star & braid crochet stitch photo-tutorial

So you wanna learn how to crochet the star stitch, eh? 

Well then, I do hope my little photo-tutorial (which, if you don't look too closely, actually kind of looks like I might know what I'm talking about) will help you not only figure it out, but go on to make various lovely star-stitched creations to your heart's content. So here we go:

First, make a chain of a multiple of 5, plus 2 more chains. (Please don't count the chains in my picture, because they didn't follow the above math rules) (but it all works out okay in the end, due to the magic of trick photography). 

OK, so unlike me, you've made your "multiple of 5 plus 2" starting chain. 
(Please just pretend that this one has 22 chain stitches.)

Now, we will begin to make our way down the first row. This is the row where the bottom "half" of your stars (or daisies, if you like) will be formed. 
Insert your hook into the second chain from the hook, yarn over...

and pull up a loop. Two loops on hook.

 Insert your hook into the next chain, and pull up a loop, and then insert your hook into the next three chains, pulling up a loop each time, so that you now have six loops on your hook.

 It's very important to keep things very loose - pull the last loop that you made up just a little bit more than the others (you'll find out why in a second)... 
then yarn over..
(Wooops! I just noticed that in the above picture, there is a large loop of yarn showing, kind of behind the hook... ignore that! That's not what I mean by making your last loop loose... that's just a piece of my working yarn apparently thinking it would be hilarious to photo-bomb this picture, just to confuse you. So just kind of mentally erase that big sticking-out loop in the picture, and keep your loops on your hook just slightly more loose than normal, with the sixth one being a tad more loose.) 

...and pull through all six of the loops, LOOSELY. Be gentle. Think of starlight and daisies,
as opposed to reigning in wild horses. 

Yarn over and slip stitch. The little cluster of "petals" will look closed up.

Now you are going to insert your hook right into the hole in the "center" of the cluster of petals,
the one you just created by slip stitching it "closed." 

Yarn over, and pull up a loop. Two loops on hook.

Now, here is why you were keeping it so loose, baby! The next stitch that you are going to insert the hook into is the BACK LOOP of the sixth (i.e. the last) loop of the cluster of petals...(Gosh that does sound confusing, but if you take a deep breath and envision what you've done thus far, I think you'll see what I mean.)
 It is very small (see where the metal sewing needle is poking through it?) If you had whipped those little petals shut with a vengeance and pulled them tight, it would now be very hard to poke your hook through that back loop of the last petal. I'm sure you were dreaming of wafting through a field of daisies in the starlight while wearing a gauzy kaftan ('cuz that's the kind of folks my blog readers are) while you were pulling through your six loops ever so loosely, so you should have no trouble at all. However, if you should happen to find that wee back loop just a smidge too tiny, there is no shame at all in using your fingers or fingernails to pry it open while grunting and swearing (that you'll be much looser when you make the next one).

It will be easier to see and maneuver here if you look straight down on the top edge of your work, or twist it toward yourself a little bit. Forgive me for going on and on about this one small part, but it's worth keeping in mind, as this will greatly speed things up as you go along making stars and spare your fingers and the delicate ears of innocent bystanders from many unpleasantries. I promise that this is the only really tricky part, and once you see how loose to keep things, it will cease to be tricky.
I will now shut up so that you can yarn over ...

...and pull up a loop. Three loops on hook.

The next stitch you insert your hook into is actually the first chain stitch, but it looks a little bit pulled out of shape. Yarn over, insert your hook into the unshapely chain stitch, and pull up a loop - 
now you have four loops on your hook.

Insert your hook into the next two chains, pulling up a loop each time, so that you now have six loops on your hook. (Six loops is what you will keep making and pulling through, LOOSELY, to make the bottom half of your stars ((or daisies)) all the way down the row).

Yarn over, and just like you did last time, LOOSELY (I can't seem to stop screaming that, it must be the overall giddiness) slip stitch to close up the petals.

Now, just as with the first star, you are going to insert your hook:
1. into the hole at the center of the petal cluster that you just made
2. into the back loop of the last of the six loops
3. into the stretched-out-looking next chain stitch
4. into the next two chain stitches
pulling up a loop each time, until there are six loops on your hook.  
Now just as you've done with the other stars, yarn over, and slip stitch the petals closed. Got that?

