stitch patterns - an obsession
And it's not all talk either, I spend an incredible amount of time looking at stitch patterns, testing them, swatching them, trying them out with different yarns and hook sizes. It is the single best thing about pattern designing and I would be lost, bereft even, without my stitch dictionaries (notice the plural) by my side.
I'm a bit of a collector, not just of stitch guides and dictionaries but also vintage magazines and books, and it's vintage stitches that really interest and excite me the most. I like to feel that I'm keeping the old stitch patterns alive by digging them out of old books and using them for contemporary patterns, working with stitches that have stood the test of time and reinventing them for our modern era.
Sometimes it's the name of a stitch that interests me like the Elizabeth Stitch, so pretty and well-structured and bearing the same name as my daughter. This stitch is the second most watched of my stitch tutorials on YouTube, the first being the Arcade Stitch, and is the stitch pattern I used for my latest design in Inside Crochet magazine (Issue 93), the Back to School Scarf.
The texture the Elizabeth Stitch gives to this pattern is unbelievable. I designed it using a lovely, plump merino DK weight yarn, Debbie Bliss Rialto DK and a 5mm hook to get the perfect fabric for a back to school, autumnal, feel. If you look at the original tutorial swatch, you can see how much difference yarn and hook size makes to the finished composition, the below swatch being made with cotton DK and a 5mm hook and giving a much looser texture with none of the warmth or durability that the merino yarn gives even though they are the same weight.
That is the exciting thing about being a designer, seeing how a stitch will work given different treatments. I love the trial and error of this stage of the design process and as such my house is full of random stitch swatches, motifs and squares because I can't bear to throw them away - you just never know when they might come in handy.
Other times I will go searching for something in particular like when I was looking for the perfect leaf stitch pattern for Liula or a chunky ball stitch pattern for the Dublin Cowl. If I can't quite find what I'm looking for I will often make up my own stitch pattern like in the Rebecca Scarf or the Isla Lacy Ripple Blanket. Sometimes I use only part of a stitch pattern in a design or alter it slightly to make it work but most of the time I like to use the stitch pattern in its entirety, especially if it is really pretty and provides me with the right effect I'm looking for.
My favourite stitch dictionary, and the most used, is New Directions in Crochet by Ann Rabun Ough. I have talked about this one an awful lot and it is out of print now but copies can be found in many places second hand and sometimes on Amazon as linked above. I also highly rate Linda P. Schapper's Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs, I use this one an awful lot, and Betty Barnden's Handbook of Crochet Stitches too.
Online resources are amazing too, there are loads of great stitch tutorial videos on YouTube, which are especially handy if you know the name of the stitch you want to use. If you want to find a great vintage stitch then try freevintagecrochet.com which has all things amazing on it and is the place you will discover that everything has been done before and will be done again. For more modern, pretty and some incredible designs you can't go wrong with mypicot.com who use great colours to show stitch patterns off and have really good tutorials to go with them.
I highly recommend a bit of stitch swatching therapy at least once a week, you'll never know what you might find. Happy stitch hunting yo!