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3 Essential Rules to Work on Granny Square Crochet Blankets

Tomorrow morning I’ll be winging off our a week long vacation with my family in Alaska, and then I’ll return to quickly packing up for three weeks of summer camps in Rockville, MD.  So I’ve been trying to wrap up a few long-term finishing projects.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post on how to properly finish off a granny-square blanket so it doesn’t fall apart in 30 years. (Or really, any blanket for that matter.)  Still, it seems like all I’ve been doing lately is repairing granny squares.

It’s meditative work at the best of times, and dead boring at the worst.  I normally like to put on a book-tape or podcast and crank out the repairs.  This time around I took a few photos to share, and decided to add my 3 rules of working on granny square blankets.

Granny Square blanket with split seams

The first blanket, featured above, had two major places it was broken: the last row of the square didn’t have its ends woven in, and I needed to rework the last row and reattach.

Rule #1: Properly weaving in ends is essential in a blanket that you want to last.  Crocheting over them doesn’t cut it.

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

As a corollary to Rule #1, the closer an end is to the center, the more stress it takes.  REALLY weave in the ends at the center of a blanket.

Which brings me to my next rule.

Rule #2: include care instructions when you give a blanket to someone.  Don’t expect them to know how to care for the blanket and the fibers!

Let me show you some examples:

Center of granny square lost of love

Center of granny square lost of love

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Granny square center replaced!

Granny square center replaced!

All the black that's  not a

All the black that’s not a “frame” for the granny square is replaced & repaired.

The blanket above is one that’s been well loved, but also subjected to light and heat damage.  The fibers are very very delicate, and I’m working to repair the largest holes so this can be gently loved again. Still, proper care of textiles can extend their life a hundredfold.

Finally, my last rule.

Rule #3: REALLY, REALLY weave in your ends.  Seriously.  Nearly 80% of the granny square repairs I do is in places where they ends have come unraveled, instead of the fibers degrading.  Weave in the ends.  Use a sharp needle.  Skim them in.

Are there things you can think of to extend the life of your afghans?  What are they?

Now available: Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs!

Matryoshka Baskets from Crochet World

I’ve been really enjoying playing with padded crochet lately, if you haven’t noticed.  Last year with Crochet World I published the Matryoshka Baskets, and this past week my Rag-ety Rug came out.  Now, this week I have another wonderful piece of news to share with you!

Remember how a couple of months ago I talked about filming classes with Interweave?  Well, the first of them are out, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Let me tell you about the class.

Titled Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs with Jennifer Raymond, this class covers all you’d need to know in order to make Stained Glass Rug.  While the pattern by itself stands alone, you do need a basic understanding of padded crochet to make the project work.

With my online class, not only do I show you the basics of padded crochet, but I also show you all my tricks I developed and learned while making the rug.  You’ll learn the best ways of finishing off your cord, the easiest ways to join the motifs, and how to adapt the pattern for other purposes.

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs

As I mentioned before, this class focuses around Stained Glass Rug, which was featured on KDTV’s episode 1409. I love this pattern.  It’s infinitely customizable, as you can make the rug as large or small as you want it.  The padded crochet makes the rug both cushy under the feet, durable, and the project works up really fast!  There’s plenty of room for color play, in the form of using up scraps, creating color blocks, or making magic balls to use.  And I love how, just worked in the yarn I used for the original project, each piece looks a little bit like the stained glass you see in churches.

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs with Jennifer Raymond is available for pre-ordering as a DVD, or you can download it right now onto your computer.

You should checkout the preview:

Have you ever worked padded crochet? What do you think of the preview?

Padded Crochet Tutorial

Padded Crochet Tutorial

In honor of Rag-ety Rug coming out this week from Crochet World, and my recent post about it coming out, I thought it was appropriate to finally post this tutorial, which I’ve been saving for quite a while.

What you’ll need:

  • A crochet hook
  • Some scrap yarn
  • Rags, upholstery cord, or something else nice and thick but flexible to crochet over.  Bulky yarn would work too.

