Crochet Basics: Single, Half Double, and Slip Stitch

Learn to crochet this fall!Learn to crochet this fall!Welcome back to Crochet Basics! We've covered how to get started and read a pattern, how to make a slip knot and foundation chain, and now you're ready to learn some stitches! Once you learn how to crochet these basic stitches, you can start making a fabric! You'll be equipped to try many beginner crochet patterns, such as blankets, scarves, and much more!

Single Crochet Stitch (sc)

To start Row 1, take your foundation chain in your hand (the one that's not holding the hook), and insert your hook into the second chain from the hook. Pull the yarn through the stitch so that you have two loops on your hook. Yarn over, and pull the yarn through both of those loops. Voila! Once you've completed a row, chain 1 (ch 1) and turn your work over. To start the next row, insert your hook under the first stitch and continue making sc stitches.  The stitches look like little v's, and you want to insert the hook under both strands of yarn in the v, not into th v like you would insert into the stitch on the foundation chain when making Row 1. Remember to ch 1 at the end of every row before turning your work to start the next row.

Learn to crochet this fall!Half Double Crochet Stitch (dc)

A half double crochet stitch (hdc) produces a tight fabric, and is in between the height of single crochet (sc) and double crochet (dc). To start, yarn over and insert your hook into the first stitch on the row (or into the 3rd chain from your hook). Pull the yarn up through the stitch so you have 3 loops of yarn on your hook.  To complete the stitch, yarn over and pull the yarn through all 3 loops. Before turning your work for the next row, chain 2 (ch 2) when working in hdc. To start the next row, insert your hook into the 3rd chain from your hook, which should be the last stitch from row 1. 

To show you the difference in height of the stitches, here are some swatches. The far left is 9 rows of sc, the next swatch is 6 rows of hdc, then 5 rows of double crochet (dc), and far right is 3 rows of treble crochet (tc).
Learn to crochet this fall!Slip Stitch (sl st)

Slip stitches are used when you want to move across the row without adding height, and are the shortest of all crochet stitches. It's more of a technique than a stitch. They are also used to secure stitches to make a round. They can be used in seams, and for joining two crocheted fabrics. To create a sl st, insert hook, yarn over and pull through the stitch as well as the loop that's on your hook. So the stitch is made in one motion... yarn over and pull through the stitch and the loop all at once.

Practice these stitches and make some rows, then you'll be ready to learn double & treble crochet! -Holly

Credits // Author: Holly Neufeld, Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Video: Jeremy Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Make a Distressed Wood Photo Backdrop

How to Make an Antiqued Wood Photo Backdrop I love using textural backgrounds when taking styled photos of food, DIY projects, and other fun things I do as a blogger. A textured table adds so much interest to a simple setup, and when done right, won't pull attention from the subject. But not all of us have gorgeous textured tables in our homes, and if you're like me, you might get tired of shooting all of your photos on the same ol' dining room table.

When I started blogging for A Beautiful Mess, I whipped up a textural white backdrop that I really enjoy using to photograph many of my projects, particularly the process shots. I love how the white bounces light so nicely, and I really enjoy the clean, airy feeling that a light background lends to a photo. The problem with white backgrounds though, is that they can easily make a photo feel cold and lack interest. I usually don't want my photos to look like sterile catalog images, so I steer clear of using plain white foam board or poster board to style my photos. The background that I had been using has some texture to it, but I recently decided it would be nice to have an even more textural backdrop to inject extra warmth in my photos— particularly for the upcoming holiday season!

This textural photography backdrop is pretty easy to make, and if you're a food blogger, DIY blogger, or photographer, it's an invaluable prop to have! Check out how I made it below.

How to Make an Antiqued Wood Photo BackdropSupplies:
-planks of wood (I made my old one with pallet wood, and this one with 3 1" x 6" x 8' cedar planks cut into 36" lengths.)
-2 long planks of lightweight wood long enough to reach across the planks of wood (I had 1 1" x 2" x 8' plank of pine cut in half for this.)
-wood stain (optional)
-petroleum jelly (not pictured)

-power drill
-drill bits and countersink bit (optional)
-paint brush
-metal spatula
-sandpaper in 80-120 grit (optional)
-paper towels or a rag (not pictured)

photo backdrop for food photographyThis project can be made according to whatever size you need. Food photographers could get by with a smaller board, but I needed a larger board for my projects. You can use less boards and make them longer instead of several shorter boards like I did, but I like this setup for shooting portrait-oriented shots (which I typically do). I'll share more about orienting your subject on backdrops someday soon, and it might make more sense to you then! But basically, I like horizontal lines on my styling surfaces so there aren't distracting angles/distortion in the vertical lines of the planks as they head towards the vanishing point. Horizontal lines on the board will make the vanishing point lines less obvious in a photo.

