Drape & Crochet: What it is and how to achieve it.

One of the greatest myths in regards to crochet is this: One cannot achieve drape in crochet.

After a zillion and one arguments online regarding the topic, CLF members begged that we have a page dedicated to the topic of drape; What is drape? How to achieve drape? and Examples of drape. We ran a competition called “Baby Got Drape.” The photos on this page  are from people who courageously entered their items to display that indeed drape can be achieved in crochet. More photos will be added when I actually get more drapey photos of my own taken.

Let’s discuss drape then, shall we?

Even solid crochet can produce drape.

Even solid crochet can produce drape.

Drape as per the definition from Answers.com

v., draped, drap·ing, drapes.

 

v.tr.

  1. To cover, dress, or hang with or as if with cloth in loose folds: draped the coffin with a flag; a robe that draped her figure. See synonyms at clothe.
  2. To arrange or let fall in loose folds: draping the banner from the balcony.
  3. To hang or rest limply: draped my legs over the chair.

v.intr.

To fall or hang in loose folds: arranged the cloth to drape over the table legs.

n.

  1. A drapery; a curtain.
  2. A cloth arranged over a patient’s body during a medical examination or treatment or during surgery, designed to provide a sterile field around the area being examined or treated or around the operative incision.
  3. The way in which cloth falls or hangs: adjusted the drape of the gown.

Fearless Leader says: Drape is not about whether fabric has holes (such as in lace) or is solid. Drape is not about stretch memory, as most woven cloth will drape depending on the cut of a garment or item (ie: drapes, curtains, table cloths). Drape is about how fabric FLOWS.

The question was posed on our Ravelry group forum, is it fair to have lacey items involved in the competition because you automatically get drape with lace. This is a misconception. You can get drape with lacey fabric in crochet, but as in solid fabric production, depends on the yarn and hook size employed in the creation of the fabric.

CLF Member Ms. Busyfingers proves lace and drape.

CLF Member Ms. Busyfingers proves lace and drape.

The misconception that crochet cannot create a drapey fabric, is because of the trend of writing patterns with worsted weight yarn and a hook size about 1 size too small for the yarn to achieve drape! Items that can stand on their own, that do not flow at all, have no drape.  So, when you are making a sweater out of a yarn that has little give to start with (think of some of the older acrylic yarns), with a G hook, you are going to end up with sleeves that can walk around town on their own, and pose as table legs.

To achieve a drapey fabric you have two things to consider.

A) Fiber used in the yarn. No one fiber is superior to another, however certain fibers are more likely to achieve certain expected results. 

Fibers that help achieve drape regardless of yarn weight: Cotton, Linen, Silk, Alpaca, Merino wool, Mohair, Angora Rabbit, Bamboo, acrylic, nylon, polyester (depending on refining process), Tencel, Any of the superwash wool (they remove the stretch), non-elastic fibers in general.

Yarn weights: Any yarn weight can achieve drape. However, you need to consider the hook to yarn width ratio.

Hook size: Depending on your own personal tension you may need to go up to 2-3 sizes of hooks larger than called for on the yarn band (if that yarn company is good enough to list the hook size). If a hook size is not listed, I take my hooks and start measuring up from the hook size that the yarn fits most comfortably in. Meaning, if the yarn can stick perfectly in the top of the hook head it is the exact size, work up from that. (Example: If a sock weight fits a D perfectly, I use an F or G to achieve drape.)

So now that we have some construction information down, lets handle the whole textured stitches argument! There are those who would say that having textured stitches in crochet will negate drape! Not true at all, textured stitches will no more remove drape in crochet than they will in knitted garments. You have to take into consideration, once again, hook size and material used. This photo of a crocheted cabled sweater shows that indeed drape can be achieved.

CLF member Hapikamper shows us that indeed texture and drape work!

CLF member Hapikamper shows us that indeed texture and drape work!

Most afghans are drapey by nature, when they are not, it is because of the hook to yarn width ratio. Any time you have a large piece of fabric there should be SOME drape.
Remember drape has nothing to do with how stretchy a fabric is! In fact the best drape really comes from woven fabrics, thus brocade fabric was a popular weave for what we now call Drapes, or curtains, and for many of the intricate and fabulous costumes of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries!
I once had the pleasure of putting on a dress from the 1600’s which was owned by a countess in Brussels. The brocade fabric was very heavy, but even with the bulk, it moved and flowed.
Drape does not mean gossamer, it just means movement.  Gossamer is romantic and beautiful, and obviously not stiff, but it is not the only kind of drape.
This lacey shawl shows the drape that is seen in large pieces of fabric.

This lacey shawl shows the drape that is seen in large pieces of fabric.

Open work patterns help stiffer and larger weight yarns "open" up.

Open work patterns help stiffer and larger weight yarns "open" up.

So, how do you achieve drape? Every designer is going to tell you the same thing. Swatch, swatch, swatch swatch. Don’t just accept the gauge listed in a pattern, Doris Chan has written some fabulous articles on tension in Interweave Crochet Magazine. Check out the Winter issue!  Her designs also show fabulous examples of drape.Your personal tension is going to be a huge factor. Do you have loose or tight tension? Do your swatches end up floppy or hard. Floppy is indicative of drape! When trying to make a sculpture floppy isn’t always a good thing. Notice most amigurumi are not floppy, because you need the structural aspect of crochet and tight tension. When making garments, you need a little drape at the least! So, make sure you have a least a little flop!How much material is in a garment also counts on drape. Obviously a pencil skirt will have different drape needs than a full or pleated skirt!Suit jackets need less drape than a car coat!Think about what you are making, how you want it to move and what looks you want to achieve.Alison aka Smurf gives an excellent example of her thought process on making this scarf!  This photo beautifully illustrates the drape of the scarf.

6 responses to “Drape & Crochet: What it is and how to achieve it.

  1. Cool and useful article. There’s a cardigan I want to make that looks a bit stiff in the photo but the style is so nice I’m hoping to find a different yarn that will add more “drape”. Thanks for the info!

  2. Hook size plays a major factor. A lot of the “kitchen cotton” yarns would work up fabulously drapey if you say use a K hook 🙂

  3. M. DiMarco-Temkin (@BluePomGirl Twitter)

    Brilliant article on drape and a great reminder about hook to yarn diameter ratio…Back to that worsted weight bamboo/wool blend yarn…and a big hook…and a few new swatches. Love your blog!

  4. Is your red flower (poinsettia, I think) crochet pattern available?

    • Do you have a link to the picture? I have a free pattern of an Irish Crochet Rose, but I don’t remember a little red flower ;D Doesn’t mean I didn’t make one, just means I have no clue if I wrote a pattern for it ;D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s