Saturday 21 October 2017

Uptown sweater update

Part of the Back to School Sweater CAL hosted by Tamara of Crafty Escapism and Helen of Making at Number 14

Well, hello! I've been absent a bit longer than I intended - "back to school" bug season always seems to catch me, and I've been ridiculously tired recently. So tired, I haven't even done a lot of crochet! I'm gradually getting back into it now, so I do have something to share, but sadly I'm nowhere near finished. I'm here to demonstrate that it doesn't matter how long it takes you, and how many times you have to join the frogging party (which I hear has been quite a popular destination!), you can still end up with an awesome garment.

Choosing the pattern

I'm working on Uptown by Dora Ohrenstein, from her book Custom Crocheted Sweaters. I got this book for Christmas - 2015! - and my intention was to spend 2016 learning how to make, and adjust, tops that actually fit me. Instead I spent the year getting hugely sidetracked (I blame Instagram and CALs). I finished the first one, Floating Tee, in May 2016, but I haven't made another from this book, so I thought this CAL would be the perfect opportunity.

Choosing the yarn

At first I struggled with yarn choices. I wanted to use a wool based yarn, for warmth and drape, but I had to stick to a tight budget. I had used Wendy Ramsdale DK to make a knitted shawl last year, and it has become a favourite because it's so cosy. My mother nearly stole it and she doesn't really do shawls. (Don't worry, I caught her!) I swatched to see how it would look and feel and I was very pleased with the result.
Swatching in the round meant I could try it on for the itch test too.
But even though it is at the lower end of the price scale, the yarn requirements were going to blow my budget out of the water. Luckily I noticed many comments on Ravelry that they hadn't needed as much yarn, so I did a rough calculation based my swatch and decided I'd only need about half the quantity.

Even better, when I was searching for stockists, I found Sconch yarn shop who happened to be having a clearance sale of the Ramsdale.

I may have got slightly carried away, but I got all the yarn for much less than I thought I'd have to spend based on the pattern requirements.

When the CAL started, I did another swatch with the colour I'd chosen. I've been caught out before when using a different colour that it swatches differently, so better safe than sorry.

First adjustment - dropped neckline, front and back

The point of the book is to teach you how to make adjustments, and this pattern was looking at dropping the neckline on a raglan top. A larger bust generally looks better with a lower neckline, so I followed the directions and they worked perfectly. I was worried the back would be too low, but it seems fine.


I'd decided to go for a L, with adjustments for various bumps and slopes! My upper chest is proportionally much smaller than my bust, so I always have to adjust this area down in size. The pattern actually starts the same for the first three sizes, which makes it easier, but because the fabric then gets pulled out over my bust, I still have to pull in the neckline more. It was quite baggy, and I had to stop to see if I could fix it with the neck edging, or if I would have to join the frogging party, but it seemed fixable.

Second adjustment - for large bust

I'm always experimenting, trying to find the best way to get the fabric to slide over my bust, which means that I'm a frequent frogging party visitor! This time I decided to do four increases evenly spaced across the front of the top, followed by another four increases at the same point. This created space for my bust, and then I decreased in the same manner.

I also wanted to try short rows, since the back is always longer than the front because of the distance travelled over my bust. I don't know what I'm doing with short rows, I just knew what I wanted to achieve, so any experts would be cringing. I think I've got away with it, and I'm pretty happy with the way the front and back line up when worn. (It looks totally wrong when flat!)

What next?

After repeated frogging because I wasn't paying enough attention, I'm finally on the waist shaping. I'm basically back to the pattern, but I've had to adjust the row spacing for the decreases to match up with where I am after the bust shaping.

Next I'm going to adjust for my slightly generous hips, and see how long I want the top - depending on whether I have enough yarn. If I'm not sure, I will probably stop and do the sleeves first, so I don't run out.

It shouldn't take me too long to finish now, as usually it's the bust that takes me the most time. Hopefully I'll be able to post in the finished thread in The Crochet Circle podcast group on Ravelry before the end of the CAL! I'll keep you updated.

