Bunch of Washcloths

Happy summer, everyone!

Thought I'd check in and share an update on my crochet learning process. So, in that first post, the one in which I told everyone that as of February 2021, I'd begun this new and obsessive hobby and asked for suggestions and advice, you guys stepped up and recommended projects and websites to provide direction for that obsession. I was thrilled, and set forth with wild ambitions and every intention to make hats and mittens and scarves and afghans.

Five months later: washcloths.

And in spite of grand plans to Be Versatile and master crochet-in-the-round and granny squares and magic circles, I've thus far only done rows. Hundreds of rows, granted, but still . . . just right-to-lefts bookended by seemingly random numbers of turning chains. Which turned into a slowly-growing stack of washcloths. 

Halfway through the stack, it became clear I'd been subconsciously collecting stitches"Huh," I thought. "I guess some people gravitate toward application and some people stick to the building blocks . . . and keep sticking." 

And that's OK. I remembered that I'd been interested in crochet because it looked like a technique that was fun to wrap my mind around, and not because I'd seen some sweater in a magazine and desired to DIY it. I'd figured that at some point, like once I'd learned what crochet was about, what its potential was, the projects would naturally follow.

And if those naturally-following projects were looking more like they'd lost their way, so be it. In the meantime, I was happy to fall in love with the thousands of beautiful variations one could create from almost infinite combinations of the basic crochet stitches.

I thought I'd post some of those here partly as a record of my learning, mistakes and all, and partly to share my favorites (and unfavorites).

Here are my earlier pieces, which I made solely to practise the basic stitches - SC, DC, HDC and slipstitch. You've probably seen them in an earlier post.

I remember making my first-half-decent border and thinking, "So this is how one finishes a crochet project. I wonder if beginning seamstresses ask this same question about a sewn bag or a garment: 'how do I know when a project is considered finished?' " Those of us who've been sewing or knitting for years just know. Even without rules, we recognize the moment when we can set down a needle and switch off the sewing machine and feel satisfied that it is done. But beginners don't - and it may be years before they learn how much more it is about the quality of the work than the sequence of tasks that deem a project complete. I loved that learning to crochet made me become aware of that.

This one was a fun lesson in the anatomy of a stitch - back loops and front loops and such.

This was the stitch pattern that first made me feel that I might actually have hope with this whole crochet thing. Prior to this, prospects in the tension department had been quite bleak - I'd all but accepted the idea that crochet for me would forever mean overtight bunches of knots randomly interspersed with dangling loops, like something the cat had taken its claws to. 

The day I discovered the existence of floral-esque stitches (thank you, internet), my world blew apart. It wasn't just utility chains and knots and posts and see-through lace doilies on the backs of armchairs - there were actually texture and structure and delicate intricacy and color in crochet!

I don't know what possessed me to try this next cable stitch. It felt ambitious, so I worked doggedly at it. It also felt tedious, so I upped the danger factor by mixing yarn colors. All wonderfully rebellious, overall, but not a stitch pattern I'll regularly pick for future projects, i think. I also have mixed feelings about the shell stitch as a border. It's traditionally pretty, but I've never liked traditionally pretty, so. Anyway, it seemed to be one of those things every crochet person needs to know, so I did it. A shell-stitch border - hurrah. Moving on now.

C2C was fabulously mind-twisty. I loved the mechanics of it - all sideways and sly, and with those curly maggoty ridges, like cluster stitch on crack. This has so much potential. I can't wait to do more of it.

And here I had the first of two epiphanies. This one was about the yarn. I'd been using this cotton yarn, and I'd absolutely hated it because of how it kept splitting and dragging on my crochet hook. Zero-elasticity aside, it felt no better than garden twine or hemp. But because washcloths must be made with cotton yarn in order to properly serve their function, I stuck to it with the zeal of a martyr.

Then I was in a different store and found this, wonderfully soft and smooth and non-splitty while still being 100% cotton. Instantly, I was cured of my crotchetiness. It was a veritable miracle. 

