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At this point you've learned all the basic stitches and a few more advanced techniques for making circles, as well as increasing and decreasing stitches. In the last article of this series, I'm going to talk about a few final things you need to know: how to change yarn colors, how to crochet in the round using a magic circle, how to attach crocheted pieces to one another, and lastly, how and why to block your work.
How to change yarn colors
More complex projects are going to require more than one yarn color, but how do you go about changing colors? There are two ways to do it - at the end of the row, and in the middle of the row.
At the end of the row
Before you start crocheting, you'll need to know what colors you want to use, and how many rows you're going to crochet with each color. Some patterns may tell you specifically where to change colors, but if you're crocheting without a pattern, you'll be able to decide for yourself. When changing colors at the end of the row, crochet as many rows as you need to with the desired stitch in the first color. When you're ready to change colors, put the yarn you're working with down with the crochet hook still in it. Pick your new yarn up and fold it in half at the end, with about 5 inches on one side of the fold. Do NOT create a loop, you just want it folded in half so you can slide it through the loops you made of the first color. As you're pulling the second color through the first, you may need to hold on to the loose end to make sure you don't lose it. Next, you'll need to cut and pull the first color. Leave about four inches, cutting the yarn attached to the skein. Then pull the strand of second color you just attached to tighten in place. You might need to adjust color two by pulling on the end of the yarn with the end of the first color. This will help you adjust so the two ends are about the same length. Create the first chain with your new color. Place the yarn under and then over your hook, and pull it through the loop on your hook. At this point you'll start to crochet as usual, single crocheting over loose strands and continuing to form rows and chains until you have your desired size.
Single crochet over loose strands of yarn.
Take the color one and color two yarn that you just adjusted, and hold them in the back of your work, near the top of your highest row. Now turn your work and single crochet over both colors. Place your hook through the second chain, then grab your working yarn, which is color two attached to the skein of yarn, and place it over the hook, then pull that color through the loop.
Crochet the strands until they are secure. As you crochet the stitches, the single strands of yarn will be crocheted into your work. Continue to create stitches until the yarn feels secure. Then cut the ends of the yarn close to your last single crochet.
Continue your work.
Now you should only be working with the second color. Continue to crochet it into your work until you have your desired amount. At this point, you can continue to use color two, switch back to color one, or add another color to your work using the same steps that were outlined above.
Changing colors in the middle of a row
Crochet the row to the desired length. Then, when you know where you want to start your next color, stop crocheting. You can start the new color in the middle, towards the end or towards the beginning, it's up to you.
Feed the hook through the next loop.
Take your hook and stick it in the next stitch with the color one yarn still on it. Then wrap the yarn you're currently working with around the hook and pull it through the loop on your hook as usual. Let go of the yarn.
On the last yarn over, you will pick up the new yarn. Leaving the loops from your previous yarn on your hook, wrap the new color around your hook, then pull it through the loops already on the hook. After you have pulled it through, tug it from the back to adjust it.
Crochet as you normally would. At this point you should be working with your second yarn color. Crochet with that yarn until you reach a point in your project where you're ready to switch to a new color, or back to the first color.
How to crochet in the round using a magic circle
Previously I talked about how to crochet in the round by making a small chain of six to eight single crochet stitches. However, there is another way to crochet in the round, by creating a magic circle or magic ring. The advantage to this method is that you can close the hole in the center, so there won't be a hole in the center of your work like there is with the chain method.
To create a magic circle:
Start by making a backwards J with your yarn.
Cross the end of the yarn behind the yarn coming from the skein.
Pinch and hold together the yarn at the intersection of those two ends.
Let the yarn from the skein fall behind the loop. Insert the hook and pull the yarn through the ring.
Pull the loop all the way through, and to the top of the ring. This may feel awkward, but it takes some practice.
Using any finger that feels comfortable, continue to hold the loop you just made to the top of the ring. You can now let go of the ring with your left hand where the two ends cross.
For single and half double crochet patterns, chain one. For double crochet chain two.
Crochet as many stitches in the first round as your pattern calls for.
Pull the yarn end to seal the circle.
Crochet the rest of your rounds as described in the previous article.
How to attach crocheted pieces together
For larger projects or projects that have multiple pieces, you'll need to crochet the pieces separately and attach them together. There are a few different methods you can use to attach the project parts, I'll discuss them in this section.
Seaming using the Mattress stitch
Hold two pieces of crocheted fabric so the right sides are facing one another, matching up the stitches from one with the stitches from the other. Note: If you hold the right sides together, the stitches will show up on front of the work instead of the back. This is called reverse mattress stitch, and will be the next method we discuss.
Join yarn at one end where you want to create the seam.
