinch as I work-off all post sts, so you will still see that happening in the next video I have to show you along with some additional techniques to manipulate the yarn.



“Yank and Roll” and “Lock, Pinch and Lift”…

This last video is to show the techniques I use to manage the active loop during a tall stitch when working with cotton or other non-elastic yarns. I am working with Scheepjes Maxi Sugar Rush (100% mercerised cotton) and a 2.2mm hook while making my Brigitte Lace Tee.


You will see I crochet a few dtr sts applying these techniques, then I switch to NOT applying these techniques for a few dtr sts, then I show you the difference in their appearance and stretch at the end. The chain-hats are a lot wider for the second section of dtr sts and all of the sts have zero elasticity!


Have a look at the video first, then I will break it down underneath.

Please note, the video might take a few moments to load...

Here is what to watch for as you replay the video:

First section:

Loading the stitch: After yarn overs, I "yank" on tensioning yarn in my left hand to make the wraps tighten on the hook shaft and make the fabric "roll" forward before I insert my hook and pull up a lp.


Working-off the stitch: Before my first “yoh, draw through 2 lps”, I lock the yarn in my tensioning (left) hand to severely restrict or prevent the yarn feeding through - so when I “draw through 2,” I am pulling on the yarn closest to the active loop to keep the active loop small. I also pinch with my left hand and lift with the back of my hook shaft in my right hand as I “draw through 2”. The pinching helps to stabilize the lower segment and the lifting encourages height of the current segment being made. I keep repeating the "lock, pinch and lift" for each segment until I reach the top of the stitch, but I reduce the amount of lock a little bit as I move towards the top of the stitch.


The result: lovely straight consistent dtr sts.


Second Section:

I am still pinching, but I am not applying the other techniques.

Loading the stitch: After yarn overs, I hold the active loop in place with my right middle finger to insert the hook and pull up a lp. This is the standard way I was taught, and it prevents the fabric rolling forward.


Working-off the stitch: My left tensioning hand allows yarn to feed through as I “draw through 2” to make each segment. I am still lifting a bit with the hook, but not working so hard at it because I don’t have to resist the tension of the locked yarn feed.


As you can see at the end, the resulting dtr sts are a tiny bit taller and stretch a great deal wider than the first section where I worked to limit yarn feeding through and the width of the chain-hats.





Summary:


The taller the crochet post stitch, the harder it is to avoid ending up with a cone-shaped post and an overly-wide chain-hat, particularly when crocheting with non-elastic yarn such as cotton. This means your stitch gauge is likely to be a bit loose unless you employ techniques to minimise strain on the active loop during the making of that stitch and to hook a consistent amount of yarn in each of its segments.


Techniques that I use and might also help you are:


Pinching the lower segment of the post while you work the next one helps to keep even tension along the length of the finished post, consistent segment size and reduce the tendency for cone-shaped sts (which in turn influences stitch gauge).


Yank and roll to load the stitch, and lock, pinch and lift to work-off the stitch is what I do to control active loop size during making a tall post stitch using non-elastic fibres. This helps to limit the width of the chain-hat (and therefore reduce the risk of looser than intended stitch gauge).


I say looser than intended stitch gauge because you could intend to make your stitches looser than the pattern designer planned. It’s your project and you can manipulate the yarn any which way you like, but it’s good to know you are doing it on purpose and how you can change it if you want to.


If you are swatching for the Beach Daze MAL and seem to be struggling with stitch gauge (particularly fewer than the intended Filet Units per 10cm – ie. loose sts) then the techniques I have shown you today in the videos may help you manipulate the yarn and hook to achieve gauge.


Learning about factors that affect stitch gauge is all about making the yarn move the way you want. I share my observations and tips not to say this is the right way or the wrong way, but to show some things that influence the outcome. You can pick and choose when you apply any control techniques as appropriate to suit your yarn and individual project goals. You are the puppet master!


Thank you to Scheepjes for lending yarn support to my designs. You can find Scheepjes retailers worldwide here, or consider purchasing via these two affiliate links*

Wool Warehouse (in the UK, ships worldwide including the US)

Caros Atelier (in The Netherlands)


...and WA people who like to support a local family business can source their yarn from Perth Scheepjes Retailers:

Leanne at Yarns For All

& Anna and Mike at Stitchcraft & Wizardry


Happy stitching,

Susan (Peppergoose)






This blog contains affiliate links – shopping via these links does not cost you any extra but it means I receive a small part of the sale – thank you for your support!


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