Sunday, 2 February 2014

Cool Cotton Laura

I am loving my “Laura” top during the current heatwave conditions. With weekend temperatures forecast to be 42 and 43 degrees Celsius, this 100% cotton crocheted top is so soft and cool against the skin.

It’s great for summer and I love the fancy midriff hem.

The pattern is called “Laura” and appears in Melissa Leapman’s book Cool Crochet.* 

Completed in February 2011, it was an early foray into substituting yarns and adjusting the pattern to accommodate changes in tension.  I did not change the measurements of the garment in any way–the challenge was to see whether I could maintain the correct dimensions despite a change of recommended yarn and hook size.

On the Contents page “Laura” is described as a ‘sleeveless shell’. I had never heard of the term ‘shell’ before to describe a top.  Is this a term peculiar to the USA or Americas?  I have never come across it in Australia.

Out of interest, I checked my Macquarie Dictionary to find the specific definition. Out of 25 definitions listed for the word ‘shell’, none of them were related to clothing or textiles.  I wonder where else in the world this term is used, and what its precise definition is.

The pattern for “Laura” is on page 18 which states, "The pebbly texture of this sweet-looking shell comes from alternating single and double crochet stitches."

It is a very satisfying stitch pattern to work because it is easy to follow, even with interruptions, because double crochet stitches always get worked into treble stitches and vice versa.  It creates a lovely soft drape and isn’t stiff like solid double crochet.  I drew my own stitch diagram in the book for reference.

You might recognise this stitch pattern which goes by different names, the most common of which is ‘Griddle Stitch’.  I found references to it in various publications with slight differences in the row ends and turning chains.

Stitch Name
Source (Region)
No name
Leapman 2005 (USA)
Turning ch = 2 ch, counts as a htr stitch
Each row ends with (htr, 2 ch).
Griddle Stitch
Up and Down Stitch
Cobble Stitch
Kooler 2002, p. 138 (USA)
Has only 1 turning chain instead of Leapman’s 2 ch.
Turning ch does not count as a stitch.
Rows end with (tr, 1 ch)
Griddle Stitch
“Griddle Stitch Wedding Favor Sachets”
free pattern #80209AD, Lion Brand Yarn (USA)
Turning ch = 1 ch, does not count as a stitch
Rows end with (tr, 1 ch)
(same as Kooler 2002)
Griddle Stitch
Walters & Cosh 1986, p. 26  (England)
Turning ch = 3 ch, counts as tr st
Rows end with (dc, 3 ch), 3 ch counts as treble st
3 ch counts as tr throughout
Griddle Stitch
Knight 2008, p. 106 (USA)
Turning ch = 3 ch, counts as tr st
Row ends with (dc, 3 ch), 3 ch counts as treble st 
3 ch counts as tr throughout
(same diagram as Walters & Cosh 1986)
Crazy Stitch
Turner 2001, p. 33 (UK)
Foundation row turning ch = 2 ch, counts as st
Row ends with (dc, 3 ch), 3 ch counts as treble st
Fabric texture is the same as others.
*Publication details in Bibliography

Not only are there multiple names for a single stitch pattern, crochet terms themselves have different meanings in different places.

Like many of the crochet books available today, Cool Crochet is American and uses terms which mean different things in Australia.
Read the Pattern
The first thing I did was to read through the pattern and change all of the American terms to Australian ones to avoid confusion.

I always did this as a learner crocheter. These days, it is not so critical; I can switch between USA and AUS/UK terms easily but when fatigue hits, it is so easy to accidentally forget and make a mistake.
If a pattern was particularly complex, detailed or difficult, I would often rewrite the pattern on a clean sheet of paper for the size that I am working.  If I had to substitute any figures or modifications there would be room on the page instead of a printed pattern with crossings out or text squashed in margins.  A neat, uncluttered pattern sheet is a lot easier to read and, for me, worth the effort in the long run.
Choose the Yarn
The pattern recommends a fingering weight yarn 100% acrylic.  I substituted a soft cotton which is slightly heavier than a standard 4-ply. (Is that a 5-ply perhaps?)
I used 6 skeins of Bella Baby “Evelyn”, 100% cotton, 50g/100m per ball, knit tension 25 sts x 32 rows on 3mm needles = 10 cm x 10 cm (4” x 4”) sq. Colour: 03; Dye lot: 910391.

Swatch in Pattern Stitch to Choose the Best Hook Size
I experimented with hook size to get the effect I was seeking. I wanted the fabric to be dense enough to not be see-through. The effect had to be balanced with the most practical size hook for ease of crocheting.  There is no enjoyment if it is a struggle because the hook is too small etc. The pattern recommends 3.5 mm and 3.25 mm. The larger hook is used for the body and the smaller for the edging.

