Those Pesky Ends (also called tails, strands)
When you begin a project, you make a slip knot, leaving a longish tail. I suggest at least 6″. My friend Pam suggested leaving the length from your wrist to the top of your middle finger. I think that’s a great idea! Most everyone has a wrist and fingers so if your ruler is not handy, it’s a fine measurement. Thanks to Pam for that tip. Just fyi, that length on me is 6 1/2″.
Here’s what to do with that end, the tail you’ll have at the end of your work after finishing off, and any of those that show up in between.
Moving on to the other kind of ends. You have finished that beautiful afghan. You have crocheted the last row and finished off. Oh, it took soooo long but it really came out great! Dad (Mom, Hubby, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Brother, Sister, Friend, Boss…) are going to LOVE it! But wait, what’s that? You didn’t sew in the ends? Bummer. Then you are not finished and depending on your pattern, you may have just a few, or a whole lot of, ends to sew in which may take an hour or a few days to take care of. If you are working on a project with a deadline – don’t forget to account for time to sew in the ends and do the edging etc. This will sometimes take several days if you have limited time for crocheting.
Here are some generalities about taking care of those pesky ends.
First, when you are getting near the end of your project and you have not taken time to sew in your ends, start being really nice to everyone in the house who can hold a needle. Fill the house with cookies, their favorite dishes, sleepover guests, whatever makes them happy. Then look very sad and sigh a lot. They will want to know why you are doing this and you, of course, will note that you have all these ends to sew in. If only you were 2 people, or 3 or 4, it could be done so quickly. Okay, that probably won’t work, but sometimes you might be able to get a child, usually a daughter, who might have pity on you and give you a hand. Don’t count on it though. 🙂 Most of the time it will be you sewing in those tails.
Seriously now – a few points:
1) When you sew in your ends, please try to make it as invisible as you can. The invisibility factor may be a tough one – especially if you are using variegated yarn. Sometimes it is nigh on impossible. Just do the best you can.
2) Sew ends in on the wrong side of your work. That makes it easy for you to make sure you did them all and none are sticking out after washing, and it also makes for a nicer, finished look when displayed with the right side showing.
3) Don’t just sit your white yarn on top of your navy blue yarn and think no one will notice. Take the time to go up a row or find some way to hide that yarn. Make sure it is SECURE.
4) I am a believer in leaving super long ends (6″ or longer) and sewing in as much of them as possible (go in one direction, turn around and go back in the other). I keep my afghans a long time and I want others to enjoy theirs for a long time as well. Remember that people who do not crochet will still wash their afghans and little pieces may stick out every now and then. If they clip the pieces and you only left a small strand, soon there will be little left and it may come apart.
5) Pay attention to the way your fabric stretches.
6) Also, I suggest that you don’t sew over two strands at once because it gives a bulky look. You might like to sew over one of the strands and then bring the other one up to the next row or round, and sew over it there. You would thread the second end, weave it through the stitch above it and then lay it across the row or round you are currently working on. The exception to this might be in working tapestry crochet.
7) When I talk about threading the needle here, I am talking about the long, rather thick needle – I like the steel #16, 2″ needles. I keep a pack in my crochet bag. The ones I have in there now say Susan Bates, 2″, 5cm, No. 16. I find these are not too sharp and just long enough. That doesn’t mean you can’t like a different kind or size. That’s just what I use. I am always losing them so I have several Chibi containers and others in my crochet arsenal.
8) Don’t pull too tightly as you weave or your work may pucker.
Here are several different methods I have used to hide those ends. You may find others as well.
The experts (people smarter than me) usually suggest you go a few inches in one direction and then weave back in the other direction. In this case, you thread the needles and work your yarn through the center of your stitches in one direction. Then turn around and go back in the opposite direction – be sure you are not undoing what you just did. You might go around a stitch. One organization calls this the S method and has you go back and forth along the same horizontal row three times. I will sometimes go up or down(to the row above or below) through a stitch and then go back the other way.
Some of you will notice that the pink and white afghan is upside down. Sometimes I do sew my ends with my work upside down as I prefer to sew right to left. (That may be strange. I really don’t know as I’ve always had that preference.) You do it whichever way is the easiest.
At this point, I turned my work around so that the previous top was on the bottom.
See that strand on the far left in the picture. That is the second strand from the joining. It just happened in this case that I had a knot in the yarn and had to clip and join in the same color here. I left that piece in the picture so you could see how far I went in both directions. In the second picture, can you tell where the yarn was sewn in?
Method 2 (variation of Method 1)
Thread your needle and go up and down a few stitches, rather than left to right or right to left.
Just keep going up and down through the stitches until you’ve gone through a bunch of them.
This is for those of you who want to get rid of some of those ends as you go.
Joining and end tails go hand in hand so to speak. In this view, you take the yarn that matches the color of the row you are going to be working on (very important) and pull it up and to the left, laying it over the work between chain-1 and the first stitch.
Place your hook in your stitch, going under that strand you just pulled up. Sew over it for a few stitches (say 3) and then thread your needle as noted before. Insert your needle behind the front loop of the next stitch, and come out the bottom. Continue in that manner for about 4″. I like to do several stitches at once, inserting my needle over and under several front loops at a time and then pulling through. When I’ve gone far enough, then I clip the thread and stretch the piece just slightly so that the end goes into the fabric. (You may choose to go down and up each stitch individually, which is fine.) Then I go back and pick up my crochet hook and continue to work the pattern, going through both front and back loops and working over those woven in ends. The ends are invisible – if it is done with same color strand – and tucked firmly into place.
Here are the steps in pictures:
That is one method of taking care of those “pesky ends” if you want to do it as you go along instead of at the end when you have finished your project. Even if you only do some of your strands as you go along, you’ll have less of a challenge in front of you as you work to finish that project. Obviously, when you join yarn there are going to be two strands – one will match the last row, and one will match the upcoming row. When you do that second strand you can pull it up and do the same with it.
Another means of crocheting over ends as you go -Lay your strands over the top of your stitches, sort of angling them down a bit so they are well covered, and continue crocheting.
Also crocheting as you go – Weave your strand in and out of the front or back loop of the stitches on the row you’ve just finished. Then you will crochet over them as you make the stitches for the next row. This gives you double protection and is better than just laying them over, but does take a few extra seconds to do.
Of course, after you’ve finished each of these, I am sure you realize you must clip the yarn. I usually wash my afghans when I’ve completely finished them. Then after they come out of the dryer (low heat), I check for any ends that are poking out and clip those. Then I feel good about giving it away. 🙂
Beth Ham has a unique method of sewing over tails in the granny square. She has a video at YouTube so I will just let her demonstrate this method to you. YouTube is a wonderful place to find videos demonstrating various crochet ideas.
If you are working with afghan stitch, Cindy Murray demonstrates a method of weaving in ends.
I’m sure there are other methods out there as well.