Easy Blocking With Spray Starch Tutorial

Have you ever made a small lacy motif like a snowflake or doily and was dissapointed at how misshapen it turned out? These types of small projects need special blocking.

Wet blocking might pull it into shape, but it’s “lacy-ness” can benefit from starching.

There are three types of starching: spray starch, liquid starch and sugar starch. This tutorial will show you how to do the easiest — spray starching.

This tutorial is part of my Motif of the Month December 2013: Snowflake Motif video. I’ve excerpted it below so you can watch just the part about blocking or check out the photo tutorial in this post.

What you’ll need:

  • Project that needs to be blocked
  • Spray Starch (found on the laundry detergent aisle)
  • Blocking Boards (substitute with an ironing board or folded towel)
  • Rust free blocking pins (sewing pins work great)

Step One

Get the project that needs blocking.

Look how floppy my snowflake looks.
Look how floppy my snowflake looks.

Step Two

Start by pinning the center of the project.

This will keep your project from moving around as you pin the edges.
This will keep your project from moving around as you pin the edges.

Step Three

Pin the points of your project out.

Take your time to pin them exactly how you want them to look. Once sprayed you will have to wash the project to start over.
Take your time to pin them exactly how you want them to look. Once sprayed you will have to wash the project to start over.

Step Four

Keep pinning every single spot that you want to be highlighted once it is blocked. You will use up tons of pins so keep lots on hand.

Look how many pins I used for the small snowflake.
Look how many pins I used for the small snowflake.

Step Five

Get your spray starch.

I like the "heavy" spray starch. You can use less.
I like the “heavy” spray starch. You can use less.

Step Six

Start spraying.

This part is messy so be sure to use a towel under anything you don't want sprayed.
This part is messy so be sure to use a towel under anything you don’t want sprayed.

Step Seven

Keep spraying.

Make sure it is completely soaked, so it gets super stiff.
Make sure it is completely soaked, so it gets super stiff.

Step Eight

Let it dry completely. Unpin and enjoy!

Look how much more pointy my snowflake is now, and not floppy at all.
Look how much more pointy my snowflake is now, and not floppy at all.

What is your favorite way to block with starch? Let us know below. And if you prefer to watch the full video on spray blocking you can check out right here.

 

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Other things to do with your light up crochet hook — Make a Magic Wand

Perfect for your Harry Potter costume!
Perfect for your Harry Potter costume!

If you watched my review of the Crochet Lite crochet hook, you know that I said I would add some other things you can use your light up crochet hook for. Here is the first — your own personal magic wand.

The construction takes less than 5 minutes. All you need is:

1. Crochet Lite Crochet Hook 2. 8.5" x 11" Piece of Brown Construction Paper 3. Piece 'o tape
1. Crochet Lite Crochet Hook
2. 8.5″ x 11″ Piece of Brown Construction Paper
3. Piece ‘o tape

Now you’re ready to go!

Step 1: Take your paper and continually ball it up and flatten, until the paper is nice and soft.

This gives texture to your wand.
This gives texture to your wand.

Step 2: After your paper is soft, start rolling it from one corner to the other. Starting in the corners instead of just rolling it lengthwise will give you some extra length on the wand and makes a tapered hole to put your hook in that shows more of the light.

Don't roll too tight, you want to be able to fit your hook in the hole on one end.
Don’t roll too tight, you want to be able to fit your hook in the hole on one end.

Step 3: Ensure your hole is large enough to fit your hook but not too big that it will fall out. Re-roll if necessary.

Test if the hook will fit without falling out before Step 4.
Test if the hook will fit without falling out before Step 4.

Step 4: Once you finish rolling, use a piece of tape to secure the corner to the middle of your wand.

I only had packing tape for my move on hand. Scotch tape will work just fine also.
I only had packing tape for my move on hand. Scotch tape will work just find also.

Step 5: Stick your hook in. If you are using it right now, turn it on before putting it in.

I pushed the hook in until the top was even with the top of the wand.
I pushed the hook in until the top was even with the top of the wand.

Now your magic wand is complete and ready for spells. Got any other useful or fun things you use your light up hook for. Let us know below.

All done!
All done!

 

Slip Stitch Join Tutorial

Today’s tutorial will show you how to join any two pieces of crochet with the slip stitch join. This join, unlike most others, has an added benefit of being able to join your pieces anywhere throughout the work. You can join the edges, the middles, or anywhere in between. If you would prefer a video tutorial of this join click here.

The first step is to decide where and what you will join. For this tutorial I’m going to join the edge, so I first put the right sides together.

I line up the stitches when joining edges to easily insert my hook through both pieces of my work.
I line up the stitches when joining edges to easily insert my hook through both pieces of my work.

