Friday, May 20, 2011

Tunisian Crochet Lace: New Habits

Petals, my newest Tunisian stitch pattern
After designing several new lacy Tunisian crochet wraps, and teaching crocheters and knitters how to crochet Tunisian lace in local yarn shops, I've noticed a few things. I thought I'd blog them below as a way of listing my tips, strategies, and observations in one place.

Sneak Peek of Rivuline
The #1 most remarkable thing to me about Tunisian crochet: it can be super-lacy, but rarely is. I suspect that a lot of people don't know just how lacy it can be. Instead, a huge amount of Tunisian crochet that I see is perfect for keeping someone warm. For me, Tunisian crochet can also be breezy, weightless, and super-lacy: perfect for a Florida summer! 

In my Tunisian crochet lace classes, I find that many crocheters start out expecting to use a tighter gauge with Tunisian stitches--even if they have experience making other kinds of lacy items. Some think that their Tunisian stitches are done correctly if they look and feel like they have no 'breathing room' (no extra ease built in). 

Sequined Tunisian Net for Evening
I've seen some people make lacy Tunisian stitches, then assume that they need to rip them out and start over with a smaller crochet hook size to firm up the stitches. (This would be true for making sweaters and blankets.) Actually, they might only need to spritz with water to dampen and block. When I look at their looser stitches, I see room for the lace to open up and "blossom," with flexible joints for beautiful draping. 

I suspect three possible reasons for non-lacy approaches to Tunisian crochet:

Shaktism, a sneak peek
1. When many crocheters and knitters learned how to do Tunisian crochet, they made afghans first. These students need to see the familiar stitches (such as Tss) in a new way: more open, with room to breathe and drape.

2. Each Tunisian crochet stitch tends to be shorter and smaller than most regular crochet stitches, especially when making lace. So, viewed up close, looser Tunisian stitches can look too loose, even sloppy to some, but will look elegant and stylish as clothing, especially after blocking.
a recent Tunisian experiment

As a designer, another way I'd put it is, the fine-grained smaller scale of Tunisian stitches inclines one to lose sight of the larger perspective, which is how these stitches look together from a distance as a larger piece of fabric.

3. The unique Tunisian crochet process of adding all loops of a new row onto the crochet hook during the Forward Pass, and then working them all off during the Return Pass, might make some people want to "yank" their loops too tightly, rather than too loosely.

Most of all, what I see in my classes, is a habit, or comfort zone, of working Tunisian crochet so that the stitches are snug and dense. This is fabulous for afghans and winter sweaters, hats, and scarves. If this is true for you, don't worry. It doesn't take long at all for your fingers and eyes to start experiencing Tunisian stitches in a new, lacy form.
Here are some tips:

If it's your first experience with a Tunisian crochet lace pattern, really try to match the designer's gauge as a way of learning a new way of perceiving, and a new feeling for the stitching fingers. (Normally, matching a designer's stitch and row gauge exactly might not be essential for wearing a loose-fitting, gorgeous swath of Tunisian crochet lace, unless you want to match the finished dimensions and yarn amounts stated in the pattern as closely as possible.)

- I suggest swatching with a yarn that has gentle color changes if this is your first Tunisian project featuring multiple Tyo. The color changes make it easier to distinguish a Tyo loop from the nearby vertical bar of a Tss.
Tunisian Islander in an alternate yarn
- When making three or more Tyo (Tunisian Yarn Over) in a row, tug on them a bit to firm up how they're wrapped around the hook during the Forward pass. (If they don't slide easily along your hook though, then you've tightened them too much). 

- When working multiple Tyo loops off of your hook during the Return pass, use longer stitches. I stretch them a bit as I work them off of my hook.

- Spritz your stitches with water as you crochet anytime and gently stretch open the lacy holes to see how the extra ease of a looser gauge allows the lace to open up.