How to produce a professional looking crochet garment
Crocheting is a popular pastime for many people. I particularly like crocheting because the work grows so quickly. And if something needs to be unpicked, it is quick and easy to unpick and just as quick and easy to pick up again and carry on – much easier than unpicking knitting and picking up dropped stitches, etc.
Some years ago when so-called 'car coats' were all the rage, I crocheted these heavy jackets for a commercial outlet. The jackets were done in 8 or 12 ply and I could do a sleeve in a day without too much stress. Three rows and the work had grown about an inch. But because the stitches were so 'tall', the work was hard to sew together nicely.
So I experimented with crocheting the body in one piece. This eliminated unsightly hand-sewn seams and made a much more professional appearance to the whole garment. Baby jackets and frocks, romper suits, jumpers – all look better crocheted in one piece. Some baby jacket patterns have instructions for crocheting the skirt in one piece but the technique can be used for almost any garment.
There are no seams in this baby's jacket (above). It was worked in one piece from the neck to the waist then the sleeves were finished separately. The lower part of the sleeve was worked in one piece joining and decreasing as the work progressed to the wrist. The yarn was then attached to the waist and the skirt worked to the bottom, again in one piece. Finally the edgings were put in place, leavings only the yarn endings to be darned in.
Although it is a little hard to explain without using an actual pattern, all patterns can be adjusted to be made in one piece. It will also be much easier to understand if you've already made at least a couple of garments.
Here's how I go about it...
For ease of explanation, let's say the garment, a jacket, is done in straight treble. Add the number of treble for front and sides and make a chain of that length. Maybe you need 160 treble for the back and 80 for each front. Make your chain 322 stitches, treble into the 3rd chain from the hook and treble across the row. This should give you 320 trebles. Work back and forth till you get to the armhole, work across 80 stitches, turn and complete the front according to the pattern. Join the wool into the next stitch, treble across 160 stitches, turn and complete the back as per the pattern. Join the wool into the next stitch, treble across 80 stitches, turn and complete the other front as per the pattern.
For the sleeve, chain the number of stitches needed to give the required number of treble. Join with a slip stitch into a ring. Now work round and round increasing as you go. Turn the work at the end of each round so the overall 'look' will be the same as that of the body of the garment. When you increase do your 3 chain (or 2 chain if you prefer) to turn, then increase by working two stitches into one, work to the other end, work two stitches into one in the last stitch then join to the top of the original 3 (or 2) chain.
This is the sleeve of a baby's jacket (above) positioned so the join is a few stitches from the bottom of the picture. The line where each row of treble is joined is barely discernible.
If the pattern increases by working two stitches at each end of every second row, don't do this. Change to increasing one stitch at each end of every row as this will make the increasing more gradual and the work won't have a bump where the increases are made. If the increasing changes to working two stitches into one at the end of every four row, space the increasing out by increasing at one end of one row and the other end of the following second row. This sounds complicated but will make sense when you actually come to do it. The point is to space the increasing out as you work up the sleeve so it doesn't have all the increase in one area making bumps in the work. If you want, you can just follow the pattern but the effect won't be quite as smooth.
Once you finish increasing, stop joining and finish off the sleeve as per the pattern. There are now only the shoulder seams to sew up and the sleeve to sew into the armhole.
If the garment has a crocheted edging, attach the wool where a side seam would normally be, work right round the garment, join to the first stitch and continue until the edging is complete. The only drawback with the edging is that it is a lot to unpick if it isn't lying flat so take care to have the edging lying nice and flat from the beginning.
This image shows the bottom corner of a sleeveless jacket. Rather than do the trims in separate pieces, I've chosen to add extra stitches on each round at the corners and do the complete trim in one piece. When crocheting, it is easy to pull out a few stitches and add an extra one or two (or decrease if necessary) if the work is not laying flat.
So that's the easy version using a straightforward plain pattern.
When doing a fancier, complicated pattern, the process is very similar. I find it easier to make my initial chain with one ball of wool. I then take a new ball, join it to the very first chain and work the first pattern row. Follow the directions for the first row of the front to start off but then work the pattern until the total length is reached. For the last few stitches, follow the directions for the end of the first row of a front. By having a separate ball for the initial chain it is easy to add a few more chain if you need them or unpick what you don't need. I often leave this ball attached and when I've finished the garment I do the edging using it.
When you reach the armhole, work over the required number of patterns for a front, turn and work as per the directions. You may need to add a treble at the armhole to give an edge to that side. Don't be afraid to use an extra treble each end of the back section and on the inside edge of the front sections so that you have something to sew the sleeves to.
When working a sweater, I again use two balls. The first ball is used for the initial chain, the second ball is used for the first row and I am then able to adjust the length. If the initial chain is joined and the first row worked, it is a waste of time and effort if it has to be undone because it is too short or too sloppy. A ring of chain can change in size quite a bit depending on the next row so do each row in a separate ball of yarn and adjust the size before joining. Once joined, use the first ball to do the edging, thus eliminating another end to be sewn in later.
Be sure to turn the work at the end of each row. When you divide the work for the back and fronts, you will need to work back and forth and the body of the sweater needs to be worked the same way. The join, although scarcely noticeable, will not be invisible so place it under the arm as a side seam.
This practice can be followed when crocheting child's romper suits to make the legs in one piece. Ath the crutch join the pieces and continue up the body in one piece. I guarantee you'll be delighted at the neat appearance of your work.
NB: Names of stitches are English/Australian.