So this post is the first in a little series I'd like to do as I share my progress working through the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. It's been great fun so far to really expand my repertoire of crochet techniques. Each square in the blanket is designed by a different person using different techniques/skills, and is only 12x12", so I'm never bored. Although I've been crocheting for many years and even have a few of my own designs under my belt my own abilities haven't really moved beyond the basics. This blanket has been a great way for me to push the limits, so to speak!
First up is Tunisian Cables by Angela Grabowski. I had tried some basic Tunisian stitches a while back and even perused Angela's site a bit (check out it - she wrote The Book on Tunisian - literally) but never actually followed a pattern and made anything with this technique. To those unfamiliar with the technique, Tunisian (or afghan) crochet is kiiiind of like knitting + crochet: you use a long hook and the basic motions are similar to crochet, but you are always working across the piece with several live stitches on the hook at one time. The fabric tends to have a similar look to knitting, but is usually a lot thicker. And as you can see from the picture of my square at the top of this post - you can cable! It was completely magical seeing those cables come off a crochet hook. If you want to see more about how Tunisian works you could follow that link to Angela's site, or check out this fabulous series of videos from Interweave.
One important thing I learned from this square is that when working cables in Tunisian, your piece will pull in a LOT once you get a few inches in. I started this square with a size L Tunisian hook, which is what the pattern calls for. I knew that in Tunisian you oftentimes use a larger hook than you would in regular crochet, just because the fabric tends to be so thick and sturdy. When I got an inch or two in, however, I measured across my square and it was something like 14 or 15 inches wide and my fabric was terribly loose, so I ripped it out and started again with a smaller hook. I went through this several more times until I was finally down to a size H, which is what I might use for worsted weight yarn in regular crochet. The fabric was basically bullet proof and I could feel my yarn felting as I stitched, but I persevered. Oh and there was elbow pain, and shoulder pain as I jammed my hook through this fabric over and over again. I kept working, finally getting the hang of the pattern, until I finished the square, only to discover that in the end I had a 9" square. As much as I was pleased with having pushed my abilities, learned some new things, and finished this square, come hell or high water I was NOT GOING TO RIP THIS THING OUT AGAIN, so I blocked it within an inch of its life and managed to stretch it out to 12". But really I probably should have done this on a K hook or something just slightly smaller than what the pattern calls for. So lesson learned: cables in Tunisian pull in A LOT and you will not be able to see this happening until you're several inches into your piece.