Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Blocking is the use of moisture and/or heat to stretch your project into the desired shape. It's often done with a steam iron, which is what I used to make the shape of the throw pictured below more regular.



Sometimes it's used to make things lie flat that don't want to. For instance, things knitted in stockinette stitch can be blocked to reduce how much the edges roll.  In the throw pictures above, several of the cables segments bunch up like ribbing, and blocking the blanket helped flatten them out.

Other times, it's used to stretch a piece into a desired shape. Lace is often blocked to bring the design into focus, make it lie flat, and force the edges into the desired shape. This is done by wetting the piece (with water or with water mixed with starch or glue) and pinning it out on a blocking board into the proper shape.

In the case of the blanket (above) the cable patterns had different gauges from the seed stitch squares, so the different pieces had different widths, despite being the same number of stitches across. Since the yarns I used were all pure wool, I could just lightly steam iron it to flatten out the cable panels and achieve a more regular overall shape.  If the yarns had contained any synthetic fibers, I would have been much more careful, using a lower temperature in the iron and possibly even some kind of thing barrier between the iron and the blanket. 

Blocking can also be used to help even out irregularities in gauge, which can be visible in fairisle knitting, in pieces made both in rounds and rows, or when the knitter has a different gauge on the knit and purl sides. On sweaters, blocking is often used to flatten out seams. 

If I had been doing things properly, I would have blocked the pieces of my blanket before seeing them together, which would have made the finishing work easier. 

Garments made from machine washable fibers are often out through the washer and dryer instead of being blocked. Items made from delicate yarns or yarns that are very fuzzy can be harmed from blocking and usually don't need it. Still, knowing how to block is a useful tool in any knitter or crocheter's belt.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Finished edge? Or not?


The problem

A friend just asked me to look at a vest she had knitted. Most of it was just fine, but she was unhappy with the armhole finishing. The armholes were too snug because the ribbing pulled them in.

When I took out the ribbing, I saw the problem.

But first, some context: One really neat trick knitters love is a way to make the row-ends look finished without any fuss.  If you slip the first stitch of every row, the edge ends up looking neat and finished. Great tip. Works well.

Alternately,  it works if you slip the last stitch -- but not the first stitch -- of each row (just don't do both).

Back to the matter at hand:  Thing is, it's great if that edge is meant to be a finished edge, like on a scarf or a blanket. It's a bit of a problem if you plan to pick up stitches along that edge. Because what happens is that each edge stitch on the armholes actually covered two rows, so when she picked up stitches, she picked up much fewer stitches than she should have -- so the armhole was too small (there were about 50 stitches around).

Unfinished edge

My fix in this case is to pick up a stitch in 4 out of every 5 rows (a standard ratio), inserting the needle in the stitches before the edge stitch, and in each stitch at the underarm bit (I ended up with 78 stitches). She also didn't want an inch of ribbing,  so I just bound off the picked-up stitches to finish. This solution means there's a little more bulk in the edge because I picked up a stitch and a half in from the edge,  rather than one stitch in. 

If you're knitting an edge where you want to pick up stitches later, don't slip the first/last stitch to make a pretty edge. 

If you're going to pick up stitches along the edge, go ahead and stitch the first and last stitches so you have a good edge from which to pick up. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Year of the UFO, Final Roundup

It's been a year since I first posted that 2020 would be the Year of the UnFinished Object (UFO). What did I accomplish?

I finished four of the six projects I set out to complete. I finished a crocheted sweater for my daughter and a crocheted baby sweater for charity, and I finished a crocheted afghan for my daughter and an aran sampler throw based on a Lion Brand pattern. The sampler throw also turned out to be a mending project. We briefly had a mouse problem in our last house, and apparently a mouse nibbled on the pieces while they were stored.

As for my secondary goal of doing charity knitting and crochet on a weekly basis, I improved, but was not consistent. In addition to the baby sweater UFO, I completed a baby blanket and hat.

This coming year, I want to complete my two remaining UFOs (doily and lace seaman's scarf), crochet an afghan for my second youngest, continue charity knitting, and work on getting some of my patterns ready for sale (which includes testing the patterns and photographing the result).

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Color Tip

Most projects that use many colors use one main color to tie the others together, especially "stash buster" projects, where the other colors might not coordinate well. 

Often the color used to tie everything together is a fairly neutral one: black, brown, navy blue, white, off white, grey. However, when the colors you are trying to tie together are floral, using green or a camo-themed variegated yarn as the theme color can give the impression of an abstract flower garden.

In working on blankets for charity this year, I made a baby blanket using up leftover bits of pinks and purples that I tied together with olive green.  In the past, I've also created the impression of roses by using dark red and camo yarn (leftover from making sweaters for my sons).

Sunday, December 6, 2020


I don't often make things that would benefit from fringe, but the last couple times I have, I've done it a little differently than normal.  

