Saturday, April 26, 2008

Look Ma! No Holes! Part Two

Used to be, way back in the Dark Ages when I first learned to crochet, that the way you worked decreases was simple: You just skipped the next stitch and worked your next stitch in the one after. This resulted in the tiniest of holes, but that was no matter, because crochet is about the holes, sometimes, and that was the way it was and everyone was used to it.


Ready to begin a decrease row:

Work the first stitch, skip the second:

How the fabric looks with the 3rd and 4th stitches then worked:

A bit of a hole there, huh, between the first and second sts worked?

So with the recent proliferation of new crochet books and magazines, I have been seeing a wealth of new techniques for conquering the same old tasks. I love this one for making a decrease but keeping a nice, evenly textured fabric. It couldn't be more easy!


To work a single crochet decrease, draw up a loop in the stitch to be decreased:

Draw a loop up in the stitch to be worked:

Yarn over, and draw through all loops on the hook:

Decrease accomplished, and a neat fabric results:

That one stitch where the decrease was worked is a tiny bit thicker looking that the others, but we know that because we're looking for it. Otherwise, it is absolutely perfect!

Well, as I write this, I imagine things are absolute pandemonium at Kiwi right now. Today is the last day of the Anniversary sale, and if yesterday was any indication while I was there for Knit Doctor, then I cannot imagine how busy today is! Mind you, I and everyone else even remotely associated with Kiwi LOVE this! My selfish reason is that I get to have a yarn shop that I love to both shop and work in. My selfless reason is that I think Lynn is wonderful and I wish her all the best. As anyone who has had a small business can tell you, making it through those first three years is critical, and now Kiwi has done that, and more.

I've told you that when Lynn first opened Kiwi I was working at another yarn shop that has now closed. I heard about Kiwi, and didn't even pass Go, let alone wait to collect $200. I called my husband up on the cell phone, swung by the house to pick him up, and we went straight down to Kiwi. I really loved the feel of the shop, and Lynn was so friendly, that I found myself offering to hold the fort and keep the shop open when she went to her daughter's wedding (I think it was her daughter... was it her son? Hmmm...) up in the cold northern reaches.

One of the three days I was there, a few women came in - all separately - and at some point in their wanderings around, they started a conversation in the front room in front of the register. It turned out that they had children's ages in common, schools in common, and who knows what else! They stayed and chatted for over an hour, and I just knew right then and there that Kiwi Knitting would be a great success. I've worked in a lot of retail and service business in my time, and I know that a place that creates a sense of community is rare, and that anytime you make people feel at home in your space, you've got a winner.

So, speaking for myself - but I have no doubt Lynn would agree - I thank you all for being part of making Kiwi what it is. It is such a pleasure to meet so many wonderful people as part of my work experience, it is so much fun and so darned interesting to be part of your projects and processes, and it is such a privilege to teach you, and an honor to turn more of you into fiberholics every day. I also thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such faithful readers of the Kiwi blog.

If you have any questions for the Kiwi blog, or suggestions for topics, please drop me a line at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Look, Ma! No Holes!

My Beloved Crochet Hook Set

No matter what your favorite method is to use up lots of nice yarn, everyone needs a set of crochet hooks in their bag. If I'm working on a crochet project, I have everything I need right here. The small, silver hooks over on the left are for adding beads to a project. If I'm knitting and want to do a crochet cast-on, or I need to correct a mistake in a st several rows below or if I have a dropped st, then no matter what needle size I am using, I have a crochet hook that will work perfectly with my fabric. The other neat thing about crochet hooks is that once you have a set - unlike with knitting - you really don't need others. You don't need a size D hook in several lengths, or in several different materials to work with different yarns. Personally, I like metal hooks because I feel that hooks should be really slick and slippery in order to make the hand movements of crochet easier. Some people prefer wooden hooks and there are some really gorgeous wooden hooks out there now. Try some out, find what material works best for you, and invest in a whole set - you'll be surprised how often you need them, even if you aren't crocheting.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again, every knitter should know how to crochet. If you already know how to crochet you've got it made! Personally, I think crochet is easier to learn than knitting, and easier to do. You can work in three dimensions, you can attach to fabric anywhere - on an edge, in the middle of the fabric - and embellish till your eyeballs fall out! Crocheted lace edges are one of my favorite touches to finish a garment.

Because our beloved Marianne teaches two wonderful crochet classes at Kiwi for beginners - Crochet 101 and 102 - I'm not planning to attempt to teach crochet in this blog, but I'd like to pass on a couple of techniques you might like.

If you remember the first era of Granny Squares - which are making a comeback - then you started your squares and circles by crocheting a small chain of sts...

Use a slip stitch (sl st) to join them into a ring...

Chain two, and then work 7 dc into the ring.

Work a sl st to join the end of the round with the beginning of the round...

And you've got a hole in the center. This looks fine with Granny squares because the holes work with the way the rest of the fabric looks. But if you want a solid fabric, this is not the best way to go.

Enter the Magic Circle...
Just form a double loop with your yarn (I like a single loop better, experiment and see what works best for you), with the tail to the right and the working yarn to your left...