If you do, and you keep repeating all those steps, you will have star-bottoms all the way down to 
the last chain stitch of the original chain, and you will end the row by closing the last cluster of petals with a slip stitch. This is the "right side" of your work. 

Now, turn the work around. This is the back or reverse side of your work.
IMPORTANT: When you turn your work around, keep the working yarn BEHIND your work, just like in this picture. (Sorry for shouting ((and "behind" of all things)) but if you don't make sure to keep the working yarn in back, you'll run into twisty problems later.)

Chain two.

You're going to make two half-double crochets into the center hole of the next cluster of petals (I stuck the sewing needle in to show you the spot). So, to make your first half-double crochet into the hole, yarn over...

...insert your hook into the center hole, yarn over again, pull the loop through to the front...

...and now yarn over and pull through all three loops on your hook. One half-double crochet made.

Now make another half-double crochet right in the same hole. 
This forms the top "half" of your star/daisy -- you'll see it when you turn the work back around.

Make two half-double crochet stitches into the next "hole" and into each next hole 
all the way down the row.

When you come to the end of the row, yarn over and  insert your hook into the top of the chains there (make sure to poke your hook through two loops of the chain stitch).

And make a double crochet (yarn over, pull loop through to front, three loops on hook, yarn over, pull two loops off hook, yarn over again, pull two loops off hook).

Turn the work around, again making sure to keep your working yarn behind the work.

To begin the next row of stars, chain three...

I turned this so that it's easier to see... insert your hook into the second chain from the hook and pullup a loop, and into the third chain from the hook, and pull up a loop, 
so that there are three loops on your hook.

Next, insert your hook into the BACK LOOP of the next stitch...

...keep inserting and pulling loops up through the back loops of the next two stitches, so that there are six loops on your hook. (Six loops on your hook = you're about to make a petal cluster, just as you've been doing.)

Just as before, softly slip stitch right through all six loops, insert hook into center hole, back loop of last of the previous six loops, stretched-out chain stitch, and next two chains...

...so that there are six loops on the hook...

and slip stitch to close... now maybe you're starting to feel the rhythm of the stitch, and if you've stayed nice and loose, you should be gliding right along through your field of daisies, mama.

When you come to the end of the row, the last two loops of your six petal-loops that you will pull up will be pulled through the two chain stitches right there. (It may look as though you've run out of places to insert your hook and pull loops through, but there will be two chain stitches at the very end.)

I will stop here for now, but you would continue by turning the work around, chaining two, and finishing your stars with a row of half-double crochets in the center holes... and then just keep repeating the first and second rows for as long as you like. 

crocheted mitts how-to

here (just after i prattle on for a bit) is a "pattern" i wrote up a while ago. 

pattern writing is not something i know much anything about...
but this one is so easy, & so many people have asked how to make these mitts,
that i figure, even if it's written imperfectly,
you will come to your own more "correct" conclusions in the making of them,
and/or make many happy accidents discoveries uniquely your own.

for instance, maybe you'd like yours frill- or stripe- or thumb-tube-free...
or with longer or shorter cuffs.
once you get going, you'll easily see how any of those variations and more 
can magically happen right in your own clever hands.

so here it is ~ feel free to flagrantly disregard choices of yarns* & colors,
because "flagrant disregard" is one of the things that makes life worth living.

*though it seems something springy and woolish would be best
for keeping their shape and your human mitts toasty. 

