Design Your Own Crochet Summer Top

My crochet summer top is ready to wear!

My crochet summer top is ready to wear!

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Tired of looking for and not finding that perfect crochet summer top pattern? I know I was. So I decided to design my own summer top. It’s easier than you think, and the results are stunning, especially when you combine a lacy stitch pattern and the perfect yarn with a simple design.

Here’s how I did it.

The “Recipe” Ingredients

I’m calling this design a “recipe” because it  doesn’t include the row-by-row instructions you would find in a traditional pattern. Instead, I provide the main ingredients you’ll need to successfully design a crochet summer top, along with some construction tips on how to complete it.

For this recipe, you’ll need six ingredients –

  • Your measurements
  • Yarn
  • A crochet hook
  • A lacy stitch pattern
  • A few swatches
  • A simple design

Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient.

Your measurements

You’ll need the following four measurements for your summer top:

  • Bust measurement divided by 2 (e.g., 42” bust divided by 2 = 21”). You divide by two because you’ll be crocheting the top in two squares, one for the front and one for the back.
  • Armhole measurement. Use a comfortable top you already own to get this measurement. Lay the top on a flat surface and measure from the outer edge of the shoulder seam to the top edge of the side seam. I decided on an 8” armhole for this design.
  • Neck measurement. Measure from bra strap to bra strap.
  • Length from top of shoulder to bottom edge. Pretty self-explanatory.

My rough schematic ((see below under “A simple design”) includes all of these measurements. I used a top I already owned to get my measurements, so “ease” (discussed below) is already included in the bust measurement.

Yarn

I received this wonderful cotton yarn for FREE!

I received this wonderful cotton yarn for FREE!

Worsted-weight (#4 or 10-ply) yarn is probably going to be a little warm for a summer top. So I recommend using no heavier than DK-weight (#3 or 8-ply) yarn or lighter.

I realize now that the yarn I used is worsted-weight which is why the fabric is a little heavier than I would have liked. I explain how this can be fixed under “Crochet hook” below.

Whether you use an acrylic or natural fiber is up to you. I chose a 100% cotton yarn because I got it for FREE and decided this top would be a good use for it.

On the other hand, I’ve been told by friends who know yarn that 100% cotton isn’t the best choice for garments. Cotton has no memory, so you can’t block it, and it tends to stretch out of shape when you wear it. I’ll probably use a cotton blend or mercerized cotton for my next top to avoid these issues.

How much yarn will you need? Honestly, I prayed that I would have enough yarn to complete this top! I just squeezed by with the 900 yards I had on hand.

June Brown of JuneeB Designs did a quick search on Ravelry for me of the top crochet patterns using a lace stitch and DK- or lighter-weight yarn (thanks, June!). These patterns use between 500 and 700 yards. Use this amount as a starting point for your top. And remember, the closer the stitches are, the more yarn you’ll need; the lacier the stitch, the less yarn you’ll need.

For those who want to be a little more precise, The Crocheter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements uses a combination of gauge, bust measurement, and yarn weight to provide a fairly accurate estimate of how much yarn you’ll need.

It’s better to overestimate yarn quantity instead of underestimating it. So if you’re not sure, purchase an extra skein or two.

A crochet hook

crochet hooks

Have an assortment of hook sizes on hand

Your choice of crochet hook size is going to depend on how “dense” you want your fabric to be. The larger the hook, the lacier and looser the fabric will be. This is why I suggest you create several …

Swatches

Okay, I can hear your groans all the way over here in Hawaii. But swatching is pretty important, especially if you want to know how your fabric is going to drape or hang on you.

Confession time – I did not create a swatch for this top. If I had, I would have realized that the fabric resulting from my worsted-weight yarn and F/3.75 mm hook is just a tad too heavy. A larger hook would have resulted in a looser fabric that drapes a little better than this top does.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy with my end result, but you better believe I’ll be swatching from here on out.

Tip – Make a swatch that’s at least 8 – 10” by 8 – 10” to get a good feel for how the fabric is going to drape. Purchase an extra skein of yarn to use for swatching.

A lacy stitch pattern

If you don’t have a stitch dictionary, now is the time to get one (or two or three!). This is where you’re going to find all of the lovely, lace stitch patterns for your tops.

The best stitch dictionaries include a symbol chart with each stitch pattern. Any confusion with written instructions is often cleared up with a decent symbol chart.

Here are a few stitch dictionaries I recommend –

Another great place to find stitch patterns is Pinterest. The search term “crochet stitch patterns” yields more enticing patterns than you’ll be able to use in a lifetime!

