Many crocheters plateau at an advanced-beginner level of crochet ability. They learn to single crochet, read a simple pattern and maybe even change colors or work in the round. And then they stop.
It’s totally understandable. With knowledge of just a few simple stitches, you can crochet almost anything: afghans, hats and scarves and even stuffed animals! Besides, crochet is supposed to be relaxing… and when you sit down in the evening to unwind, the last thing you want to do is get stumped with learning new & difficult skill, right?
Even though it may be scary, it’s totally worth trying out new crochet techniques… and I’ve spotted a beautiful book that’s full of them: Unexpected Afghans. It’s a book that’ll get you inspired (and more importantly, help you out with!) some new crochet techniques.
Before we get to the details of the book, let me talk about why you should branch out, and some tricks to make the journey as smooth as possible.
Why you should push yourself…
Do you remember the last time you finally ‘got’ something new? It probably went like this: you were frustrated, and the new skill was hard. But then it clicked! You felt joy & satisfaction… and then after that, this once-unattainable-and-maybe-scary new skill felt like second nature. And you had it under your belt.
That’s how learning something new goes. It’s hard at first, but perseverance pays off… and you’re always happy you started!
Tricks to try: pick the right time and project
The time to try a new technique isn’t at the end of a long and stressful day at work. I always have a couple of crochet projects going on: one that’s easy and simple (for when I want to relax) and another that’s new and challenging.
When picking a new technique to learn, it’s important to find a project that’s inspiring… that way, you’ll stick with it long enough to get through the tough spots!
Here are a few more helpful tips:
- When you’re first attempting a new technique, start by doing a swatch. For example, if you’re learning cables, start with a small sample where you can practice the required stitches before attempting a larger project.
- Pick a yarn that you like. It can be tempting to use up some less-than-fab yarn in your stash to save money, but it may also lessen your desire to stick to the project.
- Don’t be afraid to get help! For example, Unexpected Afghans is a great way to tackle Tunisian crochet, but maybe it’s not clicking for you. Don’t despair! Pop into Robyn’s Ravelry group to scope out extra resources.
The techniques in Unexpected Afghans
Sometimes, what holds me back from trying something new isn’t fear… it’s just that I don’t know what’s out there to try! So, let’s chat about some of the great techniques in this book that you can explore!
This book is divided into a few main sections, but is also sprinkled with a variety of styles and the crochet charts that Robyn is famous for. I would recommend turning to this book if you’re interested in expanding to:
- Crocheted Cables
- Working from charts as a method of pattern-reading
- Lace (including my fave Pineapple pattern!)
- Novel motifs (called ‘granny motifs’ in the book… but they’re much more than that!)
- Colorwork (both stranding and motif color combos)
Of course, you should always read through the pattern completely before getting started, but most of these patterns have only the basic skills: reading a pattern and single/double crochet as prerequisites. For each new technique, you might adventure into something you’ve never tried before (such as working around a post when working cables)… but that’s the ‘branching out’! You can do it!
Can you get ‘too advanced’?
What if you’ve been pushing yourself for years and years… can you get too advanced? Become such a pro that everything in crochet is boring?
Once you’ve learned a variety of skills/techniques in crocheting, your mind will start giving you suggestions about what to do next… usually in terms of modifying patterns that you come across.
Let’s look at an example. There’s a pattern for a sampler afghan in the book. It’s a great way to experiment with new stitch patterns, and will come out beautifully if you crochet it as instructed.
But what happens when your mind starts to wander? You might:
- Change the color combinations (black & white… or maybe rainbow?) to give the afghan a completely different look
- Check out a stitch dictionary and select a different stitch pattern for a few squares in the sampler
- Modify the joining technique or border to add a lacy look
- Come up with your own stitch pattern!
As you can see… there’s no end to what you can do! And no matter how advanced you get, you’ll be kept on your toes by the inspiring afghans in Unexpected Afghans.
What’s next for you?
I’ve had ‘learn to read crochet charts’ on my 2012 goals list, and I haven’t tackled it yet. There’s nothing to complicated about reading charts… you’ve just gotta practice!
I think this book has given me a reason to work on my chart-reading!
How about you? Any of these techniques in Unexpected Afghans pique your interest?