Get ready to work the first round.

Use your hook to pull up a loop in the center of the circle.

Chain two...

Work 7 dc in your circle and then sl st last st to first st in the round.

Pull the Magic Circle tight

HA! No holes! Isn't that brilliant?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Karla the Kiwi and Happy Anniversary!

When I was a kid, it seemed that everyone I knew was a knitter. Both of my parents knitted, my oldest sister knitted, both of the moms across the street from us knitted, my godmother knitted. It was the same with sewing - everyone did it. So I started to learn to sew when I was about 5, taught by my Mom and my oldest sister, and when, at age 7 I wanted to learn to knit, my left-handed Mom sent me across the street to learn from one of our neighbors. When my husband and I went back east to my hometown three years ago this summer, I wanted to thank the woman who had taught me to knit all those years ago. We stopped at the house where I grew up - which my Dad built - and got the most gracious reception and tour of our old house from the woman now living there, married to one of my high school classmates, who was so excited to meet someone from the original family in their obviously much-loved home. But when we went across the street to thank my knitting teacher, no one was home. She died in the hospital less than a week later, and I never did get a chance to thank her, it has been one of my biggest regrets.

When I wanted to learn crochet at age 11, I had no gurus to turn to - I didn't know anyone who knew how to crochet. And so I sat down with an issue of one of the women's magazines my Mom subscribed to, and with yarn and hook in hand, illustrations in front of me, and taught myself to crochet. I took to it like a duck to water, somehow it just made perfect sense to me.

I abandoned knitting for many years, and crocheted anything that would stand still long enough, scarves, sweaters, hats, slippers, granny squares! It was the late 60s, early 70s, so people either thought I was cool because I was creative, or that I was a freak for doing something so incredibly 'old-fashioned' in the early days of what we called Women's Lib. Nonetheless I ignored the critics and crocheted a lot. Every one around me got crocheted gifts (all my gifts were always homemade - either sewn, crocheted, embroidered, macramed, photographed, drawn, written... and now knitted). All pregnant women got baby blankets, later on nieces and nephews got afghans when they graduated from high school.

If I crocheted at the salon between clients I was well and truly mocked. Oh, well, I crocheted anyway. Yet somehow, for the last several years of my life in the salon industry I got too busy to do anything creative other than photography.

My husband and I got married four days before 9/11, and I took him back east for the first time just a month later in mid-October, to see where I grew up . We stayed with one of my sisters, and every dark fall evening as we were going back to her house after our day of travels, we would pass right by a yarn shop with big picture windows, all lit up inside against the October gloom looking like the inside of a jewel box, just filled with so many gorgeous colors. It only took a few days before my husband and I couldn't stand it any longer and stopped into the shop, and I was a goner. The shop was Sheep's Clothing, the now-closed retail shop for Morehouse Merino. Because they concentrated on knitting, it was knitting that I took up again - had they been mostly a crochet shop I would most likely have done that instead. Before I left I had a sock kit, a set of dpns, and Mary Thomas's Knitting Book, and I sat cross-legged on the bed that evening and started my first pair of socks .

When I developed asthma a year later and we had to close our shop because of it, I spent about 4 months on the couch at home, gasping like a fish before we found the right combination of meds to make it possible for me to function. I found it hard to concentrate enough to read when I had an asthma attack, and that just added to my distress, so I picked up needles and yarn and knitted. That is what I did for 4 months straight. I fell - and still am - totally in love with knitting.

There seems to be a generally accepted concept that there is a line drawn in the sand - knitters don't crochet, and crocheters don't knit. It's like the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets! When I started working in a yarn shop for the first time, I taught classes in both knitting and crochet, but never did students from one class drift over into the other. Now I will admit to you that because of wrist issues, I do knit more than I crochet. Ans so you will undoubtedly have noticed that the Kiwi blog posts have been all about knitting. But if you have met me, you know that I firmly believe that every knitter should know how to crochet. And yet, if I think about it, I really don't feel that crocheters all need to learn how to knit - there is something about crochet that is complete unto itself.

Like knitting since the time just before Elizabeth Zimmerman, crochet techniques have changed and improved quite a bit over the years since I had last crocheted, and I have enjoyed learning and incorporating these new techniques, although the essential elements of the craft remain the same. When designing Karla the Kiwi for the April Kiwi Klub Pattern of the Month, I incorporated several of these techniques into the pattern. Over the next few posts, I'll explore these and other advents in crochet with you. I'm hoping to get some of you knitters to try crochet for the first time, and humbly hope to show some new things to you crocheters out there.

And did you know that April is the anniversary month of Kiwi Knitting? It was just three years ago that Lynn opened the shop. I was working and teaching at another yarn shop at the time, and when I heard about Kiwi at the knitting guild, I dragged my husband down there with me one day to check it out. Two weeks later I was holding down the fort for three days while Lynn went to her daughter's wedding, and I've been teaching there ever since she returned.

So Happy Anniversary, Lynn! I thank you for letting me be part of your wonderful shop, and for all the good things and opportunities that have come into my life since then, all because of Kiwi. Three great years, and hopes for many, many more!