Hook Size (mm)
too small & awkward for ‘Evelyn's’ thickness
Tension swatch too small (9 cm/3.5” wide)
too tight
minimum practical size for ‘Evelyn’. Use for edging
Easier to work. Use for body.
Tension swatch 11.5 cm x 11.5 cm

Swatch for  Correct Tension

Comparing stitch tension: 3.5 mm hook & 3 mm hook
(top & bottom respectively)
I am a big fan of the tension swatch.  It is worth the extra time to take this step. Think of it as an investment where a little bit of effort in the beginning will save you from having major problems later on.
The recommended tension is pattern stitch of 22st x 20 rows = 10 x 10 cm (4” x 4”)
I could not go smaller than the 3 mm hook for the edging so used 3.5 mm hook for tension swatch. It measured 11.5 cm x 11.5 cm. Clearly, this was too big, but the other hooks were too small for practical use.
I worked out my own tension measurements:
If 22 st = 11.5 cm /4.5" then 1 st = 0.52 cm / 0.21"
If 20 rows = 11.5 cm / 4.5" then 1 row = 0.575 cm / 0.225"

Comparing row tension: (left-right) 3 mm hook & 3.5 mm hook
My row height barely changed between hooks.

Select Correct Garment Size–Extra Small
The Extra Small size listed in the pattern has finished measurements of:
  • bust 33”
  • total length (including edging) 16.74".

These are the dimensions of the Extra Small size

Draw New Schematic Customised to My Size
I don't like the visual clutter of unnecessary size measurements so drew my own schematic, adding metric measurements.
The pattern's schematic does not include the edgings so I did my own little sketch together with calculations to work out how many stitches I should get around.

Pattern Modifications
I adjusted the stitch counts in the pattern according to my tension; e.g. original pattern starts with 91 ch foundation for the back but with my tension it became 81 sts (80 sts base + 1 st turning chain).
The edging pattern is based on a multiple of 10 sts so I rounded off my tension calculations to the nearest 10 sts.
To be sure about the new measurements and to visualise the requirements for the neckline and armholes etc. I drew my own stitch diagram too.

Looking back on it I am astounded that I bothered to put so much effort and detail into it! I don't think I would have the patience to do the same today. These days I probably  wouldn't include so much detail but at the time, as a learner, I needed to be sure of every detail.

This stitch diagram guided me through modifications to the stitch counts.

"Laura" Top
Started 29 December 2010

Completed 9 February 2011
 The finished product was worth all the effort. 

It fits well without gaping at the armholes (one of my initial concerns).

It is not see-through.

It gets softer with each wash and is perfect for hot weather.

I began writing this post on Saturday morning and finished it on Sunday morning. Saturday’s temperature reached 43.4 degrees Celsius#. 
It was like being in an oven whenever I went outdoors because of the clear, dry, baking heat coming down from the northerly desert regions.

The forecast for Sunday is still 43 degrees Celsius#.  I pray that there will be no power failures (common during extreme heat) so that I can survive under the air conditioner! 
#Temperature Conversions
42°C = 107.6°F
43°C = 109.4°F
43.4°C = 110.12°F
44°C = 111.2°F



Knight, Erika, (editor), Basic Crochet Stitches 250 to Crochet, ISBN 978-1-84340-404-0 (1st edn) imprint of Anova Books Company Ltd, <>, series: The Harmony Guides, series: C&B Crafts, Collins & Brown, London, UK, 2008.

Kooler, Donna, Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet, ISBN 1-57486-282-0, Leisure Arts <>, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, 2002.
Leapman, Melissa, Cool Crochet: 30 hot, fun designs to crochet and wear, ISBN 0-8230-1124-0, Watson-Guptill Publications <>, New York, USA, 2005.
Lion Brand Yarn Company, “Griddle Stitch Wedding Favor Sachet” <>, New York, USA, 2008
Turner, Pauline, How to Crochet: the definitive crochet course complete with step-by-step techniques, stitch libraries & projects for your home and family, ISBN 185585-827-4 (hard back edn), Collins & Brown Ltd, London, 2001.
Walters, James & Cosh, Sylvia, The Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches, Lyric Books, London, England 1986.


  1. Weather update 6 p.m. Sunday: The temperature today reached 44.7 degrees Celsius (112.46 degrees Fahrenheit!. It was heartbreaking to see my garden plants scorching, drying out in front of my eyes. It is still 43 degrees C as I type right now. The overnight low last night (Saturday night) was 30.1 degrees C.

  2. 44 degrees, that's crazy!
    It makes the rain and wind we have here seems a little less bad to me ;)

    Your top looks great though, very well done.

  3. Thank you for the compliment Amber :-)
    In my part of the world, the 44.7 degree C day turned out to be the hottest day on record!