#backtoschoolsweatercal on Instagram

Thanks for reading.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Back to School Sweater CAL - Making Alterations to Suit

Welcome to this week's post on the #backtoschoolsweaterCAL blog hop. Find out more about the blog hop and CAL here. You've already thought about why you want to crochet a garment, choosing a style, selecting yarn, measuring, swatching and ease - now we can look at making adjustments to the pattern.

I've included a list of the resources I've come across at the bottom of the post. If you can recommend any other resources, leave them in the comments and I can add to the list.

Why would you want to make adjustments anyway?

One of the great reasons for crocheting a garment, instead of just buying one, is that you can make it fit you as opposed to a standard size 12, or whatever.  A pattern also has to fit a generic size, although there may be more sizes available to choose from, but since every body is different, this may require you to make some small changes to get a pattern perfect for you.

Another reason for adjusting a pattern is because we can! You might fall in love with a pattern, but you prefer longer or shorter sleeves, or you want waist shaping added/removed, or you like really long/short tops and so on. Making a garment from scratch means we can change things to suit us - within reason, obviously!

What kind of adjustments can you make?

These are some common adjustments you might make to a pattern.

  • Lengthen or shorten the body
  • Lengthen or shorten the sleeve
  • Alter the sleeve width towards the wrist
  • waist shaping
  • bust adjustment
  • adding width for hip/tummy 
  • pulling in the neckline
  • adding stitches because of falling between sizes
  • choosing a different size due to a different gauge

As you grow in confidence, you may end up doing more than one adjustment within a pattern, until you have completely customised it. You will also come to recognise where you generally need to make adjustments, which will speed up the planning time.

Some adjustments are going to be easier than others, and you need to be careful to make them within the confines of the pattern shape, so that you don't cause more problems than you solve - eg, adjusting around the sleeve area, so that the sleeves no longer fit in the armhole.

The important thing to remember is that if you make a mistake, you can pull it out and try again. You may have lost some time, but you will have gained more understanding of how (or how not) to do a particular adjustment, which will speed up your next project.

What do you need to be successful?

Before you can decide what adjustments you need to make, there are two very important steps to take (see the last blog hop post)

1. accurate body measurements

You can't guess, and you can't go by your shop-bought size. These will not be accurate enough to make your pattern changes successful. Measure yourself and also measure a favourite sweater, so you can see how your size compares to the sweater, which gives you an idea about the ease you like. Measurments you might need include bust (across the fullest part of the bust), waist, hips (high for shorter tops, or fullest hip for longer tops), shoulder to hip/waist length, arm length and upper arm width. The resources listed at the bottom of the page can give you more help on which measurements to take.

2. Gauge swatch

You can't avoid this step because you need to know your stitch and row measurements if you want to make any accurate adjustments. There's no point doing all the work of making your garment to discover you were slightly out on your gauge and it doesn't fit at all.

Once you have your swatch measurements, you can get your stitch per inch (or cm) and row per inch (cm) measurements.

eg. your gauge is 24dc and 12 rows to 4 inches (10 cm)

Divide the stitches by 4 (or 10) to get per stitches per inch (cm) :
24 ÷ 4 = 6dc per inch   (24 ÷ 10 = 2.4dc per cm)

Repeat this for the rows :
12 ÷ 4 = 3 rows per inch   (12 ÷ 10 = 1.2 rows per cm)

Don't worry about fractions of a stitch or row for now. As you use these values you can decide if you need to round up or down to the nearest stitch or row.

Make things easier

Always try and find something in the pattern you can use, rather than reinventing the wheel: merge sizes, use a different size front from the back, look for decreases or increases that you can use.

eg. Start with a small in the yoke, increase stitches to match medium in the bust, increase again to match large in the hips.


Merged sizes, added shaping, lengthened

  • Lengthen or shorten the body or sleeves

You can use the rows per inch (cm) if you want to alter the length. Multiply the rows per inch (cm) number by the number of inches needed.

eg. I want to add 3 inches to the length of the sleeve. In the swatch example, I have 3 rows per inch, so that gives me 3 (rows) x 3 (inches) = 9 extra rows needed. 

eg. I want to remove 2.5 inches from the length of the garment.
So, 3 (rows) x 2.5 (inches) = 7.5 rows. Since I can't have half a row, I can choose to crochet 8 or 7 rows less than given in the pattern.

