I do not crochet much; I do not follow crochet patterns very well. I *can* invent items on the fly with a crochet hook when I need a certain shape, it is a very flexible process. With crochet you can just take off and work another direction without binding off first.
My Personal Preferences
I am not fond of fabrics one can see through, as a general rule. Crochet makes wonderful lace (especially when worked in thread… I collect old handkerchiefs with crochet embellishments). I also do not wear flowery feminine styles, for my own personal clothing.
Crochet is therefore not as appealing to me as to someone whose style includes wearing lace. I guess I like lace on household objects and handkerchiefs more than on myself.
However, there are some crochet things you just can not do well with knitting. I am doing what I can to learn more (slowly, but I’m open).
Strengths of the Fabric Structure
Crochet has very unique characteristics. It is a more reversible fabric than knitting by nature, it does not curl up like knitting does, it is less inclined to stretch. This makes it good for rugs and purses, backpacks and hats, toys and sculptures, even shaped body-supporting undergarments and surely other things I’m not thinking of right now.
Although in general, the fabric of crochet is bumpy and the fabric of knitting is less so, there are smoother crochet stitch patterns and bumpier knit ones.
Fiber/Yarns and Their Impact
Another thing I notice is (admitting that this is a too-generalized statement), the knitters in my life tend to splurge on special yarns more often than the crocheters I know. This can mean that a wonderfully-executed crocheted item can come out less than its potential.
Perhaps that statement just exposes my strong preference for wool. Some wools are soft/not scratchy, and some wools are washable, though I admit that soft washable wool is a lot more expensive than workhorse acrylic yarns.
There are wonderful wool/acrylic and cotton/acrylic yarns, though, which hold a price point between the two, and which in my opinion have a much nicer look and feel than 100% acrylic or 100% cotton.
It’s a very personal thing, and I guess I also have to admit I have never once made something that required as much yarn as an afghan. That could cost enough that I might need to think carefully about my choices.
Another attribute of crochet is that the fabric is thicker by nature. Crochet is a series of knots, knitting is flatter interlocking loops. The knots contain several strands/layers of yarn.
Therefore, a crochet fabric is thicker in the same yarn, as compared to knitting. If one likes thinner and drapier fabric (as you know I often do), an item then might best be executed in a smaller yarn.
I also have found that if I use a much larger hook than called for, the fabric gets a little air in it and it drapes much more, which I like. My favorite experiment in crochet thus far was laceweight mohair on a hook normally used for worsted-weight afghan crocheting. Wow, it was pretty, and floaty, and drapey! I liked it a lot.
My Own Successes
I have not made many things that were entirely of crochet. I did very successfully use a single crochet edging to finish neck/armhole edges on a ribbed tank top. I made a single-crocheted bikini top for wearing at home on hot days (that one was worsted weight crocheted very tightly… it was easy to shape properly, it doesn’t show through, and it supports very firmly, which would have been difficult attributes to accomplish with knitting).
I have also used crochet as an embellishment/edge on a mohair Bloom Shawl (see photo, right), and to add a colorful edge on the hug/wrap I made for one special toddler last winter. I’m playing with a crocheted toy right now in fingering-weight yarn/single crochet.
Not a Success, Yet
I started a felted crochet bag/purse which I think will be wonderful, but had an awful time getting the right number of stitches required by the pattern. It is crocheted in concentric “circles” (more like a rounded rectangle) and I somehow am not placing my increases properly. That project is on hold for now but I refuse to use the yarn for something else. I have not yet given up hope.
Oh, the Possibilities…
Crocheted colorwork excites me. I’ve done a bit of Tapestry Crochet to explore that, which is great fun. I even considered that technique (rather than folk intarsia) for my self-portrait. However, my chart was created in a grid and crochet is off-grid like the shingles on a roof.
I’m not done thinking about this idea yet. Some of my favorite purchased hats and bags are tapestry crochet.
Cool Stuff I Found Today
I really think crochet has not been explored fully yet. Diana reminds me that folks still make thin, drapeable laces in fine crochet cottons. I dream of something similar but using wool, alpaca, or mohair laceweight yarns.
I have also felt that I could really love a stole in laceweight, if it were not a flowery lace. I like geometrics when I find lace I like at all. And I just found one possible option…
Sriyana left a comment on my blog (she makes incredible tapestry-crocheted mandalas which I’ve mentioned here before). I followed a link to her Flickr photo account. She had made some incredible fingerless mitts in a zillion colors, to send to a crochet friend in Barcelona.
I surfed to her friend’s blog. That friend had finished a stole designed by Annette Petavy. I love this design, it drapes so beautifully. It was made in a geometric pattern with laceweight Malabrigo 100% merino wool yarn. It has zigzags/peaks. (You surely know I love zigzags.) I love the photo of this stole.
Annette Petavy: Crochet Designer
So then of course, I had to surf to Annette Petavy’s site. Apparently she has written a number of patterns for publications such as Interweave Crochet.
She also has a shopping cart showing a handful of designs for sale as individual patterns/PDF download. One is the Arrows Stole which first drew my attention. (The prices are not listed in US dollars, it seems she’s in France.)
But I kept surfing… she also offers a striped cardigan pattern in sportweight yarn, very flattering. Imagine it in Sportweight Brown Sheep Nature Spun, a very sproingy wooly (handwash) and lightweight yarn which comes in a zillion colors. Luckily, Rae’s Yarn Boutique just got in dozens of colors of this very yarn late last week. Or maybe an alternative would be Elsabeth Lavold Silky Wool… softer, drapier, and more subtle.
At this point I was intrigued. Annette works in thinner yarns, does some geometric rather than flowery lace… well, dare I think she designs with me in mind? (Yes, we are all self-centered when it comes down to it.) This is exciting. So I started peeking around her site.
She has a page full of articles she wrote for the online magazine Crochet Me. I read the first two articles right away, one on being creative and breaking out of a routine, and one on how to vary the crochet stitches by using the front or back loops of the crochet fabric while working. Both are excellent.
I’m so glad Sriyana took the time to comment. Now I’m aware of a crocheter who designs in a way I really appreciate. I’ll keep a careful eye out now, for more.