Friday, September 19, 2008

Shiver me timbers

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, which I celebrate somewhat sporadically. Ravelry made a big deal about it, putting a little three-master icon next to the site name, and giving people parrots on their shoulders when they uploaded new ravatars with "pirate" in the name.

The elephant seal is in honor of my docent training at Año Nuevo State Reserve. Said classes involve driving over the Santa Cruz Mountains at least once a week through the end of the year, as well as sitting for 2 1/2 hours, listening to fun nature facts. Did you know that female elephant seals transfer 40% of their body mass to their pups in 28 days of nursing?

It's good time for mindless knitting, in other words, and now that I'm on the sleeves of my Moons and Star project, I'm saving it for class time. Or that's my story, anyway.

Which means that I'm doing other things in the meantime, like when I'm taking the train up to San Mateo for lunch. I checked out a book from the library, with the somewhat offputting title of Exciting Crochet

It is, pretty much, exactly what you'd expect from the cover. However, at the end of the book, after all the badly-photographed 80's-style projects, Ms. Kent put forth her method of working broomstick crochet in the round.

Now, every explanation I've read about broomstick crochet asserts that it can't be worked in the round. I guess if you were really using a broomstick, that would be true. Jennifer Hansen (the Stitch Diva, who is my hero) understands that this is nonsense, and has one of her excellent videos explaining one way to work in the round. Muriel Kent, however, showed a way of starting flat circles with broomstick lace, and I've combined that with the way that I work broomstick in the round with a circular knitting needle.

To recap for those of you not familiar with the technique, broomstick crochet involves drawing up long loops of the working yarn, one per stitch from a row of single crochet, and keeping them on a large knitting needle (or broomstick, if you're old school.) Then you work a return row where you take a group of loops off the needle (3, 4 or 5, most commonly) and work the same number of single crochet as loops in the group. This row becomes the foundation for the next row of loops.

So how do we make a flat circle with this technique? By increasing at the proper rate so that the work curves around to join itself. Muriel Kent says to start by chaining 6, drawing up 3 loops in each chain, and working the loops off in groups of 3 with 6 single crochet in each group.

Well, first note that blithe "draw up 3 loops in each chain." As anyone will realize who has tried to knit twice into the front of the same stitch, poking your hook repeatedly in the same place and drawing up another loop just gives you one really big loop. I did manage to start a circle this way, but it took poking my hook into three different parts of each chain, which I don't recommend.

Be that as it may. By working 6 single crochet in each group of 3 loops, you've set up a foundation row that will double the number of loops on the next round. That's her formula, doubling the number of loops in each round until the piece is the size desired.

I decided to try a broomstick crochet hat, Using worsted weight yarn (CE Lush) a size H crochet hook and a 15mm circular needle, I started my circle and merrily increased every round, ending up with a circle that was as ruffly as a very ruffly thing, indeed.

I had neglected to take into account the size of the knitting needle. My loops were shorter than Muriel's, so my rows were too wide for their height. The circumference of a circle has to increase π times the rate of the diameter. With knitting and regular crochet, the proportions of the stitches stay roughly constant with different thicknesses of yarn (assuming you're not working ultra-tight or way loose) and you can count on making a flat circle by increasing 4 stitches per round in knitting, 6 in single crochet, 16 in double crochet, &c. But broomstick size can vary independent of the size of the stitches, so I need to figure out the proper increase rate for a given combination of yarn, hook and broomstick.

Which I've been trying to do. I managed to make a usable hat

but it's a baby hat.

Increasing one more round at this same rate gave a circle that was too big for my head.

although I could go on and make it a tam. More research is clearly needed.

1 comment:

TurquoizBlue said...

I love what you've come up with! Keep us posted.