Crochet me a new one!
December 5, 2011 12:11 PM   Subscribe

What is your favorite esoteric/advanced crochet stitch or technique, and why should I learn it?

I'm an intermediate level crochet-er; I know all the basic stitches, can puff, shell, and popcorn, in-the-round and granny squares, dipped my toes into the world of amigurami and Tunisian crochet. But there's a whole world of more advanced crochet techniques, and I want to figure out where to start with them. I've looked at pages like this one, but that doesn't really give me an idea of how useful a particular stitch might be, or even necessarily what what it looks like. Lend me your crochet expertise to help me break out of my crafting funk!
posted by kittenmarlowe to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I do a lot of Irish crochet lace and one trick worth looking into is 'chain-less crochet'. This is where you skip the whole 'create a foundation chain as long as your arm, now do 101 doubles into that chain'.

If you were to compare it to knitting, the technique reminds me of casting on and knitting the first row in one step. Which speeds up the crochet tremendously.

I was lucky enough to find a whole book on 'chain-less crochet' over the weekend and have been experimenting. After years of knitting and avoiding afghan projects due to their excessive 'casting on' / 'make a foundation chain' stage (and sticking only to projects worked in the round) chain-less crochet is a life saver!
posted by Chorus at 12:25 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see the herringbone half-double crochet stitch there.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2011

I find that I'm more easily driven by types of projects, i.e. results. So maybe you've gotten comfortable with doing stuff in the round, but have you used it for everything from hats to potholders to modular sweaters to doilies?

I'm a knitter, but I'd give big props to PieceWork magazine, a sister to Interweave Knits (and, of course, Interweave Crochet). I'm really drawn to the historical projects, even if I don't (yet) use the techniques, because the purpose really hits home. I also like seeing the combinations of different techniques. But for you especially, there are waaaay more wacky crochet techniques in there than you'll find in most modern books or magazines.

You may be drawn to certain kinds of lace-making, particularly the kinds involving knotting around a pattern. The one that jumped out at me was this Italian technique they covered last year called Aemilia Arza or something or other (I'm on my phone :P). I very nearly went out and started a new hobby.
posted by Madamina at 12:33 PM on December 5, 2011

[sorry for thread-sitting, crochet nerd here!]

If you really want to try something advanced [or, indeed, what *looks* advanced to others!] take a particularly open-work granny square or doily and work it on fine crochet thread and a tiny gauge hook. This produces realistic 'lace-like' work and the slim thread [as opposed to using yarn] really gives you an understanding of a pattern.

Another option is to go the other direction. Crochet a granny square on super chunky aran using a big hook you could fish with! This produces larger pieces but much, much faster.

So if you've got a particularly nice pattern you're fond of, try super-sizing or shrinking it. It's a handy way of redoing a favourite pattern over and over, just on different magnitudes.

FWIW, I've often made amigurami on huge needles with triple strand chunky yarn to quickly create an over-sized cuddly toy [handy if you're in need of a quick gift].

Or, if you *really* want a challenge, take a look at actual lace crochet. Each motif is created individually and then tatted together. Easy way to lose your marbles.
posted by Chorus at 12:38 PM on December 5, 2011

Not my favorite techniques, but I've seen crab stitch (reverse single crochet) used to trim a lot of things. Hairpin lace also seems to be pretty popular.

I would take a stab at some really fancy doilies/motifs. Ondori has a bunch of patterns that I are always swoon-worthy.
posted by Stephanie Duy at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: Want a challenge? Have good eyesight and vast amounts of patience? Try real Irish crochet, in which motifs are crocheted individually, usually over heavy thread to give them some body, then tacked to a muslin base garment (e.g. blouse, vest) and connected with a network of fine crochet mesh. Hundreds of hours later, the whole thing is removed from the muslin and voilá! the Industrial Revolution doesn't look so bad.

