Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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When simplicity fails

Last year, I made a Simple Crochet Shrug. “Simple” is the key point here: this project is a large rectangle with armholes. Mine gets used a lot at work in winter, so I thought I’d make another one for home. It would give me the chance to use a different colorway, plus I’d be able to experiment with tightening up the gauge. The loose gauge is deliberate on the part of the designer: “Large hook is used to create an open fabric that will easily stretch to fit a range of sizes.” Hey, I get it. The pattern is marketed as an easy project, and making it one-size-fits-many is a surefire way to simplify matters. It’s just that the fabric is so stretchy that I’m constantly readjusting the shrug because it sags.  But since I’m probably not the largest or tallest person this pattern is intended to fit, I figured I could go down one hook size, tighten up the fabric and get a smaller, but better-fitting shrug.

Why, yes, it looks like it fits. Bear in mind I'm standing still.

Why, yes, it looks like it fits. Bear in mind I’m standing still.

Or not, as it turned out. I have finished my second simple shrug, and I am here to tell you there is an essential design flaw here. When I describe my body shape, I call it a rectangle. Looking at my body straight on, my shoulders are about the same width as my hips, nothing in between those two points is wider, and I haven’t got the markedly narrower waist that would give me an hourglass figure. But that’s just an approximation for convenience’s sake. The human body isn’t naturally rectangular, any more than it’s a triangle or an hourglass or a diamond or whatever. The problem is, this shrug is naturally rectangular, almost two-dimensionally so. It wants to lie flat. However, my body requires it to wrap around my chest, flow over my shoulders and back, flip back over my neck, none of which are perfectly flat. Because of that “open fabric that will stretch to fit a range of sizes,” I think the first shrug fit better, sagginess and all, because it could also stretch to go around a range of body contours as well. This one, being firmer, puts up more of a fight when I try to wear it. It will work fine for just sitting at my computer, typing, but it may be more of an annoyance if I wear it while doing anything active. (A sudden return to warmer weather has made it unnecessary for the moment.)

From the back. At least in this tighter gauge, it's no longer wrapping itself around my derriere.

From the back. At least in this tighter gauge, it’s no longer wrapping itself around my derriere.

If it hadn’t been for the whole fitting around my body (or not) problem, the tighter gauge would’ve been an improvement. I think this tighter fabric is nicer to work with. The yarn is Lion Brand Homespun, same as for the last shrug, and the color is Mixed Berries. I like how it came out, with the little bursts of gold brightening it up.

One thing that had annoyed me when I made my first shrug was that the yarn felt sticky against the plastic hook I was using. When I started this version, I thought this problem would only get worse, what with the smaller hook and tighter stitches. Instead, the yarn slid along the hook just fine. I don’t know any specifics about my first hook, but the hook I used for this shrug was one of the Susan Bates’ Crystalites, made out of acrylic. Homespun is 98% acrylic. Do acrylic yarn and acrylic hooks recognize each other as family or something?

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My first shrug

Someday when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I’m going to tally up just how much of my knitting and crochet has been done specifically to keep me warm at work. While blankets and throws are fine for many of my coworkers, I have to get up and walk around a lot, so I don’t get much use out of them. Instead, I’m amassing a fine collection of sweaters and shawls, to which I have now added my first shrug.

Last year, I bought 5 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun to make a lap blanket. (For work, of course—just because blankets don’t do me much good doesn’t mean I don’t try them). As it turned out, I couldn’t get the right gauge with it. Sensible people would have returned the yarn to the store, but I’d wanted to make something with this colorway (Waterfall) for years and I’d gotten it on sale, so I convinced myself that sooner or later I’d use it. And even though it took a year, I did finally find a good project for it.

This is Lion Brand’s Simple Crochet Shrug, designed to consume 4 skeins of Homespun (the fifth one really is going back to the store). “Simple” is an accurate descriptor. You crochet a rectangle that’s very close to being a square, fold it in half, and sew the edges up, leaving about 7″ open at the fold end of the edges for armholes. Putting it on involves a slightly undignified search for the armholes, followed by pulling up a lot of excess fabric from the middle and folding it over to create a cozy shawl collar.

Despite that simplicity, I did have the occasional problem. I’ve crocheted since I was a kid but I still omit stitches if I’m not paying attention, a problem exacerbated by this yarn in which it’s almost impossible to see the stitches. The intended measurements for the rectangle before folding is 38″ x 42″, but it has such a loose gauge that simply by laying it out, I could get 45″ x 37″ instead. (To preserve my sanity, I made the executive decision that my gauge was in the “close enough” category).

I’ve given it a bit of a test run. It’s warm. It slides down a bit over time, mostly due to that loose gauge and all that excess fabric, but it’s easy enough to hitch it up again. So far it’s done what I wanted it to do, and it goes off to work tomorrow to be added to my stunning at-work wardrobe. And there’ll probably be another one in another colorway in my future.