Crocheting with Braille

This week Sue Brasel presented on how to use braille for crocheting and knitting projects. The group also discussed how to access BARD to download books.

July 18, 2019

Don't miss the next episode

Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille – Crocheting with Braille

Presented by Vileen Shah

July 18, 2019

Vileen S.: Let's begin. So today’s session as you all know, is going to be on using braille for crocheting. If you would ask me, I may want to say that I am, zero. A good ground zero in crocheting but, I'm curious to know more about crocheting. I'm curious to know how braille can be helpful in doing crocheting and we are so lucky to have Sue Brasel. I know Sue for over, I believe, ten years or more.

Let Sue tell you all about herself and then tell us how she got involved in crocheting and how she is using braille for crocheting. Welcome Sue and over to you.

Sue B.: Thank you Vileen. That was a nice introduction. I want everybody to know why I am speaking about crocheting. So let me begin with, as a child, I just absorbed things that were going on around me. By the time I was five I was sewing doll clothes. By the time I was six I was knitting. I got my first pair of knitting needles one Christmas. By the time I was 11, I had to learn crocheting from my great grandmother. Neither my mom or my grandmother knew how to crochet but my great grandmother taught me.

When she taught me, she said, there is a difference between English crocheting and American crocheting. And, of course, I was a smart aleck kid and I thought she doesn't know what she's talking about. We speak the same language. Well, years later, when my parents were getting ready to celebrate their 25th anniversary, I wanted to make them bureau scarfs to replace the ones that were wearing out that they had gotten as wedding presents. I actually found a book that had the same pattern as their bureau scarves from years ago and I bought the book. I brought it home. I started crocheting and the picture on the book did not look at all like what I had worked up. So, I went in the front of the book and found out that the book had been published in England and it's the same technique when you're crocheting but the names of the stitches are different. So that tells you a little bit about how I have come up through crocheting.

When I had better sight, I also would look at something that was crocheted, figure out the pattern, and go home and make it. Now it's not quite that easy to feel how many single crochets and double crochets there are but, I still have the love for crocheting. For any kind of handcraft. Actually, when I became Braille Student of the Year in 2016, I, as part of my presentation, gave Vileen a pine needle basket. I hope he remembers that occasion because I was the first student to ever give the people who did so much for me as far as my learning braille goes and I gave Vileen a pine needle basket.

So, anyway, getting to how you can use braille to crochet, I looked up and I found that on BARD, which is the National Library Service, that you can go to, buy yourself and check out books, that basically you use BARD for audiobooks. So I did find out that BARD does have audiobooks but as you scroll down that list, down at the very bottom, they also have some books in braille that pertain to crocheting. I have not checked any out. I do have a braille book that is about crocheting. It's about granny afghans.

An afghan, by the way, is a crocheted or knit blanket. Then I also went over, and some of you have access to it, some of you may not even realize that it exists, and it's a thing called Bookshare. It has books available for blind and physically handicapped. I found a lot of books that are available for crocheting. I checked out one of them. You know, I downloaded it and I have it on my computer but I really didn't get into it to do much with it. Knowing that I was going to be making this presentation, I found the book that had been sent to me several years ago about making granny afghan squares and I started reading it. When you look at a crochet pattern, one of the things that you find out is that the terminology in print is the same terminology as you use in braille. So, when you see, SL, it isn't just a mistake. SL is slip, as in slip the next word would be stitch. So you do have to familiarize yourself with some of the short forms of the stitches, that the names of the stitches themselves and you can go on.

One of the things that I am most impressed with is when you make a circle. Like if you're making a hat for someone, you make a circle. You can either chain some stitches and join the stitch that you just made to the original beginning stitch and have it form a donut shape ring or you can wrap the yarn in such a fashion that when you pull the yarn through with your crochet hook and start working around that circle, you pull that end piece tight, and it closes the circle for you. That is really convenient when you're talking of the top of a hat because one of the things that I dislike about starting a hat with that circle in the middle is that "Oh, that's a good place for the snow to fall or raindrops to hit when you're out taking a walk in colder weather". Actually, some people make summer time hats. I've never made one. I've just worked on the kind for winter use but, I, like I say do all kinds of crafts.

So, I not only do crocheting the typical way. Let's put it this way, to knit or crochet or to cro-knit, you're using one strand of yarn and a hook or, in the case of knitting, it's needles, but it's all in one strand. So, if you drop a stitch in either crocheting of knitting, it's gonna pull back to however far you happen to pull it. Sometimes it goes back to the very beginning because you weren't careful. When you're cro-knitting, that is the kind of thing that you do in a different fashion and it doesn't come out nearly as quickly as if you're doing regular crocheting.

