UFO Hunting

Crochet Granny Square Pillow

I’ll admit it. I have some really bad crochet habits. And one of the worst is the many many UFOs (UnFinished Objects) that litter the shelves of my crochet room. Today, though, a friend’s post inspired me to take another look at them and see if they could be re-purposed. She’d turned an afghan she’d started into a pillow cover and it looked amazing! I knew just the UFO for this nifty crochet hack.

Over two years ago I’d intended to make a giant never-ending granny square afghan. Alas, when I began this monumental task, what I didn’t realize was that I hate making the granny pattern. So I only got 30+ rounds in before it was discarded in the corner out of boredom. Since then it’s been shuffled around quite a bit – from shelf to shelf, my cedar chest, a bag of mismatched UFOs – ever patient, ever waiting for its time to come.

Today was its day.

I was incredibly lucky. My half-done afghan was the perfect size for this crochet hack. A 45 degree turn. Fold the corners to the middle. A few seams. Some buttons. And, voila! An attractive pillow cover in about twenty minutes.

Back of Granny Square Pillow
Mismatched buttons for the back.

Now… time to go tackle a stack of mismatched afghan squares.

How I Wonder

It recently occurred to me that, while I was rushing around trying to get the Stars Aligned pattern ready and published, I never took a moment to talk about my the How I Wonder Afghan block which I published only days before on Ravelry.

How I Wonder

I adore this pattern. It is very special to me. Not just for it’s aesthetic appeal, but for the extra effort I put into the actual pattern document.

You see, it’s very hard to sell creative content. And I don’t mean it’s hard to find someone to buy it. That’s a completely different topic. What I’m talking about is offering up your little creation, putting a dollar sign on it, and telling people it’s worth them paying you.

How I Wonder

So I decided I would make sure it was worth every penny. I want you to be confident that every time you purchase a Polly Plum pattern you are getting exceptional quality, not just from a unique and original design, but from the instructions that get you there. Patterns should be more than simply accurate and clear, they should be enjoyable.

A peek at the pattern
A peek at a small portion of the pattern

How I Wonder includes three PDF file versions of the full pattern. The first is a full photo tutorial with step by step photos and instructions for the star stitch and detailed photos and instructions of every round. The second file is a text version of the complete pattern that has just one photo of the finished block with the intent of being easy on your printer’s ink.

Then, I got to thinking of you left-handed folk. I’ve heard of righties teaching lefties to crochet by sitting face-to-face and having them mirror the movements. So I thought, wouldn’t it be simple to mirror all of my images and make a left-handed version of the photo tutorials? So I did. I also edited the pattern to use more generic terminology than left/right. So far I’ve gotten a good response from the left-handed and I genuinely hope it is helpful.

a peek at left-handed star stitch
And a peek at left-handed star stitch

I’m positive you’ll love this design and the instructions. You can count on every future Polly Plum pattern, be it free or paid, to be given as much care and to not only meet the same standard, but to continue to raise the bar.

Happy hooking!

Heart Polly

Stars Aligned

As I was designing the How I Wonder afghan block, I had a little revelation towards the end. You see, I usually get stuck around the part where I square it up and want to finish it off.  I want it to be interesting and compliment the design, but I always seem to be at a loss as to how to do that. This time was no different, but I was. I waited. I sat on this design for weeks before I finally decided to push through the designer’s block. And it worked! My revelation came. I thought, why not put a round of star stitches around a star? It was so obvious!

How I Wonder 12
How I Wonder 12″ Afghan Block

So off I went stitch, stitch, stitching. Until… I came to the first corner. Uh-oh. How do I do this? I’ve never actually seen this done before. I’m still not sure how I came up with the solution I did, but the stars seemed to have aligned for me that day and voila! I now had a technique for star stitch around a 90 degree corner. And it looked great. I had to try it by itself and see what would happen. And this happened. An entire baby blanket. I couldn’t stop. And now I have to share it with you because I think you’ll love it too.

