Whether you are creating lace for a trim, an amigurumi doll, a rag rug or a
sweater, when you crochet you are creating fabric. There are qualities to all fabric that need to be understood in order to create beautiful garments
that behave the way the designer or maker intend.
The greatest crochet fabric misconception is to compare crochet to knitted fabric. You cannot compare the two fiber crafts because they create very different fabric. One of the greatest mistakes we make as yarn crafters is to assume that you create crochet garments on the horizontal. I believe this came about because crochet did not originate as a means to creating solid fabric but rather lace. When crochet makers began to explore creating solid pieces of fabric they pulled on their knitting heritage and started to create fabric horizontally, left to right working from the bottom or top of a piece.
Years ago, while experimenting with crochet, I turned my crochet so it worked on the vertical (up and down), with the ridges/lines moving side to side versus up and down. Low and behold, we had a stretch that didn’t happen when the fabric was pieced on the horizontal. Why would this happen? Why would one direction affect the fabric more than another? It shouldn’t make that big of a difference, should it?
Years later I learned to weave and the answer came to me in a flash. THE BIAS!
If you have ever sewn with a paper pattern, you will remember that instructions are given about cutting on the bias or not. Bias is the term used in textile work to indicate how to make woven fabric stretch. In woven fabric, cutting on the bias means that the fibers lay at a 45 degree angle to the seams.
I promised that granny squares would merge with the discussion of crochet garment construction, this is the perfect post to marry the subjects!
A granny square is a complete piece of fabric, as are other motifs, and one that is beloved by many crochet makers. It is often used in garments and frequently used to create less fitted garments. What causes the boxy, bulky look?
Beyond the type of yarn chosen, the bulkier the yarn the heavier the fabric created, the nature of the square makes shaping the garment with same sized squares into anything other than boxy is near to impossible. If a more fitted garment is wanted, then using multiple sized squares is a must, this will vary the the stretch, movement, and lines of the garment.
You can only get so much stretch from a square, it has equal sides and the stress will pull equally as a result. You can mitigate this somewhat by turning it sideways into a diamond shape (on the bias), but physics being physics, the stress of wear will not allow a lot of give and take due to the balance inherent in the design.
More on this subject soon! Crochet fabric offers so much to us in the way of possibilities!