I have not checked, but I'm sure there are books on cro-knitting that I could probably pull up and if not, for anybody who wants a book in braille, you can request that your library find a book. Maybe they are able to find one and maybe they aren't able but, they won't know what we would like unless we make our requests known. So remember that, whether it's a book about some craft project or whether it's a book about a mystery you want to read or a love story or an inspiration book. I have found my library for the blind very helpful in getting answers about different books that I would like. Sometimes I get the answer that no, it's not available, so be prepared.

Vileen, do you think anyone has questions for me?

Vileen S.: Oh, are you done saying, okay. Okay. All right, great, sure. Let's open the floor for questions.

Leeanne F.: Sue my question for you is could you explain what cro-knitting is because I think that's a term, it's new to mean, I've heard of it in the past couple of weeks, but not before then. So, if you could explain what that is, I would really appreciate it.

Vileen S.: Leeanne what do we call, cro-knitting?

Leeanne F.: Cro-knitting.

Vileen S.: Oh, okay.

Sue B.: Okay. Cro-knitting is where you have one strand of yard, you have a hook that has the hook on one end but it's the length of a typical knitting needle. Like knitting needles, it can be different in size around. For instance, a size eight is going to be smaller than a size ten. It all depends on what project you're working on. What you do is you pick up stitches and you have a bunch of stitches on your hook and then you start working them off, two at a time, depending on what your pattern is. When it is completed, some people will actually mistake this for knitting and some people will see it as crocheting. So it has a dual appearance.

I hope I have described it a little bit for you. Really the best way to get an idea of what it is, is to actually feel a sample. If you have sight, you could see it but, if you are lacking with enough sight, you might not, you know, tell the difference. But, you know, if you can feel it, you would see that the two sides of cro-knitting are different, as they are in knitting. If you have, for instance, in knitting it's called a stockinette stitch, which would be smooth on one side, on the front side, and bumpy on the back side. The same thing can happen with cro-knitting. Did I answer your question Leanne?

Leeanne F.: You did, thank you. I guess I have one quick follow up question. Are there actually patterns for cro-knitting as there are patterns for knitting and patterns for crochet? Are there independent patterns just for cro-knitting?

Sue B.: There are. I do not know, like I said earlier, if you can pull them up through BARD or through Bookshare. I know that you can pull up patterns from places that sell these hooks. But, if you've got vision problems, you either have to have someone who is able to see the difference and have you be able to then write it in braille or you have to have one of those, what are they called, CRT's, where you put your book down and it's magnified on your screen so you can read it if you can see print.

Leeanne F.: Right.

Vileen S.: Great. Leeanne is sighted, but Sue the way you explained certainly the people with no vision or vision loss can also understand a lot. Like I said I am zero in crocheting, but I am getting much idea despite that. Good explanation, thank you.

Michelle: This is Michelle. Can you hear?

Elyse: Yes, there you are. Hi Michelle.

Michelle: Okay. Just a question. Thank you so much Sue for starting this. I'm very much, well don't very much at all about crochet. Can you tell us the difference between crochet and knitting and from a braille perspective, how do you use some basic techniques to just get started? Thank you. Over.

Sue B.: Okay. The difference between knitting and crocheting is that knitting is done on either two needles or four needles which means they have a point at one end and a stopping mechanism on the far end. The stopping mechanism is usually just a piece of metal that has the number on it for whatever size knitting needle you're working with. You can also work on four needles at the same time. Three needles hold your work and the fourth needle is for knitting and it actually becomes one of the needles in the knitting process as you're working it.

I hope I didn't confuse you. Typically, a four-needle pattern is going to be used for making mittens or socks where you've got that tube shape and you don't want a seam in it.

Crocheting on the other hand because of the nature of crocheting does not make tubes until after you have made a circle and then you're coming down a tube as in a hat which has that piece that is big enough to make a circle over your head and then you pull down the rest of the hat over your ears. As far as knowing knitting or crocheting, I would assume, that some of these books are so basic that you would get the how-to instructions. And, if you have any sight at all, you might want to go on YouTube and see a demo to go along with whatever a book is saying. If you have no sight and have to go by book instruction only, you can do it. It will be much more challenging and if the book is well written, they will give you what you are supposed to do and what might happen if you have not gotten it quite right.

