Tag Archives: blocking

Woo!

Woo Hoo!  My socks are officially finished!

An unfortunate number of ends are all woven in (why did I think striped socks was a good idea?).  And the socks have been blocked.  They’re lovely and finished and have grown about two sizes.  (But that’s a good thing, because I have great big man feet.)

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of insightful things to say- just that I love these socks, and love blocking socks in general.  They’re smooth and perfect and ready to go.Unfortunately, it’s about a million degrees here, so I won’t be wearing my socks any time soon.  Sigh…

What’s your favorite part of making socks?

WaHoo!!!

You guys!

Hey!

Guess what!

Blocking is the best thing ever invented!

Remember my Cursed Sweater?  (I really wish I could show you real pictures of it…  Some day.)  Well,  I think I finally got the curse to lift!  Woo hoo!

So, last you heard, I had finished the sweater, but it fit me… not great.  In fact, it fit me so poorly that I thought I had messed up my math.  I spent the week worried, going over the math again and again.  What had I done wrong?  Did I misplace a parenthesis or a plus sign in my spreadsheet?  Did I accidentally cast on the wrong number of stitches?  WHAT DID I DO?

It didn’t help that the sweater made me feel distinctly like a plump sausage in too-tight casing.

(I can’t show you pictures, but I can show you poorly-Photoshopped representations of the sweater in question.)

The collar choked me, the sleeves were a good 6 inches too short, the body rolled up on itself.  It was awful!Awful!

Well, I went ahead and blocked it-  I didn’t have much hope, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

But, holy knitwear, Batman!  It blocked out perfectly!  It fits like a glove, the sleeves are the perfect length, and I can swallow while wearing it.  It’s the best!It turns out, I had blocked my gauge swatch before I measured.   So, all my math was based on a blocked gauge (THE WAY YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO IT!), but for some reason, my brain had completely forgotten how pattern designing works and assumed that I had just really, really messed up again.

Come on brain, don’t stress me out like that!

This sweater is DONE!  It was a slog, but I survived, and I have a pretty killer new sweater in my closet (where it will stay for the next six months, because summer just started here… sigh).

Have you finished any big projects recently?

Also, if you are interested in having your project featured on On the Needles, send a photo with a short description to knittingontheneedles@gmail.com!  (Any project is welcome- not just knitting!)

Well, it’s done, I guess

Phew!  It’s done!

Well, 99% done.  I still have to weave in some ends on my cursed project, and it’s got to finish drying out (it’s blocking right now).

And, I’ve gotta say, it turned out…. OK.

I love the pattern; the textures and the cables are great.  I love how it looks, sitting on the table, or pinned out for blocking.  But, I gotta admit- I don’t love the fit.

I tried it on when I finished knitting yesterday (after ripping the neck back several times-because this is the cursed sweater, after all).  And, I don’t know what happened with the measurements- I swear my math is right, so on paper, this sweater should fit like a glove.  But, instead, it’s too tight, and the sleeves are too short!  How on earth did that happen?!

As far as I can tell, I probably messed up in one of two ways:

  1. My gauge is off, or my math is somehow wrong.  In which case, I can fix the written pattern fairly easily.  However, I refuse to re-knit another stitch on this sweater.  If this is what happened, I’ll just have to find someone skinnier and shorter than me to take this prototype.
  2. I designed this sweater to use some really stretchy stitches- stitch patterns that block out almost twice as wide as their unblocked counterparts.  I got gauge off of a blocked swatch.  In theory, simply blocking this sweater will make it fit.  In theory.  I really hope that this is the problem.

Fingers crossed!

Have you ever finished a big project and ended up less-than-thrilled about the result?

Cephalopod

I finally finished it!

Or at least I finished the knitting part!

And, it is glorious.

My Stranger Cardigan is all knit up, and you hardly even notice that the sleeves are a different color than the rest of the sweater.

The only thing is…

I think this sweater is meant for someone with significantly more arms and legs than I have.  Perhaps an octopus.  Or maybe a cuttlefish.  Look at this bad boy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOof!  (As a side note, finishing the last arm was a pain, to say the least-  all that sweater flapping around in my lap!  Ugh!)

But, wait, a little origami, and Hey Presto!

A sweater!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I’ve just got to sew up the underarms and block the bejesus about of it.

I’m so close I can taste it!

And Then You Win Some

I know you were all waiting with bated breath over the weekend-  Will Allison’s socks turn out?  Or will she be cursed to forever have lopsided footwear?

Well, I have an update for you.

But first, look at my artsy picture of my socks as they were blocking over the weekend.  I call this picture “Morning Sunlight with Wet Socks.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(OK, maybe I’ve had too much coffee this morning… or not enough.  One or the other.)