A very easy stitch pattern - fans on top of picots

A very easy stitch pattern – fans on top of picots

I used the stitch pattern in Doris Chan’s Kolika Top pattern (check out her Interweave course  if you’re looking for a more challenging crochet top design). The pattern is a simple two-row repeat that you can crochet in your sleep, yet results in a lovely, lacy fabric.

A simple design

Measurements noted on this rough schematic

Measurements noted on this rough schematic

The simplest design I’m aware of is two squares, one for the front and one for the back. To those squares, you can add straps to create a neckline or leave them off for a “boat neck”.

My front square is two rows shorter than my back square. This allowed me to create straps and a square neckline.

  • To the front square, I added 4 rows in the stitch pattern for each strap.
  • The back square has two extra full rows in the stitch pattern and 2 rows for each strap.

You end up with the same number of rows (including the strap rows) for the front and back.

Construction Tips

I only needed one page to record my notes for this top.

I only needed one page to record my notes for this top.

  1. It’s a good idea to plan out your design before you begin crocheting. Your plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and it’s not etched in stone. You’re free to make changes as you crochet if you find something doesn’t work.
  2.  Consider how tightly or loosely you want your top to fit. It will be “form-fitting” if you use your exact bust measurement. For a looser top, add some inches to your bust measurement. This creates positive ease. The more inches you add, the looser the top will fit. For a really tight, form-hugging top, subtract an inch or two from your bust measurement. This is called negative ease.
  3.  For each square, start with a foundation chain that is the length of ½ your bust measurement plus/minus ease. Be careful not to stretch the chain as you’re measuring it. To that chain, add a few more inches. Then simply begin the stitch pattern and crochet until the first row is the same length as ½ your bust measurement +/- ease. If there are extra chains left over, simple take them out.
  4.  When you’re finished with both squares, consider adding a single crochet edging around the outer edges. This makes it a lot easier to match stitches on the front and back when it’s time to sew shoulder and side seams together. I didn’t have much yarn left after completing my two squares, so I added a “single crochet, chain-3″ edging along the side, shoulder, and neck edges.
"Chain 3, single crochet" edging

“Single crochet, chain-3″ edging around the next and shoulder edges (left) and sides (right)

A Huge Assortment of Tops from One Simple Design

Stitch patterns + Yarn + Color + Hook Size = A WHOLE LOT OF crochet summer top designs!

This one simple design will give you an entire wardrobe of summer tops that are fun to make and work up quickly. Once you have one top under your belt, designing and crocheting additional tops will be a piece of cake.

Let me know in the comments below if you have questions about this design.

Judith Copeland’s Modular Crochet is Back in Print!

ModularCrochetCover

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If you have been searching for a copy of Modular Crochet by Judith Copeland but can’t afford the $100+ price tag the out-of-print hardcover is selling for, you’re in luck. The book will be back in print as a paperback on June 17, 2015.

Made with 100% worsted-weight cotton. Today, I'd use a DK weight cotton blend.

Made with 100% worsted-weight cotton. Today, I’d use a DK weight cotton blend.

Modular Crochet, first published in 1979, was my crochet design bible for many years. I’ve created a multitude of dresses, sweaters, and vests, using this simple construction technique. It’s easy to learn because Copeland provides step-by-step instructions, photos, and diagrams to guide you.

Two modular vest styles

A v-neck and round neck modular vest

And because the construction technique is so simple, you can use a wide range of yarns to create unique, one-of-a-kind designs. You’ll also learn how to incorporate four different necklines (i.e., round, boat, V, and turtle) into your designs.

A boat neck pullover crocheted in Lion Brand Homespun

A boat neck pullover crocheted in Lion Brand Homespun

Don’t let the original publication date fool you into thinking the designs you create with this technique will be out of date. It’s because the construction technique is so simple and straightforward that you can create garments that never go out of style.

I’m so happy to see this book  back in print. And you will be too.  You can purchase a copy HERE.

Modify an Existing Crochet Pattern When You Can’t Find the One You’re Looking For

Image via Flickr by katerina

Image via Flickr by katerina

This post contains affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Lately, I’ve been looking at crochet market bag patterns in anticipation of the plastic bag ban that takes effect in Hawaii this coming July.

Most of the patterns I’ve seen are for bags that have some kind of lacy mesh stitch pattern that, honestly, doesn’t look like it would hold up under the weight of heavy groceries or keep them in the bag. The kind of bag I want would have to be big enough and strong enough to hold the same amount of groceries you can put in a supermarket reusable bag.