  • Alter sleeve width

Most sleeves decrease in width from the upper arm width (or increase, if you're working from the end of the sleeve). 

You can remove all of the decreases/increases to have the same width all the way.

You can use the stitch per inch (cm) if you want to alter the width of the sleeve. Multiply the stitches per inch (cm) number by the number of inches needed.

You can remove some of the decreases, to make the bottom wider.
eg. I want a final sleeve width of about 6 inches.
Using the previous swatch example with 6dc per inch: 6 (stitches) x 6 (inches) = 36 stitches at the end of the sleeve.
Looking at the pattern, I can finish decreasing when I have roughly 36 stitches and just work even after that. In reverse, start at 36 stitches and do fewer increases.

You can insert decreases/increases to make the bottom narrower.
eg. I want a final sleeve width of about 6 inches. 6 (stitches) x 6 (inches) = 36 stitches at the end of the sleeve. Add in extra decreases to reach 36 stitches. Or in reverse, start at 36 stitches and add increases to reach the pattern starting point.

You can spread the decreases/increases out differently, to better match the width of your arm. Use the stitches per inch measurement to see how wide the sleeve is at each change and insert and remove rows before/after to change where that measurement lands on your arm.

  • Waist shaping, bust or hip/tummy adjustments, falling between sizes

You can use the stitch per inch (cm) if you want to alter the width of the garment. Multiply the stitches per inch (cm) number by the number of inches needed.

eg. I want to add 2 inches to the bust area.  Using the previous swatch example with 6dc per inch: 6 (stitches) x 2 (inches) = 12 extra stitches needed. Increase the 12 extra stitches towards the bust, and decrease them afterwards.

eg. I want to add waist shaping by removing 1.5 inches from the width of the garment. Again using the previous swatch, 6 (stitches) x 1.5 (inches) = 9 stitches to remove. Decrease 9 stitches towards the waist, and increase again afterwards.

Merged sizes, different size front and back, added shaping, added length

  • pulling in the neckline

If you end up with a much wider neckline than you like, you could continue decreases if you're working bottom up, start with a smaller chain and do more increases, for top-down, or add an edging to the neckline at the end.

  • unable to match gauge

If you can't match gauge, but you're happy with the fabric you've created in your swatch, you could see if you can match up with a different size in the pattern than normal.

eg. Pattern gauge is 26dc and 14 rows to 4 inches
So: 26 ÷ 4 = 6.5 stitches per inch
14 ÷ 4 = 3.5 rows per inch
Size M is 40" across the bust, according to the schematic, so 6.5 (stitches) x 40 (inches) = 260 stitches. 
Size S is 37", so 6.5 (stitches) x 37 (inches) = 240.5 stitches (rounded to 240 stitches in the pattern)

Using the previous gauge, I have only 6 stitches and 3 rows per inch.
To get a 40" bust measurement, I need 6 (stitches) x 40 (inches) = 240 stitches

My gauge gives me the right number of stitches to follow size S instead of size M. It's a good idea to check other areas, eg arms, to see if you need to make any other adjustments.

Not exactly an adjustment, but used thicker yarn (so different gauge) with numbers from a child-size pattern


This post can only be a quick overview, because "making adjustments" is a large and fascinating topic! Hopefully this has given you enough information to get started, but here are some resources for more help.

NB. I've used Amazon links to the books for ease, but I'm not affiliated and received nothing for writing this post.

Essential books (in my opinion) :
Top-Down Crochet Sweaters and Custom Crocheted Sweaters, both by Dora Ohrenstein. These have so much information in the opening chapters on measuring and adjusting, the patterns are almost an added bonus.

Other books which may be useful - I haven't read them but they're on my list. Knitting based, but the adjustment and measurement information should still be of use.
Knit to Flatter or Knit Wear Love - Amy Herzog
Little Red in the City - Ysolda Teague
Knitting Plus - Lisa Shroyer

Craftsy classes: (sign up to emails and check for sales)
Dora Ohrenstein Custom-Fit Tunisian Crochet - I managed to preview some of this class, and it looks like it has some useful fitting information, plus tunisian crochet technique, so double-whammy!
Marly Bird Curvy Crochet plus-size techniques

Haven't tried these, but again they are on my list:
Amy Herzog - Sweater Modifications for Custom Fit
Amy Herzog - Knit to Flatter
Amy Herzog - Simple Techniques for a Super Fit

Online resources:
Craft Yarn Council standard measurements
Craft Yarn Council Woman size charts
Robin Hunter - Measurement sketch
Robin Hunter - How to take the measurements

Thanks for reading!

