Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do I Really Have to Block?

Trust me, I asked this so often -- and most often told myself, no -- I really don't need to block this finished piece of crochet. And actually, I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

Sure, you can skip blocking for afghans and blankets, but blocking is an essential part of crochet, especially for clothing items and lace.

And to be honest, it wasn't the blocking per se that I objected to, it was the fact that I did not have any way to block. I live in a 110 year old farm house with hard wood floors. We live on an extremely tight budget and I couldn't justify the purchase of blocking paraphernalia that is available from craft / yarn / online stores. They were just too darned expensive. Sooooooo, I skipped the traditional forms of blocking and when a pattern really needed that extra step, I fudged. I would stretch and steam on an ironing board (which didn't lend itself very well to even blocking). Or I would enlist my 20-something son to grab an end while I gently pulled a damp   piece to the best shape I could. (Sigh!)

But I've just completed a crocodile stitch shawl for my older sister's birthday and I must say, it really needed to be blocked. That is, dampened and pinned to a surface and allowed to air dry. How the heck could I do that?

Well, the answer came during a visit to Walmart in my weekly grocery shopping. They had a display of foam floor tiles for a workout room. You know the kind, they have the interlocking pieces, so you can snap a bunch together to make a large square or put a bunch in a row for a long mat. Best of all, they were almost half the cost of comparable foam pieces used for crafts. So today, I bit the bullet and bought a package of 6 tiles (under $20) and brought them home.

Here are 2 of the foam blocks snapped together. Luckily, the underside doesn't have any pattern to it, so I flipped them upside down to avoid leaving ridges.

Actually, it became a moot point since I decided to cover the mat (the foam smells AWFUL) with a gridded flannel fabric I've been hanging on to for years.

It will protect my crochet projects (who knows what these blocks are made of) and hopefully, will provide a barrier to the smell getting into the yarn.

So, I bought the foam pieces, snapped 4 of them together and put them on my cutting table, then wrapped the surface with the gridded flannel fabric, pinning the underside with safety pins.

Next, I took the shawl and a wash basin with cold water and Woolite. I gave the shawl a good soak, washed it a bit and then rolled it up in towels and squeezed as much water out as I could. Then it came time to try my new blocking setup.

It took some pinning, unpinning and repinning, but I finally got the piece stretched to the correct size and shape I was hoping for.

Let me explain briefly -- when I completed the crocheting, the shawl (which I call the Calico Crocodile for its lovely colors) was 60" wide and 22" long. This was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a nice wide triangle to cover the shoulders and a long drape in the back.

Well, after stretching and pinning, the finished shawl is now 70" wide and 32" long. After it is thoroughly dried, I will add 6" fringe along the sides. This should make the shawl an elegant addition to my sister's wardrobe. I am absolutely tickled with the way it is turning out.

In this photo, you can see the crocodile scales and the calico colors. As of this evening, the shawl is almost completely dry. In the morning, I will remove it from the blocking and add the fringe. Of course, I will then post the final image below.

Stay tuned . . .

. . . and here it is -- completed!  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shamrock Bunting

For 36" bunting

Make 7 shamrocks using the pattern found here:

Chain 121.
Using stitch markers, mark every 15 chains from beginning. These will be the chains where you will attach the shamrocks.

Now, at the second chain from your hook, sc through each chain to the first marker. Insert hook into the marked chain and then through the stitch at the top of a completed shamrock, yarn over, then pull through both the stitch on the shamrock and the chain, then slip stitch. Sc through the next chain and in each chain to the next marker. Again, insert hook through the marked chain, then through the stitch at the top of another completed shamrock, yarn over, pull through and slip stitch. Continue to the end, attaching shamrocks with slip stitches and sc in each chain between. Fasten off and weave ends in.

For a longer bunting, add 15 chains for each additional shamrock.

Here is what mine looks like hanging from the cabinet at my cubicle at work.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!