A bit about padded crochet: this technique originally was used to crochet around thicker yarn to create different motifs.  It gives you a lot of flexibility because you don’t have to crochet into the previous row, you can also just crochet around your material.  You see this technique often used in  Irish Crochet.

To begin, work a foundation chain, and work single crochets into the chain.  This can be any width, as we’re working a practice swatch.  After you’ve finished those two rows, you begin by adding in your cord/rag/yarn.  You’ll be crocheting around it much like you do when you’re burying an end into your crochet work, except this will be much larger.

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Begin by holding your cord/rag/yarn above the last row you worked.

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

In this case, I’m also joining the yarn for this row.  Insert your hook into the last stitch of the previous row, and draw up your yarn.

Attaching yarn, Padded Crochet, Step 2

Chain one, securing yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  I like to hold my tail together with my working yarn for this first stitch, or no other reason than it makes me feel better, and makes me feel like things are more secure.  I’ve got no proof, though.

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Now, begin working your crochet stitches into the stitch of the previous row, working the yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  In this case, I’m working a variant of the v-stitch.

Some tips:

  • Make sure you’re letting your stitches lie flat.  If you make them tight, they’ll bunch up your cord/rag/yarn.
  • Every once and a while check to make sure that your piece is laying flat.  Because the cord/rag/yarn that you’re working over has a tendency to shift around, it can make things pucker, draw tighter or looser.  I like to measure ever few rows.
  • When you have to add more cord, there’s a few ways you can do it.  In my case, I sewed on my rags together, because it was a bit more tidy.  You can also just hold the end of one rag and the beginning of another together.
  • Make sure if you’re using rags they’re the same width, so your rug doesn’t have a lumpy look, or have irregular rows (unless that’s the effect you’re going for)!
Measure, measure, measure!

Measure, measure, measure!

Have you every worked padded crochet?  How’d it turn out?  What was the project?

New Pattern: Rag-ety Rug, a Padded Crochet Project

Rag-ety Rug by Jennifer Raymond

Rag-ety Rug, a Padded Crochet Project

I’m proud to announce that Rag-ety Rug, my pattern with Crochet World Magazine’s August 2015 issue, is officially out.  (Yes, I know it’s only June.  I’m not quite sure how Annie’s works their release schedule, but even though it’s June, you should be able to start finding the magazine on shelves in the next few weeks).

Rag-ety Rug uses one of my new favorite crochet techniques, padded crochet.  Like Stained Glass Rug and Matryoshka Baskets, Rag-ety Rug uses padded crochet.  Normally padded crochet is worked with smaller items (like in Irish Crochet Lacework), but I like to use padded crochet to make more modern, exploded lace pieces.

Rag-ety Rug was mostly worked on during a vacation to Atlantic Beach with Mr. Turtle’s Parent’s.  It seemed rather fitting: this rug, worked with denim scraps, fits in perfectly with beach decor.  The varied blues of the different denim scraps seemed to echo the blues of the ocean.

walking on Atlantic Beach in January

Walking on Atlantic Beach in January

There is a meditative quality to this rug, as each row the “v-stitch” nests into the following row.  I loved watching the rug gradually grow.  The cotton in the rug is from Lily’s Sugar ‘n Cream line, in a color called Stone Wash.  It was a perfect pairing for the denim.

Padded Crochet Rug from Annie's Crochet World

Rag-ety Rug, done in Padded Crochet, detail shot.

In my original pitch I imagined this rug in rainbow colors, for a children’s room or for someone who loves color.  I think it’d be fun to play around with textures too: perhaps with prints or strips or plaid?  The possibilities are endless!

What colors would you work this rug in?

My Easy Finishing Technique for Weaving in Bulky Yarn

Techniques for Weaving In Really Bulky Yarn

Today we have a quick little blog post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but haven’t quite gotten around to!  I thought it’d be the perfect thing to start out our week: a tutorial on weaving in really bulky yarns.  I think it’s a helpful finishing technique for both knitting and crochet.

