## Archive for January 5, 2011

### The Basics of Customizing Crochet Patterns

Have you ever fallen in love a pattern for the perfect dress or sweater? Visions dance through your head of the finished garment made from some gorgeous yarn that has been languishing in your stash for years. Then suddenly, you realize that the pattern is not written for your size or that ”the perfect” yarn you had in mind is actually a different weight from which the pattern calls. Well, rest assured – hope is not lost. All that is required are few handy, basic math tricks to customize the pattern to meet *your* needs and you’ll be sporting the garment in no time. Well, that is, in the time it takes for you to finish the stitching.

Here’s what you’ll need to start customizing your favorite designs:

1) The pattern, including a detailed schematic;

2) Gauge information from the pattern;

3) A calculator and/or scratch paper;

4) A ruler;

5) A measuring tape;

6) A pencil and an eraser;

7) Basic elementary school math skills;

8) And lastly, your imagination.

Once you have gotten all of these tools together, you will be ready to get started. Be sure, though, to leave behind your fear of erasing and frogging. Customizing a pattern sometimes takes a bit of trial and error.

*Instructions for Customizing a Pattern for Use with a Different Yarn Weight:*

1) First of all, complete a gauge swatch in the yarn of your choice.

2) Determine how many stitches or stitch patterns per a given length, such as an inch, are in your swatch. Then, compare this information to the gauge information included in the pattern to calculate how much you will need to increase or decrease the number of stitches worked per row or round of the pattern to achieve the same dimensions.

For example, a pattern calls for 3 shell stitches in a width of 3 inches. However, with your yarn of choice, you find that you have 6 shell stitches in a width of 3 inches. In other words, the ratio of shell stitches between the two swatches is 3:6 or 1:2. Thus, you will need to double the stitch count to achieve the same dimensions in the schematic. If the first row calls for 15 shell stitches across, you will need to complete 30 shell stitches in order to create the same length or width of crocheted fabric.

3) Use the measurements in the schematic to double-check the dimensions for each of the pattern pieces. In our example, 30 shell stitches in the weight of our choice will give us 15” across.

4) Once you have determined the stitch ratio between the two gauge swatches, you will need to determine the “multiple of” information in order to determine the proper number of starting chains. Usually, this information is included in the pattern. In our example, let’s assume that the shell stitch pattern calls for a multiple of 3 + 6. Thus, your starting chain will need to be (3 X 30) + 6, or 96. If the multiple information is not included, divide the stitch pattern count by the number of starting chains. Let’s assume, in our example, the pattern calls for 51 ch and Row 1 has 15 shell stitches. 51/15 = 3 with a remainder of 6, or a multiple of 3 + 6.

5) All of the stitch counts throughout the entire pattern will need to be adjusted according the ratio of stitches between the two gauge swatches. In our example, we would need to double all of the stitch counts in order to achieve the same size.

6) In addition, the number of rows or rounds completed may also need to be adjusted depending on the height of the stitches in the gauge swatch. Let’s assume, for the sake of our example, that 1 row of shell stitches equals 1” in the pattern. However, when we create our gauge swatch in the yarn of our choice, we find that 2 rows of shell stitches equal 1”. In other words, the ratio of the stitch heights is 1:2. This means that the number of rows or rounds created will also need to be doubled to achieve the same finished dimensions. If the pattern says continue until Row 20, you will need to continue until Row 40 with our chosen yarn.

As a rule of thumb, switching to a lighter weight yarn will require more stitches per row or round, and may also require more rows or rounds to be completed in order to achieve the final dimensions in the pattern schematic. Likewise, switching to a heavier weight yarn will require fewer stitches per row or round, and may also require fewer rows or rounds to be completed in order to achieve the final dimensions in the pattern schematic.

*Instructions for Customizing the Size of a Pattern:*

1) Use the measuring tape to determine your dimensions. This information will determine how much larger or smaller you will need to adjust the measurements of each piece in the pattern.

2) Complete a gauge swatch according to the pattern instructions and determine how many stitches or stitch patterns per inch are in your swatch. This will help you determine by how many stitches or stitch patterns you will need to increase or decrease per each completed row or round in order to customize the final size.

For example, let’s assume once again that our pattern calls for 3 shell stitches in a width of 3”, or 1 shell stitch per 1”. You want to add 3” to the width of the body and 1” to the width of the sleeves. So, add 3 shell stitches to increase the size of the body and 1 shell stitch to increase the size of the sleeve.

3) Use the “multiple of” information to adjust the proper number of starting chains. (See above instructions on how to find or calculate this information.)

4) Depending on the layout of the garment, however, you many need to adjust the pattern based on the stitch height. In these cases, the sizing is determined by how many rows or rounds are completed. Remember in our previous example, 1 row of shell stitches equals 1” in the pattern. If you want to add 3” to the width of the body and 1” to the width of the sleeves in this scenario, you would add 3 additional rows to the body and 1 additional row to the sleeves.

5) Another rule of thumb is to use the proportion information for each piece of the garment included in the pattern to customize the shaping of the pattern to fit your needs. To do this, take a look at the schematic and row or round counts. Determine the changes in the portions of each piece by size. For example, let’s assume the center piece of the back is 27” in width for a size small, 31” in width for a size medium, and 35” in width for a size large. You want to make the center piece of the back 39” in width. You notice that the widths of the sleeves in the pattern are 12”, 14”, and 16” for a small, medium, and large, respectively. In other words, the portion of the sleeve width to that of the center piece of the back is 2x + 3 [2x12 + 3 = 27; 2x14 + 3 = 31; 2x16 + 3 = 35]. So, if you want the center back piece to measure 39” in width, your sleeve should measure 18” [2x18 + 3 = 39] to maintain the same shaping.

6) For a quick pattern customization, look for the changes in the stitch counts by the sizes that are written in the pattern. In fact, using the sizing information already included in the pattern can help you determine how to go up or down in a size quickly.

Using our previous example, the widths of the center piece of the back are 27”, 31” and 35” for a small, medium, and large, respectively. It is clear to see that the width is increasing by 4” for each size. So, if I want to make a size XS, I would subtract 4” from the center piece of the back for the size small (27” – 4” = 23”). Recall, in our example that 1 shell stitch = 1”. So my stitch count for a XS should be 23 shell stitches. I would then adjust the number of my starting chains according the “multiple of” information. Using a multiple of 3 +6, my starting chain would decrease to 75 [23x3 + 6 = 75].

7) If you want to make a standard size rather than a custom fit based on particular measurements and you would rather not, or cannot, size up or down using the rule of thumb for quick customization, the CYCA standard sizing chart (http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/sizing.html) can be used to adjust the pattern according to the finished dimensions. The website gives standard dimensions for babies, children, women, and men as well as head and foot sizing information. Once you have determined the dimensions for the desired size, calculate the stitch count necessary to achieve the size and the number of starting chains using the tips explained above.

Sometimes, you may find that you want to customize a pattern for a particular size __AND__ use a different yarn weight. In that case, determine the adjusted stitch count first based on the new yarn weight. Use the instructions to adjust the pattern by stitch width and/or by stitch height depending on the garment construction. Then, make changes to the final stitch counts according to the desired finished size using the tips explained above.