Block around the clock!

One of the things I often get asked about when working at Stash Fine Yarns in Chester is blocking.  Blocking isn’t difficult, and really is worth the effort, as it can significantly improve the look of your finished projects, especially lace shawls, as you will see…..

So, I think some demystifying is in order.  I’ll try to answer some of the most asked question in this post and give you a little photo tutorial using the Ishbel that I made recently:

What is blocking? 

Blocking is a way of opening up knitted fabric to better show off lace (curing that ‘crumpled’ look that lace has when it comes off the needles) and to stop the edges of your project curling.  It also makes knitted fabric drape better. 

What do I need to block my knitting? 

You don’t need any special equipment.  Just a couple of clean old towels (old towels are best as new towels can have lots of loose fluff on them, which you don’t want to have to pick off your knitting, and also in case your yarn loses any colour when it is wet) or foam play mats, and plenty of long rust free pins (ones with nice bright pin heads are great – you can’t miss one and leave it in your knitting).  It is possible to buy blocking wires (which you can thread through the edges of your knitting for a nice straight edge without needing lots of pins), but while these are nice and certainly make blocking quicker they are not essential. 

How do you block something? 

Basically blocking involves soaking the knitting in/spraying it with water, and then pinning it out to the measurements on your pattern schematic/blocking diagram if it has one, or if not until the lace is opened up, but not distorted. 

Here is my Ishbel shawlette before blocking:

Ishbel pre-blocking

Ishbel pre-blocking
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

As you can see, the lace needs opening out, and the shawl is curling at the edges.  It could also be with being a little bigger.

Ishbel - curling at the edges!

Ishbel – curling at the edges!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

The distinctive ‘points’ of the blocked shawlette are also not visible, only the curl.

So, on to the blocking:

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water – you could use some detergent as well if you like.  A ‘no rinse’ wash like Eucalan or Soak is ideal.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels, roughly to the dimensions you are after.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pins

Now reach for those pins – you’ll need plenty.  These pins were free with a magazine and I use them all the time.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning corners

Step 3: Pin your shawl at the 3 corners and the centre of the top edge first.  Don’t worry too much about the position of the pins, you can always adjust them later.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning points

Step 4: Pin the points of the shawl, making sure that you open out the lace, but don’t distort it.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinned vs not pinned

At this point I’ve pinned one half of the lace so you can see the difference.  Continue like this until you have pinned all the points, then add extra pins to the top edge if required.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Leave it to dry

Step 5: Step back and check that you have pinned the shawl evenly and adjust as needed.  Leave it to dry overnight (or longer).  Don’t be tempted to fiddle about with it until it is completely dry!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Blocked lace

Step 6: Un-pin your knitting and marvel at the improvement! Doesn’t it look amazing? Don’t you wish you’d done this before?
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

What if I do it wrong?

Don’t worry!  Unlike pressing your knitting with an iron (don’t press acrylic!) wet blocking (as described above) is reversible as long as you don’t over stretch your knitting to a ridiculous degree.  Just start again, blocking more or less aggressively depending on whether you wanted the knitting bigger or smaller respectively.  If you’re blocking a garment, make sure that you block to the measurements in your pattern, rather than by eye to avoid making it too big.  Also, try pinning out garments to the schematic measurements first and then misting them with water from a garden spray.  This method of pinning first, then misting with water is also good for fibres that are inclined to stretch, such as bamboo and other forms of viscose.   

I hope you feel more confident to try blocking now if you haven’t tried it before.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to answer them for you.

Lottie x

In which all will be revealed……..

Ok, so maybe that is a little ambitious…….don’t expect the meaning of life to be revealed or anything like that, but…………

………………..I’ve finished my mystery knitting!  Yay!

So, meet Marvin the Meerkat!  (Yes, that’s his name….he seemed to acquire a name even before I’d finished making him…..don’t ask)

Marvin the Meerkat!

Meet Marvin the Meerkat!

