Tag: knit

Blocking Finished Items

Blocking Finished Items

The whys and the hows

I’m sure that we’ve all seen some handmade items that, well… left much to be desired. It’s not the yarn. The yarn is gorgeous! And it’s not the pattern. We can see pictures of other items made by different people using the same pattern, and they are remarkable. However,  perhaps the one in front of us just doesn’t seem right. Sloppy? Is that the right word? Could it be that the gauge is off? Or maybe it looks more like what you would consider a “rough draft” would look like. 

I bet I know why this beautiful item, knitted or crocheted by a talented fiberartist who knows what they’re doing, in the most scrumptious yarn, fails to impress. I bet it’s due to a shoddy blocking job, or perhaps it hasn’t been blocked at all! So we’re going to talk about blocking today. See that picture above, with the colorful top next to the black top? That is the exact same top. Same yarn, same size. The colorful one has been blocked, and the black one has not (yet.)

A Big Difference

Take a look at the picture on the left. This gorgeous doily was crocheted by a very talented fiber artist on Ravelry (click the pic to see her project.) She did an amazing job crocheting it, and then lovingly and painstakingly blocked it, pinning all the little points and scallops. Isn’t it amazing?!

But look at the difference between the top slice and the bottom slice. See how the top slice looks bunched up? That’s before blocking. And the lacy and open bottom slice is after.

Just imagine if they had left this gorgeous doily unblocked. Would it ever have laid flat? Could you even see all the special stitches and lacy spaces there toward the center? The points and loops on the outer edge wouldn’t even be noticeable! The stitches for them are, but you can’t see them. THIS is why we block. Maybe not so much for things like dish cloths or mittens, but for anything with a stitch pattern, yes, you really should block it.

Getting your Block On

Just so that you are aware, blocking is not a difficult thing to do. It does, however, take some supplies, and usually a good bit of time if you’re going to do it right. See these three pictures on the right? They show the transition from a bunched up swatch of yarn, to the blocking mat, and finally to the absolutely stunning shawl that this artist knew they were making all along. I’m sure it took a lot of faith in the magic of blocking to continue on knitting this lace shawl when the whole time it was looking like the top picture!

So let’s get ready to do some blocking! 

Then first thing you’ll need is something to block your item on. Some people, like me, have special blocking mats we like to use. They are made of dense foam, and they interlock to form a surface as big as you need. The middle picture here shows interlocking blocking mats. The ones I have are smaller, and I have two sets so that I can put together a mat for unusual designs, such as crescent or asymmetrical shawls

You’ll also need some rust-resistant pins, and if you’re blocking lace, some blocking wires. I just use guitar strings.

You’re going to soak your item in a warm bath for a little while, then squeeze or spin as much of the water out of it as you can. Block damp, not saturated! Lay your item out on the blocking mat in the form it should be when it dries. Pin it liberally, taking care to get all the little points. There are never too many pins when you’re blocking a piece! Once you’ve pulled it out into the correct shape and pinned it, let it dry and you’re good to go!

It's Not Just for Lace!

While blocking is, of course, necessary for lace projects in order to open them up, I am a firm believer that a good blocking equals a better finished, more polished piece of knitting or crochet. This before/after of a sweater shows how even cables can benefit from a good blocking. 

Blocking helps any item go from “homemade” to “handmade” and is the final touch that I would encourage you to add to all of your projects.

Are you first time blocker, looking to give it a try? Show us! I’m dying to see how it goes for you. I bet you’ll love it, and will block from now on. Share your before/after pics on social media and hashtag them #RowsAndRosesBlocking so we can all see your masterpiece! And as always, if you have found value in anything set forth in this blog post, please consider sharing, pinning, tweeting, or otherwise helping to get it out there for others to use ♥

Craft-alongs

Craft-alongs

Why community is so important

I’ve always been quick and easy to make friends. All my life, I’ve enjoyed getting to meet up with other humans and hang out and chat. I love getting to know people: their interests, their stories, what makes them tick. Sharing my thoughts and ideas, and interests and plans, is very important to me when connecting with people. If I’m currently feeling the urge to get creative in the kitchen, I seek out others who love to cook. When we’re struggling through a difficult time in our homeschool, I reach out to homeschool communities locally and on facebook to share my frustrations and get new ideas, as well as gain a new perspective. Human beings connecting with other human beings- REALLY connecting and not just smiling and sipping coffee and remarking on the weather- is the single most important thing in life that I can think of. It’s no wonder then that craft-alongs are one of my very favorite things to do.

What are craft-alongs?

When I think of craft-alongs, I think specifically of crochet-alongs (CALs,) knit-alongs (KALs,) spin-alongs (SALs,) and weave-alongs (WALs.) I’m sure there are other craft-alongs out there, but these are what I’m into since I’m a yarny. 