For instance, in knitting, typically you are going to go into the front of the stitch, work around your needle, pull the needle down and then take that stitch off of one needle and it's onto the next needle. In crocheting, you're going to go through a piece of yarn, which is called the stitch, you're going to hook it over your crochet hook, pull it through that stitch, and you have the next stitch. With crocheting, typically you're going to work with just one stitch at a time. With knitting, or cro-knitting, you're working with multiple stitches at one time. Have I explained it enough for you Michelle?

Michelle: Very very thorough there. I will just add this, what about if you were, is it considered an afghan, would you knit an afghan or crochet an afghan or you know, like a throw over a couch or a bed?

Sue B.: Yes. A knit or crochet piece can be an afghan. For some reason it's not called a blanket when it's knit or crocheted. The same as a quilt is only when something is actually quilted and not just a blanket. A blanket is just a covering. Did I answer that question?

Michelle: Thank you and you are very thorough. Thank you so much.

Vileen S.: Thank you so much. Okay let's see who is the next person to ask a question.

Jasmine: Okay. So, I'm making, crocheting a blanket for my braille teacher, named, in Iowa that I had and I want to show my appreciation. I want, I'm making him a blanket to thank him for everything he's done for me. I want to put his name on it in braille when I'm done. My question is, is there any creative way on how I could do that?

Jasmine: Over.

Sue B.: Okay. I think what you're asking is you've got your whole piece worked up and now you want to braille this person’s name on it. That would be similar to, in sewing an embroidery, there's a thing called a french knot or gosh, what is the other term? It was popular back in the 80's. Anyway, what I would do, I would stick the crochet hook up between your stitches.

Vileen S.: Next question.

Elyse: Yes, the next callers number begins with 480. I'll go ahead, unmute you. What's your name please?

Kayla: My name is Kayla. I have an idea for the last girl for how to do the braille.

Vileen S.: Uh-huh (affirmative). Good.

Kayla: You could crochet circles and then you could sew them, like use a, one of the bigger plastic needles, the embroidery needle or tapestry needle and sew them on in the order for each letter. Does that make sense? So then they'll be tactful. So if you want to do it across the whole blanket, you can make larger circles, or if you just want it in a corner, you could do smaller circles and then just hand sew them on with a needle. [crosstalk] Like when you're done with the -

What I would do, is like, when you're done with the circle, leave like a really long tail and then use that to sew it on where you want them. And maybe use safety pins to pin them in place so that they're all lined up correctly before you start sewing. To make sure you have enough room and everything. That's one of the ways I would do it.

Sue B.: That might work.

Kayla: Does that make sense?

Sue B.: It makes sense where you would-

Kayla: It also depends what kind of stitch is the blanket made out of, whether or not you can sew onto it.

Sue B.: Right. Very much so.

Kayla: So if it's like a single crochet you would be able to but if you're using a triple or a double, you might not be able to do that. But-

Sue B.: I agree.

Kayla: I've done braille in that way on things before.

Sue B.: Okay. Well thank you for the suggestion.

Vileen S.: Thank you. Yeah, it's interesting. Good.

Elyse: Wonderful. Our next person in line, I'll go ahead unmute you. Go ahead.

Brian: What about sewing on buttons or pearls in an area to do the tactile name?

Sue B.: That would be a very good option. Buttons might be a lot easier to feel. If you're working with something like a little pearl, or a little one, it would slip right in between but a button would stay on top of your work.

Brian: Yes. Just something you found at Steinmart.

Sue B.: I'm sorry. Say again.

Brian: I'm saying, just something you found at Steinmart. Something that you liked, that he could feel but at the same time it could be affixed to the blanket.

Sue B.: That's why I really think a button sounds like a very good solution.

Elyse: We have another person. Their phone number starts 425. What's your name please?

Dana: Hi. My name's Dana and this is the first time I've been on a call.

Vileen S.: Oh. Welcome.

Dana: Thank you very much.

Vileen S.: Welcome here. Feel free to ask. Yes.

Dana: I have a question about the braille and BARD as well as a crochet question. So I'll start with a crochet question going backwards. I now don't see except for a little light and I knitted a long time ago and I crocheted a long time ago. I would like to make a pair of fingerless gloves and I was wondering would I do better to try and find a knitting pattern or a crochet pattern?

Sue B.: I think that whichever you feel more comfortable with, knitting or crocheting, that would be where you should look for a pattern. If you are doing the knitting, you may consider working on the four needles, and that sight is going to much more challenging just because you'll have more needles to drop stitches off of. If you don't mind wearing fingerless gloves with a seam, go either route. Did I answer your question?

Dana: Yes, but, another question. Do you think it's, if your blind, do you think it's easier to crochet or to knit?