Looking seductive outdoors
Looking seductive outdoors

The glory of this is that, while I’m offering you a pattern for a square or an afghan, it’s really more of a technique that you can apply anywhere you want to use the star stitch with a 90 degree corner. So at the end of this pattern I’m going to give you a couple simple options and tips on how to use this technique elsewhere. I’m particularly interested to see it used as a border to frame an afghan and then followed with a fancy edge. Someone get back to me with that, okay? 😉

Stars Aligned baby blanket close up
Intensely angled shots are so hot right now.

So without further ado, here it is.

Stars Aligned

Stars Aligned 12 inch afghan block

12” afghan square, baby afghan, or any sized square afghan
Written in American Crochet terms
Skill Level: advanced beginner or adventurous beginner
Finished Size: Any size square
Gauge:  First 4 rows about 4”
Materials: Worsted weight yarn – about 120 yards for a 12″ square, or 1400 yards for a 36″ baby blanket; crochet hook size I/5.5mm; yarn needle. Or, any size yarn with appropriate hook.

Abbreviations:

ch = chain
dc = double crochet
hdc = half double crochet
r(#) = round number
sc = single crochet
sk = skip
slst = slip stitch
sp = space
st = stitch
tr = treble crochet
yo = yarn over

Special stitches:

Standing sc – to start a round, with slip knot on hook, insert hook into indicated stitch, yo and pull up a loop, yo and pull through two loops on hook

Standing hdc – to start a round, with slip knot on hook, hold slip knot in place with thumb or finger, yo and hold that in place too, insert hook in indicated stitch, yo and pull up a loop, carefully yo and draw through all three loops on hook

Standing dc – to start a round, with slip knot on hook, hold slip knot in place with thumb or finger, yo and hold that in place too, insert hook in indicated stitch, yo and pull up a loop, carefully yo and draw yarn through two loops on hook twice

Notes: I will get some tutorials for standing stitches done ASAP and update this post with the link. While you can simply use the chain alternatives, the one standing hdc is particularly important to this pattern. It’s up to you.

Beginning Star Stitch: Hdc (or standing hdc at the beginning of a round) in ch2 space, ch1 to form an eye . Insert hook into eye  and pull up a loop. 2 loops on hook . Insert hook into the bottom spike of hdc  and pull up a loop. 3 loops on hook . Insert hook into ch2 space and pull up a loop. 4 loops on hook . Insert hook into next stitch and pull up a loop. 5 loops on hook . Insert hook into next stitch and pull up a loop. 6 loops on hook . Yo and pull through all 6 loops on hook . Ch1 to form an eye .

Note: if you’re not comfortable using standing stitches, you can ch3 instead of the standing hdc. Your first loop will be pulled from the 2nd ch from hook, and the next loop will be pulled from the 3rd ch. Though, I recommend the standing hdc because it will make your corner space look nicer when you get to the next round.

Beginning star stitch tutorial
Beginning star stitch tutorial

Star Stitch: Insert hook into eye of last star stitch and pull up a loop. 2 loops on hook . Insert hook into bottom spike of last star stitch and pull up a loop. 3 loops on hook . Insert hook into same stitch as last loop of last star stitch and pull up a loop. 4 loops on hook . Insert hook into next stitch and pull up a loop. 5 loops on hook . Insert hook into next stitch and pull up a loop. 6 loops on hook . Yo and pull through all 6 loops on hook . Ch1 to form an eye . Repeat as called for by pattern.

Star stitch tutorial
Star stitch tutorial

Commence Pattern:

Start with a magic circle (or chain loop if you prefer). I always do a double magic circle. Check out my tutorial for it in my blog post: Working Magic (Circles).

Round 1: Ch3 (counts as first dc here and throughout). Into magic circle: 2 dc, (ch2, 3dc) 3 times. Ch2 and slst to top of ch3 to join. Fasten off.

