Monday, August 29, 2011

Trilby — A Study in Clothesline Crochet

This Trilby hat is a study in a corded crochet technique better known as “Clothesline Crochet.” This technique is actually the basic building block of Irish filigree crochet, where in a stiff cord is carried along a single-crochet row. Here’s a link to a quick tutorial.

The hat is eponymous with the tone-deaf heroine, Trilby O’Ferrall, from the George du Maurier novel (1894). Originally worn as a woman’s hat, it’s retro-popularity was resurrected by the likes of leading men Frank Sinatra, James Bond, of course The Blues Brothers and my favorite shady pathologist, Dexter.

The Tribly is similar to the Fedora but with a firm shorter brim up-turned in the back. I made this crochet hat with a more prominent grade to the front and an oblique oval crown instead of a classic teardrop.

This Trilby is made with Classic Elite Provence (100% mercerized cotton). I came up with a modified single crochet stitch that I call “Straw Braid” — it really does resemble the fine braid used on straw hats. The Clothesline Crochet technique keeps the crown and brim firm — a thicker cord on the crown than on the brim.

After Irene

After tropical storm Irene, Monday morning is slowly coming together in Brooklyn — shutters and boards have come down, streets are mostly swept, trains and buses are returning. While things are not so bad here, our social network reported that Irene left some of our friends without power or water. Many east coast towns are now coping with the loss of property, and for some the loss of lives. My sister Tes reminded me that as catastrophic and severe as the typhoons on Guam were, there was always good that came with the bad — so look at the good. As the rain subsided we went out for a neighborhood walk.

Not much damage to speak of here in Prospect Heights. A downed tree drew helpful neighbors on the corner of St. John and Underhill. Some cars we actually spared by the low brick fence.

The streets were virtually empty except a few cars and people with dogs who were cooped up all Saturday, most were heading to the park. Without the usual crowds and traffic one gets a full appreciation of how grand Grand Army Plaza is. I often walk through the arch as a short cut to the weekend green market.

This overpass in Prospect Park takes on a surreal and even more charming appeal with its own pond. There were surprisingly only a few trees that sustained wind damage in the park — mostly sheered tops of trees and fallen branches but nothing completely uprooted. The story was quire different in other neighborhoods with many older trees toppled into streets.

New temporary lakes sprung up in the park’s Long Meadow. Once the grazing area for sheep herders, it’s now a hub of entertainment for people and their dogs. A few people flew kites. But as the wind picked again and the sky darkened, police and rangers reminded us to evacuate as they closed the park to the public.

Time to get home for dinner, tend to the cat, and to see what’s on the news. I made enough chili to last us through the storm, and more than enough to give to our friends Matt and Adrianne (chips and all). Sometimes you have to stop and be thankful for loved ones, good friends, a funny little pet, and a hot home-cooked meal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Firming Things Up — Clothesline Crochet Basics

The tail of the now downgraded tropical storm Irene has just left us. Although there was flooding in low lying areas, damage to the city seems minimal so far.  We stepped out for a drink with friends at Sharlene’s Bar last night but left when once weather turned. The sun is peaking out now and it’s  time to break out the clothesline.

Clothesline Crochet Demonstration
This technique is similar to the padded construction of Irish filigree crochet but used less decoratively. It’s made by carrying a thicker cord, such as cotton clothesline, inside a densely wrapped row of single crochet. For this demonstration I’m using Classic Elite Provence (100% mercerized cotton, 256 yds) over a linen burlap cord. The stitch in this demonstration is called “Straw Braid” — a modified single crochet stitch created by yours truly. After looking around on the web and Ravelry, I think I actually came up with an original stitch. Work slowly and adjust cord tension every two inches or so.

Step 1: With a loop on your hook, drape the cord over the hook. Insert the hook through the vertical strand closest to the hook’s tip and top chain of the next stitch on the previous row.

Step 2: Draw a loop through both the top of the chain and the vertical strand. You should have two loops on the hook.

