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Crochet directions can be simplified

Dear Pat: Years ago my grandmother taught me to crochet, but she never followed a pattern and I have never learned to, either. While she could create any shape and make lovely garments, I can do only simple squares, rectangles and circles. With crocheted sweaters and blouses so popular now, I would love to learn how to make them without having to follow complicated directions that I do not understand. I find crochet so very relaxing and rewarding to do in the evenings after busy, hectic days. Can you help me? _ Frustrated from Colorado

Dear Frustrated: Your problem is shared by many others, and I usually suggest typing or writing out each row of the pattern on a separate index card, spelling out the abbreviations if necessary. A good idea is to punch a hole in the upper right corner of each card and put a piece of cord or yarn through the holes to hold them together.

The first card will give you the number of chains to make and the instructions for the first row. Taking just one step at a time, you will usually find it quite easy to understand. Complete that row, flip to the second card and follow the directions the same way.

If this doesn't help _ or doesn't appeal to you _ here's an alternative you might prefer. Find a sewing pattern that approximates the style and shape of the garment you want to make. A simple, straight-line blouse would be good to start with. You do need to have a good understanding of gauge, however. More about that later.

Cut away the seam and hem lines, as you won't need these. Also, if there are any darts, fold and tape the dart lines together, as you will be unlikely to need darts in a crocheted garment. The resulting pattern piece will be an excellent guide for you in shaping armholes, necklines and the like.

Next, with your selected yarn and hook, make a sample swatch, two to four inches square, in any pattern stitch you plan to use. Count the number of chains you make to start the swatch and count the number of stitches made on your third or fourth row. Write these numbers down. When you complete the swatch, measure it from side to side across the center, where you will get a more accurate gauge measurement than if you measure your first row. Now divide the number of stitches you wrote down for a complete row by the number of inches across the swatch. This will give you the necessary information about your gauge.

Let's say that your swatch measures three inches across, and you know that you worked 12 stitches on each row. When you divide 12 stitches by three inches, the resulting figure gives you your gauge of four stitches per inch, which represents the number of stitches you need to have for each inch in the width of any garment piece.

Then measure from one side edge to the other on the pattern piece to give you the width of the lower edge. Multiply that width by your gauge. For example, if the width of that piece is 21{ inches, you would need 86 stitches to duplicate it.

To start on the back section of your garment, work the number of chains you need for the first row, plus 1 extra if your first stitch is to be a single crochet, 2 extra if it is to be a half-double crochet, 3 extra if it's a double crochet, etc.

Work in the pattern of your choice to the point where shaping is to take place, such as to the underarm. Then, applying the same formula as above, measure the pattern piece at that point and decrease or slip stitch across at the beginning of the next 2 rows to achieve the shaping. Continue in this manner for the rest of the garment.

Flowery place mats

An interesting variation of the filet crochet technique is used to give a look of lacy eyelet "flowers" to a set of four rectangular place mats. A simple picot edging frames them.

A size H crochet hook (or any size that will give you a gauge of four double crochets to the inch) is used with double strands of machine-washable, lightweight acrylic yarn with the look and feel of silky cotton.

Finished size is approximately 14 inches by 17 inches.

To obtain directions for making the Dine In Style Place Mats, send your request for Leaflet No. Z-053093 with $2 and a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Pat Trexler Crafts, Dept. 123200, P.O. Box 419148, Kansas City, MO 64141. Or you may order Kit No. C-053093 by sending a check or money order for $19.95 to Pat Trexler Crafts at the same address.

Kit price includes shipping charges, full leaflet instructions and yarn to complete the project. Please specify your choice of the following colors: natural or white.

For kit orders only, you may call toll-free: (800) 255-6734 to order by phone.

And remember, if you would like more information on the therapeutic craft gloves we mentioned in a previous column, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the above address.

They provide relief from arthritis, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.

Because of the large volume of mail she receives, Pat Trexler is unable to answer your letters personally. However, she welcomes all questions and hints and will use those of general interest in the column whenever possible. Send questions to: Pat Trexler, Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64112.