In a CAL, for instance, a group of us get together and pick a crochet pattern- or pattern type- and then we all crochet it at the same time. We share our yarn choices, our pictures of our works in progress (WIPs,) and we ask questions and encourage each other. It’s a great way for crocheters to connect with each other and gain inspiration and offer help. Furthermore, it gives us the sense of community and  camaraderie that many of us so crave. We laugh and cut up, and just have an all around great time. There is really something to be said for doing the same thing with a bunch of other people, all over the world, at the same time.

Craft-alongs for motivation

Sometimes I just want to make something different. Or sometimes I need to make something custom ordered and just really don’t know about this pattern or design. Possibly, I’m scared of messing it up. Then again, I could just be in a creative rut. 

Craft-alongs to the rescue! I love joining into a community of other makers who are making the same thing. I’ve found it especially helpful during a daunting project to be able to chat about our experiences with the pattern. If anyone has questions, they ask in the group and everyone else chimes in with their helpful answers. Errors happen in patterns sometimes, and when someone catches it, posting in the -along helps everyone else who hasn’t made it that far yet.

Rockstar Ravelry

If you’re looking to join a craft-along or two, my advice to you is the check out Ravelry. This website is FULL of everything yarn. From their massive database of knitting and crochet patterns, to their forums full of groups of every kind of yarn crafting imaginable, Ravelry has it all. I have a group there for Rows and Roses, and we actually have a CAL for my Felici on the Double cowl going on right now! Pictures are being shared and encouragement is being given as we speak. Please come join us, we are having so much fun! It’s free to join, and only takes a second (username and password. Done!) You can create project pages for everything you knit or crochet, find groups of people for just about anything you can think of, and I’ve never seen so many patterns in my life. Many of them are free! Come join our community, cast your voice with the rest, and show us what you’re working with!

Is Gauge Important?

Is Gauge Important?

Have you had trouble getting gauge with knit and crochet? Is getting gauge with knit and crochet even important? Read on and let me help!

An adventure in swatching- Getting Gauge with knit and crochet

The short answer: Yes. Getting gauge in knit and crochet *IS* important. This is true especially if you are unsure about sizing, or the pattern uses a technique that is new to you. Doubly so if your math skills are not up to snuff, or you have a specific amount of yarn with which to work. Basically, there are many good reasons why you’ll want to pay attention to gauge. Read on and see how you can make gauge work for you.

These swatches are all the exact same yarn, worked with different sized hooks.

Gauge? Huh?

So what is gauge, exactly? Well, to put it simply, gauge is how many stitches and/or rows you have per unit of measurement, usually 1″ or 4″ squared. If you’re looking at a pattern and it tells you that gauge is 20 sts x 24 rows = 4″ then you know two things. First, that 20 stitches needs to be 4″ across. Which also mean you’ll need 24 rows to be 4″ tall. Here’s where you need to swatch.

A gauge swatch is simply knitting or crocheting a small, square piece of fabric using the yarn and hook or needles specified in the pattern. Work your swatch before you do anything else so that you can see how close (or far off) you are from the intended gauge. If you’re getting less stitches per inch than the pattern calls for (for example you only get 12 stitches in 4″,) then you’ll need to go down a hook or needle size and try again. Same goes the other direction: if you’re getting too many stitches in your measured section, then your hook or needles are too small and you’ll need to go up a size.

Tell me why!

What happens if your gauge is close but not quite? What happens if you decide not to swatch and just hope for the best? Well…. maybe everything will be okay, but more than likely, you’re going to deal a with a good bit of frogging (rip-it, rip-it) and a whole lot of wasted time. Here’s why:

Say your gauge is too small, but not by much. Maybe you’re supposed to get 10 stitches per inch, but you’re  getting 11. Seems like not a huge deal, so you just go with it. Close enough is close enough, right? Well, maybe. If you’re just making a washcloth, or a scarf, then you may not mind one bit if it’s just slightly wider or longer that the pattern says it will be. In fact, you may never even notice! 

But what if it’s a sweater? Or mittens? You must remember that you’re not going to be just one stitch too many in the finished item, but rather one stitch PER INCH too many. If your item is supposed to be 10 inches long, then at 11 stitches per inch, it’s going to be 11 inches long. For a mitten, that’s a good bit more than you bargained for. What if your finished item is supposed to be 30 inches long? Now it’s going to be 33. 

Think about that. That’s a BIG difference, especially in something like sleeve length, or bust circumference! This is how being just slightly off in gauge can result in a hat or sweater that is completely unwearable. Look what happened when I tried to knit an adult hat and didn’t swatch:

Great, but is it ALWAYS necessary?