Insert the needle into the next loop. Insert from the back to the front, pulling it into the loop that is furthest from you and drawing it through the corresponding loop on the other crocheted piece.
Insert the needle into the next loop. This time you'll insert it in the opposite direction, from front to back, pulling it into the loop closest to you and drawing it through the corresponding loop.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 above until you get to the end.
Reverse Mattress stitch
You can change the way the seam looks by changing the loops used for seaming. As mentioned in "Seaming Using Mattress stitch," reverse mattress stitch is the same as above, except you're holding the right sides of the crocheted pieces together. This seaming method can create a unique look, because you'll be able to see the seams on the front of your piece.
Whipstitch seaming is similar to mattress stitch, except you'll always work from front to back, and never from back to front.
Hold the crocheted pieces together so the right sides are facing one another.
Join the yarn at one end where you want to create the seam.
Put the needle in the next loop. Insert it from back to front, putting it in the loop that's farthest from you and drawing it through the loop that's closest to you. You can work through one or both loops, but it's most common to work through the back loop only.
Repeat the previous step until you reach the end of the seam.
Please note, you can pull the seam tighter to make it more invisible. You can do that several times during the seaming and again at the end of the seaming. Tug gently and evenly, but not so much that the fabric scrunches together.
Seaming with a crochet hook
The last method we'll discuss is seaming with a crochet hook. If you choose to seam with a crochet hook, you'll want to do it on the back side of the fabric where it's less visible.
Hold the crocheted pieces together so the right sides are facing each other. Join the yarn at one end where you want to create the seam.
Make one chain.
Insert your hook from front to back, through the next loop on the piece closest to you. Continue inserting the loop all the way through the matching loop on the second piece.
Yarn over and pull all the way through. That's your first slip stitch.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the end of the seam.
Blocking your work
The last thing we're going to talk about is blocking your projects. Blocking is a process used on larger projects to make them match the finished measurements. Types of projects you'll need to block include sweaters, vests, jackets, cotton doilies, and other three-dimensional designs.
There are two different types of blocking that you can use — wet blocking and dry blocking. The method you choose depends on a few different things, like how your design will be used — is it a garment or a decoration, for example. Here are the steps and items you need for each blocking method:
Large tub or sink
Several large towels
Tape measure or ruler
Several rust-proof straight pins
Start by soaking your project in a large tub or sink, or washing it in a washing machine - do not rinse it.
Put your project between two towels and roll it up like a sushi roll to squeeze out the excess water.
Lay the project out flat on a blocking board or mat and pin it into the correct shape.
Let the project dry overnight - you can speed the process by using a fan.
Spray bottle with water
Blocking mat or board
This is almost the same as wet blocking, except you won't soak the project. Follow these steps:
Pin the project into place on a blocking mat.
Spray it with a spray bottle.
Let your project dry overnight.
Steam blocking is a quick method that's great for cotton yarns.
Blocking mat or board
Pin the piece into the correct shape on the blocking mat.
Space the pins evenly and put them close to each other.
Gently pat all seams and pull areas around rippled edges with your fingers.
Hold a steamer or steam iron above the project and move slowly over the surface. Be careful not to touch the fabric.
Let the project cool off for at least 30 minutes.
How to make your own blocking board
If you don't have a blocking board, or need a larger blocking board for your project, it's easy to make your own with some simple supplies. Please note, before you start making your blocking board, have an idea of how large a blocking board you need to make so you know how many of the following supplies you'll need.
Items you need:
a foam knee pad used for gardening.
6-inch wooden shish kebab skewers
Spray bottle or iron
To decide how big you want your blocking board to be, measure a few of the pieces of your project and take the average of the size of those pieces. Mark the measurements for the finished piece on your gardening pad.
Gently insert the wooden sticks in the appropriate places on your piece. If you're blocking something with longer edges, like a headband, place a skewer every one to one and a half inches along the border to keep the crochet from dropping. Make sure you insert the sticks straight up and down and not at an angle.
Carefully slide your crocheted piece onto the sticks. You may need a little moisture to get your pieces to relax and settle — if that's the case you can spray them with a little water.
Stack a few more pieces onto the board, spraying each with water if needed. Place your board in a place where the pieces will easily dry, like an open window.
Once you've finished blocking, remove the sticks and your DIY blocking board for the next project.
You now know all the basics you need to know about crocheting. As I learn more, I'll continue to share it with you in future posts. In the meantime, check out my Pinterest board for additional information and pictures of my creations.
Also, I'm thinking of starting a Facebook group or Slack channel (not sure which yet) where beginning and advanced crocheters can share their experiences and pictures of their creations, and offer advice. If you would be interested in something like this, please comment on this post.