Round 1
Round 1

Round 2: Standing sc, ch1, sc, in corner ch2 sp. *^Sc in each stitch across,^ (sc, ch2, sc) in corner ch2 space.* Repeat from * to * 2 times and ^ to ^ once more. Slst to first sc to join. Fasten off.

Round 2
Round 2

For this round, you’ll need to refer above to the special stitches for instructions on the beginning star stitch and the star stitch. Keep in mind, I’ve slightly modified the beginning star stitch technique for this pattern. So if you’ve made it before, have a look to see how I’ve done it.

Round 3: *Work beginning star stitch starting in any corner ch2 sp. Work star stitches across with last loop of last star stitch landing in the next ch2 sp. Hdc in same ch2 sp, ch2.* Repeat from * to * 3 times. Slst to hdc of beginning star stitch. Do not fasten off. TURN.

Note: Slst to the standing hdc from the beginning star stitch can be a little difficult  and feel weird because the top of the standing hdc hangs rather loosely. Slst into anyway, it will make the starting chains of the next round sit in a better place.

Star stitch across first side. Hdc in ch2 space.
Star stitch across first side with last loop being pulled from corner ch2 space. Hdc in ch2 space.
Slip stitch to hdc
Slip stitch to the standing hdc as indicated. See note above.
Round 3
Round 3

Round 4: Wrong side. Ch2 (counts as first hdc), (hdc, ch2, 2hdc) in ch2 corner sp. *^Hdc in next hdc, 2hdc in the eye of each star stitch, 1 hdc in the eye formed in the hdc of the beginning star stitch,^ (2hdc, ch2, 2hdc) in corner ch2 sp.* Repeat from * to * 2 times and from ^ to ^ once more. Slst to first hdc to join. Fasten off. TURN.

Ch2, (hdc, ch2, 2hdc) in corner ch2 space. Hdc in next hdc.
Ch2, (hdc, ch2, 2hdc) in corner ch2 space. Hdc in next hdc.
2 hdc in each eye of star stitch
Identify eyes of star stitches, 2 hdc in each eye.
Hdc in eye of hdc
Identify the eye of the hdc at the start of that side from round 3. 1 hdc in eye of hdc.
Round 4
Wrong side and right side of completed round 4

Round 5: Right side. Standing sc, ch2, sc, in any corner ch2 sp.*^ Sc between hdcs across,^ (sc, ch2, sc) in corner ch2 sp.* Repeat from * to * 2 times and from ^ to ^ once more. Slst to first sc to join.  Fasten off.

Note: Place your scs BETWEEN the hdcs, not into the top of them. There are two reasons for this. One, it looks nicer. If you sc into the top you’ll get a ridge at the top of your star stitch and it detracts from the beauty of the stitch. Two, it will give us the right number of stitches for the rows to come.

Round 5
Work scs between hdcs.

Round 6: Standing dc, ch1, dc, in corner ch2 sp. *^dc in each stitch across,^ (dc, ch2, dc) in corner ch2 space.* Repeat from * to * 2 times and ^ to ^ once more. Slst to first dc to join. Fasten off.

Round 6
Round 6

Repeat rounds 2 – 6 until desired size is reached and finish with border of your choice.

For a 12” square, repeat rows 2 – 6 twice.

You can count your stitches every round, if you want. With rounds like this, the stitches are so neat that I usually just give them a once over to make sure everything looks aligned, and then I’m extremely careful to count my star stitches on each side. I have a terrible habit of messing them up. If you do want to count here is a quick cheat sheet:

  • Every round will have 4 ch2 corner spaces.
  • Round 1: 12 dc
  • Round 2: 5sc per side, 20 sc total
  • Round 3: 3 star stitch and 2 hdc per side, 12 star stitch and 8 hdc total
  • Round 4: 12 hdc per side, 48 hdc total
  • Round 5: 13 sc per side, 52 sc total
  • Round 6: 15 dc per side, 60 dc total
  • Repeating rounds 2, 4, 5, or 6: will always have 12 more stitches than the last repeat
  • Repeating round 3: will always have 6 more star stitches than the last repeat

Notes on using this technique:

Like I said in the beginning, what I’m giving you here is more of a technique than a pattern. You can use it anywhere there is a 90 degree corner to be star stitched around. But there are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Most importantly, you need to have an odd number of stitches as a foundation for row 3
  • You only really need to repeat rounds 3-5.