What am I going to be talking about? Well, weaving in ends.  Now, I know weaving in ends isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally understand.  It’s one of the reasons I offer finishing services.  But for those of you who like to sweat the details, weaving in ends can be an important part of finishing a project.

Today’s little tutorial is specifically about weaving in really bulky yarns, which can be hard to pull through the fabric.  Now, this trick only works for plied yarns, but it’s a nice thing to have in your arsenal.

Onward!

  1. First, we’re going to want to take the tail that we plan to weave in above.  See how it’s plied together – that is, it’s got multiple strands all twined around each other?  We’re going to separate those out.  You’ll want to do it by twisting the yarn in the opposite direction it’s twisted together, so the individual strands start standing out from one another.  Once you’ve got one you can grab, pull it from it’s neighbors, until you’ve got them all separated like this:
    Yarn separated out into it's individual plies.

    Yarn separated out into it’s individual plies.

  2. Now that you’ve got the plies separated out, get a sharp-pointed needle and thread one of the plies onto the needle.  Like this:
    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

  3. Make sure the other ends are out of the way, and now, weave in the end.  Do the same with the other strands of the yarn.
    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

  4. Finally, trim your ends away as close as you can to your project without cutting anything.
    Trim your ends away, and admire your work! You've finished weaving in your ends!

    Trim your ends away, and admire your work!

 

Do you have a favored method of weaving in ends, or a finishing technique that you love to share with others?  Tell me about it in the comments!  I love hearing from you!

Tinking Turtle’s Summer Camps: Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and More!

young child learning to sew

Sewing with Next Step Needlecraft from Tinking Turtle Designs

It’s that time of year again: the weather is warming (despite all the rain we’ve had this week), and on my walk this morning, I found the first delicious blackberries.  It’s summertime – and it won’t be long now until school wraps up and those hot days will be around the corner.  It won’t be long until Tinking Turtle’s Craft Summer Camps start!

For me, this means a shift in Tinking Turtle’s focus: I’m beginning to get ready for the summer camps that I’ll be running.  They’re one of my favorite parts of the year.

You see, way back before Tinking Turtle was a name written on a piece of paper, before I’d even dreamed up my first pair of socks, I was a camp counselor at Chimney Corners Camp.  I’ve talked about CCC (as it’s known to campers and alumni alike) before: it’s the place where I met my longtime friend Becca, and where Mr. Turtle proposed to me.  CCC’s been a huge part of my development as a person – not only personally, but professionally as well.  CCC was the place I taught my first students: figuring out how to break down knitting, crochet, embroidery and cross stitch to campers aged eight to fourteen.  I was only about seventeen myself, and I had very little clue what I was doing, but I figured out.

Since then, I’ve continued to love working and crafting with children.  I worked as a nanny for many, many years, and last year I ran the camp String Theory through Montgomery College.  It was a hit and a blast, and this year I’m adding to the lineup with two new classes: Next Step Needlecraft and Knockout Punch Rug Needlework.  Let me tell you a bit about the classes:

String Theory is my flagship class, now in it’s second year.  It’s a variety introduction to needlework

young girls showing off their finished knit mitts

Finished knitted mitts from String Theory!

and crafting for both boys and girls ages 8-12.  Campers learn how to knit a fingerless mitts (or two!), sew and decorate a project bag, learn to process, card and spin fiber, and the basics of how to dye wool.  This year we’re offering three sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 1-4 pm, 7/27 – 7/31 from 1-4 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 9 – 12 pm.  You can click on the links to find out more and signup!

Because we received such a great response to String Theory, we’ve added Next Step Needlecraft.  Intended for campers who loved String Theory and want to learn more, or for older students looking to learn some more interesting crafts, it’s a great next step.  Students learn how to crochet, how to spin yarn, the basics of needle felting, and how to create stunning punch rug pieces.  This class is meant to sink students’ teeth into needlecrafts you don’t get exposed to nearly anywhere else.  This year I’m offering two sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 9-12 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 1-4 pm.