Once they were dry I took them down, and they looked OK.  Maybe a little lopsided, but not too bad.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know it’s silly, and something that I should have gotten over so long ago- after all I’ve been knitting since I was a little kid.  But, I can never get over how pretty blocked fabric looks.  Especially socks.  All those precise little stitches.  Aren’t they just beautiful?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Anyway, enough stalling.  Long story short, the socks came out fine.  They’re almost the same size- one is still a smidge big, but no one other than me would notice (or care).  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIsn’t it funny how your gauge can change over time.  I used the same needles and the same yarn (I know because they were all packed away nicely waiting for me in a little project bag).  I did the same number of rows and stitches, and for whatever reason I was way more relaxed for the second sock.   Sigh.

I guess it’s just another reason to avoid Second Sock Syndrome, I suppose.

Has your gauge ever led you astray?

Getting Steamy

I did it.  I finally did it!  I steamed blocked my husband’s sweater!  It took me long enough, but I finally got up the guts.

And it wasn’t even that bad!

I guess I was afraid of accidentally messing up the sweater I had worked so hard on.  After all, I rarely iron anything, and never anything that’s as heat sensitive as acrylic.  I was 90% sure that I would end up melting the sweater.

Anyway, here’s what I did to avoid the Big Melt:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI flattened out the sweater on my ironing board and set the iron to the lowest steam setting.  I covered the sweater with a cotton tea towel, and delicately hit it with the iron- almost skimming across the top of the towel, not pressing down. Once each area was thoroughly steamed, I put down the iron and peeled back the towel.  Then, I kind of tugged on the still-hot sweater to make it grow a little bit while it cooled.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to see the difference in these pictures, but here’s the before (a little wrinkly):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the after (lovely and smooth):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI even steamed the textured yoke a little bit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt looks good!  And I think it’ll fit my husband better- which was the goal of this whole thing, in the first place!

Blocking: Lace

Nothing makes me happier than finishing a big lace project- a shawl, a scarf, or a fancy-pants sweater, and stretching it out across my blocking boards.  There’s something alchemical and transformative about blocking lace.  It’s kind of magical.

You start with a little blob of knits, purls and yarn overs, and toss it in some water to soak.

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It stretches, and changes, and I think I’m going to accidentally rip it in half (especially if it’s something particularly delicate).  But, then, I get it pinned out, and hey, presto!  You can suddenly see all the lovely stitch detail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven when you remove it from the board, the fabric is totally transformed from the ugly knot you started with.  Now, it’s flat, beautiful and incredibly drape-y and wonderful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, of course, pinning out scallops and points on finished lace shawls always makes them look even better!  (Remember how we tried to avoid stretching the knitting so much that it made points on scarves and socks?  You can do it on purpose now!)

Here are a couple shawls I’ve made over the years with interesting borders:

Panache by Lankakomero

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Aeolian Shawl by Elizabeth Freeman8176172544_3cfd6827e5_z[1]

Knitting lace can be a tedious and slow process, but there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling out the last pin from your dried shawl and looking at your beautiful creation.

Blocking: Socks

I think my favorite thing to block might be socks.  This is pretty silly, since you really don’t have to block socks.  (I suppose, technically, you don’t have to block anything, really.  But some projects, like lace, you kind of have to block.)

Since socks are worn skin-tight, they look like they’ve been blocked while you’re wearing them.  But, if you’re giving someone a pair of socks as a gift (or you’re just making them for yourself), there is nothing prettier than a nicely blocked pair of brand-new hand-knit socks.

And the process couldn’t be easier.

Just soak your finished socks in clean, warm water for 10 or 20 minutes (like usual), and slip them onto your sock blockers and let them dry.  (Mine hang dry from the ugly chandelier in my kitchen.) Easy!

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What’s that?  You haven’t heard of sock blockers?  Well, let me tell you about them, because they’re basically magical, especially if you make a lot of socks.

Sock blockers are rigid, sock-shaped frames that will produce professionally-finished and identically-shaped socks every time.  They come in lots of sizes and are made with many different kinds of materials (wood, acrylic, and metal are common.  Mine are made from wire).  You can even make your own, though I think they’re totally worth the 15 or so bucks they cost.

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You’re not convinced?  OK, I get that.  Why spend money on a unitasker that you’ll only use now and then?  If you don’t have sock blockers, and don’t plan on buying them, you can always block with foam and pins, just like normal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo things are very important to keep in mind.  First: make sure you are blocking both socks to the same dimensions.  You wouldn’t believe the number of lopsided pairs of socks I made before I got my sock blockers.

