We’re almost there!
I’ve finished making all my motifs and, since I was joining them as I did the last round of each, I don’t have any additional joining to do. However, many of you chose to wait until now to join your motifs, a method I often choose. Since I know at least ten ways to do so, I have a choice of options at this point. Sewing motifs together with a tapestry needle and whip stitch is a non-starter for me. Meaning: I never do it. Waaaaaaay too slow and finicky.
Single crochet seam
This seam can be done either on the wrong side or the right side of the piece. It is a sturdy yet flexible join. It makes a nice ridge, which can be used as a design element to frame the motifs. Some people think the ridge looks “wrong”; I think it’s a lovely three-dimensional element that adds interest, and I often choose to put it on the right side. I’ve used a contrasting color yarn so that the seam shows up.
In this design, I would probably work a bunch of short seams to create long strips of hexagons, then join those long strips with long zigzag-shaped seams lengthwise down the afghan. You’ll have to figure out the best way to handle the corners when 3 motifs meet.
On my sample, I joined the 3rd motif to the 2nd one from chain-spaces to chain-spaces, then chain 1, and joined the same chain-space of the 3rd motif to the next chain-space of the 1st motif, continuing along that edge to the next corner. (This will make more sense when you have a lot of pieces in your hand and you try it yourself!)
Note that this last photo shows more or less what the seam would look like if you worked it on the wrong side. To work a single crochet seam on the wrong side, hold motifs with right sides together and sc through the adjacent stitches on both motifs.
This join is a bit looser and more flexible than the single crochet seam. Again, it can be done either on the right side or the wrong side of the work. Instead of working into every stitch and chain-space as shown above, join with a sc at the corners, *ch 1, skip 1 pair of stitches, sc through next pair of adjacent stitches; repeat from * across the edge to the corner. As for the single crochet seam, you’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out how best to handle the corners where 3 motifs join. It may require a chain 1, 2 or 3 at the corner to lie flat.
Single Crochet Join on Final Round
My final suggestion is a hybrid of the join-as-you-go method that I showed you before. In this method, add an additional round of single crochet around each motif, joining as you go.
On the first motif, work a complete round of single crochet, placing 1 sc in each dc and (sc, ch 1, sc) in each corner space. Fasten off.
On the second motif, work a round of sc to the next-to-last corner. Sc in corner, ch 1, join that chain in the adjacent chain from the first motif (as described here), sc in same chain-space of current motif, join that sc to the adjacent sc from the first motif, and so on.
As you work, you may find that you need to put 2 or 3 chains in the corner to make the corners tidy—don’t be afraid to play around with it to get the perfect technique for your situation.
Which of these (or any other methods) is best? By now (hopefully), you’ll know what my answer is: only you can decide what’s best in your situation. Play with variations on these joins and decide which one you think is just right for your needs. For example, you may find that the join-only-in-the corner method that I showed you in a previous post is quick, but not sturdy enough for hard use, or you may think it gives the perfect lacy look you prefer.
Weaving in ends
Everyone has just been itchin’ for me to talk about weaving in ends. Your time has finally come. In an earlier post, I wrote about working over yarn ends as I create new stitches. I will do often do this, but I find that in an item that gets handled a lot, like an afghan, the worked-over ends are not secure enough. I prefer to weave in all my ends with a tapestry needle for the final finish.
Yes, this is tedious. It’s not nearly as much fun as stitching cute little hexagons. However, it IS a critical part of the afghan-making process. A couple of nights in front of the TV should do it.
I use a blunt-tip tapestry needle with a big enough eye so that I can easily thread it, yet not so big that it has trouble fitting through the stitches. You do know this trick for threading a tapestry needle, don’t you?
Weave the yarn tail in a couple of different directions through the back of the same-color stitches. The more different directions you go in, the more secure your tail will be.
Some people choose to use a sharper needle and actually skim through the back of the stitches, splitting the yarn. If you have a latch hook, you might find it easier to use it to weave in your ends.