 

My last class: Knockout Punch Rug Needlework is a very focused class.  Unlike the other two camps which focus on variety, this one dials down into the art of rug making.  In this class students will have a lot more independence to learn, plan and execute one, if not two projects.  This class focuses on giving students the independence to decide and plan their own projects, and my help to make them a reality.  We’ve got just one session of this camp, so if it sounds like something your child would enjoy, make sure to sign up as soon as possible. Knockout Punch Rugs will run 7/27 – 7/31 from 9 – 12 pm.

Child learning to knit with multicolored yarn

Learning to Knit in String Theory

If you’re looking for a great crafting camp for the summer, these camps are for you.  Don’t have children of your own?  Tell your friends about these camps.  Teaching kids crafts improves dexterity, problem solving and creativity – and preserves these traditions for the next generation.

Let me know what you think about the camps – and what other crafts I should look at adding to the repertoire!

Photo Tutorial: Mattress Stitch

When I’m seaming a sweater, one of the most used stitches I use is the Mattress stitch.  Also known as the Ladder Stitch, I love this stitch because when done right, it’s nearly invisible, adds very little bulk to the seams, is quick to do, easy to take out, and practically perfect.  Let me tell you how I do the mattress stitch.

2 quick notes: here I start in the middle of a project.  Normally I start at the beginning of the seam and work my way up, but that’s hard to photograph well.  Also, I’m using embroidery floss in the tutorial, both because it’s in a contrast color, and because it’s cotton, and easy to pull out.  Most people like seaming with the yarn they used in the project, but if it’s too delicate, or too bulky, embroidery floss in a similar color works beautifully.  Mattress stitch done right should be practically invisible.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The first part of learning the mattress stitch involves taking a good look at your knitting.  Look between two stitches.  See the horizontal bars that run between the stitches?  This is where the sewing action will take place.  You’ll want to be working the mattress stitch between the 1st and 2nd columns of stitches on the edge of your work.  See Below?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Don’t quite see it?  Let me show you with my sewing needle.  I’ve put 2 of the horizontal bars on my sewing needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Okay, so that’s what the bars look like on the knit side.  What about the purl side?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The bars that run between the stitches on the knit side are the purl bumps on the wrong side.  If you are having trouble ID’ing the purl bumps, turn your knitting over with your needle placed where you think the stitch should go.  The needle should be running between the 2 columns of stitches we found before.  See?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Right, so we now know where the stitches are supposed to go.  When I teach the matress stitch, I always say to go beneath 2 horizontal bars each time.  Some directions will tell you to go underneath only one bar, but when you’re first learning, it’s easier to go underneath 2.  I normally go underneath 2 bars if the yarn is an aran weight yarn or lighter, just because mattress stitch goes a lot more slowly when only going underneath 1 bar.  For aran weight yarns and higher (like bulky) I’ll go underneath only one bar, because each “stitch” is so big. So in most instances, just go underneath 2 bars between the stitches.  I like to start with the right side, just because I’m right handed.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now pull the needle through, leaving enough thread at the end for a couple of inches of tail.  Don’t pull the yarn through!  See how the thread goes underneath 2 bars?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now I go to the left side, and put my needle underneath 2 bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull through again.  Congrats, we’ve gotten started!  Now we’re back to the right side.  How do you know where to put your needle next?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Look at the thread that’s coming out from the right side.  Put your needle down through the hole that thread is coming out of, and run it up under 2 more bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the needle through.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now we go back to the left side, find the thread coming out of the left side, and put our needle through the same way we did for the right.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And pull the needle through again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, we repeat the pattern, going under 2 bars on the right side, then two bars of the left side.  The stitch starts to look like rungs on a ladder, hence the alternative name “ladder stitch.”  Notice this whole time I’m not pulling the stitches tight, I’m leaving them loose.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

When I’ve got about 1″ to 2″ of stitching, I stop and admire my work, and make sure everything looks right.  Then, I take the tail, and the thread that’s attached to the needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

I pull both ends tight.  Note that I’m not letting the fabric wrinkle or scrunch.  I’m just pulling on the thread.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

