Distractions

So you know I love flared cuffs.  Sort of a lot.  I tried to count, and it looks like there are at least four as individual patterns and some fairly alarming number in various books (I officially have enough patterns in enough places that it’s kind of hard to sort them all!).  And so it should be no surprise that I have another pair fresh off the needles.

These really are a tiny, quick project (I knit each one in a few hours while trying to distract myself from the horrible and expensive things a pipe in my basement was doing…the pair only used 100 yards of yarn).  And I’m bound and determined to get everyone else on the flared cuff bandwagon.  So just for fun, I’m going to send these out free to folks on my mailing list some time in the next week or so.

If you’re already on the mailing list, you’re golden, you’ll hear from me when they comes out.  If you want to join, you can do that over here.

And if you’re feeling very thorough and you want to double check and make sure you’re signed up (because the list will take you off if you never, ever, ever open messages from me…though really if you never open my messages I sort of doubt you’re hanging out on my blog reading this), you can do that right here.  If you are signed up, it will tell you so, if you’re not, it will let you sign up.

And done

And this lovely bit of business is what happens when you pull up all those pins and see what your blocking has done!

Now, the other fun thing about blocking is you can actually make some pretty big changes in how the finished piece looks.  So for example on this one, I could have pinned the whole edge out evenly (instead of pulling out points) and it would have been more of a circle.  But I’m a sucker for making points pop on things like this, so that’s the way I went.

I’m sort of suspecting I’m going to write this one up as a tiny little pattern (with some tips on working lace charts and on blocking flared cuffs) and send it out free to folks on my mailing list.  I’m not sure when exactly, but probably some time later this summer.  If you want a copy when it’s out, you can make that happen here.

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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Toldya they were quick…

First one’s done (yay)!

And the second one’s on the needles.

Now, please note that ‘done’ in this case means ‘done being knit’ not ‘done being worked on.’  It’s still going to need some attention when I block it.  Because wow will it look different after it’s blocked.  Promise.  And yes, you can assume there’s a ‘block your knits’ lecture coming up shortly (complete with props).

 

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A little distraction

A pipe in my basement is doing something gurgly and distasteful.  Qualified adults have been summoned, and I’m sure they will handle the problem.  But I need a little distraction.  And as is the tradition around here, the distraction of choice is teeny tiny cuffs.

The yarn is Yummy 3-ply from Miss Babs in the color quicksilver. I found myself in posession of a little 100 yard skein of it and thought I’d see what I could do with it.

This is the part in the proceedings where I mention how lace Always Looks Crumpled on the needles.  Don’t worry, it will mellow out substantially once it gets blocked.

In fact, I suspect we’ll have a little talk about just how to block cuffs like this.  It’s not hard, but it does help if you know a few tricks.  Just give me a bit to get this done enough to show you how I do it!

 

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All mine

I feel downright devious…the hat pattern in this yarn is coming next week.  The pictures are done.  The pattern is done.  It’s all set up and ready to go and I love it to pieces.

And now?  Now I have grabbed the tiny bits of leftover yarn and am just playing.  I’m making myself some teeny tiny afterthought cuffs to go along with the hats.  Just for fun, just to use up the extra yarn, just because I can.

They’re not going into a pattern (the won’t even be done by the time the hats come out), they don’t need notes, they don’t need photos…they’re just mine.  And it feels deliciously deviant.

 

Two at a time

Cuff the second is well underway.  And it’s actually gotten seasonably cold around here, so I’m eager to have them done (and photographed…around here ‘done’ also includes ‘has had proper pattern photos taken’) so I can wear them.

I’m totally holding the green yarn (it’s Silk Cloud by Shibui) double as I work it.  That’s both to make it a bit more substantial (though really, it’s pretty darn sturdy even with just one layer, I love how these cuffs worked with just one strand came out) and to give me a bit more of that delightful halo you get with mohair/silk yarns like this.

I just pull from the inside and outside of the ball at the same time, and I don’t have any problems with that.  But a few folks have looked at this aghast and informed me the ensuing tangles will bring the whole world to an end.  So if you’re worried, you’re totally allowed to divide your ball in two and work it that way instead.

 

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Just a bit more

Remember the gray hats with the yellow speckles?  These pretty things?

They’re coming out next week (if you want me to remind you when they come, you can make that happen here).  But I cheated and took pictures of them back in October when we were in Maine, so I’ve been wearing them for the last few months.  And I’ve come to the realization that I totally want some sort of hand thing to go with them.

Now, there’s not much yarn left…and what there is differs a bit skein to skein.  One skein has heavier speckles than the other, which is fine for two different hats but would bug me if one mitt had more speckles than the other.  So I made a plan.

I split the leftovers of each skein exactly in two, and I’m going to use half of each skein’s leftovers on each mitt.  Yes, this is nuts.  No, I don’t care.  I’ll be happier with the result, and it’s totally totally fine to be a bit nuts if it makes you happy!

Faith

No really…I totally know it looks funny.  I do.  But I’ve been trying it on and I have faith in the powers of blocking, and I am pretty darn confident it will work out.

I sort of love the way it sits on my hand.  I’m finding myself fond of asymmetry these days.

And I’m also sort of loving putting it on inside out and folding the top part back and giving it a bracelet feel.

And yes, it will look much better after I weave in the ends and block it properly.  But I totally think it’s going to work out!

 

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