Sue B.: I don't rate them as far as which is easier because I've always done them. You know, if you look back, I have been knitting for 50 some years and crocheting for 50 some years, so, I'm very familiar with either one of them. I don't think one is hard and one is easy. I'm just so used to going either direction.

Vileen S.: So Sue, in other words, it's an individual preference.

Sue B.: I think so. Very much so.

Dana: Thank you.

Vileen S.: Okay. It's what you like or what you feel comfortable or what you enjoy doing and that's the option you want to go for. Right?

Dana: Thank you for that answer. And my second question is, I'm just double checking, if I were to check a book in braille out of BARD, in order to read it, I need a braille display, correct? Over.

Vileen S.: Sorry. Is that, a braille display for what?

Dana: If I checked out a book on BARD in braille, how would I read it? I mean, when I check out books, I usually, I just order audiobooks and I listen to them but for a braille book, don't I need a braille display?

Vileen S.: I doubt. Yeah, unless, you can certainly get books in hard copy braille, that's what I call. An actual book can be mailed out to you and you can read them on braille papers, papers rather, sorry.

Dana: Okay.

Vileen S.: Okay. So, not necessarily. No, braille displays are very expensive and not many people can afford. So, but of course, if you have a braille display and you if you download a book from BARD, you can slowly read it using a braille display but you don't need it. However, let me get more information from other people. I think Allen is one of the persons, [inaudible], Sue Brasel, anybody else, Leeanne can, Linn can help you, and many more. Yes.

Sue B.: Okay, this is Sue, and yes, I agree with Vileen that when I want a braille book, I just call my state library for the blind and ask them to send it my way. I have actually gone so far as to request a book and found that my library doesn't have it and they reach out to other libraries to get the book that I need if it's available even in braille.

Does that answer your question?

Vileen S.: Yes, very much. Good.

Dana: Yes. Thank you very much.

Vileen S.: Okay, let's see. Anybody else.

Darrin: This is Darrin.

Vileen S.: Yes, Darrin. Yes.

Darrin: Just to let you know a bit more about it. Yes, you sign up through your talking book service and then they'll work with whatever partnered library to get the braille materials to you. For example, in Idaho, we use the braille library in Utah and then I can actually call them up and I can request the title and then they'll come to me in these nice nifty little big black boxes. So if you buy it, if you get one book that's three volumes, you get three of these boxes, one volume per box. They are documents in a binder. If you want to go to the electronic route, yes, you have to have a braille display but, you also need to work through the BARD mobile app that's in iOS. So, how I do it with mine is I open up the BARD mobile app. I can go in, I can download a braille book that loads on my device and then I can then read it with a braille display. And now I have similar functionality as I would, I can use the same app for audiobooks as well. For those of you wondering, "How am I gonna be able to get a braille display?", they're still in the works but the library service that they are trying to, or at least the next phase, is to be able to distribute braille devices for all of those who want them. They are probably coming in, probably the next two to three years. There will probably be a device that you can check out.

Vileen S.: Yes.

Darrin: I hope that helps. Over.

Vileen S.: Good. Yeah. Carry on. Oh sorry. I didn't want to interrupt but I wanted to support your statement Darrin. Yeah, okay, that's what I heard too. So, sooner or later, we will get braille display, like what we get now, DTB from the NLS. So that will be a great time when we get started getting that. Okay. Good.

Darrin: Thank you.

Vileen S.: Yes. All right. So, do we have any other question? Of course we are reaching the end of this session, but I'll just quickly take one question if at all someone has.

Leeanne F.: This is Leanne again. I just had another quick response to Dana regarding what's going to be easier to start with crochet or knitting when it comes to a fingerless glove. Instead of double pointed needles, using four of them for knitting, you can always use a small circular needle when knitting fingerless gloves and it's much easier to do because all of your stitches are on this continuous circle. It's kind of like a cord, a plastic cord if you will, and then both knitting needles are attached, one on each end. So you never lose your stitches and it's a circular stitch, it's very easy to do in comparison to using the double pointed needles. Especially doing it without sight. Fingerless gloves are typically one of the first things that people learn how to make if they're taking classes at a local knitting store. A lot of times the fingerless glove is a beginner project and they also use the double, the circular needles to knit those.

Vileen S.: Great. Thank you so much Leeanne and thank you for joining. We need you here.

Leeanne F.: Well thank you for having me. Thanks.

Vileen S.: Yes. All right ladies and gentlemen. I think it's now time to wrap up this session.

Thank you everybody once again and I look forward to seeing you next Thursday at 11:30am, Central Time. You all have a good week ahead and a good weekend and talk to you again. Bye now.