Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meeting Highlights: Shaping Garment Pieces

We began with a short business meeting:
  • The Board proposed dues of $24 per calendar year, prorated to begin with the April meeting. The membership approved. A fair number of March attendees have already paid for the full year. A huge thanks for that! We now have our rent covered with a few bucks to spare.
  • Cathy’s efforts with our Ravelry presence are paying off; more people are learning about our group through Ravelry.
  • March is both National Crochet Month and National Craft Month - so if you see any local discounts, be sure to update the Raverly posting to let others know.
  • A membership form was distributed. Some of the information on it updates last year’s membership survey, as we continue to gauge what topics most interest our members.
  • Carla spoke to us about community service projects and has found opportunities on the local, national, and international level. The local opportunity is the local Harriet Tubman Center, which always needs hats, scarves and mittens during the colder weather months. Carla has volunteered to drop-off any of our donations for the three selected projects - watch for any upcoming blog post with details.
After our lively business discussion, Maxine started off our meeting series on garment construction by teaching us about shaping garment pieces. One of the main differences between sewing garments and crocheting garments is that in crocheting (and knitting too), we are making the fabric and shaping the pattern piece at the same time - in sewing, the fabric is already made for us.

In crocheting, there are four ways to shape pieces: (1) Using increases and decreases, (2) Varying the hook size throughout the piece - for example, starting with a smaller hook and then changing to a larger size as the piece grows, (3) Varying the type of stitch (stitch height) within a row or round, and (4) Working short rows within the piece. This picture shows wrist warmers made using technique (3) - varying stitch height within a row. (Sneak preview: Carol will teach us about short rows next month.)

For a class exercise, everyone then worked on some swatches (in dc) that showed how placement of decreases and increases (spaced throughout the row vs. "stacked" to one end of the row) affected the final shape of the swatch.

The next topic was gauge and Maxine challenged us to master gauge rather than letting it master us and gave us these guidelines:
  • Swatches really need to be larger than the traditional 4" by 4" square (at least 5" x 5") so that you can measure in the middle of the swatch instead of all the way to the edges. (Edge stitches can be tighter or looser so if you measure over them, the results can be distorted.)
  • For accurate results you need to block and finish your swatch the same way that you will be blocking and finishing your garment.
  • It is rare for two crocheters to have the exact same gauge, so the most important questions to ask are: "What will the finished size of my piece be if I make it in this gauge?" and "Will I be happy with the size?" Rather than the more traditional: "Does my gauge exactly match that the designer's gauge?" To help answer this new question, everyone worked through an exercise where we were provided the number of stitches and rows in a finished piece but had to calculate the finished size (in inches) of the piece based on a sample swatch. It was a different way of looking at gauge - but very intriguing idea to everyone. 
The next topic was a brief discussion of substituting yarn and matching your skill level to the pattern level. The information for this topic came from the Yarn Standards guidelines, developed by the Craft Yarn Council. The last topic was a discussion of garment-making terminology. A raglan-sleeve baby sweater pattern was then provided as a practice garment. This sweater has five pieces that can be used as the practice garment for our May meeting, which will be on blocking and finishing. Maxine shared a tip that she'd recently read in Lily Chin's Crochet Tips and Tricks - reel off enough yarn to finsh the seam for each piece before making the starting slip knot. This length of the seaming yarn varies, depending on the type of seam you're using - Lily says one and a half times the length of the seamed edge for a mattress seam or three times the length of the seamed edge for a backstitch.  

In addition to the class, we held our first "Beginner's Corner" this month. We are beginning to reach out to newer crocheters who are developing their skills and in need of help. We will develop a simple basic skills test (that is, crocheting a swatch) and a simple knowledge test to assess what the new crocheter knows about the craft. This will make it easier to for mentors and teachers to build on what the crocheter already knows. Sometimes it is hard to diagnose project problems when we haven’t a good idea of where a person is coming from. If you are an experienced crocheter who doesn’t mind sitting out the class portion of a few meetings, think about volunteering for this service. Keep in mind that we might not have newer crocheters at every meeting.