Step 3: Now draw a loop through these last two loops while “catching” the cord. Now, you should have one loop on your hook. Repeat these three steps.

This technique creates a thicker, less pliable fabric that’s suitable for bags, baskets, backpacks, trimmed piping, the crown and brim of hats... etc., anything that requires more structure.

I used an actual cotton clothesline in the crown of this Trilby hat (left). It gives the Straw Braid stitch a padded look. The side band (right) is also made with the Straw Braid stitch without the linen cord. It has a flatter surface and looks more... well.. like braided straw ribbon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hats Off to Brett Bara!

The entire East Coast was just rocked by a 5.8 tremor... and now we brace ourselves for a hurricane? But neither earthquake nor the impending doom of Hurricane Irene can hold me back. Freshly pressed and ironed on this soggy day, I just sent off three Kings County Pork Pies to crafty maven Brett Bara for her book on crochet accessories (Interweave Books). I’m very proud to be included in her project along with many other talented folks.

This hat pattern is written for men's sizes small, medium, and large and includes special instructions for Tunisian Crochet. Now back to proofing more patterns for The Yarn Monkey store.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ear-buds — Softwear for the BlackBerry

What do you do with three yards of DK silk? Pimp up the volume on your BlackBerry with silk ear buds. With a C hook, make an adjustable ring cast-on and close it with a slip stitch.

R01: 10 sc, then tighten ring cast-on. Do not join round.
R02: *Sc in top of ch, 2 sc into of chain into next st; rep from * to end of round.
R03 to R05: Sc in top of ch to end of round (St total: 15).

Cut yarn. Fit over ear piece then gather and sew the tail through the open edge with a tapestry needle. Make another one. These make a better cat toy than the original foam buds that came with the phone.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ironing Out the Details

Heat waves, hail storms, flooding streets, driving rain — this summer, Brooklyn feels more like a pizza oven or a swamp. Either way, it’s good to keep a hat in your bag along with an umbrella... one of them will come in handy.

If you’re like me, you probably have a drawer of hats in different states of crumple. To keep your cotton hat crisp and clean all summer long you don’t need a wooden hat block, but you will need a decent iron and spray starch. My mustard yellow Kings County Pork Pie Hat is super soft, made with 100% Rowan Pima Cotton. It will be one the crochet projects in crafty lady, Brett Bara’s, new book from Interweave Books.

Wash and Dry
First remove any big decoration... braids, band, clasp, buckle, buttons... then hand-wash your hat with a gentle fabric wash or baby shampoo. Let it soak for a couple hours to allow the fibers expand. A teaspoon of white vinegar to early gallon of water breaks down hair oils. Rinse well and gently press out most of the water in a towel — don’t use the death grip. Air-dry your hat flat. To speed up drying time lay a box fan flat and place your hat on top.

Block and Press
To shape the crown, I use the bottom of a round cookie tin as a hat block — a coffee can works well too. The base should be a bit smaller than the width of the crown. Set your iron to the correct fiber setting (in this case, 100% cotton) and gently press into the fabric moving slowly with a small circular motion, adjusting the hat as you need. Don’t use the steam setting.

Place a small face towel over the block and set the hat on top, right side up. Lightly spray with starch and iron until the starch dries. Repeat until the crown is firm but pliable. Be sure to press into the creases with the tip of your iron.

Turn the hat inside out, then spray and iron the crown as before. Starch tends to build up on the iron and burn, so clean it often by spraying the ironing surface with water and wiping it clean with a towel.

Lay the hat on a towel, spray and iron the inside — from brim to the crown. Rotate the hat as you iron the interior of the hat. Now iron the outside of the hat the same way. Be sure to iron the welt at the edge of the crown.

Straighten the brim. Spray and iron the brim as before, rotating the hat as you press. Re-attach any decoration, and off you go to the beach. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Keeping your hat in good shape is much easier than keeping yourself in shape, but that’s a different issue.