It is absolutely possible to turn this whole idea on its head though, if you’re good at math and know what you’re doing. One of my preferred methods of creating “my own” item out of someone else’s pattern is to swatch for fabric, rather than for gauge. Especially if the yarn contains any silk (swoooooon.) I will look at the recommended hook or needle size and start there, just to have a jumping-off point. Then I will make 3-4 swatches with hook/needle sizes close to the stated size .

For example, if a pattern calls for a 4mm hook, I may make swatches using 3.5, 4, 5, and maybe even 6. This is so that I can see how the fabric feels and drapes. I’ll pick the swatch that looks and feels the best to me, and then rework the math in the pattern to make it match my gauge. 

This is fairly time consuming, and math isn’t something I’m great at, only passable. Therefore, I tend not to do this for a customer’s order as it takes an ample amount of extra time and effort, and I have to charge extra for that. As I progress in my journey, I hope to one day be good enough at it to start making most of my items this way.

Show us your gauge!

I’d love to see your pictures of gauges gone wrong! Send them to Sati@rowsandroses.com or post them on the facebook page with hashtag #GaugeGoneWrong and share your horror story with the world. Show everyone why getting gauge with knit and crochet is so important! 

If you have any questions about what you’ve read, you can always contact me. And please, if you found value in this post, take just a second or two to hit some buttons for me. Like, tweet, pin, comment, and mostly SHARE SHARE SHARE!

Yarn Selection: How it works

Yarn Selection: How it works

Part I: Fiber

Have you ever fallen so deeply in love with a yarn or pattern that you had to have it RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW!! so you send me what you have and tell me what you want, and…. I dash your dreams by telling you that there’s no way this yarn and this pattern will work together? If you have, then I’m so sorry to have to be the person who ruins everything! But you know what? The ruination (new word, enjoy) would have been much more devastating if we had gone ahead and messed up your yarn with the wrong pattern, or messed up your finished item by using the wrong yarn.

What makes a yarn perfect for an item, or all wrong? There are two factors here: fiber content and yarn weight. We’ll discuss fiber today, and leave weight for a Part 2 post. For now, enjoy these gorgeous yarn pics while I babble.

There are two different kinds of fibers we will discuss here because the third type (man-made aka acrylic, polyester, nylon, etc.) are all plastics and I tend to stay far away from those if I can help it. For today, we have plant fibers and animal fibers. A few types include:

Plant:

  • cotton
  • hemp
  • bamboo
  • linen (flax)
  • jute

Animal

  • wool (all different breeds!)
  • alpaca
  • cashmere
  • angora
  • silk (it comes from worms)
  • mohair
  • yak

So how do we know what gets used where? Well, there are no hard and fast rules that apply across the board (that I’m aware of, anyway) but there are some basic ideas that can help us decide.

For example, plant fibers, like cotton and bamboo, tend to be very strong and absorbent (especially linen!) so they are great choices for kitchen textiles such as dishcloths, hand towels, and placemats. They do not, however, hold their shape very well, especially when wet, and can become heavy and stretched out. Because of this, you wouldn’t normally use cotton for a heavy sweater, or something that needs to spring back and “hug” you, like a hat, or socks.

On the other hand, animal fibers such as wool and alpaca, tend to be very warm, and very springy. They are excellent for things like sweaters and hats because they’re lighter than plant fibers and don’t usually pull out of shape. They are insulating and will help you retain body heat in the winter, but they’re also very breathable and will actually keep you from sweating. This is why cloth diapering parents LOVE woolies! They’ll absorb moisture while allowing the air to circulate and dry the skin off. No diaper rashes here!

Now don’t get me wrong, lots of items “could” be made with all different types of fibers and turn out just fine. I’ve made hats from cotton before, I just make sure to let the recipient know that it may require more frequent trips through the dryer to spring back into shape. I don’t normally make “kitchen stuff” with animal fibers, but I LOVE making coffee cozies and trivets out of wool since wool will hug my cup better AND keep things warmer, for longer.

It is my mission as a semi-professional yarny to make sure that you are aware of these things when deciding on an item you want, and while picking a yarn for it. I am always happy to make suggestions and will be sure to steer you in the right direction. I won’t let us run off the rails and make something that ends up being completely ridiculous and useless by choosing a yarn that couldn’t possibly work. Forever and always, I am committed to bringing you items that are wonderfully astounding and will be loved and cherished- and USED!- year after year after year.

Join me here again later on for more chatter on yarn in Part II: Yarn Weight. Until then, why not cruise the site and see what you can see? Every single like, comment, pin, tweet, and share, is so appreciated as it helps Rows and Roses to grow and thrive. Thank you so much for being here ♥

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