  • @ 1/2 skein each of (what i used was) soft dk wool (color 1) and dk-weight mohair (color 2) in contrasting colors - or about one whole skein of whatever you like.
  • size US F hook (or whichever size hook matches your choice of yarn) 
  • needle for sewing up and weaving in ends
  • devil-may-care attitude
guage: darned if i know ~ i used the try-on-as-you-go method with good results, so that's how i wrote the directions. 
for the cuffs:
chain 15 with dk wool, turn ~sc into 2nd ch from hook, and sc each st down the row, ch 1, turn
~ sc tbl only into each st, ch 1, turn ~ repeat from ~ to ~ for about 20 - 22 rows, or until it fits your wrist snugly, but not tightly. (try it on as you go by stretching it and holding the edges together with your other hand, to make it to fit your own wrist size.)
note: going through the back loops creates the “ribbed” effect.
sew ends of cuff together with a strand of dk wool threaded into your needle, by stitching beneath one whole ch st on one edge, and tbl on the other edge (this makes the seam somewhat invisible and maintains the ribbed appearance.)
start base of mitt:
still with dk wool, sc in each “stitch” on one end of the cuff for about 32 - 35 stitches around. fewer stitches for a snugger fit, more for looser. (you may have to try it out a few times to get the fit you want.)
sc in each stitch around, sl st into first st, ch 1, sc in each stitch around, sl st into first st of previous round, sl st, join new color, ch 1, sc in each st around (note: don’t cut off the first color, twist it with the second color so that it is carried up and ready to pick up when you change colors in the next round.) (also, the ch 1 at the start of the round allows you to skip one stitch - it’s the small-looking first stitch of the previous row.)
the stripe sequence i used was: 2 rounds of dk wool (dark grey), 1 round of mohair (ice blue).
continue on in this way until mitt reaches the base of your thumb, remembering to twist each stitch at the beginning of the row, so that you can easily change colors and not leave ends or loopy yarns on the inside. end with one dk wool row.
for the left hand thumb opening: (this will be the “second round” of dk wool or color 1 if using two colors in stripe pattern as i did) chain 7, sk 6, join into 7th sc and continue around the mitt, “bypassing” the thumbhole formed by the chain and the skipped stitches (they will be “outside” of the “hand” part of the mitt that you will continue to work upwards. (you’ll work the thumbhole into a little thumb tube afterwards).
for the right hand thumb opening: (this will be the “second round” of dk wool or color 1, if using 2 colors in stripe pattern) sc in each ch until there are 7 stitches left on the round, chain 7, sk 6 and join in last stitch.
continue sc’ing around the “hand” part of the mitt, bypassing the thumb opening, and changing colors in pattern, until the mitt reaches as high up your hand as you’d like it. end with a second row of dk wool.
thumb tubes:
starting at the inside corners, sc in each opening (here I “caught up” the chains to sort of incorporate them into the thumbhole, instead of sc’ing into each chain) - for about 12 stitches around (you can try it on and work it to fit your thumb - add increases or decreases as needed). continue sc-ing around until it reaches to the top of your knuckle, or wherever you’d like. sl st in first stitch of previous round, fasten off.
frilly edgings:
with mohair (color 2), at top and bottom edges of each mitt, ~sc, ch 1, sl st into same stitch, sl st into next st ~ repeat from ~ to ~ around, sl st into first sc of the round, fasten off.


mary ann or ginger?

usually mary ann would get my vote, but this time, it's ginger all the way.

i found a recipe for making:
1 ~ ginger tea, 
(my big sis ordered me to make it for medicinal purposes and i had to obey)
2 ~ ginger syrup, 
3 ~ candied ginger,
all from the same "hand" of ginger.
(aren't you glad it's called "a hand"?)

first use a spoon to scrape the skin from the ginger...

then chop it up into bite-sized chunks...
boil it in 7 cups of water for 6 minutes,
then cover the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes.

strain the tea into a large container.
it's very powerful!

i dissolved a full tablespoon of honey into my cup.
the result was so soothing, and medicinal? like there's no tomorrow!
it gave me the strength to complete the other recipes...

first, put all the chunks of ginger back into the pot and fill it with water again,
along with 2 cups of sugar.
cook it, covered, for 20 minutes.

strain the syrup into containers 
(i used three of these).

then i tossed the ginger chunks with granulated sugar
and placed them on a cookie rack

and dried them over night in a warm oven
(200F for 2 hours, then shut it off)
(they were delicious :-9)

here's the terrific cookbook this recipe came from:
by Katie Shelley

all the instructions are pictures
so simple, clear, and cheerful! 

i took this book out of my library, but i'm hoping to buy one soon,
not only because i would use it a lot,
and not only because the illustrations inspire me,
but also because, as it says on the back page:

"a portion of your purchase supports just food, 
a nyc organization that connects local farms with underserved communities. 
Learn more at justfood.org"