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Janie's Friday Feature
Welcome to this week's Friday Feature Newsletter - the Janie Crow equivalent of a Sunday supplement magazine....
It has been a really busy week here at Janie Crow as we prepare for next week's Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I have also been crocheting the matching samples for the Delft competition finalist entries so that we can get an idea of what the 5 chosen samples could look like made up into a blanket. This is something I have enjoyed immensely, as it has involved playing around with colour combinations, but it has taken up far more time that I thought it would. Which brings me to this....
As I have completely run out of spare time today, I have decided to share a newsletter from last year that focuses on how to read a crochet chart instead of the piece about the Ballet Russes that I had promised you. We are asked about charts a lot and, as we are busy trying to get lots of our patterns updated to chart form, I feel this is quite relevant. Charts really are far easier to follow than you might think, especially once you understand the basic symbols. I urge you to read my piece when you are feeling calm and open to the idea of learning, otherwise it might still seem like gobbledegook! We had a lots of positive feedback on this piece when it was first published a year or so ago, so I am hoping you will enjoy it.
As we will be away in Edinburgh next week, there will be no Friday Feature newsletter, but I hope to have one for you the following week, so do look out for it. If you are coming to EYF, please drop by the stand to say hello - our stand is next to the fabulous Eden Cottage Yarns, so hopefully you won't be able to miss us!
'Time is a game played beautifully by children.'
- Heraclitus -
Reading a Crochet Chart
OK, take a deep calming breath and read on slowly but surely......
The terminology for chain (ch) and slip-stitch (ss) are the same in UK and US, so we are going to start with the symbol for a chain stitch. The symbol is an oval shape. If you look at your crochet, you will see that a chain stitch looks like a little grain of wheat or barley maybe, or even like a tiny egg shape, so the oval symbol is totally logical.
The symbol for a slip-stitch (which is almost always worked after a series of chain at the beginning of a motif worked in the round) is a little filled in circle like a full stop (period).
So, if we look at the Leilani Flower chart above, or visualise patterns worked in the round, we can see that at the centre of the circular motif there are symbols for chain stitches and one symbol for a slip stitch, so this tells us to work a series of chain stitches followed by a slip-stitch to join.
OK – hopefully you are with me so far.
I am going to deviate from the Leilani chart for a bit here and leave the explanation of the shorter stitches until a little later on in the piece, because I want to talk about treble (US double) crochet first, as it is the stitch which I think best illustrates how logical chart symbols are in relation to the physical make up of the stitch.
I am sure you realise that all stitches (apart from slip-stitch) create height to our crochet. If we look at our stitches we can see that all stitches are made up of a (vertical) post of the stitch, which creates this height, and a (horizontal) chain that runs along the top.
The symbol for a treble (US double) crochet is a vertical line with a horizontal line across the top, like a T, but it also has a line part way down, which is sometimes shown straight and other times at a slight angle.
The vertical line represents the post of your stitch.
The horizontal line at the top of the vertical line represents the chain that runs along the top of your stitch
The slanted or straight line part way down represents the number of times the yarn is wrapped around the hook at the very beginning of the stitch – in this case once.
Now, if you also look at your physical treble (US double) crochet stitches in relation to this chart symbol you will see that a treble (US double) crochet stitch has a vertical post, a horizontal chain that run along the top AND a slightly angled yarn that has wrapped itself across the front of the vertical post.
So, the chart symbol is not just a little drawing picked out of someone’s imagination, it is giving you instructions, not only how the stitch should look, but also how to make it!
Light Bulb Moment?
If not, lets think about this again in relation to the symbol for a double treble (US treble) crochet stitch:
The physical crochet stitch has a post, which creates height – so the symbol has a vertical line.
The stitch has a horizontal chain at the top – so the symbol has a horizontal line at the top.
To make the stitch we wrap the yarn around the hook twice at the very beginning and the physical stitch has 2 slightly angled yarns that have wrapped themselves across the front of the vertical post – so the symbol has 2 angled strikes across the vertical line.
So, we have established that the symbols for stitches from treble crochet (US double crochet) upwards in post height, give you instructions on how to make the stitch and a representation of how your stitches will look once you have completed them, but, the symbols that don’t conform to this explanation are double (US single) crochet and half treble (US half double) crochet.
Both stitches have a post (vertical line), but the symbol for a double (US single) crochet has a horizontal line half way down and not one at the top, so it looks like a cross + or an X and the half treble (US half double) crochet has the horizontal line at the top so it looks like a T.
The symbols for both these stitches don’t actually tell us how make the stitch, but when looking at a chart they will give us an idea of stitch height. Double (US single) crochet has the shortest post height, so will be the shortest symbol on the chart, followed by half treble (US half double) crochet, which sits in size between a double (US single) crochet and a treble (US double) crochet on the chart.
Note: charts need to be read in the direction of the crochet and will assume that the crocheter is right handed! If reading a chart for a pattern worked in the round you need to follow it anti clockwise and for charted patterns worked in rows you need to read the first row and subsequent right side rows from right to left and the second and subsequent wrong side rows from left to right.
That's it! A speedy guide to reading charts!
Hopefully the information above has gone some way to demystify charts for you and that you feel you might have a better idea of what stitches chart symbols represent. It is worth saying at this point that charts alone cannot always tell us every single thing we need to know about a pattern and at times it is helpful to also have an image or the written pattern to understand the intricacies of the pattern.
I think the most wonderful thing about understanding how to read charts is that it opens up a huge wealth of patterns. The Japanese, for example, are particularly keen on charts and I think it is fabulous to think that although many of us in the Western world don’t speak Japanese and sadly can’t read their beautiful writing, we can understand their crochet charts!
You can find a free downloadable technique sheet for reading charts by following this link.
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