A Finishing Round
Once I had all my ends woven in, I used a steam iron to carefully block the entire afghan. You may have heard that blocking is not necessary with acrylic yarn, but I find that blocking gives a finished look to any crocheted piece. I was careful to use the lowest steam setting on my iron, and I NEVER touch the iron to the fabric, as it it is possible to “kill” acrylic yarn and thus alter its drape. I just skimmed the iron over the afghan, keeping it about 2″ above the fabric.
Then I decided that a final round of single crochet would be a nice touch and would help strengthen and secure the edges. I worked 1 sc in each dc around, putting (sc, ch 1, sc) in each “outer” chain-space corner, and 1 sc in each “inner” chain-space corner.
The finished size is about 37″ x 53″. That’s reasonably close to what I predicted. It is a bit small for a traditional-sized afghan, but I could easily have added motifs to make it larger. As it is, I decided it’s a perfect lap-ghan size to throw over my legs while I’m crocheting.
Also as predicted, the weight of the finished afghan indicated I used a total of about 8 balls of yarn. The breakdown of colors was about 5 balls of Taupe, 3 balls of Linen and 2 balls of Cranberry. (Yes, these add up to more than 8 balls, because the final ball of each color was not used up.)
It’s Just the Beginning
Those of you who have stuck with me this far, congratulations! I hope I’ve been showing you things you didn’t know before, and that you have been having fun and gaining confidence while working along with me. I haven’t been able to share half of what I know and love about crocheting; if you want to learn more, read more here at the Lion Brand website, refer to The Crochet Answer Book and Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, and take classes. All my fellow crochet teachers and I are anxious to share our love of the craft with you.
I hope you’ll keep stitching and striving to grow your knowledge while enjoying what you are doing. No stress, no “wrongs”, just opportunities to learn. I’ll be hanging out here at the Lion Brand Notebook for another week or so to answer questions and respond to comments. After that, you’ll still be able to find me on the Ravelry CAL group or on my website.
Stitch On–and HAVE FUN!
Let me welcome those of you who have joined this crochet-along already in progress. Rest assured that you are not behind, and you can do this at your own pace! As a matter of fact, even if you started with my first blog post, I hope you feel that you are working at a pace that is comfortable for you.
This week I’m going to answer some questions that you’ve been asking, and show you a couple of new tips. First, however, I’m going to give you a little pep talk. At least, I hope it seems like a pep talk!
At many times in our lives, we run across people who correct us—tell us we are doing something “wrong” and show us the “right” path. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Our parents and school teachers guided us to learn and grow. We come to depend on the feedback we get from these mentors, and we seek their approval. At some point, however, we must grow up and decide for ourselves what is right for us.
This is crochet. There are no tests, no final exam, no grades. There is no “right” way or “wrong” way to do something, only things you don’t know yet. Fear and trepidation should not be in your vocabulary.
Are you having fun?
YOU are the person who must be happy with your work. If you are happy with the way your project looks—and it functions well— then it’s right. If you are unhappy for some reason—you don’t like the way the stitches look, the joins fall apart—then take action to figure out what is going wrong, and fix it.
As a teacher, I can suggest ways to improve the look and function of your work. You must take ownership and responsibility for the results. Solicit opinions if you must, but be confident that you can and will make the right choices for you.
Whether you are a newbie or an experienced crocheter, branch out! I’ll bet you don’t even know what you don’t know! Read crochet books, explore new techniques, search the internet, take classes. I’m always seeking to learn new and interesting techniques, and most of these I learn from other people. Don’t get so frustrated that you give up. So-called “experts” are only experts because they had an inquiring mind and the desire to learn more. With perseverance, anybody can be an expert.
OK…are you feeling more confident? I hope so.
Weaving in Ends as You Go
One of the main questions I’ve had is about weaving in ends. I tend to do a combination of weave-in-as-I-go, and weave-in-later. If I have a slip knot from beginning the round, I might just pull it tight and weave that end in, tiny knot and all, or I might unpick it so there is no knot at all. It depends on my attitude at the moment.
