Thursday, March 29, 2018

I-Cord With a Hook, Part 2: Self-Buttoning I-Cord

The techniques in this series were developed for I-cord made with a hook, but many of them can be adapted to I-cords made by other methods.

Welcome back to our series on making I-cord with a crochet hook. In Part 1, we learned three techniques for making a Better Basic I-cord: the Knotless Longtail Cast On, the Afterthought Column, and the loop-by-loop Bind Off.

Today we'll be making Self-Buttoning I-cord, which features a looped start and a button end, both worked in one with the cord.

Note: All variations in this series will use the Afterthought Column technique for the body of the I-Cord. See Part 1 for instructions.

What you’ll need:
Yarn (non-slippery is best, worsted weight or larger)
Yarn needle for weaving in
Optional: Extra hook two or three sizes smaller
Optional: Stitch marker

Instructions are written for right-handed crocheters.

Self-Buttoning I-Cord

This very fun I-cord makes a charming foundation row for hats or mitts. You could also use it to make some quirky yarn jewelry.

Tutorial is for a 5-stitch I-cord, but feel free to experiment with other sizes of cord. Note: the button size will change with the number of stitches, so you may need to adjust the number of chains in the starting loop.

Starting Loop
1. Leaving a 6” tail, ch 5 (see photos below).
2. Bring ends together to form flat ring, slip stitch in first ch.
3. Ch 1, tug yarn to tighten ch.
4-5. *Insert hook in ring, pull up a loop, then ch 1, tug yarn to tighten ch.
6. Repeat from * three more times – 5 loops now on hook.

7. Remove hook from loops. Leaving rightmost loop free, insert hook in second loop from the right.
8. Working from right to left, gently pull up a loop in each loop to complete the I-cord row. (Ignore that hanging loop for now.)

9. Continue working I-cord rows over these 4 loops to desired length. (See “Working the Body” in Part 1 for details). Keep gentle tension, and do not tug the cord. Your cord should be tidy on the front and laddered in the back, as in photo below.
Tip: If you plan to use this as a foundation for crochet, work 2-3 more rows of loops than the desired foundation stitch count.
10. Use yarn loop or stitch holder to temporarily secure top loops.
11-12. Inserting hook from bottom to top of hanging loop, hook up the afterthought column (see “Afterthought Column” in Part 1 for details).

Button End
Remove the yarn loop or stitch marker to release the secured loops.
Remove hook from afterthought column loop, and insert hook into the loop where the running yarn is attached (this should be the next loop to the right).
13-14. *Insert hook in next loop (to the left), yarn over and draw through all loops.
15. Repeat from * until all loops are bound off.
16. Slip stitch in first bound-off stitch. You will be working the next round into the back loops of the bind off round.

17-18. Chain 1, sc 2 in back loop of same stitch, then sc 2 in back loop of each stitch around. Optional: Sc in slip stitch for a flatter button. (See also Varying the Button Size, below.)
19. Cut yarn, leaving a 4"- 6" tail, and invisible join to next sc. (Click here for invisible join tutorial.)
20. Check that the button fits through the loop. Fit should be snug enough to prevent the button from slipping out when tension is applied to the cord.
Tip: If loop is too loose, thread the yarn tail on a yarn needle and whipstitch around the back bumps of the chain stitches, tightening as  needed to shrink the loop.

When you are satisfied that the loop fits, weave in all ends and bury yarn tails in the cord.

Varying the Button Size
  • For a smaller, firmer button: switch to a smaller hook when making sc round.
  • For a button that cups: do not sc in the slip stitch; you can also invisible join to second sc of round.
  • For a larger button: work a second round of stitches before tying off.

Ideas for Variations
  • Use the yarn tail to sew a bead in the center of your button.
  • To make a larger, more decorative button loop: use the Longtail Cast On from Part 1, and work 8-10 extra rows of I-cord. Sew the tip into a circle for the button loop.
  • To add a purchased button: use the Loop Start from this post, and finish the cord with the Bind Off from Part 1. Use yarn tail to attach button.


