Episode 2: A New Hope…


Broken.

After breaking the end off the hook I was carving last Tuesday, I closed the night with my notes for a possible save.

My Wednesday morning started with preparing lunch for hubby and the kids.  Thermos full of soup, tangelos and bell peppers for the kids.  A salad with fajita chicken and turkey bacon for John.  It all needed to be cooked up fresh as we are out of leftovers to send.  It’s both good and bad.  I like “planned-overs.”  Makes lunch easier.

I was dead tired and grumpy once everyone was out the door, as I found myself gazing at dishes in the sink and only one cup of coffee left in the maker.  grr…  So I poured the last of the life blood, turned on a lecture, loaded the dishwasher and started some bacon for my breakfast.  We’ve been 9 weeks on a gluten-free, 80/20 paleo/primal diet.  And I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t miss gluten a bit.

It’s not exactly convenient, but I prefer a life cooking more from scratch than not.  Being in control of my food, my diet, my own creations.  It may not be as fast, but it sure tastes better and I feel better.  And besides, the bacon gods smiled upon me (turkey-wise that is).  Monday night I found buy-one-get-one on bacon!  So there is plenty.

Hand carving hooks is much the same to me as cooking from scratch.  The special romance between man and wood is not too unlike the one between stomach and skillet.  Especially for this project, which is far from standard and holds a lot of memories from The Grandmother Tree.  Quietly and carefully with control is all that will do.

Hour 5:

I cut the end off the broken crochet hook and worked with it to round the end.  At this part of the stick shape, there’s a slight bend, so the new rounded end was a bit stubborn against losing its boxiness.  I also needed to be careful, because that slight bend was essential to helping me salvage a new crochet hook shape out of the broken stick.  The envisioned lip lay just in the crook of that slope and I wanted to get it just right.  Mess with it too much, and the shape would be sacrificed.
I work with it for some time and finally manage to eek out the shape I want.  The top of the hook curves back and the curve assists the formation of the lip of the crochet hook.  I want the bowl to be as generous as I can make it, without sacrificing the strength of the hook.  And following the grain is the only way to do it with this piece.

Hour 6:
Consistency Is My Biggest Pet Peeve

Only the front half of the throat is size M. The rest is size N.

Wednesday is JT’s day at vision therapy.  The office is situated by a creek, so it’s easy to sit on the side of the property and work.  However, I was unable to spend time working on hooks this time and had to wait until I got home.

I polished on the shape some more and got a better hook head.  However, in testing Grandmother Tree’s hook, I found that the slope of the curve was still inconsistent in the hook’s size as it shapes to the handle.  This inconsistency is unfortunately not uncommon in wood hooks offered everywhere, handmade or otherwise.  Right about here is where so many hook designs just stop and go to market.  They have a hook shape, but they don’t have good hook design.  And this inconsistency of sizing up the throat of the hook – at minimum – is one of my biggest pet peeves in hook design.

A hook that flares out from the head is only correct in size just at the head, not through the throat of the hook too.  This inconsistency in the sizing leads to differences in your crochet’s appearance, because the top loop of any given stitch will always get stretched larger than it should be compared to the lower loops.

See what happens when a hook is not true to size from the head through the throat?

See what happens when a hook is not true to size from the head through the throat? The top loop (the one on the right will end up on top when the stitch is complete) is larger than it should be. This will change the look of the fabric this hook will create in its current condition. There should be consistency enough along the throat and/or shaft of the hook to at least keep all loops on the hook at the same size.

Grandmother Tree’s hook is currently two different sizes. The front half of the throat is size M and the 2nd half is size N.

This is not desirable – at all.  And with the wood’s natural curve, I’ll need to get creative to get the precision I want without sacrificing strength.  I have to consider the shorter length of the hook altogether and further the limitations that the curvature places on the length of the throat at all.

In order for this hook to function as a precise tool, yet preserve it’s shape, length and current strength, I will need an unusual design approach.

Stay tuned for the solution.

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8 Comments

Filed under Crochet Hooks

8 responses to “Episode 2: A New Hope…

  1. Thank you – this is a fascinating to see. Until you mentioned it I didn’t consider how the head and shaft size affect each other – even though I have done charted designs before it never dawned on me that it would affect the gauge that much (then again – I am still just starting with filet and picture work and I do tend to squash things a bit due to my tension habits – mostly bad ones)

    Now I also find myself wondering if anyone has actually wanted the stitch effect cause by the size differences between a hook and it’s shaft…
    Would the difference be enough to create an interesting stitch variation or would it just end up looking like less than perfect work? (I am thinking of metallic threads and wire just now for some reason)

    Oh – and bacon…thinking about bacon *wanders off for breakfast before work*

    • Exactly a good point Ruby2sday. My motto is always know what your tools are capable of, which will be part of my next blog post with the finished hook.

      I think a lot of us with years of experience just get used to what we do with whatever tools we use. Some folks never change out their tools. Then there are some folks like me who desire an arsenal.

      More than likely, someone’s frustrations with a pattern, yarn or technique have more to do with their tool than anything else. Certain yarns do better with certain hook designs, certain techniques are easier with different shapes. It all comes down to tools. In every other craft I know of, your tools are so important. But for some reason, at least in the US, we only focus on two main shapes – Bates and Boye.

      Now, I must clarify because focus on the tool is really two-fold. There’s the tool and then there’s the hand that uses the tool. How the hand uses the tool also plays a role, along with our muscle memory and development all the way back to childhood. It can dictate what shapes work better for us than others. The way a long time spinner holds a hook is often different than a long time quilter, or a sculptor.

