Crochet seamless top-down sweater patterns
The more mistakes I make, the more I know. Art of Tangle shares a few solutions to some common problems that may arise when the crochet hook encounters the yarn.
Crochet from the neck down
Crochet is its own art form. In some ways it resembles knitting and in others it is knitting turned backwards. One of the most important areas of difference is in how the final project should hang. Crochet starts with its tightest stitch, the foundation chain; knitting ends with its tightest stitch, the binding off row. The final project should hang by its tightest stitches if it is to hold its shape, therefore this row belongs at the neck. If one ends a crochet garment with a lacy stitch it is quickly observed the design looks best hanging down, and awkward going up. What looks best is best. One knits up but crochets down, creating a garment that holds its shape when it is worn.
A sweater that is crocheted top-down is shaped as it is worked, rather than worked as flat pieces to be later joined. Therefore stitch count is important, but need not be laborious. A repetitious pattern of repeats is soon noticed in the instructions and occasional counting of stitches ensures correct shaping. Also the garment may be tried on as it is worked to ensure fit. This cannot be done with a flat piece. Watching the sweater take shape as you go adds to the already considerable pleasure of the crochet project.
Handling that gapping hole
We all know the most common culprit of that ugly hole created during joining or finishing; it is none other than ch-3 filling in for a beginning dc. If the pattern is lacy the hole may show little and can be ignored, but if the pattern is solid and a bump can more easily be hid than a hole, I use the following technique. At the end of a row, I ch 2, turn and dc in the first stitch. In this case the ch-2 is not a true stitch but only a means to get to the next row, much as is the ch 1, turn and sc in the first stitch. In both cases a small bump is created that is easily hid during finishing or joining.
Counting stitches for bands
As a sweater project is crocheted it lays flat in your lap. It has not been given the opportunity to fall into its final shape when worn. Sometimes it is difficult to see the best number of stitches to be used to create arm, front and neck bands. I use the following rule when creating these stitches. I add one sc for every row ending in an sc, two sc for every row ending in a dc, and three sc for every row ending in a trc, etc. Even if this seems wrong, the garment will eventually fall into the correct shape when left hanging or worn.
Cone Yarn is for Crochet
Cone yarn, the staple of the machine knitter, is finding its way into the baskets of those who crochet. Cone yarn lends itself to crochet. The price is right, less expensive than when rolled into a ball. The variety of yarns is large, and the yarn itself is often just right for the project in mind, especially if it's a sweater. When the project is more conveniently done with a ball, a ball winder is the simple answer.
Working with cone yarn is easy if you know the tricks. Most important is to always keep the cone far enough beneath the project so that the yarn gently winds off the top of the cone. The cone is tapered so it does this easily. The cone looks like it should spin, but if you use the tension on the yarn to make the cone turn you expend unnecessary energy and you may stretch the yarn. When I work with a cone I put it in a small basket or plastic container on the floor at my feet. As I need more yarn a slight tug makes it gently unwind from the top of the cone. I use the same technique when winding yarn from the cone into a ball using a ball winder.
Part of the fun of crochet is the chance to work with all the beautifully colored yarn that is available. Combining different colors into a single project is fun too. Crochet lends itself to working in combinations of color; behold the granny square. A very few tricks are necessary to begin adding colors to projects.
The traditional method of changing colors of yarn is to cut and fasten the old color yarn and begin with a new color, perhaps working over the yarn tails in the process. Most granny squares do just that. If the project is worked in a row, the yarn may be cut and a new color added each time there is a change. By this method all the colors are kept separate, sometimes important if very light and very dark colors are worked together. But other methods exist also. I will mention two.
Crocheting along a row using two colors of yarn may be done simply by crocheting over the yarn not in use. When the second color is needed it is pulled forward and drawn through on the last loops of the last stitch of the first color. That way the loop on the hook is the correct color to begin the stitch in the new color. The first color, now not in use, is drawn along the row as it is crocheted over. A occasional tug on the yarn not in use will keep it from bunching up. Follow this with a slight stretch of the work so that the yarn doesn't pull either.
If the project calls for stripes, and those stripes are worked by an even number of rows, the yarn not in use may be saved where it ends, to be pulled up the side of the work when it is called for again by the pattern. These loose strings of yarn are easily hidden by working over them when creating the final finishing of borders or bands.
Anyone who has worked an Art of Tangle pattern knows I do not like cutting the yarn; maybe because I do not like working in ends, or having ends work themselves back out. Whenever possible I find it more convenient to continue with the same piece of yarn without cutting it if the pattern calls for its continued use.
Cone yarns offer a less expensive alternative to ball yarn; and at the weights desirable for crochet sweaters it may be the only option. But the project may leave most of an unused cone. The simple answer is to purchase yarns for projects that compliment each other in color and then use the left-over in a multiple color creation. Changing colors on a chevron design shows off the chevron, making it the sweater pattern of choice for a rainbow of color. Shown here are three chevron patterns using multiple colors, the Cozy Cardigan, the Cozy Kid and the Chevron Cardigan; adding the Chevron Pullover increases the options for easy color combinations.
Changing color may be accomplished by simply drawing up one color and dropping the other at the end of the row. This was used on the Cozy Cardigan yoke where an "sc" row in one direction and an "sc, trc" row in the other direction are done in one color. The contrasting color yarn is used on the next "sc" row and the following "dc" row. Simply change colors on the ch 1 (2, 3) at the end of the 2nd row before the turn. When too many rows are done in one color to comfortably draw up the new yarn, the old yarn color is cut and fastened at the end of the row and the new yarn color is added at the beginning of the next row, by making a slip knot on the hook and joining with an sc in the first st; ch 1 creates a ch-2 st, ch 2 creates a beginning ch-3 or dc stitch. If you crochet over the yarn ends the addition is flawless.
When the pattern on the sleeves matches the pattern on the body of the sweater it may be desirable to drop the beginning of the pattern on the sleeves a few rows and add a few more rows at the end of the sleeve. The sleeves are usually longer than the body and this adjustment centers the pattern on the sleeves with the body.
A Word About Yarn
Sweater yarns often come in fancy forms, such as Patons Paradiso used in the sweater to the side. Most of these yarns are in DK to worsted weight, which can be a little heavy for many crochet patterns. This sweater is the exception; it is very simple and light weight. The pattern is taken from the Scroll Pullover (women or men) with the front left plain, letting the unusual texture of the yarn create the design. When working with worsted weight yarns it must be remembered that a soft (often more expensive) sweater yarn must be used if the results are to end up something you will actually wear.
Crochet and Cross-stitch
Single crochet makes a little square that lends itself to cross-stitch. The above sweater is a front loop only single crochet and it provides a warm snuggly canvas to express yourself with any design that tickles your fancy. I find using three strands of floss to make the cross-stitch works well. I happen to like owls; they have cute faces.