Then the learning started.
Have you ever heard of entrelac crochet? I've heard of entrelac knitting, but I am a very basic skills knitter and have no desire to try that technique. But entrelac crochet? Or, to be more specific, tunisian entrelac crochet? OK, sure!
Entrelac means (loosely) interlaced, or interlocked. TE crochet grows block by block, each worked into the other to give the fabric a woven look. It requires you to know some basic tunisian crochet steps, and to have a loose hand while stitching as this creates a piece that is thicker than normal.
I wanted to do a piece with bright colors, but to also tone it down with a neutral every other row. My original idea was gray, but I fell in immediate love with the linen shade above. I started with a chain of about 230, neglecting to check that it would be long enough--so now it's 230 stitches wide and the length remains to be seen.
One of the interesting things that happens with this fabric is that the back looks very different from the front. You don't turn the work--you fasten off at each end and then start at the beginning again--the front always faces you.
The back has a knitted look as that's where all the loops end up when you work them off of your hook. Usually, with tunisian crochet, you use a very long hook that almost looks like a knitting needle. With this technique, no special hook is needed. I've tried plain tunisian before, but quickly lost interest. This, however, still has me interested and intrigued. One must keep track of stitches, but not to a high count, so it becomes very rhythmic but never boring as you still must pay attention.
It took me a few evenings to get this just right. I did that thing I do where I immediately assume I know everything there is to know and jumped right in, only to have a very strange piece of stitchery. So I frogged, and then decided to follow a pattern. The pattern wasn't working out for me so I slapped myself mentally and said "Look it up, dummy!" So I found a video that provided everything I needed to know--how to start, how to do the stitch, the counts, how to start each row, everything. I followed it to the letter, and was finally on my way.
The fabric works a bit tight and tends to curl, but I'm pretty sure once I wash and dry it (the yarn is 100% arylic) it will be soft and have a beautiful drape to it. I'm working in the ends as I proceed for the most part--this type of stitching makes it quite easy to weave in ends invisibly.
I won't lie--this was not the easiest thing to get the hang of, at first. I tend to stitch a little bit tight, so I had to consciously tell myself to ease up. I tried a large hook, but was still having some issues so I switched to a smaller hook (a K size) and sailed right along. It seems that whenever I've used my larger hooks I've had huge trouble, and I finally figured out why, quite by accident. It all comes down to branding.
Almost all of my crochet hooks are the Susan Bates brand. I've never had an issue with them (and especially love the version with the bamboo handles--easier on the hands than frigid rigid aluminum). My larger hooks are the Boye brand, and they are shaped quite differently, hence all my troubles with them in the past.
The left is Susan Bates (my preference), the right is Boye.
I certainly am not saying one is better than the other, just that one works better for me. I like the deeper...throat?...that the one has as well as the head shape (those are not official terms so don't quote me on those :) If I had a modicum of patience when it comes to starting new projects I would have bought the larger hook in the brand I like, but all local stores didn't have them and I wasn't in the mood for a journey. The larger hook may have given a slightly less stiff feel to it, but so far I'm quite pleased with the progress I'm making.
So here are the details in case you'd like to try something similar. I'm using Lion Brand Vanna's Choice yarn in linen, cherry, fern, duckie, and aqua. I have two balls of each color, and eight of the linen. I'm using a K hook, I've made it about 230 stitches wide, and have used this video to get me started. The video is a bit repetitive but the best resource I found for learning this technique. She even shares a nifty little trick for what to do if you chain too many, a problem that has historically had me ripping and starting over (no tricks for if you don't chain enough, though).
I'd love it if you joined along and stitched up some cozy warmth! If you do, pop your creations in the Flickr group--I'd love to see! And I do apologize for the photos--no matter the settings or the editing, there is no substitute for the natural light that is in short supply lately. I'm off now, to finish my row of green :)