In Part 3 we'll tackle Open-Ended I-cord. (I had hoped to include it here, but I think this post is long enough already, don't you?)

You may do whatever you like with any items you make using this tutorial, but you may not distribute the tutorial, its text, or images, without permission. (Links are always welcome.)

Thanks for reading, and happy I-cording!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I-cord with a Hook, Part I: A Better Basic I-Cord

The techniques in this series were developed for I-cord made with a hook, but many of them
can be adapted to I-cords made by other methods.

Consider the humble I-cord: it's soft and stretchy, with good recovery; flexible, weave-able, knot-able; makes great surface embellishment; and, when used as an edging, can be subtle or bold depending on your color choice.

I-cord as edging has long been used by knitters, but crocheters too can take advantage of its stretchy softness.

There are almost as many ways to make I-cord as there are applications for it: you can use two knitting needles (double-ended or straight), two crochet hooks, a needle and a hook, a single hook, a Knitting Nancy/French Knitter, an I-cord mill, or even just your fingers. (See end of post for links to examples.)

Being a crocheter with minimalist tendencies, I like to make I-cord with a single hook. I've started using I-cord edging in some of my crochet patterns, and along the way I’ve worked out some variations on the basic technique that I’d like to share with you here.

In this series, we’ll learn:
  • Easy, innovative ways to make better I-cord with a crochet hook
  • Starting and ending variations, including closed ends, open ends, and a self-buttoning version
  • How to graft I-cord ends together for a continuous loop
  • How to use I-cord as foundation for crochet, including the best place to insert hook
  • How to add I-cord edging to crochet
  • Hook and gauge recommendations for combining I-cord and crochet

Better Basic I-Cord with a Hook Phototutorial

Take a look at these samples, both made with worsted weight yarn and a size H hook. Each sample is 4 stitches around and 10 rows long:

The lefthand sample in each photo above is decent basic I-cord, worked according to directions you can find online (just google “how to crochet I cord”). It's a little gappy at the start, a little messy at the end, and the tension is loose but fairly even.

The righthand sample is what I call Better Basic I-cord. It features:
  • Better Beginning - longtail cast on for a smooth, rounded tip
  • Better Body - “afterthought” column of stitches for firm, even tension
  • Better Bind Off - worked one loop at a time for a softy rounded end

Can you make good I-cord without these techniques? Of course! But if you've tried to make I-cord with a hook, and been unhappy with the results, these techniques might make all the difference.

Use any or all of the Better Basic I-cord techniques when making:
  • I-cord intended as decorative ties
  • I-cord that will be grafted into a tube
  • I-cord that will be subject to repeated stress
  • I-cord foundation or finishing rows for crochet

Let’s make some I-cord!


What you’ll need:
Yarn (non-slippery is best, worsted weight or larger)
Optional: Extra hook two or three sizes smaller
Optional: Stitch marker

Instructions are written for right-handed crocheters.

Knotless Longtail Cast On

Instructions are for a 4-stitch I-cord. To make a larger or smaller cord, cast on more or fewer loops, with a minimum of 3. If making larger cord, add one extra inch to the tail for each extra loop. (For 2-stitch I-cord, see this post.)

To start, wrap a 6”-8” yarn tail around your hook from front to back to front again, so the tail drapes over the running yarn in front. The two yarn strands should form a loose “V”, with the yarn tail towards you. (You can make a slipknot if preferred – just make sure that the short yarn tail is at the front.)

Tension working yarn as preferred over left fingers.

1. Hold the loop on the hook with a right-hand finger or thumb (see photos below).
2. Insert your left forefinger and thumb between the V, keeping the yarn tail in front. With the other fingers of that hand, grasp the dangling yarn tail. Spread your forefinger and thumb apart, and pull the hook slightly downwards to create tension on the V. Keep the running yarn looped over your forefinger, and the yarn tail looped over your thumb.
3. With hook, reach under the yarn tail in front of your thumb.
4. Raise the hook to form a loop.