If I have enough solid stitches in a row, I’ll hold the yarn to the back and work around it over several stitches, as shown here.
Even when weaving in as I work, I still leave a short tail to be woven in another direction later.
However, if I’m skipping some stitches, as on Round 3 of our motif, I tend to save that end to be woven in later. I usually don’t cut off my ends until I’m doing the finishing, just in case I have to rip out a motif for some reason. You can see the results of my mixed efforts (so far) here.
You can see that I have finished off some of the ends in the center “stripe” of the afghan.
More on Join-As-You-Go
Last week I showed you how to join all along one edge. Here is an example of how it might look if you joined just at the corners.
Some of you have asked about the order in which I’m joining. Because the join is done on the final round of the motif, I need to join each new motif to the previous one(s) on the final round. I can do it in any order I choose, as long as I don’t forget and leave out an edge that needs to be joined. I use my planned sketch (or the diagram from week 2) to remind me how they fit together. I’ve been doing it more or less in strips–one length of 9 motifs to start, as shown here.
By the way, I think I’m going to add another 2 “stripes” to my afghan, to make it wider. I have enough yarn. Guess it depends on how much I get done between now and next week, right?
I have decided that my afghan looks best if I join at the corners AND all along one edge. While you can begin Round 4 at a corner, I prefer to begin it in the middle of one of the edges, because I prefer to end a round with a dc-to-dc instead of a ch-to-dc.
Work up to the first corner to be joined. Dc in that corner, ch 2. You are now at about the center point of the corner, as shown:
Drop the stitch from the hook, insert the hook from front to back into the first corner space to be joined, then back into the dropped stitch. Pull the dropped stitch through the chain-space.
Ch 1 to complete the ch-3 corner of the current motif, then dc in the same corner ch-space and join that dc and the remaining dcs along the edge to the afghan, as I showed you last week.
At the next corner, you have to join to chain-spaces from 2 different motifs. Ch 1, drop the stitch from the hook, insert the hook from front to back into the next adjoining corner space, then back into the dropped stitch. Pull the stitch through the chain-space.
Ch 1, then join in the corner of the next motif.
Ch 1, complete the dc in that corner and join along the edge, into the next double corner, and into the next edge as before. On the final corner, ch 1, join to the chain-space of the other motif, ch 2, complete the dc in the corner, and work to the end. Here’s what you have done:
Relax. Breathe. Unhunch your shoulders.
Are you wondering how I learned to do this join? I started with a problem: how to create a strong, flexible, nice-looking join that could be worked on the last round. I also had a deadline: when I started this Crochet-Along I didn’t know what joining method would work and I knew I had to come up with something to share with you! Then I experimented with several different techniques until I “unvented” one that worked in this situation.
It isn’t the first or the second or even the third thing I tried, but eventually I discovered what I think is just the right join for us. I don’t say this to make you feel bad, but instead to encourage. You, too, can use your brains and problem-solving skills to create new (or new-to-you) techniques to improve your stitching!
Are you having fun?
Reader challenge: As I’ve worked on this afghan, I’ve decided that I get the best results by beginning with a standing double crochet not started with a slip knot on my hook. That is not within the scope of this blog, but I’ll bet you can figure it out yourself. Take the bull by the horns and figure out how to do a standing double crochet without a slip knot!
Please don’t be intimidated into keeping your own cool techniques to yourself. I want to learn from you! Share with all of us your favorite tips, especially those that will help in this project. You know more than you think…
Last week I showed you how to start a motif in the round using a sliding loop. This week and next, I’m going to share a few more tips that might make our stitching more attractive and attend to some of those nagging details that keep our motifs from looking their best.
Now that you’ve got a few motifs under your belt, take a good look at them. Are you happy with the way they look? I’m not talking about the color this time—that was last week. Now I’m talking about their overall appearance. It’s hard, but try to be objective. This is just you looking at your own work—nobody else is in the room, so you can be as harsh a critic as you dare.