Marvin is made from the meerkat pattern in the irresistible book ‘Knitted Meerkats’ by Sue Stratford (published by Search Press) and my version is knitted in two strands of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in shades #652/Mud and #658/Fudge for the body (one strand of each, held together to give a slight marl effect), which is a darker colour than the Debbie Bliss Angel in the book, because I thought it looked more realistic.  As a result I chose a darker brown for the eyes, ears and tip of the tail (Debbie Bliss Angel#15024/Mocha) to contrast with his sandy coloured body.

I knitted him pretty much as per the pattern, although I did swap some decreases for alternatives in the interest of symmetry (I’m fussy) but this is by no means necessary.  I also used little silver lined beads for his eyes rather than black, simply because that was what I had to hand.

I spent ages trying to get his features right and sew on his legs evenly (not my favourite bit) but it was worth it.  His eyes were a bit of a faff though and I think if I made another I would knit little circles for the eye patches, rather than the squares that the pattern instructions give you, as you only have to make them look circular when you sew them on later.

Isn’t he cute?  I think all the faffing was worth it 🙂

Marvin the Meerkat!

Have you got my best side?

So, to the winners of the competition.  Thank you all for entering!  As nobody guessed correctly I have decided to give the prize to the two people who guessed that it was an animal before I revealed that was the case in ‘Can you guess what it is yet – final clues’ those people are andresue (who has a lovely blog here) and woodlandknitter (who has a lovely blog here) – you should both receive an email soon, congratulations!

Lottie x

Hmmmm……..Marvin looks a little cold……..perhaps I ought to make him a jumper?   

And the winner is…….

Drumroll please………….

………………well, as nobody managed to guess correctly, I’m going to pick the closest guesses, and those people will all receive a copy of Moon River!  So there will be two winners, as two of you managed to guess it was an animal before the last post (in which that was made common knowledge).

I’ve not actually finished the mystery animal yet (sewing up gremlins!) but all will be revealed (including the winners) as soon as it is done (hopefully by the end of the week!).

Bye for now,

Lottie x

Can you guess what it is yet? Final clues!

I’ve had lots of good guesses from you all so far, but nobody has got it quite right yet, although a few of you are getting warmer!

So I thought I would give you a few more final clues (remember, you can enter as many guesses as you like before 23:59 GMT on Friday 18th January 2013)………

So, as many of you have already guessed, it is some sort of stuffed animal (yes, I know, very silly – but CUTE!), but what animal exactly???

I’ve now knitted all the pieces, but not sewn them together, so at the moment it all looks like this:

Mystery project!

Can you guess it yet?

If you want to have a look at the rest of the clues check out these posts from earlier:

Can you guess what it is yet?

Can you guess what it is yet? More clues!

The first person to correctly guess what I am making wins a pdf copy of Moon River!

The small print (yawn):

To enter, just leave a comment or fill in the form below with your guess before 23:59 GMT on Friday 18th January 2013.  You can enter as many different guesses as you like.

Your details will remain private and will not be shared with any third-party, or used for any purpose other than to notify the winner.

The winner will be notified over the weekend, and my decision is final.  Prize will be sent by email/Ravelry as appropriate.  No alternative prize/money is available.

Good luck! 

Can you guess what it is yet? More clues!

As no-one has guessed it yet, the prize of a pdf copy of Moon River is still up for grabs!  First person to guess correctly what I am knitting wins!

So, as promised here is a new clue……..

This is what I’ve made so far, and there are a few more pieces to make yet!

Mystery project!

What could it be?

For the other clues take a look here

If you think you can guess, just leave a comment in the form below.

First correct guess wins a pdf copy of Moon River, and my decision is final.  I’ll give you until 23:59 on Friday 18th January 2013 to leave your guesses, and you can enter as many times as you like if you have more than one guess……..Good luck!

Lottie x

Can you guess what it is yet?

What do think this yarn is for……?

Mystery yarn!

Mystery yarn!

I’ll give you some clues to what I’m making……

  1. It’s knitted (surprise, surprise)
  2. You have to use two strands of yarn at once
  3. It’s made in several parts
  4. It’s from a book I got for Christmas (from my brother :))
  5. It’s not a garment……
  6. …….or an accessory
  7. But it is certainly very cute!

Can you guess what I might be making?  Leave a comment with your guess before 23:59 GMT on Sunday 13th January.

