Juno Crochet Blanket

I am very happy to share with you my new project, the Juno Crochet Blanket. Juno is a corner to corner, join as you go project. Juno is available in Jaarn Magazine Issue Six, which you can find in the Jaarn Shop.

Juno is made from African Expressions Joy, which is a wonderfully luxurious yarn.

I really enjoyed making this project, and, while it may initially seem a little complex, it is really quite easy, and works up wonderfully quickly.

I have recorded a tutorial, which is available on YouTube for you. It should be watched in conjunction with the pattern in the magazine, where you will find all the details, and instructions.

I’d love to see your work, so please do share.

Meet Aiko Alpaca

I was so hoping to have this pattern out in March, but alas, life happened. Nevertheless, I am delighted to bring to you my Aiko Alpaca pattern. She is a free amigurumi pattern available for download on Ravelry. You can access the pattern by clicking here.

Aiko is mostly crocheted, with the exception of the kerchief, which is knitted. If you don’t knit, simply use a piece of fabric. Details are listed in the pattern.

Aiko is an intermediate pattern.

The yarn for the development of this pattern was kindly sponsored by African Expressions yarns.

Aiko was tech edited by Mariana Müller (find her on Insta as @sweetcrochetdreams), and tested by Marlene Jordaan. These ladies added so much value to this project. A designer’s dream to work with.

I hope this project is a joy to make. Happy hooking.

Custom Crochet Beanie plus free pattern

In this tutorial we will discuss how to measure and custom-make a crochet beanie to fit. I’m going to deal with a lot of theory. Theory seems unimportant until you want to venture out on your own without the comfort of a pattern. Then a basic knowledge will stand you in good stead to make just about anything. Let’s do it!

Quick note: I make reference to the crown of the beanie a number of times, and that is what is critical for us to calculate. When crocheting a beanie the crown is made to fit up to the widest part of the head by crocheting a flat disc shape using increases. When we reach the size we require we stop increasing (usually) and continue with the number of stitches in the last round. This will then allow us to start working down creating a dome shape that will fit the head.

The scary maths part

Often on crochet groups I note that people aren’t certain of the maths terminology needed to do the calculations. Please don’t run away! Bear with me. It’s so simple once you know it. Here we go.

Working on the assumption that a beanie is basically circular, and our heads (bear with me!) have a circumference proportionate to the beanie we want to make we will use the geometry of a circle for reference. Let’s chat about the names of the parts we will use. Then I will give real-world examples of how to use them.

The circumference of a circle is the measurement of the outside., so basically the distance around.

The radius of the circle is measured from the center of the circle to any point on the outside of the circle. This value will be the same no matter where you measure.

The diameter of a circle is measured across the center of the circle from any two points along the outside in a straight line. The diameter is thus made up of two radii (plural of radius).

There’s a lot of other maths around the geometry of a circle, but we won’t really need that. The next important thing I need to tell you is about Pi, for which the symbol is π. Yes, pronounced just like the pie you eat. Yum! Same same. At least as far as shape is concerned.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Pi / π (this is Greek, and you see they weren’t just in casual repose scoffing grapes all day) is defined as the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. The beauty is that this ratio is the same for every single circle out there. Yep. Every one. That ratio is 3.14159… It’s a long number. Point is for our purposes we can simplify it down to 3.14.

By now I hear you wondering what on earth this has to do with making a beanie? Well, let’s put this into practice.

Putting theory into practice – the less scary part

If I take the measurement of my head, above the eyebrows and measure the circumference (this works in both metric and imperial) and let’s say it’s 57cm. I now divide my 57cm by pi (see above) which we’ve simplified to 3.14, so 57 / 3.14 = 18,15286624203822. Another big number. But don’t worry. Remember anytime you divide a number by a number with two decimal places it can get icky. We’ll simplify it down to 18cm (about 7 inches). What this tells me is that the crown of the hat must be about 18cm in diameter (give or take).

So let’s sum that up. To measure what the crown of the beanie should be we do this calculation:

Circumference of head / 3.14 = diameter of crown.

Another thought on rounding, if the stitch pattern is very tight I’ll likely round up, and if it’s quite stretchy I may round down. You should have a feel for what will work for the stitch pattern you intend to use.

