Sunday, November 4, 2012

Crocheting Garments

I love using crochet to make structural items…toys, baskets, bags, and so on.  But I’ve had a hard time trying to find the love for using crocheted fabric for clothing.  I feel a little bit like a traitor for mostly *knitting* the wearables that I make, since crochet was my first love.  There is a little part of me that wonders if I may be turning into a knit snob…you know those people who look at crocheting as a granny-square craft, only good for creating afghans or lumpy, ill fitting, and out of date garments.  I know that I won’t ever really be one of those people, but I felt compelled to spend some time thinking about why I am so hesitant to pick up the hook to make the same garments that I would knit without hesitation.

I identified several “sticking points”, but the one that I think was the biggest deal for me was that many of the patterns that are out there for crocheted clothing really don’t pay much attention to the drape of the fabric.  There have been many times that I have started to make a cardigan or a sweater for one of my kids and discovered that the fabric was as stiff as a piece of cardboard.  I discovered that to suit my taste, the standard hook recommendations on yarn labels are too small.  And in general, the lighter weight (fingering, sport) yarns look better for garment construction.

What I decided to do was go through my yarn stash and choose a yarn, and go from there in building my own garment.

The yarn I chose was Welcomme Le Tweed Angora, which is now discontinued.  It is listed as an aran weight, but is really more of a light DK yarn.  I fiddled around with it until I found a hook size and stitch that I liked…those happened to be an H hook and the Extended Single Crochet stitch.  I didn’t want a stitch as firm as the SC, but I don’t care for the DC used in wearables.

I had decided to make a sweater vest with buttons on one shoulder for my youngest daughter, but not in the size she was at the time.  I used the Craft Yarn Council’s sizing guidelines as a guide for sizing.  I made myself a gauge swatch, and did the math.  I started in the round and worked from the bottom to the armpits, then split for the front and back.  Since the stitching would look difference once I was working back and forth rather than in the round, I decided to add some Back Post Extended Single Crochet rows as accents, similar to the way garter ridges are used as accents in knitting.  In the end, I’m very pleased with the vest, and the only thing I would have done differently is the width of the shoulder straps…I would have made the back and the front a little narrower by about three stitches.  I want to try this again in a fingering weight yarn and compare the results.  My guess is that I would like the lighter weight garment even better.

In the end, I think that crochet can make beautifully draped clothing and elegant garments with a solid fabric, but the yarn needs to be finer and the hooks a little bigger.

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