Julia Evans

Making crochet cacti

I noticed some tech bloggers I follow have been making April Cools Day posts about topics they don’t normally write about (like decaf or microscopes). The goal isn’t to trick anyone, just to write about something different for a day.

I thought those posts were fun so here is a post with some notes on learning to crochet tiny cacti.

first, the cacti

I’ve been trying to do some non-computer hobbies, without putting a lot of pressure on myself to be “good” at them. Here are some cacti I crocheted:

They are a little wonky and I like them.

a couple of other critters

Here are a couple of other things I made: an elephant, an orange guy, a much earlier attempt at a cactus, and an in-progress cactus

Some of these are also pretty wonky, but sometimes it adds to the charm: for example the elephant’s head is attached at an angle which was not on purpose but I think adds to the effect. (orange guy pattern, elephant pattern)

I haven’t really been making clothing: I like working in a pretty chaotic way and I think you need to be a lot more careful when you make clothing so that it will actually fit.

the first project: a mouse

The first project I made was this little mouse. It took me a few hours (maybe 3 hours?) and I made a lot of mistakes and it definitely was not as cute as it was in the pictures in the pattern, but it was still good! I can’t find a picture right now though.

buying patterns is great

Originally I started out using free patterns, but I found some cacti patterns I really liked in an ebook called Knotmonsters: Cactus Gardens Edition, so I bought it.

I like the patterns in that book and also buying patterns seems like a nice way to support people who are making fun patterns. I found this guide to designing your own patterns through searching on Ravelry and it seems like a lot of work! Maybe I will do it one day but for now I appreciate the work of other people who make the patterns.

modifying patterns chaotically is great too

I’ve been modifying all of the patterns I make in a somewhat chaotic way, often just because I made a mistake somewhere along the way and then decide to move forward and change the pattern to adjust for the mistake instead of undoing my work. Some of of the changes I’ve made are:

  • remove rows
  • put fewer stitches in a row
  • use a different stitch

This doesn’t always work but often it works well enough, and I think all of the mistakes help me learn.

no safety eyes

A lot of the patterns I’ve been seeing for animals suggest using “safety eyes” (plastic eyes). I didn’t really feel like buying those , so I’ve been embroidering eyes on instead. “Embroidering” might not be accurate, really I just sew some black yarn on in a haphazard way and hope it doesn’t come out looking too weird.

My crochet kit came with a big plastic yarn needle that I’ve been using to embroider and also

no stitch markers

My crochet kit came with some plastic “stitch markers” which you can use to figure out where the beginning of your row is, so you know when you’re done. I’ve been finding it easier to just use a short piece of scrap yarn instead.

on dealing with all the counting

In crochet there is a LOT of counting. Like “single crochet 3 times, then double crochet 1 time, then repeat that 6 times”. I find it hard to do that accurately without making mistakes, and all of the counting is not that fun! A few things that have helped:

  • go back and look at my stitches to see what I did (“have I done 1 single crochet, or 2?“). I’m not actually very good at doing this, but I find it easier to see my stitches with wool/cotton yarn than with acrylic yarn for some reason.
  • count how many stitches in total I’ve done since the last row, and make sure it seems approximately right (“well, I’m supposed to have 20 stitches and I have 19, that’s pretty close!“). Then I’ll maybe just add an extra stitch in the wrong place to adjust, or maybe just leave it the way it is.

notes on yarn

So far I’ve tried three kinds of yarn: merino (for the elephant), cotton (for the cacti), and acrylic (for the orange dude). I still don’t know which one I like best, but since I’m doing small projects it feels like the right move is still to just buy small amounts of yarn and experiment. I think I like the cotton and merino more than the acrylic.

For the cacti I used Ricorumi cotton yarn, which comes in tiny balls (which is good for me because if I don’t end up liking it, I don’t have a lot of extra!) and in a lot of different colours.

There are a lot of yarn weights (lace! sock! sport! DK! worsted! bulky! and more!). I don’t really underestand them yet but I think so far I’ve been mostly using DK and worsted yarn.

hook size? who knows!

I’ve mostly been using a 3.5mm hook, probably because I read a tutorial that said to use a 3.5mm hook. It seems to work fine! I used a larger hook size when making a hat, and that also worked.

I still don’t really know how to choose hook sizes but that doesn’t seem to have a lot of consequences when making cacti.

every stitch I’ve learned

I think I’ve probably only learned how to do 5 things in crochet so far:

  • magic ring (mr)
  • single crochet (sc)
  • half double crochet (hdc)
  • front post half double crochet (fphdc)
  • double crochet (dc)
  • back loops only/front loops only (flo/blo)
  • increase/decrease

The way I’ve been approaching learning new crochet stitches is:

  1. find a pattern I want to make
  2. start it without reviewing it very much at all
  3. when I get to a stitch I don’t know, watch youtube videos
  4. don’t watch it very carefully and get it wrong
  5. eventually realize that it doesn’t look right at all, rewatch the video, and continue

I’ve been using Sarah Maker’s pages a lot, except for the magic ring where I used this 3-minute youtube video.

The magic ring took me a very long time to learn to do correctly, I didn’t pay attention very closely to the 3-minute youtube video so I did it wrong in maybe 4 projects before I figured out how to do it right.

every single thing I’ve bought

So far I’ve only needed:

  1. a crochet kit (which I got as a gift). it came with yarn, a bunch of crochet needles in different sizes, big sewing needles, and some other things I haven’t needed yet.
  2. some Ricorumi cotton (for the cacti)
  3. 1 ball of gray yarn (for the elephant)

I’ve been trying to not buy too much stuff, because I never know if I’ll get bored with a new hobby, and if I get bored it’s annoying to have a bunch of stuff lying around. Some examples of things I’ve avoided buying so far:

  • Instead of buying polyester fiberfill, to fill all of the critters I’ve just been cutting up an old sweater I have that was falling apart.
  • I’ve been embroidering the eyes instead of buying safety eyes

Everything I have right now fits in a the box the crochet kit came in (which is about the size of a large shoebox), and my plan is to keep it that way for a while.

that’s all!

Mainly what I like about crochet so far is that:

  • it’s a way to not be on the computer, and you can chat with people while doing it
  • you can do it without buying too much stuff, it’s pretty compact
  • I end up with cacti in our living room which is great (I also have a bunch of real succulents, so they go with those)
  • it seems extremely forgiving of mistakes and experimentation

There are definitely still a lot of things I’m doing “wrong” but it’s fun to learn through trial and error.

Some Git poll results Notes on git's error messages