Monday, June 17, 2019


I’ve been on a roll with crochet recently. Two months ago, I was overly optimistic with my project plans for a five-day road trip. Being settled in at home didn’t stop me from wanting to finish each of those projects.

Almost a full view of an off-white Fractal doily on a dark background.

The last of my travel projects is Fractal by Essi Varis. It’s a modern twist — no pun intended — on the classic crocheted lace doily or table runner. I love the way the simple geometry of the crochet blends a contemporary look with a vintage feel.

Detail of Fractal Table Runner highlighting the center circle and the back vane.

The design is made up of two vanes building off of a center circle in an easy-to-follow pattern. I was able to crochet the greater part of the vanes from memory, which made it ideal for on-the-go. I suppose it still ended up being a travel project!

The pattern calls for a 2.0 mm crochet hook, but I opted for a B-hook (2.25 mm) in part because I tend to crochet tightly and in part because I don’t happen to own a 2.0 mm hook. I used Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Size 10 undyed thread, which surprised me with its silky feel. As expected with the change in hook size, my version of Fractal is a little larger than described in the pattern; it measures about 26.5 inches (67 cm) across at the tips of the vanes.

Detail of Fractal Table Topper highlighting the stitches on the center circle and part of one vane.

While the natural color adds to the old-fashioned spirit of the table topper, my attention span doesn’t do well when working with a single color — especially one as bland as light beige. This was likely made worse by the fact that my last few projects have been one-color pieces, or nearly so. Clearly, I need to branch out more when planning.

And the repetitive style of the design probably hurt my attention span as much as it helped me memorize the stitches. Even so, the table runner worked up relatively quickly at three weeks from start to finish.

Detail of Fractal Table Runner highlighting the front vane and the center circle.

I definitely want to make at least one more version of Fractal as a gift, but I need to “cleanse my palate” with something a little more colorful and intricate before I cast on again. Maybe I’ll set this pattern aside for our next road trip — and plan for a more attention-grabbing color!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Almost Fractal

Isn’t it fun when a project becomes more than you planned? Sometimes that can be something greater than you expected. In this case, I mean when the components of a piece lend themselves to their own smaller projects.

Angled View of the Center Circle in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

I’ve been eyeing Fractal by Essi Varis for a long time, but it’s not a free pattern — plus it’s in a different currency. Such silly excuses not to buy a unique pattern that costs very little!

I finally downloaded the pattern, and bought a ball of Size 10 crochet thread. But I had some Size 3 thread leftover from a different project and thought there might be enough to crochet this table topper. Why not make two version in different sizes?

I picked up my 2.75 mm C-hook and set to work with the Size 3 thread. The pattern is easy to follow and works up quickly. But partway through the first vane, I realized there was no way I would have enough thread to finish the entire table runner.

Top View of the Center Circle in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

No matter — the center circle has a pretty simplicity of its own. I ripped back to the end of the center circle and finished it off as a doily.

And then I started another. I definitely had enough thread to make another circle, so why not have a set of doilies? The second circle used up almost all of my Size 3 thread.

Top View of 2 Center Circles in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

I’ve moved on to crocheting the full pattern in Size 10 thread, and am still enjoying the process. But that’s a story for another day.

What projects have surprised you by becoming more than you first intended?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Verena Sleeveless Knit Shell

Summer is here in full force with temperatures topping 100 F (38 C) already. That’s far above normal for this time of year. I thought I’d be a little ahead of schedule with the summer tops in my project queue by starting in May. Not quite!

Front view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

My first tank top for the season is #09 Sleeveless Shell by the Verena Design Team in the Summer 2008 issue of Verena Knitting. I used Plymouth Yarn Hannah in the color way 5 Navy. The yarn is 65% cotton and 35% rayon from bamboo. It’s a dense yarn made up of six 2-ply strands and it’s amazingly soft, although prone to splitting.

After my last sweater debacle, I didn’t want to take any chances with fit this time. I bought enough yarn for the largest size to ensure I wouldn’t come up short. And I swatched, and swatched, and swatched again.

I know cotton and rayon have little elasticity, so while the drape is lovely the fabric may not hold its shape; it can grow with wear. But I also know that those same fibers can shrink with washing and drying. I tested different gauges along with different washing and drying combinations, and felt I had a good handle on how the yarn would act as a fabric.

Ultimately, I saw a little growth in the swatches — enough that, with a bust size between two pattern sizes, I felt comfortable making the smaller of them. I debated lengthening the body of the shell, but decided against it. I was worried that the weight of the finished piece might make the shirt hang more than what I was seeing in my swatches.

Back view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

The pattern is relatively straightforward. The transition from the body into the straps was unclear, but with close examination of the photos I was able to work it out.

I thought the lace chart was odd; it showed the pattern for 25 stitches plus selvedge, but the instructions were to only work the center 12 stitches plus two stitches at the beginning and three stitches at the end of each row. I never used the rest of the chart. In addition, decreases were to be made while working the lace but the decreases weren't accounted for in the chart; I had to count stitches to make sure everything was aligned once I began decreasing.

I’m happy with the shell. So far, the fit is good and the fabric doesn’t show signs of changing shape. But there are a few items I would address if I were to make it again. I would adjust the stitch pattern in the straps because they want to curl. And, while I’m happy with the overall length of this tank top, I would feel more comfortable if the lace started lower on the body; it reaches above my belly button right now.

If this heat wave continues, maybe I’ll find that I prefer the lace placement as is. A little extra “air conditioning” might be just the thing!