Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Recipe for Blocking

Some things don't need to be blocked. But some things really do. Since I opened the shop 4 years ago, I have become more of a blocker. This week I decided to get some blocking wires. We've had them in the shop for a while now, and Barb has had her own for years, which I've borrowed on numerous occasions. But it's kind of a pain to borrow them. I finish the knitting and can't start blocking until I remember to ask Barb to bring in her wires. Then she brings in her wires, and I forget to take them home for several days. (Kind of like the Rubbermaid containers we bring our lunches in... they pile up in the kitchen for almost a week before we remember to take them home. It's hard to remember all you need to take home, when you are rushing around closing the shop, and trying to pick the kids up on time!)

I recently RE-blocked my Koigu Lace Shawl. The first time I did it, I did not use the wires. And I did not pin out the points on my crochet edging as much as I could have. It was my first shawl - and not really being a shawl wearer, I did not want a HUGE shawl. I blocked conservatively and I was very pleased with the results.

A few weeks ago one of our customers was about to block her Koigu Lace Shawl. We were talking about how she should do it, and about how the edging could be blocked differently than mine was. We decided that she would pin out each point on the crocheted edging. And her results were amazing. (Aren't her colors wonderful too?)

As soon as I saw her shawl, I decided to reblock both the Koigu Lace Shawl, and the Charlotte's Web Shawl. As you can see, my results were dramatic as well.


(NOTE: this technique can be followed for a number of fibers, but not all fibers. Always check your yarn label or ask someone at your local yarn shop for blocking recommendations.)

1 knitted item to be blocked (ITBB) (shawl, sweater, scarf, etc.)
1 sink or basin filled with cool to lukewarm water
a pinch of Eucalan or Kookaburra Woolwash
3 large clean towels
1 blocking surface (a rug works well!)
a lot of pins
1 set of blocking wires (optional, but recommended!)
1 measuring tape or yard stick

1) Fill basin with water. Add a pinch of Eucalan or Kookaburra. Gently agitate the water with your hands to distribute the soap.

2) Insert your ITBB. Some ITBBs have a tendency to float up on the surface (lace shawls).

3) Make sure your ITBB is completely immersed in the water. Leave for a couple of minutes, until all of the fiber has absorbed water.

4) Drain the basin and with your hands, gently press the water out of the ITBB. Caution: DO NOT WRING OR TWIST! If the soap you used requires rinsing, proceed to step 5. If not, proceed to step 6.

5) Fill basin again with clean water. Then drain basin and press water out of ITBB. Repeat this step until you feel soap is completely gone.

6) Gently lift ITBB and place on dry, clean towel. Roll up the towel. This will absorb any excess water.

7) Spread 2 clean, dry towels on your blocking surface. Thread the blocking wires through the edges of your ITBB, and using the tape measure, pin into the correct shape and size.

8) Let dry at least 24 hours, more if necessary.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Capelets, Capelets, Capelets

Cape.let (Káp'lit), N. A short cape covering just the shoulders.

I've been driving my family crazy with my latest project, "Capelets." They just laugh when they hear the word. I must admit, it is a strange sounding word.

I just finished knitting two different capelets. One is out of Cherry Tree Hill's Jumbo Loop in Java. The other is out of their Mohair Thick & Thin in Birches. Ever since the shop got these yarns, I've been dying to make something with them. I made up two similar capelet patterns. They knit up really quickly on size 19 needles and they each take only one skein of yarn. The best part is, I wear them all the time. They give me just the extra warmth I need without being too hot.

I have to say, mohair is my favorite yarn. And any mohair available in such beautiful colors is hard to resist. So hard, that I just might have to make another one of these capelets for my sister's birthday. (Lori, I hope you don't read this!)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Birthday Present for Mom

My mom Amy, at 80+, often finds summer air conditioning in restaurants too chilly for comfort. When I asked her to pick out a knitting project for her next birthday present, Mom came into the shop to look for ideas. Koigu was a big draw, as was the Cherry Tree Hill Baby Loop, but when she saw Jill’s Optik Capelet hanging in the window, she knew it would be perfect for a little summer wrap. She picked out the Optik in Cadaquez, a colorway that will compliment her summer wardrobe of mostly blue or tan solids. I've already finished it well ahead of her May birthday. Even though my Mom is small, I knit the larger size to make the capelet fit more like a shawl and give a little extra protection from cool drafts. An extra decrease round at the top brought the neck down to a smaller size. Mom’s tastes have usually run to the tweedy practical look, so I am looking forward to seeing her in something a little glitzy!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Focusing on Vests

In the shop we have so many great patterns for sweaters, but I am at the time in my life where I do not need as much warmth. Recently I have been focusing on vests. Vests provide just enough comfort without the added warmth of sleeves. When I wear a vest, I keep it on all day. When I wear a sweater, it's on and off and on and off.

As you may have seen in an earlier blog I made the Diamond Panel Vest in Kersti and just love wearing it. I am now working on the Clock Vest from the Folk Vests book. This vest has a beautiful cable panel running up the back, and one under each arm and one on each front. It is stunning.

I decided to use Rowan Calmer, a blend of cotton and acrylic microfiber. Jill made a sweater several months ago from the Calmer Collection, though she modified it a bit to make it more wearable (see picture!) She's been going on and on about how nice this yarn is, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Cotton has never been a favorite of mine to knit with. I usually have to go down 2-3 needle sizes and find it really hard to get gauge. I am really enjoying working with Calmer. It is so soft, yet shows crisp stitch definition. And I had no problems getting gauge. Since this is a blend with microfiber, it is not as heavy as 100% cotton and will hold its shape. I can't wait to finish.

With the unusually warm winter, I have already begun thinking of spring projects. I have seen handbags that are made using tapestry crochet. I thought I would try my hand at a small project to see if I enjoyed the process. I made a tiny basket out of two bright colors of Saucy Sport. It was so much fun, I decided to offer it as a class. What a great gift idea! It was really neat to see the pattern emerge as I worked the continuous rounds of single crochet. This is a very basic technique (very portable also), the beauty comes from the color design. Now I am in search of a pattern for a larger project.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Radio Silence

We've been a bit busy here so not much time to post. Lots of packing and shipping and restocking, though. And our UPS man has been getting a workout!