There’s a quick trick to find out if you’ve pulled the thread tight enough.  If  you can pull the 2 pieces of fabric apart and you can see your stitches, it is still a little loose.  Pull both ends again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now those stitches are tight.  See how I’m holding the thread with both ends?  At this point, neither end is secured, so if I pulled on the fabric without holding the ends tight, the stitches would again loosen up.  This will mitigate when you work more of the seam.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, I loosen up the last stitch I did, so I can find where I need to go next, and I continue.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, what happens if you are working columns of stitches to rows of stitches?  You still use the mattress seam, the placement on the row side is just a little different.  Take a look at the edge of your knitting, where you bound off or cast on.  See how the v’s connect to make a zig-zag?  This is where we’ll be working.  Let’s look at an individual stitch.  Here, I’ve got it lifted up by my needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

You are going to go down through the middle of that stitch, between the 2 sides of the “V.”  Then, you’ll come up from under the fabric through the next “V.”  See how you still have 2 strands on the sewing needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the yarn through, leaving the same type of tail you left when working the mattress stitch before.  Now, on the column side, work the mattress stitch as normal.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, go back down to the row stitch side.  See how the thread is coming out, same as it did with the other matress stitch?  You’re going to go down through the stitch with the thread, and go up through the next stitch.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And repeat over and over again, until you run out of fabric to stitch on.

It’s important to note, you can switch between working columns to columns, columns to rows, rows to rows, and back again.  You can be seaming on the stockinette side, and then switch to seaming on the row side.

Got questions?  Please ask in the comments, on twitter, or on facebook.  Or, if you liked the tutorial, tweet it, facebook it, or share it!

4 Warning Signs Your Handmade Afghan is Falling Apart

My business has many arms – my teaching, pattern writing, and more recently, finishing.  Normally finishing involves piecing together sweaters or blocking shawls, but sometimes I get another type of request.  Sometimes I get requests to do repairs on well loved a
fghans and blankets that are lovingly knitted or crochet.  Many times I’m able to fix things before they get too bad, but sometimes I have to be the person saying, “I’m sorry, but there is no way to fix your family heirloom.”  This is a terrible thing to say, and so I have a list of things to look for to know when your afghan is in need of repair, before it gets irreparable.

  • At the First Sign of Trouble, seek help.  There’s an old adage that says, “A stitch in time saves 9.”  And it is so true – making repairs before they happen is the best way to prevent tears, rips and holes.  Look for weak spots in your knitting or crochet – where the thread is getting thin or wispy.  These are places where holes will form.  Find someone to help you retrace the stitches and reinforce the work.
  • Pulls or loose threads.  Sometimes yarn that has been carefully woven in works its way loose, or gets caught and creates a pull or snag.  Don’t panic! If the thread is not broken, just stretched and out of the weave of the fabric, carefully pull it in different directions, and see if you can ease it back into place.  If not, see if you can find someone (like a finisher or a more experienced knitter or crocheter, that can help you work the yarn back into the stitch.

  • Seams coming undone. So many crochet (and even knit) afghans have their seams come undone.  One of my very first repairs to a blanket was my father’s well-loved afghan, made in long strips of knitting and seamed together.  If a seam comes undone, don’t panic.  Take a bit of matching yarn or thread, and carefully seam the edges back together, using a ladder stitch or running stitch.
  • The center of motifs are a common place I see in need of repair.  Either because the original creator didn’t secure the ends enough, or just because of stress, this can be a common cause for problems.  If you can, try to pick up as many of the loose loops and put them on a stitch older or locking stitch marker, to prevent further unraveling. This is one repair I’d say, if you can, to get a professional to do, as it takes a deft touch and a good understanding of how stitches work to get it back to matching the others.
The key to all of these problems is if they are caught early, they can be fairly painless repairs.  If you let the problem go, the worse things get, and the more likely that the afghan will need to be reconstructed or have more extensive repairs.Have you ever had to repair a project?  Tell me about it on twitter or facebook.  Looking to have your own repaired?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form!