So, for instance, you want to put a border of star stitch on a blanket and then follow it up with a fancy edge. (Please someone do this, I’m dying to see it!) You sc around the afghan making sure you have an odd number of sc across and a ch2 space in each corner. Then proceed with rounds 3-5 and finish however you like.

Or, maybe you want more star stitches and less filler. Make rounds 1-5 and then repeat rounds 3-5 until you reach your desired size.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a little trick.

Say you already have a round of stitches on an afghan/block/anything, but it’s an even number of stitches. Very simple solution: work another round of sc, hdc, or dc, it doesn’t matter, working (st, ch2, st) in the corner. But don’t work into the first stitch of each side. The first stitch sort of gets absorbed by the stitch in the corner space and you wont even notice it hasn’t been worked. And voila! You have an odd number of stitches. If you’re able to plan ahead to do this, I recommend using a round of hdc before the round where you skip a stitch. They are the best at being absorbed.

This also works if you need to go back to an even number of stitches to continue with your selected edge.

Stars Aligned baby blanket close up
You know you want me.

Oh! One last thing. A quick list of the colors I used if you want an idea of how to replicate my rainbow. All of the colors are Caron Simply Soft with the exception of the dark purple. That is Red Heart Soft in Grape.

  • Round 1: White
  • Round 2: Watermelon
  • Round 3 & 4: Fuchsia
  • Round 5: Watermelon
  • Round 6: White
  • Round 7: Iris (pretty sure it’s Iris, might be purple. I lost the label.)
  • Round 8 & 9: Red Heart Soft Grape
  • Round 10: Iris
  • Round 11: White
  • Round 12: Blue Mint
  • Round 13 & 14: Ocean
  • Round 15: Blue Mint
  • Round 16: White
  • Round 17: Limelight
  • Round 18 & 19: Forest Green (And I don’t think they make it any more. Sorry! Dark Sage is your next best bet.)
  • Round 20: Limelight
  • Round 21: White
  • Round 22: Mango
  • Round 23 & 24: Pumpkin
  • Round 25: Mango

And then I repeated my color sequence once for a blanket that is roughly 35″ square. I’ll be adding more rounds later, but this is as far as I got for today’s release.

That’s it! I hope you love this pattern as much as I do. Have fun with it and make sure you show me your pictures. I can’t wait to see them! And if you don’t mind, queue it, favorite it, or hook it on Ravelry. Every click helps.

Heart Polly

Working Magic (Circles)

Like anything, magic circles have a loyal fan club and a group who feel somewhat less love for them. To put it lightly. If you’ve never tried one, they are definitely worth giving a couple goes before writing them off entirely. If you have yet to master them, I’ve got some tips for you.

First off, the biggest argument and outright complaint against them is that they come undone. And it’s true. They do. Sometimes. There are a few factors that play into that. Mostly I’ve found that they aren’t great for stitches that are slightly loose. I made one afghan with worsted weight and a 6.0 mm hook and ALL twenty magic circles started to come undone before I could even work in the ends. Lucky me, I hadn’t worked in the ends so I was able to save it. Still incredibly frustrating.

There’s a pretty simple solution to this problem: double up the circle. But that does make them a little more difficult to work with.

That’s the second problem with magic circles. They can be a real pain to master. I’m going to try and help with that and show how to easily, very easily, double up that circle for what I’ve found to be a much more secure method.

Let’s try this with ideal conditions, worsted weight yarn and a 5.5 mm hook.

First off, wrap that yarn around your fingers, not once, but twice. Like so:

DMC1

Stick your hook through the loops in the direction of the arrow (above).