And second:  Do your best to avoid puckers and points from your pins.  They’re really obvious on socks.  To avoid points, I use lots and lots of pins to spread out the tension around the edge of the sock, and I stick the pins in away from the edge.

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Not good

Good

Better

Either way you do it, blocking socks takes something that looks like a lame, wrinkly snake, and changes it into a beautiful, professional-looking accessory.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow do you block your socks?

Blocking: Sweaters

You understand how to block something simple (a scarf, a coaster, or maybe even a blanket).  Now, it’s time to do something more complicated.  Something with sleeves.

Let’s block a sweater!  (In this case, a baby sweater, but the same process works for a grown-up sweater, too.)

We’ll start by soaking the sweater in a bowl of warm water for 10-20 minutes.  Make sure it’s nice and soaked through.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, just like last time, roll it up in a nice clean towel and squeeze out most of the moisture.  Put out your foam tiles and cover them up with a new clean, dry towel.

Lay out your sweater as best you can  to roughly the right proportions.  When you’re working with a grown-up sized sweater, it can be kind of tricky.  Don’t worry if you don’t get it right away-we’ll rejigger everything in a minute.  Just eyeball it.

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Now, it’s time to measure the sweater and make sure it ends up the size you want it.  Begin with the chest measurement.  Now, since this is a baby sweater, I want the chest to be 9 inches across.

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Close enough.

Now that the chest measurement is about right, I’ll stretch out the body to the right length,  double-checking that the chest measurement doesn’t get stretched out of shape.

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(Did you notice how I’m not using pins for this sweater?  That’s on purpose.  I try not to use pins on sweaters, because they can create little points and weird bumps on a garment like this.  And, in the case of this particular sweater, I’m not far off from my desired size, so I can just stretch the sweater a little bit and count on the friction between the yarn and the towel to keep it in shape.  If I was trying to use blocking to fix something, I would use pins.  For example, if I needed to add more than an inch to the body length, I would stretch the wet sweater out with pins.)

The body is all arranged correctly, so now let’s do the same thing with the sleeves.

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These sleeves should be about 6 inches long. With the sleeves, it’s really important to make sure both sleeves match one another- no one likes lop-sided sleeves.

Once your sweater has the right measurements, stop fussing with it!  Just leave it!  (And make sure any kids/dogs/cats/gremlins you have running around your house don’t mess with it, either.)

Something small, like this baby sweater, won’t take long to dry, but big, adult sweaters can take a while (especially if you live somewhere humid).  So, to speed the process along, try pointing a fan at it for a day or two.

Once the sweater is completely finished, put it on and do a twirl in front of the mirror, admiring your awesome work!

 

Blocking: The Basics

OK, so if you’ve blocked before, this’ll be a refresher for you.  If you haven’t tried wet blocking before, you’re in for some excitement (but maybe it’s just me that’s excited about blocking…).

I’m using a little bitty swatch for this example, but you can use this technique for just about any shape for basic blocking.  This swatch is a little piece of stockinette.  Stockinette is super curly when it’s unblocked, so I definitely need to block it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a tiny little project, so I’m just using a little cereal bowl to soak my knitting.  I’ve filled it with warm (think bathwater) water, and I let the swatch hang out for a bit (about 20 minutes) or until its completely soaked through.  If I’m in a hurry, I’ll squeeze the knitting gently to get all the air out and really soak the fibers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, I’ll get out a clean towel and roll up my wet knitting, squeezing it to get out the extra water.  You want your knitting to be damp, but not dripping.  Sometimes, I’ll even step on the rolled-up knitting (like squishing grapes for wine), especially if it’s a really big project.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce most of the water is squeezed out, I’ll break out my foam blocks (or your carpet, if you have carpet) and lay a new, dry, clean towel on top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I’ll take the damp knitting and pin out the corners to the dimensions I want.  I want this square to be nice and, well, square.  So I’ll start here.  The sides will pull in at first, but that’s OK.  We’ll fix that in the next steps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, I’ll grab more pins and tack down the center points of each side. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then I’ll add another pin in-between each existing pin.  Since this swatch is so small, I’ll stop here.  If I was blocking something larger (like a scarf), I’d keep adding pins until I had surrounded the whole item and gotten rid of the little swoopy edges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ve finished the hard part! (If you can even call it hard.)  Let your knitting dry completely (if you’re in a hurry, point a fan at it or put it in a sunny window), and remove the pins.

And, voilà la! A perfectly finished project! (Or at least an almost perfectly finished project.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext time, we’ll talk about blocking something a little more complicated- sweaters!