Gizmos

So I’ve talked before about how I really do think you should be blocking your hats.  And I definitely practice what I preach.  You’ve never seen a hat in a pattern photo that wasn’t blocked (and blocked firmly at that).  But something we haven’t talked much about is brims.

I like folded up brims, and I often like fairly deep ones (this one is approaching the upper limit of brim depth acceptability, but I like it, so I’m going with it).  Now if you use twisted stitches on your brim, your fabric is likely to bias a bit.  And really, that’s fine.  It would be annoying on a sweater (you’d feel like you were tugging it straight all day long).  But hats can bias all they want and still be adorable and comfy.  But if you want to tame the twist a little, you can.  And blocking is the time to do it.

See how my brim is straight?  I just folded it that way when I blocked it, making sure that each column of stitches lined up straight when it was folded.  I pinned it in place in a few spots and then left it to dry.

If you use regular T-pins for that, there’s a chance the head of the pin will leave a dent in your fabric.  So I keep a handful of bent ones on hand for this job.  It’s just my regular pin (I like these, they are long and they don’t rust), bent at a 90 degree angle to keep the head off the fabric.  I bend mine by holding the head with a pair of pliers and bending the shaft over with my thumb.  It doesn’t take a lot of force, but do be careful (and maybe use two pairs of pliers instead if you’re feeling skittish).  They make a nice addition to your blocking toolbox!

 

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Blocking

We’ve talked about this before, but just for the record, I’m still strongly in favor of blocking your cowls.  And I’m still absolutely convinced this is the best way to do it.

I started by threading blocking wires through the fabric at the top and bottom (you can hold them closed with a paperclip, or you can just keep threading the ends through until you’ve used up the whole wire).  Then I used long needles tucked under the wires to make spokes at the top, and set the whole thing on a roll of paper towels.

There’s some flexibility here.  You don’t have to use knitting needles across the top.  You can use pencils or dowels or rulers or whatever else you have that’s skinny and long.  And you don’t have to use paper towels in the middle.  You can use anything that’s tall enough and fits inside your knitting to hold it up (vase? a bottle of orange juice?).  Go wandering around your kitchen and bathroom, I bet you’ve got something that would work!

And you’re wondering, this cowl (and the matching mitts!) are out with testers right now.  They’ll probably be February’s pattern (once again, all I need is the final pictures, and I’ll be taking those just as soon as the broken leg is well enough to safely pull that off).  But soon…very soon!

 

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A fold here, a tuck there…

So when the knitting’s done, you do a little magic, and end up with something like this.

Which sure, it’s cute enough, though a bit ruffled.  Well you know what I’m going to tell you to do.  You need to block that hat!

And for this one?  For this one we get to use a whole new blocking prop.  Marbles.  Yes really marbles.  I’m every bit as amused as you are (quite likely more).

And when it’s done?  Well when it’s done it’s rather delightful.

And yes, yes there will be a pattern down the road (almost certainly in July).  Make sure you’re signed up for the mailing list if you want to know when it comes out (folks on the mailing list get a coupon code when it comes out too, and it’s for a bigger discount than the one I do here on the blog).  I have a feeling this one is going to be a lot of fun!

 

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Blocking 201 – Flared Cuffs

So, I’ve given this lecture before, but everything you knit can benefit from being blocked.  Everything.  And if you’ve been around long enough to hear that lecture, you’ve been around long enough to know about my love for flared cuffs.  So of course I have a way to block them too!

Let’s break this down.  You’ve got a few goals here.  One is to stretch the lace out evenly so you can see the pretty stitches you worked so hard on.  Another is to make sure the wrist is nice and straight.  And the final one is to have the whole thing dry without any creases (which you’d get if you pinned it out flat).

You can totally pull this off, you just need a few tools.  First, and most magical, some custom graph paper.  I make mine here (it’s free and awesome).  For this cuff, the main stitch pattern is repeated 5 times, so I had the graph paper have 5 main spokes and 20 secondary spokes.  That let me pin out the edges and the middle of each stitch pattern repeat.  It’s so much easier to use this as a guide than to try and eyeball it.

Second, you need your usual blocking stuff.  You’ll need a mat and some T-pins (do yourself a favor and get the long ones).

And finally, you need something to go in the middle.  This is the one bit I can’t tell you exactly where to find.  Here I’m using a bottle of hair stuff, but I’ve used all sorts of things in the past (shampoo bottles, a bottle of fancy vinegar, a vase…look around in your bathroom or pantry, I bet you have half a dozen things you can use).

All you need to do is put the graph paper on the mat, plop whatever you’re using for the middle on the center of your graph paper (you can hold it in place with a loop of tape if you want, but it’s optional), slide your knitting over it, and start pinning it out.  I start by finding the main points I want to pin (in this case the start of each pattern repeat) and pinning them out under just a bit of tension.  Then I work my way around the circle, moving the pins out one ring at a time, until I get the tension I’m going for (make sure all the pins are on the same ring when you’re done).  Once that’s done I sometimes pin a secondary point (in this case the midpoint of each repeat, pinned one ring closer to the center than the other points).

That’s all there is to it.  It takes about ten minutes (half of that is finding something to use in the middle).  And it makes a huge difference!

And, if there’s just absolutely no way you’ll ever ever ever do this, at least take a look at yesterday’s post for some discussion of a simpler alternative that accomplishes some of the same magic.

You can find similar blocking rants for hats and cowls in earlier posts, in case you want more of me being super bossy and telling you what to do!

 

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Option one

So, I hear from a lot of you that you’re scared of blocking or that it’s hard or that you just don’t want to do it.  And I sympathize…but I sort of need you to get over it.  If you have the skill to knit the thing, you have the skill to block it.  And your knitting will look so much better if you do.  I promise.

Remember, at its heart, blocking is just ‘get the thing wet…let it dry in the shape you like.’  That’s it.  That’s the minimum necessary requirement.  You can get all fancy and use pins and mats and rulers and all sorts of other props.  But at its most basic, you only need water and a place for the thing to dry.  You can’t tell me that’s too hard.

Here’s an example of the sort of difference this most basic level of blocking can make.

I took the finished cuff, threw it in a sink full of cool water, squeezed it a few times to help it get properly soaked, and left it there for half an hour.  Then I squeezed out the water (I didn’t even use a towel, I just squeezed it tight in my fist) and laid it out smooth on the counter by the sink.  I tugged on it a bit here and there and made sure it was folded evenly in half and that was it.  I left it until it was dry.

Is it perfect? Nope.  Perfect takes a bit more effort, and I’ll show you how to do it in the next post (but really…it isn’t all that much harder).  But compare it to the one still on the needles.  The blocked one is so much better.  You owe it to yourself to do this much at least.  And I’m going to give you such a dirty look if you tell me you can’t.

 

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