This Waistcoat stitch was funny in an ironic way: a crochet stitch that aimed to impersonate a knit stitch. 

Ah. This. The AWIP (abandoned work-in-progress). You know, like the skirt from 19 years ago, missing its waistband and languishing under the sewing table, the cute dress we'd cut out for the six-year-old and 'forgot about' until we unearthed it the day before her high school graduation, the quilt stuffed in a rubbermaid tub because we abruptly lost interest in knotting the one zillion tailing threads on its WS. I have uncountable AWIPs in my corner of sewingdom.

This, however, was my very first crochet AWIP - an alluringly, gorgeously nooks-and-crannies thing called the Waffle Stitch. I was smitten when I first beheld it on some website - it looked like layered magic - and I had to make it. So I dutifully followed the instructions but it was a nightmare from the start. Not the stitch itself, which was simply frontpost-backpost DC in multiples of three and almost hypnotically soothing to execute. Rather, it was the random turning chains and the 'insert into the x-th chain from the hook' instructions and other such peripheries - I was so frustrated that I chucked it into the deepest corner of my crochet bag and refused to look at it for months. 

Then a fortnight ago, overcome with guilt and shame, I exhumed it and made myself finish it. And discovered to my surprise that the instructions weren't as ambiguous as I'd remembered. Either I'd had a brain leak when I'd first embarked on the project or else I'd somehow become more comfortable with interpreting crochet instructions since then (I'm going to be kind to myself and believe the latter).

Anyway, you can see the bottom row of the piece where the posts are all skewed, like trees in a hurricane. Quite different from the top row, where it's the calm after the storm, as it were. The leftmost and rightmost sections - where there should be stitches but are instead blandly featureless - are where something else went weirdly wrong from the beginning but whose wrongness I had to continue perpetuating throughout the upper rows in order to preserve some semblance of pattern consistency. Sometimes we have to do two wrongs to make a right. Like when you've accidentally sewn a dreadful left sleeve and have to make the right sleeve also dreadful so it matches the miserable left one. Which I've done. Now that the piece is finished, though, I'm moving past the doom and gloom - today, I look at it and tell myself, "Look how much better you are now than x months ago. Brava!"

Case in point: this basketweave stitch I did more recently. Uses the same techniques as the waffle stitch but without the bewildering mistakes. Happy dance.

The Primrose Stitch is one of my favorites - it looks like water lilies on a pond - in another even more gorgeous cotton yarn I found some weeks later. Ridiculously soft and easy to work with. I'm like the person tearing their hair out sewing lycra with the universal needle that came with their machine and then discovers there's such a thing as a ball-point. 

Milestone moment: when you make your first project to give to someone else. I got all chills-and-weeps when I was wrapping it up for my sister-in-law.

Incidentally, the Moss Stitch (aka Granite or Linen Stitch) is one of my favorites for washcloths because it's harder than most to get wrong. Which I know from crabby experience.

Here are my current WIPs - first, this Elizabeth Stitch washcloth, in which the point is to practise making straight edges.

And here I will share the second of those two aforementioned crochet epiphanies: the Clover Amour hook. I love thee. I adore thee. I use thee exclusively. Thou art worth thine weight in gold and rubies. All the hype is true. Since I started using this Clover hook, I haven't touched my Boye and Bates hooks. I know everyone says hooks are a preference thing, so there may well be folks out there who despise the Clover hook, but it's been an absolute game changer for me. Incidentally, I've also heard good things about the Tulip hook, which I hope to buy soon.  

Also working on an Even Berry Stitch for tension practice

(and also because it's round and squishy like bubble wrap).

This Millstone Stitch sample

is a dry-run which I'm daring to believe that, with patience and time, I can replicate in a couch throw with these yarns:

Finally, the beginnings of a scarf (not a washcloth - shocking, I know) in that delightfully pretty Primrose Stitch. It's strange, after all those cottons, to be working with yarn that actually has some give. So springy!

Over to you guys now: would you share your favorite hooks and yarns?