This post is part of the Back to School Sweater Blog Hop and CAL. Last week's post from The Crochet Project is here : Measuring and swatching The next stop on the blog hop will be 30th September 2017 when Fay of  Knit it-Hook-it-Craft-it and The Crochet Circle Podcast will be talking about finishing, washing, blocking and caring for your garment. Not to be missed! Find out more about the CAL in The Crochet Circle Podcast group on Ravelry.

Saturday 16 September 2017

Well...missed a week, but I'm here now! We've all been hit by bugs here and I haven't wanted to do anything other than huddle under blankets (or is that my latest crochet excuse?)

Today marks the start of the #backtoschoolsweatercal - a crochet-along celebrating crochet garment making, and encouraging everyone to have a go. There is a blog hop running alongside, to help you choose a pattern and get started. If you haven't read any of the previous posts, you can start with Tamara of Crafty Escapism and her post about 5 Reasons to Make a Crochet Garment. It's my turn next week and I'll be talking about alterations, so be sure to pop back for that!

For the CAL I'm going to be making Uptown Sweater by Dora Ohrenstein, which is one of the patterns in the excellent book: Custom Crochet Sweaters. I've already made the Floating Tee from the book, and it was a very straightforward pattern with a beautiful end result, so I'm looking forward to trying another one.

Floating Tee, pattern by Dora Ohrenstein

I don't have the recommended yarn for the Uptown sweater, so I made a swatch using some leftover Wendy Ramsdale DK. I made a shawl with this yarn last year and it's so cosy, I love it! The swatch seemed fine, so I ordered some more yarn from Sconch yarn shop.

Might have overdone it slightly, because there was a sale on, but what was I supposed to do - leave some behind? Ahem.

I haven't started yet - I'm going to redo the swatch first, because I did it in a different colour, and I've been caught out before with slight differences between colours. I'll be posting updates on Instagram if you want to see how I'm getting on, and a weekly update here too - all being well.

I am also desperate to finish the Midcentury Blanket from Inside Crochet issue 75, that I started last March! I've been busy working on it the last two weeks and since I only had a few squares left to do, I thought I had loads of time to finish it before the CAL started, but it's taking much longer than expected.

It feels like no two squares are the same size and the slight wonkiness of some of them is driving me mad, so I'm taking my time joining them. From a distance, it looks great because it's a lovely quilt effect pattern, but I don't want to roll my eyes every time I look closely, so it's worth the extra time spent now. Hopefully!

I only have 3 rows left to add, and then perhaps a small border, so it should be finished soon. Handy, because the weather has really turned here, and we could always use another blanket.

See you next week!

Saturday 2 September 2017

Finished Kos Top

Today, the second of the #backtoschoolsweatercal blog hop posts is up - this time Jo of JoJoTwinkletoes has written about choosing a style that suits you, which is a very good place to start when you're choosing a pattern. Jo also shared pictures of all the lovely garments she has made for herself and you really need to see and be inspired to have a go yourself, so go and read!

Meanwhile, this week I have been working away on my version of the Kos top by Marie Wallin, which was in Issue 6 of Simply Crochet. I actually started this in May 2014, so I'm delighted to report that I have finally finished it! Yay!

The pattern is actually very straightforward, as there are lots of repeated sections, and the stitches used are treble and double crochet (in US terms - double and single crochet), slipstitch and chain. Although the pattern is made in 4 pieces, they are all rectangles so they are very easy to sew together at the end. The suggested yarn is Rowan Siena 4 ply and the sample was a beautiful, bright pink.

I wanted to make a "quick" test of the pattern, to see what it was like and if it would suit me, so I used a yarn I had available which matched tension - Drops Baby Merino in Beige, meaning to make a red version later. However I struggled with tension issues when I first tried to make it, and I wasn't happy with the "wobbly" edges. Lack of experience meant I didn't realise this could be fixed on blocking. I also decided that it probably wasn't going to be a good fit without adjustments, but I wasn't sure how to deal with those in a pattern for a bottom up and seamed garment. So into the "deal with it later" bag of doom it went.