Here’s how I went about modifying an existing pattern to create one.

The Pattern

Granny Stripe Crochet Bag in Fuchsia

Granny Stripe Crochet Bag in Fuchsia

I based my big felted grocery bag on the Granny Stripe Boutique Bag pattern by Tangled Happy. I also saw a photo on either Facebook or Pinterest, showing a much larger bag that I could tell was based on the same pattern (because I’d already crocheted the smaller bag).

The photo gave me the idea to use the pattern as the basis for the reusable, crocheted grocery bag of my dreams. Bag strength would come from felting it.

Yarn and Hook

My “go to” felting yarn” is Cascade 220. I used 3 skeins in the color, Pesto (#0980). If you’re going to substitute a yarn, purchase at least 660 yards of worsted weight wool as close to 9 wraps per inch as you can get it. I used an H/5 mm hook; stitch markets came in handy as I crocheted in the round.

Pattern Changes I Made

To make a bigger bag, I –

Used a longer foundation chain. I didn’t count the number of chains, but simply made the chain a couple of inches longer than I needed, to account for shrinkage during felting.

To that, I added a few extra chains to ensure I had a stitch count that matched the stitch pattern multiple (explained below) on a long-enough chain. It’s easier to take out too many changes than to add chains when you don’t have enough.

Substituted half double crochet for the double crochet base. Half double crochet felts the best if you want to get rid of as much stitch definition in the fabric as possible. That’s the look I wanted for the base.

What I should have done was add an extra round to the base so that it was as wide as the two-round double crochet base. But that’s okay because that “mistake” has given me some ideas for my next grocery bag.

Ready to felt!

Ready to felt!

Increased at both ends of the two-round base. I put 3 stitches in the beginning and ending chains of round 1, and 2 stitches in those 3 increase stitches on the next round.

The main thing about doing the base is that the last round needs to be a multiple of 3 to accommodate the stitch pattern. I didn’t do any math or counting to figure this out. Needless to say, the number of stitches in the last round of my base was NOT a multiple of 3. So even though I had one stitch between the last 3-double-crochet group and the first one (instead of the 3 stitches I was supposed to have), no big deal! I knew felting would hide this “mistake.”

You can also change this pattern by making a wider base or even a square base, as long as the number of stitches in last round of the base is a multiple of 3. You can even change the stitch pattern of the purse body. Just be sure that the number of stitches in the last round of your base is a multiple of your new stitch pattern.

Important Note: For this granny stitch pattern, you need an even number of 3-double-crochet groups. This way, you’ll have an even number of stitches that you can divide in half for the front and back of the purse when it’s time to crochet the top edging and handles.

Crocheted more rounds for the bag body. In addition to the longer chain, this is the main way to increase the size of the bag.

Made longer handles. I wanted to be able to sling the bag over my shoulder, but the 60 total stitches I used for the handle wasn’t enough. I’d like a little space between my arm pit and the top edge of the bag, so next time I’ll try 80 to 100 stitches in the handle.

Slip stitched around all outer edges. I figured the slip stitch edging would give the handles a bit more stability and strength.

Felting

I felted this bag in the dryer. Before felting, the bag measured 17” wide at the middle and 17 ½” from the top edge to the base.

Soaking in water

Soaking in water

I soaked the bag in water until it was thoroughly wet. After gently pressing out as much excess water as I could, I put it in a pillow case and threw it in the dryer, along with some wet towels. I let the bag dry on high heat for about 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so on the felting progress.

After 30 minutes, it still wasn’t felted enough but almost dry. So I dunked the bag in water a second time, just to get it damp, pressed out the excess water, and put it back in the pillow case and dryer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Handles curled under

Handles curled under

Now the bag had felted enough, but it was still damp. I didn’t want to put it back in the dryer, or it would have felted even more. So I laid it out  flat with a towel stuffed inside to dry overnight . The outside of felted bags tends to dry faster than the inside, so a dry towel on the inside helps absorb moisture and speed up drying.

I also tried finger blocking the handles while they were wet to straighten them out because they were curling under. But even after being completely dry, they still curl. No worries. It’s a nice design element and provides extra padding for the hands.

The dry, felted bag measures 14” wide and 15 ¼” long; it shrank a lot more in width than it did in length. So you probably want to make your felted bags around 3 inches wider and 2 inches longer to get the size after felting you want. Better yet, crochet some swatches with your wool, and compare their measurements before and after felting to get an accurate measure of how much the wool will shrink.

Ready for some serious grocery shopping!

