Skirting the issue – in crochet

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I am sure many of you by now have heard of or seen photos of the Scheepjes Hygge CAL 2017 on Social Media (started 15/02 and ran for 14 weeks). A glorious design by Kirsten Ballering (from Haak Maar Raak) from which so much inspiration was drawn and created almost an avalanche of beautiful pieces and designs inspired by it and shared across different Social Media Platforms. If you’ve been living in a cave for the past 9 months and you don’t know what I am talking about have a search on Social Media using the hashtag #scheepjescal2017.

Having said this, the idea of cross-stitching or surface crochet for that matter on a crochet piece is not new, but the colour palette (I have the Rainbow Hygge shawl) combined with the gorgeous newly introduced Scheepjes Stone Washed yarn made for a highly impactful design.

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Image downloaded from the internet – not mine! My Hygge shawl is still a UFO 🙂

I myself was inspired by the Hygge shawl for a new project- and I have yet to finish my shawl… when I started on the central Hygge motif I miscounted my stitches and some of them ended up in the wrong location, which would skew the design if I didn’t unpick  and re-do them. I have yet to unpick them, such a boring task, so its changed from a Something-ALong into a UFO.
I wonder, what is the acceptable number, before Yarnies raise their eyebrows at each other in mock surprise at the other’s high UFO value? 10-15? 15-20? Do some Yarnies really have more than 20 UFOs??

In any case, IF our UFO value is still within the ‘acceptable’ range (tbc), we should act while inspiration strikes! Which finally brings me round to the topic of this post!
I really liked the idea of a crochet skirt for A/W 2017 in similar style to the Scheepjes Hygge shawl. As this would be one of my own designs, tailored to my figure so to speak, I tried to draft out initial calculations.

I have one of my favourite skirts from NW3 with quite a flattering shape. I noted approx measurements of the skirt’s waist, hip, waist-hip length, hip-hem length and started to think about what yarn I could use from my stash. Having purchased quiiiiiiite a bit of Drops yarn recently when it was on sale in July I didn’t really want to use anything I didn’t already have (and the OH has started to cotton on – pun intended – how much yarn I really have stashed away). I am also not the greatest at getting all the colour combinations right and making it all visually stunning – to keep it easy grey or black seemed like a good choice as the skirt’s main colour upon which to cross-stitch. Enter Drops Cotton Light in Dark Grey.

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I created a tension square using my 3.5 mm Addi hook to get my 10 x 10 cm (or 4″ x 4″). This was before it developed a hairline crack and I had to fix the hook with superglue and nearly glued my fingers together. Please note I created my tension square only to the size of 10 x 10 cm, nothing larger. And that my dear people is significant, and something of an issue we shouldn’t skirt around (title of the post… yes?).

So it turned out I had an epic fail in terms of swatching, or tension squaring, gauge squaring or whatever you want to call it. The number of stitches and rows I had calculated turned out to be faaaar too many, and I was stumped as to why. The skirt’s waist measurement was 76 cm to be increased to 99 cm hip measurement over a length of 13 cm before continuing straight down to the hem to 112 cm circumference. Below is a little sketch from my pattern design notebook.

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The plan was to start the skirt from the bottom up and then do the shaping for the hip and waist at the end. From my tension square I calculated that I’d need 235 stitches as the starting chain which I’d then work in the round. I worked 7 rows before I thought to check the diameter of my loop against myself and found it way too big. When I measured it the diameter was closer to 140 cm rather than 112 cm ( I forgot to write the actual number down, but it was close to 140 cm). I was confused and also pretty annoyed to say the least. The yarn split a lot and thus was not a joy to crochet with. As a result of this mishap and having spent so much time and effort working this this splitty yarn I threw it in a corner and started to read into tension & gauge to find out where I had gone wrong. To really get to the bottom of this I was going to crochet a larger tension square with the Drops Cotton light and re-measure stitches and rows but found the yarn so annoying to work with that I abandoned this and decided to use the Scheepjes Stone Washed in Dark Grey instead, oh well, if I don’t have my Hygge shawl yet, I thought, wouldn’t it be neat to have a Hygge skirt instead? Maybe I can finish them around the same time and wear my Hygge skirt together with my Hygge shawl? Or would that be overkill?

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Encouraged by my research – and I will be writing a more detailed post about tension and gauge to share all the insight I gathered – I created a small 10 x 10 cm tension square as well as a larger tension square to measure number of stitches and rows across a 10 x 10 cm area within the larger tensions square. Apparently you get a more accurate measurement once you have relaxed more into the pattern and the rhythm. My 10 x 10 cm tension square came out as 19 stitches x 20 rows using a 4 mm hook (I later re-counted the rows on my square to be 20 not 19 rows as recorded on my swatch tag in the photo below). My larger tension square I made up to 46 stitches x 32 rows in order to measure tension across a 10 x 10 cm area. The count I came up with from my large tension square was 18.5 stitches x 21 rows.

So that is 19 stitches x 20 rows VS. 18.5 stitches x 21 rows. 0.5 stitches and 1 row difference. Somewhat significant.

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I’d recommend creating tension squares close to each other in date as you will remember how you have worked each piece, what tensions you used , how you held your hook and working yarn for example, and you will be able to recreate this if you complete these within a few days of each other. From my research into tension and gauge I thought that this surely also applies to UFOs! – Storing the tension square of your UFO together with your UFO will allow you to pick up your work again, know which size hook you used and re-create the tension square before you dive back into your UFO to complete it. Honestly it will save you a lot of heartache and avoid frogging when you notice that the change in your tension, from when you picked up your UFO again, will have skewed your piece of crochet.

Using the Scheepjes Stone Washed tension square calculations of 18.5 stitches x 21 rows I re-calculated the number of stitches required to get waist/hip/hem measurements. Starting the skirt from the top down this time, I needed a base chain of 140 stitches which I needed to increase by 44 stitches over an even 28 rows.

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To get more shaping for the hips I decided to have a two section increase over Part A (see first page sketched out), increasing by 30 stitches over 14 rows followed by a further increase of 14 stitches over the remaining 14 rows of Part A of the skirt, to give me the total of 44 row increase over 28 rows. I recorded the stitches/row count to keep track off as I started my first sample.

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Aha! I thought! I’ve got this sussed now! I could see the shaping I had intended take form. After a number of rows I again checked the circumference against myself and to my horror noticed another flaw in my design. Can you guess it? Yes, the shaping was only on one side of the skirt…#epicfail.

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My skirt basically had the shape sketched out at the top of the page below. Which means I will have to create the shaping in two halves, stitch them together before continuing working in the round for the remaining 35 cm.

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I’ve learnt a lot just by going through these small failures, and I hope you will also find this useful.

Nothing ‘Made’ yet but most certainly have ‘Loved’ the design process so far and what I have learnt from it. It will mean that when I get to the final piece and make my design work, I will love the final piece that much more. Failures and mistakes are never a bad thing as long as we learn from them and do not repeat them.

Miriam XOXO

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