If no-one guesses correctly I’ll post some more clues on Monday.

The first correct guess will win a pdf copy of my Moon River pattern!  Good luck!

Progress so far…….part 2!

So what else did I make from my pile of yarn from Andyfest?  Well, so far only one other item, but hopefully I will get some more done this year.

I’d been thinking that I should really make an Ishbel for a while, as it is such a pretty shawlette and I love shawlettes (in case you have been living under the knitting equivalent of a rock for the past few years, Ishbel is a shawl pattern by Ysolda Teague which has acheived cult status, and at the time of writing nearly 12,000 projects on Ravelry!).

One of the *ahem* three skeins of Fyberspates Faery Wings I got at Andyfest was a gorgeous cherry red colour, which I bought with my Mum in mind.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to make anything for her, so I thought it was time to sort that out.  Quite a few people have made Ishbel in Faery Wings, so it seemed like a safe bet (Faery Wings is a bit shorter than most 100g skeins of 4ply yarn, so I wanted to be sure I would have enough).

I started my Ishbel on holiday back in September after I’d finished Rosaleen and had hoped to be able to finish in time for Christmas, but with other things to do between then and now it was not to be, however I finally finished at the weekend!

Ishbel

Ishbel
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Isn’t the colour of the yarn beautiful?  I confess that if this was for anyone other than my Mum, I would have had great difficulty in giving it away!

Ishbel edging

Ishbel edging – just look at the pretty points!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Faery wings has a beautiful drape (thanks to the high silk content) which is great for shawls, it blocks nicely (good for lace) and has a halo of mohair that just makes the fabric divine.  I even have a little bit left, which I might be able to use if I combine it with something else.

I made the smaller size, which is a nice size to wear as a scarf, and not so big that you get fed up before it is finished.

I enjoyed the pattern (I especially love the points at the end of the border) and even though it was a long time in between casting on and casting off, it didn’t really take that long to finish in terms of time spent actually knitting it instead of just thinking about knitting it!

If you’ve not made a top down shawl before, this would be a good place to start, as like most of Ysolda’s patterns, this pattern includes both charted and written directions for the lace (perfect for chart lovers and chart phobics alike).

Just two more skeins of Faery Wings to go!

Lottie x

Progress so far….

It’s been a little while since I went to Andyfest and came back with all that yarn *ahem*.

Unfortunately for the yarn/fortunately for designing I’ve not had much time for non-work knitting since then, so I’ve not made much, but actually having finished something(s) by now is quite good by my usual standards!

First, I made this lovely shawlette while I was on holiday all the way back in September.  The pattern is Rosaleen by Rachel Coopey with a skein of Easyknits Cloud in the ‘Petrolhead’ shade (I’m a bit of a motorsport fan, so it seemed quite appropriate):

Rosaleen Shawlette

Rosaleen Shawlette
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

I love the edging on this, the bottom edging reminds me of flowers and features beautiful twisted stitches (I love twisted stitches).

Rosaleen edging

Rosaleen edging

The top edging is a twisted stitch rib that ties in with the bottom edge nicely.  Did I mention how much I love these twisted stitches?

Although I finished the knitting on holiday, it is a little bit difficult to block shawls in a hotel room, and I didn’t fancy trying to take pins on a plane just for that, so it did languish unblocked for a while before I got round to that bit, hence the lack of photos until now.

It’s a great pattern and it made a good holiday knit, being in DK weight yarn it was fairly quick to do.

The yarn is gorgeous and works well with the twisted stitches and the lace, although I was cutting it a bit fine with the yardage, as the recommended yarn is quite a bit longer per skein.  I had several moments of doubt about whether I would have enough, and spent a lot of time nearer the end of the shawlette working out how I could shorten the edging if necessary, as well as nervously measuring out the remaining yarn.  So if you’re planning on making this in the same yarn I would get an extra skein, especially as I knit fairly tightly, so I tend to use a bit less yarn.

Happily though I had just about enough to finish it as per the pattern, with a tiny ball of yarn the size of a cherry tomato left over!

Come back tomorrow for the second finished item!

Happy New Year!

Lottie x