Ready for some serious grocery shopping!

If you can’t find the pattern you’re looking for, find one that comes close to your ideal finished piece, and see if you can modify it to meet your needs. You’ll learn something about crochet design in the process.

I’m thinking of using the same pattern again, but this time adding a square base and creating different handles. So stay tuned!

Free Pattern: Felted Crochet Clutch

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Magenta_Finished_YOPT-1

A while back, I wrote a blog post that describes three ways to felt your crochet and knit projects. Included in that post was a photo of a bright magenta clutch that I felted in the dryer.

Here’s the pattern I used to create the clutch. Thanks to Mari Weber of Cali Crochet for kindly testing this pattern. Be sure to read my Copyright Policy  which explains the terms and conditions for using this pattern.

Felted Crochet Clutch

Designed by Patrice Walker
© Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved
http://www.yarnoverpullthrough.com

Skill Level:

Easy_res

Finished Measurements for Closed Clutch:

Pre-felted measurements – 9” wide x 5” long
Measurements after felting – 7.25” x 4” long

Gauge: 15 hdc and 12 rows = 4”

Materials

Cascade 220, 3.5 oz/100 g, approx 220 yds/200 m (100% Peruvian Highland wool), 1 hank in Magenta (#7803)
Size H/9 (5 mm) crochet hook or any size to obtain the correct gauge
Yarn needle
Stitch markers 
Button
Sewing needle
Matching or contrasting thread for sewing on button.

Abbreviations:

ch = chain(s)
hdc = half double crochet s
hdc2tog = hdc 2 together
pm = place stitch marker
sc = single crochet
sl st = slip stitch
st(s) = stitch(es)
WS = wrong side

Notes:
1. Feel free to substitute another yarn for the pattern yarn; just make sure it is 100% wool or the clutch won’t felt.
2. The clutch body is crocheted in the round; do not turn at the end of the round. The flap is crocheted in rows.
3. Place a stitch marker in the first and last chains of the foundation chain so you know where to make your increases in the first round.
4. For the beginning round, place your hook in the top loop only of the ch so that you can crochet on the other side of the ch to complete the round.
5. The beginning ch of each round and row does NOT count as the first hdc. Elongate the beginning ch-1 slightly to bring it up to the height of the first hdc.

Instructions:
Ch 24
Clutch Body
Round 1: 1 hdc in 3rd ch from hook and in each ch until you reach the next to the last ch, 3 hdc in last ch, 1 hdc in each ch on the opposite side, 2 hdc in the 1st ch, sl st to 1st hdc (48 sts).
Round 2: Ch 1, 2 hdc in same st as sl st, 1 hdc in next 20 sts, 2 hdc in each of the next 3 sts, 1 hdc in next 20 sts, 2 hdc in last 2 sts, sl st to 1st hdc (52 sts).
Round 3: Ch 1, 1 hdc in 1st st (pm), 1 hdc in each st around, sl st to 1st hdc (52 sts).
Rounds 4 – 12: Repeat Round 3. Do not fasten off.
Flap
Row 1: Ch 1, 1 hdc in 1st st, 1 hdc in each of the next 24 sts, turn (25 sts)
Row 2 – 5: Ch 1, 1 hdc in each st across, turn.
Row 6: Ch 1, hdc2tog, 1 hdc in each st to the last 2 sts, hdc2tog, turn (23 sts).
Row 7 – 8: Repeat row 6. You should have 19 sts at the end of row 8.
Row 9: Ch 1, hdc2tog, 1 hdc in next 7 sts, ch 1, skip 1 st, 1 hdc in each st to last 2 sts, hdc2tog (17 sts). Fasten off.
Flap Edging
With WS of flap facing you, attach yarn to flap where it meets the top round of the clutch body. Sc evenly around the outer edge of the flap, placing 1 sc in the ch-1 space over the skipped st. Fasten off. Weave in ends.

Felting
Read this article  for detailed instructions on how to felt the clutch in the dryer. Sew on button AFTER felting.

You can create a PDF of this pattern by adding the Print Friendly extension to your browser. Once it’s installed, simply click it and follow the instructions.

Lining My Craftsy Quick & Easy Crochet Cables Clutch

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Purse-3

I recently signed up for and completed Craftsy’s Quick & Easy Crochet Cables Class  taught by Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby of the designer team, Shibaguyz. I figured it would be a great way to learn how to create crochet cables and have a functional piece at the end of the class.