Bring the loops of yarn together and pinch them like this:

DMC2

Now, see (above) the yarn the arrows are pointing to? Yes, your working yarn. Grab that with your hook and pull it through the double circle. Notice that my ring finger is in the loop stretching out the bottom of it? Fancy finger work! It helps me steady the loop.

You’ve just made a magic circle! But the trickiest part is coming – working into the circle. I’ll be honest, they are flimsy and floppy. There is no body to them so they are hard to work into. I’ll show you what I do to keep them steady so that I can make nice even stitches.

Look (below) at how my thumb and finger are pinching the double circle. That’s how I keep the circle sturdy while work into it. I’m also keeping the working yarn taut with my index finger just like I would if I were making normal stitches. But it becomes increasingly important right now as the working yarn is very slack against the loops of the magic circle.

DMC3

Okay, time for some more fancy finger work. Move your thumb and finger so that they pinch the magic circle on both sides of the loop you just pulled up. Now you can make your starting chains. As many as your pattern calls for. Mine called for 3.

DMC4

You can let go of the right side of the circle now and work your stitches, but keep the left side pinched as you work. Like this:

DMC5

Look at my ring finger (above). It’s also helping steady the circle by keeping it taut. I didn’t even realize I did that until today!

Once you’ve got all your stitches worked into the circle it might look a little something like this:

DMC6

Closing this circle takes a couple little steps more than a normal magic circle because it’s doubled. You can’t just pull on the tail and close it. That extra loop will get caught and stick out. So here is how you close it. First, pull on the tail just a little bit so that the first loop starts to close. It will look like this:

DMC7

See how one loop got smaller? That is the outer loop. Grab that loop and pull on it from the top where the arrow is (above). You’ll know you’ve got it right because the other loop will tighten. If it doesn’t and the tail starts to shorten, you’re pulling the wrong side. When you know you’re pulling at the right spot, go ahead and tighten it so it looks like this:

DMC8

Now you can pull on the tail and close that loop. Join to your starting chain and you’re off!

DMC9

Voila! A perfect double magic circle.

DMC0

Some final notes: I’ve heard probably a hundred different recommendations on how to weave in your ends after a magic circle. Knot it, don’t knot it, weave around and around and around the circle, weave back and forth in at least sixty different directions. Everyone seems to have their own method. I like to weave around the circle at least one or two times and then through the backs of my stitches in a couple different directions. And just to make myself feel better, I tend to weave in a nice long end so that if it ever does start to loosen, it wont come completely undone. That being said, I have yet to have a double magic circle come undone. Fingers crossed!

❤ Polly

And We’re Off!

Welcome to Every Trick on the Hook, the blog of the crochet pattern designer Polly Plum. That’s me! Call me Polly. My crochet philosophy is this: there are no limits! I firmly believe that if you can make a loop on a hook, you can crochet anything, and I want to do my best help you. Creativity is part of everyone, it just needs a way to come out, and some of us were lucky enough to have chosen the magical art of crochet to express our creative side. So let’s get to it!

I don't usually look so serious.
I don’t usually look so serious.

Here on the blog, we’ll explore everything crochet. That means lots of yarn, stitches, techniques, tools, and patterns, patterns, patterns! I plan on making lots of photo tutorials, especially for my own patterns to make them even easier to follow and accessible to those who don’t read traditional patterns, or just don’t want to read them. And, maybe I’ll throw in some tutorials for the peskier stitches and techniques. We’ll see where else the wind takes us.

Step 1: Decide what to do for the first tutorial.
Step 1: Decide what to do for the first tutorial.

You can also find Every Trick on the Hook on Facebook where there’s even more inspiration, ideas, conversation, and freebees. And to kick things off and celebrate the shiny new page and blog, I’m offering my latest afghan block pattern, Jamboree, for free! The pattern can be found on Ravlery, but you have to head over to the Facebook page to get the coupon code. While you’re there, give the page a like and let me know what kind of posts you’d like to see more of in Facebook-land or on the blog.

Free all of May 2015!
Free all of May 2015!

❤ Polly