Are the stitches even? Are the corners symmetrical and the sides straight? Is there a wonky chain-stitch line where you’ve been beginning the rounds? Do you have an ugly bump at the end of the round where the join occurs? If you’ve been working in ends as you go, are the tails peeking through on the right side?
Whenever you are working from a pattern, you should realize that the designer had to make certain assumptions, and perhaps to obey certain pattern-writing conventions that make patterns more standardized. In other words, the designer can’t possibly put into each pattern every single “improving” technique that she might know. It’s up to the crocheter to learn and apply some of these techniques for herself (or himself). Now, before you get into a huff about this, think: it’s no different from cooking. Recipes don’t tell you every single move to make, but you’ve learned cooking techniques and apply them all the time. It’s the same for crochet.
By now, hopefully you have a pretty good idea of how the motif is made, and perhaps you are stitching without even consulting the pattern. Fine! But now let’s take a closer look at how the motif is constructed. I encourage you to refer to the chart for this part.
Changing the beginning of the round
The motif we are working on was written as if the entire thing was going to be worked in one color, or with one continuous strand of yarn. Those of you familiar with reading crochet patterns will have deduced this already, because the rounds flow directly from one to another using joins to end a round followed by chain stitches to bring the hook up ready to work the next round.
As written, the pattern calls for a hdc join at the end of Round 1. This hdc takes the place of a (ch-2, slip st) join; it creates a “ch-2″ space, but leaves the hook in place to begin Round 2. I could do it exactly as written, adding my new color on the final joining stitch. However, because I am doing every round in a different color, I am going to finish off the color at the end of every round, then join a new color for the next round. I don’t need to use the hdc join, because once I finish Round 1, I’m going to be changing colors. I can start my new color anywhere.
If I change the location of the first stitch of Round 2, I can keep those beginning chain-stitches from stacking up on top of each other and creating an unsightly line. Refer to the chart and just pick a spot—any spot—to start your Round 2. You may begin in a chain-space, or in a double-crochet stitch. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you make sure to do six sets of 5-dc groups, separated by ch-3 corners.
Standing double crochet
But hold on… I so dislike the look of a beginning “ch-3 (counts as dc)” that I avoid it whenever possible. In this instance, I can just start my Round 2 with a double crochet. Wait, did you say, just start with a double crochet? How is this possible?
As I mentioned, the purpose of the beginning ch-3 would be to get the hook up to the top of the next round. Once I’ve finished off Round 1, however, my hook can be anywhere it wants. Therefore, if I just start with a slip knot on the hook, I can insert the hook into any stitch or space and work a double crochet. I do end up with a slip knot kind of hanging off the back of the work. I’ll get rid of that later when I am weaving in my ends. I call this technique a “standing double crochet”.
Reader challenge: See if you can spot the beginning and ending of Rounds 2, 3 and 4 in the photo at the top of the blog.
OK, I know this is the part you’ve all been waiting for. There are many ways to join motifs as you go. The best method is the one that gives you the results you like in your particular project. With each new project, I find it necessary to experiment with several methods to figure out which one is going to work best for me. That’s why I asked you not to finish off your final round, so you can rip back a bit and play with different joining techniques.
Today I’ll show you the join-as-you-go method that I’ve determined suits me best for this particular afghan. If you don’t like it, or if you don’t like the way it looks with your project, stay tuned. Later I will be giving you additional options for joining, including another joining method and a relatively painless way to join motifs after they are all complete.
Cool, huh? I’ll be talking about some additional technique refinements next week, and you can find these and many more in Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs.
I’m sure many of you more experienced crocheters have your own tips that you’d like to share with us. We would all like to hear from you. What are your favorite tips and tricks?