Step One: Lay out the wood planks beside each other, allowing for small gaps between each one. You should sand them first, then lay the stretchers across the planks, situating them at the edge of the planks. This will allow you to use both sides of the board as a backdrop in different colors.

How to Make a Wooden Photo BackdropStep Two: Connect the stretchers to the planks.

If you're using wood screws, first drill pilot holes into the wood and use a countersink bit to recess the screws. Countersinking the screws will keep them from scratching whatever surface you place the backdrop on. That's also why I recommend using soft wood for the stretchers.

If you're using sheet metal screws, be careful not to screw them in too far. They can drill their own pilot holes, which means if you keep pushing, they will keep going through the wood and out the other side, becoming jammed into your stretchers in the process. Sheet metal screws are advantageous though, because they can be recessed without needing to use a countersink bit first.

how to distress paintStep Three: Stain or paint the wood in whatever color you'd like to show through the top coat of paint.

I wanted a rich wood color and a rough texture, so I used cedar planks, which are more rough sawn than the other wood at the store. (Reclaimed pallets are great for this project for that reason.) Cedar has a rich color to it, so the flip side of my backdrop will give my photos a wonderfully warm backdrop. I used natural stain on the cedar because, in my opinion, it doesn't need a stain with any tint to it. Different types of wood display the same stain differently, so make sure you consider that when selecting stain.

How to distress paintNow that you've made the base of your backdrop, it's time to distress it! This is a great technique for any wood project that you'd like to give the look of aged paint.

distressed paint techniqueStep Four: Wipe a generous amount of petroleum jelly on any part of the wood you'd like to be distressed. I focused on the area where the planks meet, and also randomly wiped some in streaks across the planks.

Step Five: Paint the board with two coats of paint or until no more wood tones show through. Do not use primer— you want the paint to come off easily in the next step.

distressed paint techniqueStep Six: After the paint has cured for at least a few hours, you can begin scraping it with a metal spatula to remove the paint. I focused on the areas where the planks meet (where I had put the petroleum jelly), and then lightly scraped across the surface of each plank. Paint would easily come off where I had put the jelly.

After scraping the wood, I sanded some spots across the planks with a rough sandpaper. I didn't want to overdo it, but I did want to reveal some of the wood tones underneath without stripping off the paint completely with the spatula.

How to Make an Antiqued Wood Photo BackdropTake some pictures with your new backdrop, and if you're not satisfied with the paint job, you can add more paint or take more away. It's a very forgiving process! You may want to seal it with a matte polyurethane to avoid more peeling of the paint— but that's up to you! I suggest not using a shiny sealer though, or you'll get glare in your photos.

When you're finished, why not flip over the backdrop and do a paint or stain treatment on the other side? I haven't done the reverse side of mine yet, but I'm thinking I'll do something with a really dark stain and black paint for some moodier photos.

How to Make an Antiqued Wood Photo BackdropNow that I've been using wood plank surfaces for my photos, I couldn't imagine my blogging life without them! They're definitely worth the bit of effort to create, and yes— they're even worth the bit of storage they take up in my coat closet! What color would you paint your backdrop? -Mandi

P.S. The ingredients shown in the first picture go together to make my very favorite cocktail! Check out the recipe here at my personal blog.

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine of the Signature Collection.

Pumpkin Pie Pudding

Pumpkin pie pudding (click through for recipe)I made pumpkin pie pudding as much for the flavor as for the alliteration. I'm a kitchen poet.

Which is the lamest kind of poet you could ever aspire to be.

But this isn't about me. It's about pumpkin pie pudding, which is exactly what it sounds like, pudding that tastes like pumpkin pie. No surprises here. Except how easy this is to make.

Pumpkin pie puddingCan you stir? Good. You have all the skills you're gonna need to make this then. And it's a good one too. You're gonna want to make this for friends. Don't tell them it's really easy. Lie to your friends.

I'm just kidding. Don't lie to your friends. That's not friendly.

Easiest ever pumpkin puddingPumpkin Pie Pudding, serves 5-6.

1 large box vanilla pudding mix (and any additional ingredients needed, like 3 cups milk)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2-3 cups whipped cream (fresh or cool whip, whatever)
2 cups ground up ginger snap cookies

First make the pudding. Follow the box directions. After cooking, whisk in the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice until well combined. Refrigerate until cold.

Easy pumpkin puddingWhile you wait for the pudding to cool off, you can make the whipped cream (or use store bought, either way) and grind up the ginger snap cookies. The fastest way to grind up the cookies is in a food processor. A good blender would probably work pretty well too.

Once the pudding is cold, layer everything into cups. Put ground ginger snap cookies first, then pudding, then more cookies, more pudding, then the whipped cream on top. You can garnish with a cinnamon stick if you're really fancy.

Pumpkin pie pudding  You can make the pudding a day or two ahead of time and assemble before serving if you're making these for friends. Or eat them all yourself over the course of two or three days. I won't judge. Live your life. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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