This will work in both metric and imperial. The reason for that is that 3.14 is a ratio, so it really doesn’t matter what the base number you use is. You may just want to consider how much you round up or down by as if your base number is smaller (as in imperial) it will make a difference.

If you want a beanie with a snug fit you can also deduct about 2-3cm (about an inch) from the head circumference and then calculate the crown. This will ensure that you have negative ease (allowing it to fit more tightly).

With crochet we usually (not always, but usually) work from the top down starting with a flat circle. The flat circle will form the crown of our hat. The maths above works perfectly for this.

Assuming you’ve stayed with me thus far, we’re almost ready to crochet! Just a wee bit more theory first.

A bit of crochet theory…

Getting the circle of the crown to lie flat

Tension

Let me deal with the first and most obvious possible issue. If you follow the instructions for increasing to a T, but your crown buckles, make sure that your increases are correct, and if they are, address tension as a possible cause. If your tension is too tight your crown will not lie flat.

Now it doesn’t need to be flat as a pancake. A little curving is okay, but if it is totally convex, nope. I would recommend that if this happens you go up a hook size until it’s a bit flatter. This does mean starting again, but fortunately, you should see this happen three or four rounds in, if it happens at all. No number of sacrifices to the gods will fix it, so frog it and move on with your life.

The theory of increases

The theory of how we increase is we will start with a magic circle or chain joined to form a circle. Into the circle we will place a number of stitches. Let’s say it’s 12. In the next round we will increase by working two stitches into each stitch, which in this case will give us 24. So far so good. In round 3, we will work an increase (two stitches into one stitch) and then a stitch into the next stitch. We will repeat this and it will give us a total of 12 increases (totalling 24) and 12 stitches, which gives us a grand total of 36 stitches. In round 4 we will work an increase followed by a stitch in each of the next two stitches. We will repeat this all the way around giving us 48 stitches. In round 5 we will work an increase followed by a stitch in each of the next three stitches, and repeat this, giving us a total of 60 stitches. The number of increases will always be the number you initially crocheted into the circle. And the distance between them will usually increase by an additional stitch per round between increases from the previous round. You could do this in perpetuity. Fortunately we’re only making a beanie!

Using my handy measuring tape I will stop when the crown reaches as close to the diameter I calculated earlier. In this case 18cm. Then in theory I will stop increasing and work the same number of stitches for the subsequent rounds as I did on the last round of the crown until I reach the length I want the beanie to be. Generally speaking, this is measured from the top of the head to the base of the ear. When your beanie reaches this total length, you can fasten off. I must mention that you may want it longer, or shorter. You may want to add ribbing that folds over. There are myriad ways you might style a beanie, so the above is just a guideline.

Can we crochet now? Why, yes. Did you take the measurements of the head circumference and the length from top of head to base of ear (if that’s how long you want it)? Yes? Let’s go.

Petals & Posts Beanie Pattern

If you head on over to Ravelry, you can download the free pattern that will give you the exact steps for making your own Petals & Posts Beanie. You will find that the theory above will help understand the pattern. It’s a breeze to make, and so quick.

download now

If I don’t speak to you again before we celebrate Christmas, I wish you all a very happy and peaceful festive season, whatever you may be celebrating.

How to be the best fibre artist you can be

I started to knit very early in life. At the grand age of six I was wielding those knitting needles, and Tunisian hook like a tiny little savant. I have my extremely patient grandmother, whom I called Ouma, to thank for that. Even though my great-grandmother, Oumie, Ouma’s mother, was a crocheter who was talented beyond imagining, I did not learn to crochet from her, and didn’t learn until I was in my thirties. I applied dogged determination. I was going to learn to crochet if it killed me. My first fiddly attempts did not scare me off. In fact they galvanized my stubbornness.

At first it was excruciatingly difficult. While knitting gave one the idea of tension, it was rather different. Tunisian crochet was a sort of knitting / crochet hybrid, and was a tad helpful. I started to immerse myself in crochet magazines, books, websites, blogs, the whole lot. The one thing I did that was the game changer was crochet every single day. I would challenge myself constantly, and in so doing steadily increased my skillset.