Knotless Longtail Cast On

5. With hook, reach back, and scoop up the strand at the front of your forefinger.
6. Pull up a loop with this strand.
7. Remove thumb from thumb loop.
8. Pull on both strands, one at a time, to tighten the loop on the hook.

Repeat Steps 1-8 until you have 4 loops on your hook (or desired number).

Knotless Longtail Cast On

Working the Second Row

9. Tug the yarn tail to wrap it tightly around the base of the last loop (see photos below).
10. Without turning work, gently pinch the base of the loops. Remove the hook.
11. Insert hook into the second loop from the right, gently yarn over and ...
12. Pull up a loop. (The running yarn will pass behind the loops.) Try not to put tension on the yarn or the other loops; it’s okay to work loosely.

To finish the row: Insert hook into the next loop, yarn over and pull up a loop.
Insert hook into the leftmost loop, yarn over and pull up a loop (you can let go of all the base loops now).

Your work should look like the photo below, with 3 loops on the hook, and 1 loop hanging off to the right. (Ignore the hanging loop for now. You’ll come back to it later.)

See that hanging loop? Ignore it for now.

Working the Body

*Remove hook from the 2 left loops (1 loop now on hook; see photo below). If desired, gently pinch the base of the loops to keep them from twisting or pulling loose.
Gently yarn over and pull up a loop.
Insert hook into next loop, yarn over and pull up a loop. Repeat to end of row.**

Starting the next row

Repeat from * to ** until you have 10-12 rows, or to desired length. Keep your tension relaxed, and don’t worry if the loops look a little sloppy.

Your cord should now look like the photo at left below. To temporarily secure the live loops, loosely draw the working yarn through all the loops, letting it hang down at both sides (or place the live loops on a stitch marker).

Body of cord complete (left);
placing live loops on temporary hold (right).

The Afterthought Column

What we have now is a loosely-tensioned 3-stitch I-cord, tidy on the front, laddered on the back, and with a spare loop hanging off the starting tip. Let’s turn it into a firm and tidy 4-stitch I-cord!

You may switch to a smaller hook (if desired) for this step.

Go back to the starting tip of your cord and identify the bottom laddered strand passing behind the first row of loops (see photos below). Look carefully; it can sometimes be hard to spot.
Insert hook from bottom to top through the loop you left hanging.
Insert hook under bottommost loose strand, pull strand through loop on hook.
*Insert hook under next strand, pull through loop on hook.
Repeat from *, working up the cord, until all the loose strands have been hooked up:

Working the (planned) afterthought column

Binding Off

Remove the stitch marker or yarn loop to release the live loops at end of cord.

Cut yarn, leaving a 4” tail.

Gently draw the yarn tail up and out of the loop it’s exiting (photos below).
*Insert hook in next loop to the left, draw yarn tail up and all the way through.
Repeat from * until all loops have been bound off.
Tug the tail to settle the loops rogether.

Binding off one loop at a time

Now tug firmly on both ends of your I-cord to even up the stitches. To smooth it further, run it through your fingers in both directions.

To weave in ends, bury them in the cord.

More Tips for Better Basic I-Cord

To avoid twisted stitches, be careful to insert your hook properly into each loop, keeping the left "leg" forward.

If you do find a twisted loop somewhere along your I-cord, you can either let it ride; frog the whole cord back to that row and re-work; or fix it after the fact. To fix after the fact, release only that column of loops back to the mistake, pick up the loop again (the right way), then hook up the released column of stitches just as you did the afterthought column.

When hooking up the afterthought column, be careful not to skip a strand or insert hook into the back wall of the cord by mistake. Either of these will result in a puckered cord.

To identify which strand is the next one, follow the yarn that exits the edge loop above the row you just hooked up. You may find it helpful to insert another hook under the strands, as I did here:

Identifying the next strand

If making a long I-cord, warm up first with some waste yarn.

My I-cord always gets a little tighter after the first few inches, as my hands warm up and remember how best to hold the loops.

As with any new technique, practice is the key to comfort and success. So practice, practice, practice!


