Precise

So the cuffs are done (yes, both!) and will be showing themselves off with proper photos any moment now.  But before you can take the pretty photos, you have to block the knitting.  Blocking flared cuffs can be a bit perplexing.  You want the wrist nice and round, and the bottom all spread out.  You can put them on a mitt blocker (if you’re lucky enough to have such a thing) and then lay them down on a mat and pin out the flare.  But that takes forever to dry and leaves you with a crease where it was folded in half.  I like to do it this way instead.

blockThat’s a handy bottle, a piece of custom graph paper (I know the lines are faint, I didn’t think about how they’d look in the picture when I printed it, but if you look closely you can see them), and my blocking mat.

The graph paper is really the secret.  For this size of cuff, I’ve got four points.  I could more or less eyeball even quarters if I had to.  But if you size this up or down, you could have a different number of points.  With the custom graph paper, you can make a sheet with your circle divided into thirds or fourths or fifths or whatever it is you happen to need.  It really works beautifully every time and is totally one of the handy blocking tricks everyone should have in their arsenal.

Daunting

Respectable adults do not whine.  Respectable adults certainly do not wine about anything so lovely as a giant pile of knitting ready for blocking.  Respectable adults would not dream of doing any such thing, they wouldn’t even know how to start if you asked them to.

curls pileI, on the other hand, lacking something in both the adulthood and the respectability departments, may have looked at this pile (and that’s not all of them, there are four more on the way) and whined quite a bit.

But then the lovely folks at Inspinknity stepped in to save the day with their nifty blocking wires to save the day.

curls pile wiresI’ve heard from lots of you that blocking wires make blocking curls much easier (which I believe…I’ve put upwards of 100 pins in a single curl before), and that Inspinknitty’s wires are the best out there.  I’ll report back after I play with them a bit (I’m still gathering my courage, even with the right tools blocking fourteen big pieces is a heck of a project), but I think things just got a lot easier!

Brimming

I want to talk about blocking hats with brims. Now there’s every chance you have already found a way to block hats with brims that you’re happy with, in which case you can totally go entertain yourself elsewhere.  But it took me an alarming number of tries to find something I was truly happy with, so I figure there’s got to be someone else out there wondering how the heck to do this.

Of course the easy option is just to block it with the brim down and cuff it when you put it on.  Now I’m sure you can probably do this with grace and panache.  I?  I can’t ever seem to feel confident the fold is actually straight, and then I spend all day fiddling with it.  It’s a character flaw I’m sure, but I like to know my straight lines are straight.

So I’d rather fold the brim up while it’s wet (and I can be super picky about it) and let it dry that way.  But that means I have to hold it in place while it dries, because it will totally shift about if I don’t secure it.

My first thought was a safety pins.  That works fine at first, but when I came back to check on the hat a bit later, the weight of the wet wool made it slump down and put the fold in the wrong place.  I probably could have fiddled with it and found just the right position to put the pins in, but it felt too unpredictable to me.  I tried my favorite tiny safety pins next, but had the same problem (click to see the pictures bigger if you want more detail).

safety pinsNext I tried T-pins.  I figured if having the pins in there vertically was letting the hat slump, I’d try putting them in horizontally.  Alas, that made the fabric bunch out (because the head form is curved, and the pin isn’t).  If I used them vertically, the brim still bunched up, just the other way.

t-pinsThen (cough, finally, cough) I realized that the trick was going to be to both put the pin in just the right place and to bend it a bit.  So first I grabbed my handy dandy pliers and worked a nice bend up by the head of the pin.

brim block 1Then I fed the pin in through both layers of the brim and out through the very bottom edge (right on the fold).

brim block 2That totally did the trick.  The fabric stays flat.  The head of the pin is bent forward so it doesn’t make a dent in the fabric.  It doesn’t slip down while it dries, and I can be as exacting as I want when I fold it up and pin it.  I use about 12 pins, evenly spaced around the hat, and it works perfectly.

And I really don’t feel bad about modifying the pins.  I get cartons and cartons of these, and they come 100 to a box, so bending a dozen of them doesn’t leave me short for other projects (as always, amazon links are affiliate links).  If I could find 3-inch ones, I’d get those, but I haven’t been able to find those yet.