Thanks to everybody for helping me decide which colors to choose for my afghan. I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments and can’t want to see all the colorful combinations you choose for your projects. It seems like I got plenty of votes for colorway #4, and since that fits with my décor, I’ll go with that one. Here are some I didn’t choose, but that you might have:
Many of you are anxious to get started with learning a join-as-you-go method, but I’m going to ask that you be patient for one more week while we do some other steps.
Swatching Tells the Tale
As with any project, it’s important to do a swatch before beginning a project. A swatch gives us an idea of what size hook to use, how much yarn we’ll need, and what the likely finished dimensions of the afghan will be. Luckily for us, in this case the swatch may just be the first or second motif of our project.
I tried a couple of different hook sizes and settled on an I-9 (5.5mm) hook for the Vanna’s Choice yarn that I’m using. You may need a different hook size to get the ideal feel for your gauge and yarn. You want a motif that has a little bit of body without being too stiff or too floppy. If you’re not sure what size you need, start with the suggested size on the yarn band, but don’t hesitate to change hooks to get the ideal gauge for you.
My motif measures about 3.25″ across one edge, 6.5″ from point-to-point across the center, and 5.5″ from side-to-side across the center. I printed out some (really cool) hexagonal graph paper from Incompetech.com and used that to envision how the motifs will be arranged. Here’s what my hand-drawn worksheet looks like. You can see the size and shape of the afghan outlined in black.
You can also see that I need 60 hexagons in all. My swatch weighs in at about 12 g, so 12g x 60 motifs = 720 g, or 8 balls of Vanna’s Choice yarn. However, since I’m using more than one color, and I’ll need some yarn for joining, I know that I’ll need more than 8 balls of yarn, not including the yarn needed to join the motifs together either as we go or at the end. At this point, I can’t be completely accurate in knowing what amounts I’ll need, because I don’t know how colors A, B and C will be used.
If you are using lots of colors, and just want to do a patchwork/freeform design without a plan, just start stitching. Leave a longish (12″) tail on the final round, and don’t weave in the final tail. You’ll understand the reason for this later.
Planning the Design
In my case, I want to have a plan for placement of my motifs. I still need to decide how I want to arrange the colors on each motif, and also how to arrange the motifs to form the overall design. I’ve started by stitching one motif. Because I’m still in the designing stage, I’m going to work the first few motifs in a variety of color arrangements. Let’s call my colors A (taupe), B (cranberry) and C (linen). I use a kind of shorthand to describe the color arrangements, with letter designations for each round. Here are the motifs I’ve done so far, although I could do even more variations with just these 3 colors.
Here’s where it gets really fun. I can do any of the following: (1) Decide to join my motifs once they are all complete. That means that right now I can just stitch individual motifs. I can decide on placement and color arrangements as I go, allowing the design to develop as I stitch. I don’t have to commit to a placement scheme until the last minute. I actually prefer this way most of the time. That’s because I don’t mind joining motifs at the end—it’s not that hard or time-consuming, I promise. (2) Use a random pattern of color variations throughout. (3) Pick one or two color arrangements and use them in alternating rows. (4) Scan the motifs, then print out the (now smaller than life-size) images on my color printer, making as many prints of each one as I choose. Then I can cut them out and play with the pieces until I have an arrangement I like. If I tape the pieces together I’ll have a template to remind me what to stitch next. (5) Do #4 above with color pencils or crayons. This can be lots of fun, and the kids can play, too! (6) Scan the motifs, and then manipulate them digitally using an image-editing software program. Since I’m trying to learn a new-to-me program, and since it makes nice prototype afghans for this purpose, this is the method I’ll choose here. You’ll see that they are just rough digital “sketches”, but that’s all I need at this stage. (Note to mention: this is just about the extent of my skill at this point. The strange white lines between the motifs are just my inexperience!) Here are some of the options I came up with, based on the scanned motifs above.
Of course, there are many other options! This time, I’m going to let other members of my family decide which version they like, and which one I’ll make. I suspect I’ll be adding a tiny amount of a fourth color (sapphire?) to add some pop.