Whew! If you’ve read this far, you deserve a cup of tea. Or possibly something stronger. :)

If all these techniques together seem overwhelming, work on just one at a time. When you’re comfortable with that technique, add another. Before you know it, you’ll be cranking out I-cord that's firm, beautiful, and smooth from end to end.

In Part 2, we’ll move on to variations: open-ended I-cord and self-buttoning I-cord.

You may do whatever you like with any items you make using this tutorial, but you may not distribute the tutorial, its text, or images, without permission. (Links are always welcome.)

Thanks for reading, and happy I-cording!

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Some Examples of various I-cord methods
With double-ended knitting needles:
With straight knitting needles:
With a needle and a hook:
With a single hook:
With fingers:
With Knitting Nancy/French Knitter:
With I-cord mill:

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Trick for Improving I-Cord Tension

Here's a little teaser for my upcoming I-cord series....

I-cord made with knitting needles or a crochet hook often looks like this:

Tidy front, laddered back

The standard treatment for laddered I-cord is to tug firmly at both ends to even up the stitches. Let's see how that works:

After tugging: stitches are even, but tension is poor

Is there a way to make firmer I-cord without using a special gadget? Yes. You can try working more tightly. You can switch to smaller needles or hook.

Or you can use this simple trick:

Starting at the bottom, hook up the ladder-like strands,
one at a time, into an extra column of stitches.


Firmer I-cord

Mind the Gap: Using this trick creates a hole at the starting end of the I-cord. Stay tuned for a full tutorial that will show you how to bridge the gap.
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Monday, March 5, 2018

At Last

My cycling season ends in November, when dreary days and cooling temps make me glad to hang up the bike for the winter. December is too busy and cold even to think of riding.

It's usually January when the cycling urge begins to stir, with sudden memories of past rides flickering at the edges of thought. The longing grows with the lengthening days of February, and, when the calendar turns to March, becomes acute.

Once the roads are clear of snow and ice, the wait begins in earnest for a modestly warm day, preferably sunny and windless, and free of prior engagements.

Sunday afternoon meets nearly all the requirements: low 40s, bright and clear, morning church over and done. There's a biting east wind gusting to 23 miles per hour, but what is that to a road-starved cyclist hungering for the first mileage of the year? So Tallulah and I head out joyfully for a glimpse of 2018 from the saddle.


Almost the first thing we see is our own familiar shadow:

A shot of Miss T, who forgot her cycling helmet and is sporting a stylish winter hat:

We see pale fields resting under a late-winter sun...

...and find to our sorrow that a favourite barn has disappeared, leaving only a stone foundation behind:

Iris the bike renews acquaintance with a local bridge while I take pictures of the stream:

The wind loses its bite once we turn away from it and head back towards town.

We take one last photo - a well-loved scene of barns and trees and deep, deep blue sky:

A mile or two more, and we're home.

The first ride of the year is not only exciting, but symbolic. It meands that winter's back is broken; warmth and life are returning to the land; a year of unexplored roads awaits.


March in Wisconsin is notoriously changeable. Yesterday the sun shone, but tonight we have blizzard-like conditions. The next ride may be weeks away - but for now, this one is enough.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Report

I've been working on my Live-Loop cable book for what feels like forever, though really it's been less than a year. I wish I could say the end is in sight, but I'm not sure I've even reached the end of the beginning. There's a slowly growing pile of pretty projects completed, but many more to go. And after the designing, swatching, and crocheting of samples, come charting, pattern writing and revision, chapter writing, photography, layout.... (Whoever said "Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint" was a very wise person.)

The process may be slow, but it's been fun so far, and I've learned all sorts of unexpected things along the way.

Like how to make circular cables:

And use I-cord as both foundation and edging for crochet:

And new (to me) non-slanting stitch combinations for working in the round:

And how single crochet in its various forms makes a beautiful background for Live-Loop cables:

A few of these discoveries are reserved for the book, but many of the others will be featured here on the blog in the months to come.

Stay tuned for an I-cord series in March!


Have you ever participated in the making of a book? Any words of wisdom to share?

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