No doubt that’s way too obsessive and there’s something to be said for embracing a bit more chaos.  But, on the off chance anyone else out there is snarling at the brim of their hat, this totally worked for me.  Now, someone tell me I’m not crazy and that you obsess over blocking too.  I can’t be the only one!

 

Unimpressed

Kitten Overlord Douglas is decidedly unimpressed by my sink full of soaking socks.

enthusedI, on the other hand, am totally impressed and looking forward to some serious sock pictures over the next few weeks.  I’ll see what I can do about the furball’s attitude, but enthusiasm is notoriously hard to generate in cats.

Tools, the blocking edition

I am particular about blocking.  It makes such a tremendous difference in how your finished knitting looks (and fits) that it’s worth taking a the extra time to do it right.  It’s only going to take a fraction of the time you’ve already spent knitting, so it seems well worth the effort.

I’ve been blocking things for the photo shoot (April 7, remember…you’re all supposed to be arranging for a warm, bright-but-overcast day, with no snow on the ground, ok?), and thought I’d take a second to show off some of the tools I like best for blocking.  You can see  four of my favorites here.

DSC_0661The most important bits are probably the blocking mats and pins.  I like the mats they sell for floors of play rooms or gyms.  They’re markedly cheaper than the ones they sell specifically for knitting (and generally come in  a wider array of colors).  I’ve had these for almost three years, and they’ve held up well.  You can see that I’ve stabbed them full of pins, but they still work perfectly.  I will issue a general warning that, if you have an insane cat who loves to chew foam (no flip flop or yoga block is safe in this house), keep them away from the cat.  But I think that says more about Kitten Overlord Barry and his odd predilections than about the mats.

I also have strong feelings about pins.  I spent the many years blocking things with the straight pins you use for sewing (the kind with the little colored plastic ball on the end that always melts when you accidentally iron over it).  I would like those years back.  T-pins are much much better.  They’re easier to grip, sturdier, less likely to stab you (someone tell me I’m not the only one attacked by straight pins), and just nicer to handle.  I strongly recommend getting the two-inch ones in preference to the shorter ones (you can drive really torque on your knitting and drive them into your mat at an angle).  I use these, and I’ve ordered at least three boxes over the years (pinning out a curl takes a lot of pins).  I’ve bent one or two, but I’ve never had one rust (you don’t want anything rusty near your damp knitting, that would just be heartbreaking).

The next two are maybe a bit more eclectic.  I confessed when I talked about my travel tools that I have a favorite ruler.  So perhaps it will come as no surprise that I have a favorite yard stick too.  And yes, yes I totally do use a yardstick when I pin things out.  For the love of yarn those points should all be the same distance apart.  Do yourself a favor and get two.  That way you can set your yard sticks up on your mat (just put pins on each side to hold them firmly in place) and pin your knitting out between them.

And that brings us to the last thing.  I don’t actually expect many of you to decide you need this, but if you’re truly, deeply obsessive, get yourself a pair of framing squares.  That’s what those L-shaped bits in the picture are.  Think of them as two rulers (in this case, one side 16 inches and the other side 24 inches, but they come in other sizes, too) held forever together at a perfect right angle.  You can use the two of them together to make small rectangles (they’ll make sure your corners are straight), or use them with yard sticks like I did above to make larger rectangles.  I know this is likely far more obsessive than any normal person needs to be, but I am rather smitten with mine.

Those four (plus the free custom graph paper I mentioned over here) let me block pretty much anything I need to.  So how about you guys?  Do you have any favorite blocking tools?  Do you measure it all carefully, or just pin things out by eye?  Are you using mats, or just pinning things out on the bed or carpet?  I know it can be a touchy subject (and I promise I’m not going to tell you you’re doing it wrong), but I’m curious how much time folks are willing to spend getting the blocking just right.

Perfectly Normal

Someone reassure me that it is perfectly normal to have ‘block the knits you plan to photograph on the trip’ as a step on one’s adventure planning checklist.  Everybody does that, right?

DSC_2336That’s the blue socks you’ve all been asking about and the purple hat and mitts from last winter.  That hat and mitts are totally totally done (as in the pattern is written, laid out, and tested).  As soon as I have proper pics slotted in, I’ll be ready to release it.  And The Boy (it’s his hat) and I are off to somewhere both picturesque and chilly here in the next few days, so I’m pretty sure I can manage to grab those in the next little while.  I’d look for that in early November…maybe November 3.  Sooner if the stars align.