Note: You don’t always have to put the right sides together when using this join, especially if you are joining in other places than the edges. The only thing to remember is that you need to start the first stitch near an edge because you will have one yarn over that will wrap around the both pieces.

Next, I insert my hook where I want to begin my join.

Since I'm joining edges, I insert my hook under both loops of both pieces in the first stitch at the corner.
Since I’m joining edges, I insert my hook under both loops of both pieces in the first stitch at the corner.

Note: You can also insert your hook through just the inside or outside loops of each side for a different effect.

Now, yarn over and pull the loop back through the pieces and through the loop on your hook.

slst3
Your first slip stitch is now complete, but wait… there’s more.

Before moving on to the next stitch, be sure to tighten the one you just made down.

Continue to tighten down each stitch as you make them to form a tight join.
Continue to tighten down each stitch as you make them to form a tight join.

Continue in the next stitch or space that you want to join and work your way across the edge or area you want to join.

I've made a slip stitch in each stitch across this edge and tighten them down as I went.
I’ve made a slip stitch in each stitch across this edge and tighten them down as I went.

Here is a view of the backside of the join. If you are using this stitch to join things other than edges and want it visible, you can choose between the two sides that you want for the front.

This side gives you small dashes while the other side gives you a series of slip stitch "V"s.
This side gives you small dashes while the other side gives you a series of slip stitch “V”s.

Once I open the pieces up you can see where the join shows up in the contrasting color I used.

If I used the green yarn to join, my join would be nearly invisible.
If I used the green yarn to join, my join would be nearly invisible.

One thing to know about this join is that the resulting edge (if that is what you are joining) will be slightly raised. If you need a flat seam with no raised edging, you would be better off using the Mattress stitch join or Whipstitch join.

Here you can see how the seam looks from the side. Notice it stitcks out slightly.
Here you can see how the seam looks from the side. Notice it sticks out slightly.

What’s your favorite kind of join? Let me know below and thanks for stopping by!

Mattress Stitch Join Tutorial

This join I’m about to show you has to be one of my favorites. It leaves a flat almost invisible seam and is very easy to do. All you will need is a piece of yarn  (usually in the same color as your project) and slightly longer than the length you are joining, a yarn or tapestry needle and your project pieces. If you would like to see a video tutorial of this technique you can click here.

To begin your mattress join, first you will put the two pieces you want to join together.

Make sure your "right sides" are facing each other.
Make sure your “right sides” are facing each other and your stitches (or “V”s as I like to call them) are lined up for easy stitching.

Then beginning at the bottom of your seam, you will insert your needle through the outside loop only of your bottom stitch. Come from the outside of your work to the inside when inserting your needle.

Note: It’s not important which side of the project you begin on. You can come in from right to left as shown in the photo below, or start on the left piece and work from left to right.

Working through the outside loop only will produce a nice effect that you will see at the end of the tutorial.
Working through the outside loop only will produce a nice effect that you will see at the end of the tutorial.

Now, bring your needle straight across and insert it through the outside loop on the same stitch on the second piece.

Notice I bring the needle from the inside to the outside of the other piece.
Notice I bring the needle from the inside to the outside of the other piece.

You can see when I pull the yarn all the way through I have made a straight line through my outside loops.

You can easily see where the yarn is with the contrasting color I'm using. For a real project, I would normally use the same color to join and the main project.
You can easily see where the yarn is with the contrasting color I’m using. For a real project, I would normally use the same color to join and the main project.

The next step is what distinguishes this stitch from others. You will now bring your needle up to the next stitch on the same side you just worked on and insert it in the outside loop only.

Now I come from the outside and put the needle to the inside towards my other piece.
Now I come from the outside and put the needle to the inside towards my other piece.

Now I will go through the outside loop again on the other piece I am connecting.

Straight across from the inside to the outside again.
Straight across from the inside to the outside again.

You can see when I pull the yarn though this second stitch that this stitch kind of weaves it way back and forth along the stitches.

I haven't tighten the stitches yet, but you can as you work. I'm saving the magic for the end of the tutorial.
I haven’t tighten the stitches yet, but you can as your work. I’m saving the magic for the end of the tutorial.

Now I repeat the pattern, I go up one stitch on the same side I just came out of to insert my needle again.

Each time you finish stitching across both sides, you start the next stitch on the same side as the last one.
Each time you finish stitching across both sides, you start the next stitch on the same side as the last one.

I continue this pattern all the way to the end of my seam.

Still haven't pull the stitches tight, just quickly worked my way up the pieces.
Still haven’t pull the stitches tight, just quickly worked my way up the pieces.

Now the magic, take your ends and pull them tight.

My slack yarn is now almost one straight piece that is about as long as my seam. This join is great when you are running out of yarn.
My slack yarn is now almost one straight piece that is about as long as my seam. This join is great when you are running out of yarn.