Whew! I’ve been doing lots of planning, but now I’m ready to start stitching in earnest. I’m going to make 4 or 5 complete motifs, but not join the final round. I’ll probably make some others through Round 3 only. Once I decide on my joining method (next week’s post), I’ll do the final round on those motifs as needed. Why don’t you do the same?
The Sliding Loop
One final thing for this week: I want to show you how I do the “sliding loop” technique for starting a motif in the round. Although the pattern says to start with a ch-4 ring, I prefer to start all my motifs with a sliding loop—a variation of what you may know as the magic loop. It is a bit tricky to learn, but once I mastered it, it became my favorite method. It makes an adjustable ring into which to work the first round, and I can make the ring as large or as small as needed to fit my needs.
Work all first-round sts into the doubled ring. Those of you with eagle-eyes will notice that this example is not exactly the same as yours-I’m only putting 1 chain between treble crochet sts, not 2 as called for in the pattern.
As you work, you may have to expand your doubled loop in order to get all the stitches in. Once you have completed the round, you’ll see that the doubled loop is still peeking between your stitches. Gently pull on your yarn tail and you’ll notice that one of the strands (probably the inside strand) will tighten. Go ahead and tighten that strand up, but not all the way. Once it is just barely visible, stop tugging on the yarn tail and instead pull on that tiny little tightened strand.
Please post your questions or comments here, and feel free to chip in with helpful suggestions for each other. We’re in this together!
My name is Edie Eckman, and I’m so excited to be leading this Motif Afghan Crochet-Along! I’m a crochet (and knit) designer, and lately I’ve been doing lots of motif crochet. You may think of it as “granny squares”, but I’ve found it can be so much more than that.
Let me tell you what I have in mind for this adventure.
We’ll be making a full-sized motif-based afghan in 3 or 4 colors. I’ve chosen Motif #48 from my book Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs as the basis for the design. It works well in 1, 2, 3 or 4 colors, and the hexagonal shape is so versatile that we have plenty of opportunity for creativity. You can find the motif instructions here.
This week, we’ll be choosing colorways. The following week, we’ll look at how the motif appears when stitched in a variety of color combinations and learn the “sliding loop” method of beginning a motif in the round. In Week 3, I’ll show you a couple of ways to envision the final design, so you can decide how many motifs to make. The next week will include tips for improving your technique, dealing with yarn tails, and joining as you go. The final week we’ll finish up: block, sew together (if we didn’t join them as we worked), and weave in the ends.
Of course, this is simply a suggested outline. As we progress, I’ll answer questions, and let you help me decide what we need to discuss. As in life, the plan is subject to change.
One of my favorite things about starting an afghan project is choosing the yarn. There are so many possible choices! I decided early on that I’d be using Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice and/or Vanna’s Choice Baby, because of the many beautiful colors that are designed to go together. Wool-Ease is another good choice.
Although I didn’t have any particular colorway in mind, I was looking for three or four colors that would look good together. I really find it hard to make up my mind when it comes to colors, so I’m starting with a bunch of choices. I like bright colors, but sometimes for home decor I’d prefer something more subtle. I’ve narrowed down my choices to four colorways, and wound some yarn onto white index cards to get an idea of how they might look together, and in what proportions.
I like #1 and #2 for a baby or kid’s afghan, but I don’t have any (little) kids at my house.
#3 would look great in my bedroom, but I recently did another afghan in a similar colorway and I’m afraid I might get tired of it.
#4 would work well in my den.
I’m leaning strongly toward #3 or #4.
What do you think? Let me know which colors you want to see me use in the comments section! You have FIVE days to help me decide, because I have to get the yarn!
Now…you go choose some yarns that will work for you. Since motifs lend themselves to using up colorful scraps of yarn, you could just go crazy and use a wide variety of colors! However, even if you are using up yarn from your stash, it’s a good idea to choose colors deliberately.
Also, leave a note and introduce yourself! We want to know what yarn and colors you want to use, and we want to know a little about you!
Let the adventure begin…