I've dug it out a couple of times, meaning to give it another go, but I always felt too daunted to make the attempt. It was only when Fay started her "Festival of Finishing CrAL that I decided it was make or break time. With much more crochet experience now, I was able to come up with some adjustments that I thought would work, and I'm pretty happy with the end result.

It's a shame I didn't quite finish it in time to include in the CrAL, but the blocking took longer than expected, and then a headache stopped play for a while. I also don't like sewing pieces together - I'm always worried I'll ruin all my hard work, but I took it nice and steady while listening to the latest episode of The Crochet Circle podcast, and it was all quite easy in the end.

A quick overview of my adjustments -
  • extra rows of the trebles pattern over the bust, because I have more bust than the model.
  • decreasing above the bust to match the stitch count for medium, because I have a narrower upper chest
  • dropping the front neckline to be more flattering to a larger bust.
  • starting the back as size L and then decreasing to M (large butt, narrow waist and back)
  • "gathering" the extra front rows to match the back without the extra rows - very experimental, and the jury's still out.

What's next? Well, Tamara of Crafty Escapism has just posted a list of CALs that sound very tempting, Helen of Making at Number 14 has just finished a gorgeous knitted jumper which would be fun to try, and then there's my Ravelry queue. But I did want to try toe-up socks, so maybe...?

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

Saturday 26 August 2017

Back to School Sweater CAL and blog hop

Exciting news in the crochet world - today is the first day of the Back to School Sweater CAL blog hop, organised by Tamara of Crafty Escapism and Helen of Making at Number 14. These experienced crocheters decided that more people need to discover the joy of crocheting garments and they've set up this CAL and blog hop to help them on their way.

Each week there will be an article about some aspect of garment making technique, so there will be lots of help, advice and inspiration to get started. Each of the contributors to the hop has experience in crocheting garments, so if you have any questions, ask away. This blog is part of the hop too, and on 23rd September 2017, I'll be sharing a post on making alterations to a pattern. If you have any questions about alterations, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them in the blog post.

Fay of The Crochet Circle Podcast is hosting the chatter thread in the Ravelry group, so join in there for lots more help and inspiration. The full schedule for the blog hop and other details of the CAL can be found there, but as the blog hop progresses, each blog post will link to the next one on the hop, so you can easily jump backwards and forwards between articles.

There is also a hashtag for Instagram #backtoschoolsweatercal if you prefer to join in there.

Tamara is kicking us off today with 5 Reasons to Make a Crochet Garment, (I like number 3, for very similar reasons!) so go and have a read and hopefully you'll be joining in when the CAL starts on 16th September 2017.

In the meantime, as a pre-CAL warm up, I shall get back to my Kos top, which has been hibernating for a few years and has finally seen the light of day again. I've already made quite a few alterations to the pattern, so I shall have plenty of examples to share! Who knows if they'll be successful? It's all about experimenting and each time I rip some stitching back, I've learned something new.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Hello and welcome.

I'm Sam, a crocheter, knitter, designer and tech editor. I learned to knit and crochet when I was in my early teens, but in the last decade this love for creating fabric from yarn has gradually taken over my life!

I have been working as a crochet designer over the last 6 years, mostly on commission and for a local gallery. I recently gave myself a much needed break when my health was suffering, and returned to purely selfish crafting. I also realised that, despite all the hats, mittens and scarves I've made over the years, I had to resort to shop-bought for myself!

It is usually a relaxing pleasure to make things from a pattern, but sometimes there is a jarring inaccuracy, or the pattern is unclear. Even if it's possible to work out what was meant, it can change a pleasant experience into a chore. Too many times I have seen people turn away from a pattern because of the mistakes.

Having completed Joeli's Learn to Tech Edit course, I'm able to put my maths skills and my error spotting to good use - helping other designers publish clear, error-free patterns which are a delight to use.

If you are a designer looking to get a pattern ready to publish, see my Tech Editing page for more information, and get in touch!