Mar 24, 2012

Anatomy of a Stitch: The Single Crochet

I remember my first crochet project -- a red cotton washcloth made entirely of single crochet stitches.  Not yet versed in counting my stitches or knowing where to begin the next row, the sides were basically straight, if a bit wonky.  My aunt's next door neighbor, a master crocheter if ever there was one, taught me how to form the requisite stitches -- the chain and single crochet stitches.  I still have that washcloth, somewhere, faded and misshapen from use.
The single crochet (sc) stitch is the second stitch (after the chain stitch ) most beginning crocheters learn.  It has been deemed one of the most important stitches every crocheter needs to know.  Many crochet patterns and projects incorporate single crochet stitches in some form or manner. I learned to crochet before the advent of the Internet and YouTube videos but the single crochet remains one of the easiest stitches to master.  Simply insert your hook under the loops of the next single crochet stitch in the row below, yarn over, pull through hole, yarn over, pull through both loops on the hook.  Pretty hunky-dory.

Okay, time for a bit of honesty.  The single crochet stitch, when used by itself, lacks . . . lacks . . . lacks beauty and style.  It is a very ugly stitch when worked flat and, occasionally, in the round.  The fabric it creates when worked in a straight row as shown in the border of the washcloth below, showcases each row, each stitch hole, in painful detail.  One can easily see the "knots" that make crochet fabric so thick and unwielding, and so unattractive that it dissuades many from picking up a hook.  The resulting fabric is just plain fugly; it does not drape well, not even when worked with an overlarge hook.  Can you tell that I am just not a fan of this stitch? 

Several years ago, I made my first lace shawl.  Its recipient remarked that she did not know that crochet could be so beautiful. Praise and damnation.  Unfortunately, the only crochet she had seen were "old-fashioned" granny squares, and single crochet washcloths and hats.  She had not been exposed to the beauty of crochet, which lies in the variety of textures and patterns that can be produced when basic stitches are used in combination with other stitches.  You'll find that this is particularly true for the lowly single crochet stitch that seems to blossom when used in combination with other stitches (i.e., chain, half-double crochet, double crochet, etc.). Take another look at the washcloth below.  The rigid bands of single crochet surround shells created by placing 3 sc stitches into one stitch.  A totally different fabric that looks less like a bunch of neat knots in a row and more like textured fabric.  Worked in the proper sized hook, the resulting fabric is full of drape.

Single Crochet-Chain combination:
In recent years, I have avoided the single crochet, opting instead for the half double crochet when making hats in the round, 5- and 7-double crochet stitch shell patterns for afghans, and double crochet-chain combinations for lace shawls.  Anything but straight sc.  But I''ve found some neat patterns calling for single crochet in straight rows.  Hunting around for alternatives, I found instances where some crocheters  substituted a sc-ch combination where you sc into the chain in the previous row and ch one, skipping the sc in the previous row.  This creates a relatively solid frabric with a semi-criss cross texture (see below) that lays flat, is stretchy when pulled from the top and bottom, but stable when pulled from side to side.  The stitch combination works in the round as well.  Two examples -- a washcloth worked flat and a heating pad worked in the round.

2005 by Donna Hulka
Split Single Crochet:
This is more about hook placement rather than stitch combination.   Instead of working into the top loops of the stitch in the row below, you insert your hook between the 2 vertical legs of the single crochet stitch in the previous row,  See my previous post for more information about how this works when working flat versus working in the round.

Here, a series of split-sc stitches alternates with a series of chain to produce what could pass for sloppy garter/stockinette.  When blocked, this fabric stretches easily from side to side but less so when pulled top to bottom.
There are infinite possible ways to use the single crochet stitch.  Obviously, you can work it in straight rows.  More importantly, you can also use it as a building block for creating more complicated stitches when used in combination with itself and other stitches. 

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