Class Highlights

In addition to Shannon’s clear explanations and demonstrations, one of the best things about the class was the symbol chart that accompanied the written instructions. Not only did I learn how to read what initially looked like a complicated mishmash of hieroglyphics, I barely had to glance at the written instructions and worked almost exclusively from the chart.

One of the things I didn’t want to do, however, was single crochet the seams of the clutch. Coming from a sewing background, I prefer the whip stitch or mattress stitch for a flat, invisible seam. So I tweaked the pattern a bit (something I always seem to be doing) by adding a single crochet edge around the entire clutch. This made it very easy to whip stitch the seams closed.

Lining My Bag

But before doing the final seaming, I decided to line the bag because it felt a little limp, and I figured the lining would add some body to it. And because the clutch is essentially a long rectangle, adding the lining was a piece of cake.

Selecting the Fabric

LiningFabric_crpd

I selected a nice, purple cotton from my fabric stash. It’s a little heavy, but I knew it would soften after the first washing. In fact, I probably should have washed the fabric first, but I’d used it before to line the back of a big afghan and knew it wouldn’t shrink after being washed.

Cutting the Fabric

CuttingTheFabric_crpd

When I’m lining a crocheted bag, I usually place the bag over a piece of paper, trace around the edges, and then cut out a pattern that I pin to the fabric. But the rectangle was too long for a single sheet of 8.5 x 11″ computer paper, and I didn’t feel like taping paper together to accommodate its size.

So I simply positioned the rectangle over the fabric and cut lines as straight as possible. Lining up one of the sides of the rectangle to the finished edge of the fabric meant I’d only have to cut three sides.

My seam allowance is pretty steep because I wanted to have enough fabric to make adjustments if I needed to. And I could always cut away any excess seam allowance once I got the edges folder over.

I used pinking shears to keep the raw edges from fraying.

Folding Over the Edges

FoldingOverEdges

This was the trickiest part because I didn’t pin the edges into place (too lazy to get the pins) before ironing the folds flat. I did everything by “eying” my folds straight and then ironing them.

I did have to make some adjustments to create straighter folds, and I could do that easily because I had extra fabric in the seam allowance to work with. I could also spritz any old fold lines away with my steam iron.

Trimming the Corners

TrimmedCornersCollage

The last step I took before pinning the fabric to the rectangle was to trim the corners of the lining. In other words, I cut diagonally across each corner to get rid of the excess fabric that would prevent the corners from laying flat.

Pining the Lining to the Rectangle

Pinned

For this step I HAD to get the pins. With the wrong sides of the rectangle and the lining facing each other, I started by pinning each corner. Then I pinned the mid-point of each side. Finally, I added several pins between the corner and mid-point pins. This is the easiest way I’ve found to ensure the lining is correctly positioned on the rectangle.

My goal was to have the edge of the fabric touch the bottom edge of the single crochet stitches on the outer edge of the rectangle. This was a little difficult to do on the short ends of the rectangle because they curve a bit because of the cables. The final result isn’t perfect, but I can live with it.

Hand Sewing the Lining to the Bag

Because I didn’t want my stitches to show on the right side of the lining fabric that a whip stitch would create, I searched YouTube for a video demonstrating how to sew a “blind stitch”.

This search taught me that, in sewing, “blind stitch” means the stitch doesn’t show on the other side of the fabric, like whe you’re hemming a dress. Not quite what I was looking for.

But I did find a video that showed me how to do a “classic hem stitch” that worked perfectly and hardly shows.

What makes sewing fabric to a crocheted piece easy is that you don’t have to worry about picking up a thread or two to make the stitch. I could pick up a big hunk of the single crochet stitch as long as it didn’t show on the right side of the clutch. In fact, it’s critical that you do this; otherwise, the thread is going to eventually pull away from the yarn it’s secured to.

I also doubled my thread instead of using a single strand because a single strand wouldn’t be strong enough to hold the lining to the crocheted fabric during a machine washing (I used acrylic yarn for the clutch; too lazy to hand wash).

The sewn stitches have about two single crochet edging stitches between them.

Voila! My Lined crochet cables Clutch

FinishedLining_Open2

I think it turned out nicely, if I do say so myself. Now all I have to do is find those magnetic snaps Shannon used to close the clutch. Oh great, I found some. These Dritz snaps ought to work.

I highly recommend Craftsy’s Quick & Easy Crochet Cables . My next project will be to use wool for the same clutch and lightly felt it (which means I won’t have to line it!).

And I haven’t even tried the other cable stitch Shannon teaches in the course. More stuff to add to my ever-growing “to crochet” list. But I’m not complaining.