      In either case, the more aware we are about what our hooks allow us to do, the more control we have in design and can not only avoid frustrations, but use that knowledge to our advantage for the work we wish to produce. THAT is better design power in crochet. So yes, absolutely we could use a wedge shaped hook to our advantage if we design around it.

      Anyway…. This is definitely one of those slices of crochet where I really geek out! ;)

  2. maryisidra

    Thank you for sharing this. I will never make my own hooks but I am finding out some useful information.Have you ever made one out of Bamboo? I hear they are nice to work with. have a Great Day. (need more coffee)

    • Hi Maryisidra,

      Bamboo hooks are currently fairly readily available, it’s economical, grows so easily and for many folks who have not used wood hooks before, they are nicer than metal on the hands. I’m very picky and not a huge fan of bamboo to use in my tools at all so far. I find them to be… ok. And my opinion is probably because I’ve simply used better.

      I have also worked with bamboo in the workshop, and so far am not a huge fan of it. In carving with it, I’ve had it splinter on me again and again and it’s only the larger sizes that seem to behave very well. I’ve had decent results making larger size Tunisian hooks, which are of course long in nature. It’s my suspicion that length is where bamboo’s strength lies and where it’s best utilized. The shorter the piece, the more trouble I seem to get out of it. And it seems to depend on how the stock piece is cut. I also find that I’m somewhat limited in what kind of hook shape I can make successfully without sacrificing strength. So far, I’ve found long shafts and long throats to work the best. So for Tunisian, definitely it can make a decent hook.

      In general, bamboo requires a different hand when working with than say walnut or oak and I haven’t been happy with the results at all with the use of a sealant. They’re just not quite as slick when “al natural,” no matter how much fine grade polishing I put on it. I really like my hooks slick. And I like to leave at least some of my hooks without use of chemicals. I use a lot of fine natural and micro fibers and a hook that is not smooth enough will either damage or cause changes in the fabric due to friction. And though you can get a satisfactory small size when using bamboo in knitting needles, the grain is not strong enough in those smaller sizes for a hook shape that can with withstand the leverage we put on it in crochet. I have made several small bamboo “hooks” that could only be used as decorative shawl pins or hair sticks. Any torque put on them with yarn and they snap. Whenever I sell these, I always put with them a disclaimer that they are decorative in nature and not “crochet worthy.”

      So I love bamboo as a cutting board or as flooring, but so far I’m not super impressed when it comes to hooks.

      Now, that said, there are several types of bamboo and I am not ready to write off the whole species just yet, nor have I stopped tinkering with it. Still, access to different types isn’t exactly easy. I’ve even worked with a variety of chopsticks looking for qualities that I can be happy with. (It’s surprising how different the bamboo even in chopsticks can be!) I am definitely open to the possibility that it may be something I need to handle a lot more to learn how the wood wants to be handled. And I haven’t learned very much about the bamboo species yet. So definitely, there’s room to figure out what it takes to become a “bamboo whisperer.” But my overall opinion on bamboo hooks readily available on the market is that though it’s worth exploring as an easily renewable wood source, the quality is currently somewhat meh.

      • Steve Mitchell

        Re: sealers on wood or bamboo.
        I’m not sure what kind of sanding sealers you have been experimenting with, but I have a couple of suggestions.
        One is to take a finish carved hook and soak the tip (or the whole tool) in a tray of CA glue, then proceed with sanding it down to the wood. This method is used by wood turners to strengthen problem places on thin wooden bowls. I’m not sure what to tell you to search for, maybe google “CA glue wood turning” or I can find some links if you come up dry on the search. CA glue is marketed as super glue and is available in thick or thin formulations–I’m talking about thin CA glue here.

        Another technique borrowed from wood turning that might give you a slicker finish is use a vacuum chamber, similar to what some people do when making wood turned pens.

        The wood is finished, sanded, then put in a small vial or tray (to get it submerged) containing some kinds/colors of liquid acrylic.
        When vacuum is applied, it draws the moisture out of the kiln dried wood, leaving empty voids.
        When the vacuum is released, the liquid acrylic is drawn into the voids and you get a wood object with its surface infused with acrylic. when that dries and cures, you can wet sand with fine grits to leave a really smooth finish.

        You probably don’t have to buy the vacuum chamber to try this out. There are hobbyists who make wood/acrylic blanks for pen turners and I bet they could be talked into finishing a hook or two for minimal cost as as trial.

        The idea to get a slicker surface by either suggestion is to fill in the surface of the wood so that after fine sanding, much more of the wood surface is filled in with a substance that is pretty slick itself.

        Regular sanding sealer for woodworking fills in the voids in the surface of wood, but is not slick, like CA glue or Acrylic is.

        • Thanks for the suggestions Steve! I have used the “super glue” technique to repair wood hooks, but not on one from scratch. I might give that a try sometime when I’m working with less than ideal wood. I’m reluctant to do anything with acrylic. There is a friction that takes place between man-made micro fibers and acrylic when you crochet, which many of us find unpleasant and some find painful over time. Almost a fingernails on chalkboard vibration. But it definitely has an affect on the fibers and textures as well. I usually avoid it at all cost. But acrylic’s use is interesting as a technique from a purely woodworking point of view. I have one hook that’s an acrylic/wood hybrid that I like OK. But no others have been good enough. That one was created by Sun Shapes, but she stopped making hooks years ago. I have had a wood and lapis hook that I liked very much, and the lapis made for a nice surface for loops to pass over, but alas, someone sat on it and broke it for me. And that is something I do not know how to fix yet. I have never used one, but some day I want to pick up a glass hook. I hear they’re like butter.

          For my own hooks, I often do not seal. I just keep them polished. For customers, I go with what they want. But usually use a walnut, grapeseed or olive oil finish.

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