From the wrong side you can slightly see the yarn I used to join. If it was in the same color as my project, you wouldn’t even notice it.

Not too bad, but wait till I turn it over.
Not too bad, but wait till I turn it over.

Now for the front side, even with the contrasting color, you can’t really see any of the yarn I used to join the seam. And the piece is completely flat, no 3 dimensional seam here.

My needle is pointing out the cool "V" the inside loops I didn't stitch through made at the seam.
My needle is pointing out the cool “V” the inside loops I didn’t stitch through made at the seam.

Once you finish stitching and seaming, just work these tails in as you would any other tail. If it’s the same color as your work you can easily weave it in. If you chose a contrasting color, you can weave in keeping it on the wrong side so it won’t show up through the front.

Wet and Spray Blocking Acrylic Yarn

You can check out the video tutorial for this topic here.

I’ve showed you how to steam block acrylic yarn, now I will show you the less stressful method of wet and spray blocking. I say less stressful because even though I love steam blocking, it can be very scary to put that steam right next to your newly finished project that could have taken you anywhere from 2 hours to 2 months to complete. We all breathe a sigh of relief when the steam has done its job and we can put the iron away, but if you can’t bring yourself to risk your project to the steam, then these two methods are for you.

But, why do I need to block at all?

Great question! If your yarn was a scratchy acrylic, blocking will soften it. If your stitches are a little uneven, blocking can stretch them to all the same size. If one motif is smaller than the others, blocking can extend its size to match the rest. Blocking can fix tons of mistakes we make while crocheting so we don’t have to frog our project and start over.

I’m combining wet and spray blocking in this tutorial 1) because they are almost the exact same method, just done in a different order, and 2) you can see that the outcome of both are nearly identical.

First, we will begin with our two motifs.

We will wet block one and spray block the other.
I will wet block one and spray block the other.

For both types of blocking you will need a surface to pin your project to, I use blocking boards in the photos, but you can substitute with an ironing board or simple towel. You will also need water, either a spray bottle for spray blocking, or a bowl of water for wet blocking. You will also need some rust proof (very important) pins and a measuring tape if you need the project to be a certain size. Once you gather these items you are ready to begin.

Next, I pin one of my motifs to a blocking board to get it ready for spray blocking and put the other in a bowl of water to sit for about 10 minutes for wet blocking.

I pin the motif in the final shape I want it to be, notice I pinned the corners out to a point.
I pin the motif in the final shape I want it to be, notice I pinned the corners out to a point. I left the tails out on this motif so I would be able to tell the difference between the two at the end.
The longer I let the motif sit in the water the more it will "bloom" which means the stitches take in water and the yarn relaxes more.
I put the other motif in the water. The longer I let the motif sit in the water the more it will “bloom” which means the stitches take in water and the yarn relaxes more.

After my motif is pinned to the board, I get my spray bottle with normal tap water.

Temperature doesn't matter on the water. Cold out of the tap is just fine.
Temperature doesn’t matter on the water. Cold out of the tap is just fine.

Next, start spraying. Don’t stop until the whole piece is saturated.

Don't forget all the edges.
Don’t forget all the edges.

Now that it’s completely wet, you need to wait for it to completely dry.

Spray blocking takes the longest to dry since you don't pat out the excess water before pinning.
Spray blocking takes the longest to dry since you don’t pat out the excess water before pinning.

While we wait for that one to dry, lets get back to our wet blocked motif. Pull it out of the bowl and squeeze out the excess water.

Don't wring the project or it will twist out of shape. I fold and squeeze gently to get out the extra water of this motif.
Don’t wring the project or it will twist out of shape. I fold and squeeze gently to get out the extra water of this motif.

Then get out some more water using a towel.

Lay the motif between the towel and press to absorb the water.
Lay the motif between the towel and press to absorb the water.

Now you can pin the damp motif to your blocking board. Remember both of the motifs are wet so use rust proof pins. Now we wait for them to dry. Stick them out of direct sunlight to keep them from fading.

wet9
The spray blocked motif is on the bottom and the wet blocked motif is on top. Notice how much darker the spray blocked motif looks (because it’s still very wet).

Once dry, you can unpin and marvel in their shape and feel. So much softer than the scratchy acrylic you began with!

All dry and the same color again.
All dry and the same color again.
See how both methods give you the same outcome. Great looking (and feeling) motifs.
See how both methods give you the same outcome. Great looking (and feeling) motifs.

So why would you chose one method over the other?

I usually choose whichever is easier for the size project I am blocking. Sticking a large project in a bowl of water and then removing the water can be difficult. I will usually spray block those. I will toss small projects in a bowl and let them sit. They are easy to get the excess water out and pin while damp. It’s totally up to you though which method you choose.

Do you have a preferred method of blocking? I’d love to hear about it. You can tell me all about it below!