A current WIP, Six day kid blanket by Betty McKnit (Beth Elliot) on Ravelry

I read a book a while back, when it first came out, called Atomic Habits by James Clear. I recently reread the book, or rather listened to it on Audible. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for some time, and there are principles that apply to pretty much anything one wants to do, or learn. The book deals with some ideas that I found quite fascinating.

The first of these is the idea of 1% improvements, the rule of marginal gains. You may also see it referred to elsewhere as “microexcellence”. In the book James talks about the British cycling team, and how this theory was applied, and how it moved them from mediocrity to stellar performance. Often we think that focusing on just the big things will lead to the biggest gains, but small and consistent tweaks can make the real difference. The rule, or theory, of marginal gains relies on small but consistent improvement over time. It was Albert Einstein who stated, “Compound interest is the greatest force in the universe”. This applies to effort too.

To put this into practice, let’s talk a bit about crochet (or knitting, etc). When I first started out everything seemed so intensely difficult. I looked at patterns and wondered how on earth I would ever get to that skill level. By my reckoning the only way I would get there is by sticking with it no matter how hard it was. Crochet would have to be a habit that I practiced every single day, so that’s what I did. As I gained skill I kept challenging myself to continuously improve by attempting ever more difficult techniques. It has gotten to a point now where, when paging through a crochet mag, or book, there usually isn’t a pattern I don’t have the skill to take on. It doesn’t mean I know everything. I don’t think any of us could live long enough to know everything about our chosen craft, but by challenging ourselves all the time we can learn a staggering amount.

The next thing James talks about is the “plateau of latent potential”. This is an interesting phenomenon. I think it is best described as where you don’t always notice how far you’ve come, because your improvements are small, but one day you have an epiphany, and realise that you have made incredible progress. You have arrived at a skill level you didn’t think possible. It takes a little time to realise that potential, and it won’t usually happen over a short period. Over the longer term, looking back you will be amazed at how you have mastered your art.

Compound interest is the greatest force in the universe.

– Albert Einstein

In order to become something you must take on board the identity of what you want to become. You have to consider yourself a crocheter, knitter, weaver, whatever it is. Then you do what crocheters, knitters, weavers, do. The outcome becomes a byproduct of the identity you’ve adopted.

Practicing your fibre art means turning it into a habit. The four laws of habit creation are described in Atomic Habits as follows:

Let’s start with the cue. The cue must be obvious. That’s super important. Place your work where it is easy for you to pick up and work a few rows. The cue will trigger the craving. “Ooooh, I’d love to work a few rows! It’s so relaxing.” The response to the craving must be clear and obvious. Pick up the work and satiate the craving. The reward must be satisfying. I have no doubt that when it comes to fibre arts that the enjoyment, and relaxation, as well as the visible result of your effort, is a huge reward. This habit loop, practiced often, will lead to the consistent effort required for mastery. The reward will make you want to perform the habit over and over again. Making the hobby a habit may sound formulaic, and risks boredom, but it won’t. In order to become really good at anything you need to put in the time so that it feels natural. Mastery is the outcome, but with fibre arts you get the double pleasure of enjoying the journey too.

One of the easy ways to incorporate a new habit into your life is to habit stack. Habit stacking is where you tack on a new habit to an existing habit so that it’s easy to work it into your day. Maybe a few rows with the morning cuppa. That’s twice the enjoyment. What a pleasure.

To become really, really good at anything requires hard work, and consistency. With fibre arts mostly being skills-based, it is essential that the movements become as natural as breathing. The only way that is going to happen is if you do it every single day. I often tell those I have taught to crochet that it’s fine if they don’t have a lot of time to practice. Fifteen minutes a day is enough. Consistency is critical. I cannot emphasise this enough. Do as much as you have time for, but make sure you make it a habit. This may sound like it would take away from the pleasure, but on the contrary. By mastering the movements and skills required, you will take your journey to places you couldn’t have imagined. One day you will be quietly sitting with a cup of coffee (or whatever beverage pleases you), and you will realise you’re not a beginner anymore. You are very, very good.

“the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”

― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success