Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lab Week -- crochet dish strainer

Let's get started:

Above is the photo of the completed dish strainer. As you can see, it's a bit wrinkly from being folded on my counter and needs a good washing. I use mine all the time, and I didn't get it washed before I needed to take a picture. The beautiful thing about this strainer is that you can toss it into the wash anytime, and it always comes out perfectly. I wash mine several times a week, usually, but just didn't get it done for today.

Since it is made of absorbent and quick-drying acrylic yarn, it is a fantastic surface for drying any kitchen items that you hand wash. It also can function as a hot pad -- though you do need to test it to make sure it can handle something really hot. I have found all sorts of uses for mine, which was a gift, and I am looking forward to making one of my own. (One of my sisters-in-law uses one that was given to her underneath her dog's dishes to keep them steady and to keep any spilled water from damaging the floor underneath)

Remember, these are the supplies we need: TWO skeins of acrylic 4 ply sport weight yarn. Usually, we enjoy the lovely cottons and wools. However, for this project, it must be acrylic and man-made materials versus the natural yarns. You want something that dries more quickly than the natural fibers. These skeins of yarn can be any color that you like. You can use two of the same color for a solid effect, or you can use one of one color and one of another to make a variegated effect. I have a blue kitchen with white curtains, so I am using one skein of blue and one of white to make a blue and white variegated one. My mother in law and my sister in law have both found already variegated yarns that pick up all the little speckles in their granite counter tops, and they have each made strainers that blend right into their kitchen counters. Or, you can always do a plain white one or a Christmas colored one or a pastel spring one. It's all up to your imagination and your desire.

Of course, you will also need a crochet hook. I am using size J-10.

Now that you have your supplies in hand, here we go:

Chain 50 stitches using one strand from each skein, so that you are working two strands at one time. (The instructions for how to chain your beginning stitches are below.) Remember, using one strand will not produce the correct results. We need thick stitches to be absorbent and to give the strainer some good body and height. So, we must use two strands.

Now, most people who do handwork say that to crochet is actually easier and faster than knitting once you have learned crochet. For one thing, if you make a mistake in crochet, it's easier to go back and fix it than it is if you slip a stitch in knitting. For another, an experienced crocheter can work very quickly.

Learning to crochet can be a bit tricky, however, just as learning to knit can be. Usually, once people have the feel of working the needle and the yard, the trickiest part is keeping the stitches all of the same size so that your rows come out evenly. Now, for this project, the challenging thing will be working with two strands instead of one and learning a fairly advanced stitch to begin with -- the half double crochet. The great thing is that this is a very forgiving project. We're basically just making a mat with a decorative edging that we'll add at the end, and if the mat's a little funny looking, it's not the end of the world. It will still perform its function. It's not as if we're making an heirloom baby sweater here. So, if this is your first attempt at doing crochet, you'll find this to be an excellent starter project. If you can crochet with the best of them, you'll find this to be a fun, quick, and useful project, and you may use this to make quick little gifts.

Here are instructions about how to chain your beginning stitches:

Just so you can see, here is a video using one strand:

Since we are working with two strands, you want to tie your slip knot with a strand from each skein. That's one slip knot with both strands tied in it.

As the woman in the lady suggests, it's important to keep your stitches as even as possible, and this is good practice. Again, since we're doing a kitchen mat, don't become discouraged if your first attempt isn't as even as someone's might be who's been crocheting for years. Just do your best.

Here I am working with two strands of yarn. Remember, I am left-handed, so I am likely working in the opposite direction than you are. I just wanted you to see how to hold two strands of yarn.

Here's my right-handed mother in law getting ready to tie her slip knot.

Here is her slip knot.

Here is her chain.

From there, she moves on to the next steps. We'll tackle that in the next tutorial. Just concentrate on getting your fifty chained stitches for right now. This chain of fifty chain stitches will be the base from which you work the rest of the project. From here out, (except for the decorative edges), we will work with only one crochet stitch. We'll also learn how to turn the corners. I'll try to have this in video with audio instructions to make this easier.

Remember, this is practice. Practice makes perfect, and practice makes progress. But, if you are a total beginner, be patient with yourself.

Happy home keeping!


Seraphim said...

Hi there,

I'm going to make this along with you but I need just a tiny bit of information - can you tell me how much a skein of yarn weighs? I think they may sell yarn differrently here as I have only ever heard American sites refer to a 'skein'; our balls of yarn are usually 50g, 200g, 400g etc. I just want to make sure I have enough yarn before I get started!

Thank you


Elizabeth said...

Hi Seraphim,

I attempted to answer your question in my next post after this one. I think you would be fine with a smaller number of total grams, as this is a small project. However, you do want to make sure that the thickness of the strand is correct -- worsted weight or, as I believe they say in England, double-knitting weight.