I really like the look of using a contrasting yarn for fringe rather than using the same yarn as was used in the body of the project.  It's a fun way to use a novelty yarn or just a contrasting color, and the juxtaposition of contrasting colors or textures can really make the whole piece more visually interesting than a more conservative approach without being garish.  I really like how the contrast frames the design of the piece, rather than drawing attention away from it.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Year of the UFO, Part 2

 This is the year of finishing my UnFinished Objects (UFOs). As I described in December, these are knitting and crocheting projects that I've had taking up space for a long time, some for years.

After finishing my daughter's crocheted blanket, which I covered in my first update, I caught a second wind and finished both children's sweaters on my list, both crocheted.  The first was a project I started a decade ago, and now my daughter will be able to wear it in the fall.



The second is a boatneck baby sweater that just needed some finishing work.  It was a charity project.



Since then, I've also used up my leftover yarn from my daughter's blanket to start a baby blanket for charity, and I've knitted most of a sweater for this winter, for my baby coming in a couple months.

My next goal on my UFO list is to finish the knitted Aran sampler throw I made a few years ago, but never pieced together.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Crochet a device cover/pouch - a basic recipe

Finished pouch waiting for tucking in loose ends
Crochet a Tablet Cover/Pouch

My tablet was bouncing around naked for the longest time, until I realized that was risky to its safety and well-being.  I was lucky it hadn’t gotten all scuffed up.  So the other day, I decided to make a cover, or pouch, for it.  And this is what I made.

There are lots of patterns out there for device covers, but here’s what I wanted for mine:
1. It would protect my device reasonably
2. It would be quick to make, using stuff I have on hand
3. It would be pretty brainless

Well, I had some Red Heart worsted weight acrylic yarn, and a hook to go with it.  Any hook in the G- to I- range would have been fine.  I used my #7/4.5 mm hook.  A pin to use as a marker is optional.  If I wanted to make one for my cell phone, I'd probably use a DK or sport weight yarn and a hook in the E- to G- range.

Gauge isn’t that important here:  The hook should be not so small it splits the yarn; not so big the fabric is too loose.  The important thing is a sturdy-enough fabric to fit the device.  Since the pattern stitch has lots of chain stitches in it, gauge can be tricky because some folks chain tightly and others chain loosely.  The point is to make a fabric that works. 

The thick worsted weight yarn puts enough space between the tablet and the rest of reality that the tablet is fairly safe from the slings and arrows of everyday stuff, even if the pattern stitch is open and lacy.

It’s handy to have the device right there, to measure against, which is what I did.  If you don’t have the device, though, it might work to find out how wide and tall it is, and cut out a piece of scrap paper that size -- that is a theoretical suggestion, and I'm not sure how true it is.

ch:  Chain stitch
sc:  Single crochet
( ): Instructions in parentheses mean you do what is in the parentheses as many times as it says right after the ( ). 

The pattern stitch is a ch3 net stitch.  That means: make a base of chain-3 loops, and in each round, working in a coil, chain 3 and single crochet into a ch-3 space.

Starting in the center (the yellow bit), with
increases lining up across the middle.
This pattern is a variation of my favorite shopping bag.  So here is what I did:

1.  Starting at the middle of the bottom of the pouch, ch3.  Sc into the last chain from the hook, to make a ring.  (That’s the yellow in the picture.)

2.  Continue in a coil:  (Ch3, sc into the ring) 4 times – 4 chain spaces made.

3.  Ch3, sc in next ch3 space.  (Ch3, sc into the same space) 3 times more – to make the first  increase point.  (Ch3, sc in next ch3 space) 2 times.  (Ch3, sc in same sp) 3 times more – to make the second increase point.

Notice the MIDDLE ch3 loop of each increase point.  That’s where the increase goes in the next round.

4.  Continue in pattern as set, increasing in the middle loop of each increase point, until the piece stretches to be almost as wide as the device.  For a small device that might be just a round or two, not much.

Finished the base, plus a couple rounds with no increases. 
The line across the middle shows where the increases line up.
Notice that the increases line up -- there's a line across the middle of the piece in this picture.  That makes the base of the pouch, at the bottom.  I stress this because being comfortable reading your stitches makes crocheting much easier to understand and enjoy.

It looks really baggy and a bit short.
5. Continue in the pattern stitch, but with no more increases, until the piece stretches to be almost the height of the device.  Left on its own, without stretching, the piece is much wider than the device and reaches about ¾ of  the height.

6. Optional:  Attach a pin to the last ch3 loop made, if needed, to mark the end of the round.

7. To make the top snug:  (ch1, sc1 in next ch space) all the way around 1 time.  This draws it in, makes the opening just barely big enough to slide over the device.

8. For a nice finishing touch, do 1 round of light crab stitch (sc in reverse – that is, going from left to right – and ch1) all the way around.  This brings in the top edge so that it is snug around the device.

9. Remove the pin/marker, if you used one.  Finish off, and tuck in the loose ends.

The pouch is a bit saggy around the device, so it doesn’t push any buttons on its own.  The decrease at the top makes the pouch snug to slide on and off the device.

This is what I wanted, it works, and I am happy with it.  If this is the kind of thing you’re looking for, I hope you’re happy with yours, too.