Snark aside, this is the most demanding type of crochet I can think of. The term "Irish crochet" has been diluted nowadays to mean anything with a few roses stuck on it, but the original lacework is amazing. Since the motifs are connected "organically" with the crochet mesh, there are no seams or darts in Irish crochet garments and amazingly complex and graceful designs can be assembled.

Here's a preview from a Dover reprint of a 1900 book on Irish lace. You can see it's a far cry from afghans-with-roses. Dover has several books on Irish crochet - the ones originally published before 1930 or so are the most traditional, but they also assume a lot of expertise and intuition from the reader since the instructions aren't very detailed.

Nihon Vogue is another Japanese publisher that has some beautiful classic (not afghans-with-roses) Irish crochet books. I have #106, which doesn't seem to be available any more, but Volume 128 looks similar. The instructions in #106 are in Japanese, of course, but the diagrams are excellent and experienced crocheters can figure things out just from the pictures. Presumably #128 is the same way. I'd recommend starting with a Japanese book for the sake of the diagrams, since the lack of instructions in the old Dover books is really frustrating.

P.S. I've never gotten very far in an Irish crochet project - way too demanding. If you actually finish something, be sure to post it to Projects!
posted by Quietgal at 1:33 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've looked at pages like this one, but that doesn't really give me an idea of how useful a particular stitch might be, or even necessarily what what it looks like.

So if you don't know what a stitch looks like, once you know the name of it, Google it (and use the image search as well) and YouTube search it. You will find tutorials, especially video tutorials, for so much out there (I'm linking some below).

And then - are you on Ravelry? Ravelry absolutely shines for this sort of thing. You can search the patterns (and the forums) to see what other people have made using a particular stitch that you're interested in. (Also Ravelry is flat-out awesome for browsing - if you are in a crafting funk you will get so many ideas just poking around in there, through the pictures, the projects, the forums...)

Okay, so, useful techniques (that I would consider more advanced) that you may want to learn!
*knowing how to use and read visual charts
*russian joins (knotless way of joining yarn) - video
*color change without knots - video
*no-turning-chain technique (so you don't have a skinny/bumpy end of a row) - video
*magic ring (adjustable for a neat center when crocheting in the round)
*chainless foundations - YouTube video search
*using fpdc and bpdc (front-post double crochet and back-post double-crochet) to make cables - here is a free cabled hat pattern that is quite popular
*Elmore (or half-step) stitches, which are stitches that are (height-wise) between-sizes of the basic stitches (the book Crochet Your Way goes into detail on these)
*Solomon's knot stitch (to make big lacy open fabric) - video
*linked crochet (to make a fabric with no holes) - video for linked double crochet

As for expanding beyond the basics in general... I could geek out all day about it (oh, and I do - I've been working on a crochet site Coming Really Soon, No Really, I Swear for, like, four years now. I need to make a resolution to actually get it done in the New Year. =P). Some stuff you might find interesting:
*Blueprint Crochet, which is about using motifs in a beyond-the-granny sort of way
*slip-stitch crochet (working entirely in slip stitches) - which produces a thinner, more-like-knit fabric
*hairpin lace - (using a knitting needle to pick up yarn loops which you then stitch together with a crochet hook) - which can be used for a pretty swirly stitch effect, or for a knit-dropped-stitch look

And really, you learn so much if you just experiment like crazy. I have lots of different kinds of yarn to play with (browse the bargain bins!). I make swatches and I rip them out and I try them again with a different sized hook or a different yarn. I blend stitches together, I do one row of this one, and a row of that one; I try it with the hook in the back loop and in the front loop and under both loops; I try it between the stitches, I try in the back of the stitches, I try it around the post. I try double-stranding the yarn or I try two or three different yarns held together. I think about: What effect am I looking for? Do I want the fabric to be thinner? More drapy? More thick? Less holes? If you find an effect or a stitch you're interested in, you can always make a dishcloth, or a scarf, or a blanket with it. They're all flat.
posted by flex at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

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