Working Fair Isle Crochet in Rows

Why yes, you can do Fair Isle crochet in rows.
Why yes, you can do Fair Isle crochet in rows.

I keep getting asked by people if it’s possible to use Fair Isle crochet in rows instead of the round. The simple answer is yes, and this tutorial will show you the basics of how to do it. However, before we begin there are a few important things I should mention before you run off and try this technique.

Most of the people that were looking for this tutorial wanted to convert a pattern they already had that was originally made for intarsia or tapestry crochet. This can definitely be done but remember that Fair Isle crochet usually has short color runs (that are patterned in the round) and a tapestry or intarsia pattern might have long color changes (which are easily accomplished when you run the tails inside the stitches). Changing to Fair Isle can leave you will long floats that need to be caught often to prevent snags (see tutorial for how to do this).

Also because you will have floats along the back of your project, you will most likely need to put a backing on it. Either a solid piece of crochet fabric, or you can even sew a lining on your project (like a fleece backing on a baby blanket).

So now lets get on with the tutorial. I also have a video tutorial available on this information found here.

Backside of above project, see all the floats on just the backside.
Backside of above project, see all the floats on just the backside.

So when you work Fair Isle crochet in rows, you want to keep all your floats on one side. I’m not going to go over the basics of Fair Isle, you can find those tutorials here. This is just going to show you how to keep your floats all on the wrong side of your fabric.

After you finish your first row of actual Fair Isle crochet and turn your work you will have the wrong side facing you.

This is one of those times that the wrong side of your work is pretty obvious.
This is one of those times that the wrong side of your work is pretty obvious.

Now you will work your pattern as written up to your first color change. Normally, you would just drop the main color and join the contrasting color, but if you do this, your mail color float will be on the “right side” of your fabric. We definitely don’t want that.

That float wouldn't be very cute along the front of the project.
That float wouldn’t be very cute along the front of the project.

Instead of leaving the tail behind like we normally would, you will instead bring it under your hook and to the front of the work.

Bring the tail under your hook and put it in the front.
Bring the tail under your hook and put it in the front.

Next, pick up your contrasting color and join it to change color.

Notice the green tail that we brought to the front right below my thumb.
Notice the green tail that we brought to the front right below my thumb.

Now, if it is necessary to catch a float because your stitch run is longer than 7 STS (my recommended stitch run for catching floats), before you insert your hook into your next stitch (the one you wanna catch your float on), bring the float between your hook and next stitch you are going to work into.

You can hold on to it or lay it between your hook and next stitch, totally up to you.
You can hold on to it or lay it between your hook and next stitch, totally up to you.

Then insert your hook into the next stitch.

Time to catch that float.
Time to catch that float.

We can’t leave the float where it is because it will be sticking out on the “right side” of our project, so now we need to bring it back to the front of our work laying over the hook.

Notice the hook is still in the stitch, it hasn't moved... yet.
Notice the hook is still in the stitch, it hasn’t moved… yet.

Now, pull up your loop and finish off your single crochet to catch the float.

Viola! Float catching magic.
Viola! Float catching magic.

Then continue on with your pattern and change colors as it calls for. Just remember at every color change, bring that tail to the front of the work. Then work the Fair Isle as usual when the “right side” is facing you.

Tails to the front!
Tails to the front!

Steam Blocking Acrylic Yarn

My favorite way to block any project is with steam. It’s a fast, easy and clean way to get your project to the correct size, make it lay flat, or just make it softer. The tutorial below will show you the basic steps for blocking acrylic yarn with steam. I also have a full video tutorial available here.

I’m going to show two different uses for steam blocking in this tutorial:

1) how steam can make your project magically lay flat

2) how steam can help you achieve the correct size for your project.

Acrylic Swatches
I will make the left swatch lay flat and the right swatch bigger by just steaming.

First I will show you how steam can flatten out a curling project. Sometimes when crocheting, for whatever reason your project will curl on itself. Sometimes it’s because of the stitch you are using, or it can result from a tight gauge, or many other reasons. Whatever may be causing the curl, steam can be used to help relax the stitches.

In order to steam block you will need a few things.

1) a steam iron or garment steamer

2) a steam/water proof surface – you can use a blocking board, an ironing board, or a simple towel

3) rust proof pins

Important Note: The pictures below show me using my hands with the steam iron to make the swatch lay flat. This is done to show how the steam makes the piece lay flat (see the video for how this works out). You should pin down the pieces before putting steam on them so you do not burn yourself.

First, place your project on your steam/water proof surface and pin in place.

This piece isn't pinned down so in the video you can see how it "magically" lays flat from the steam.
This piece isn’t pinned down so in the video you can see how it “magically” lays flat from the steam.

Next, get your steam iron or garment steamer and start steaming your project. Hold the iron about 1/2 and inch to an inch away from your project and make sure you don’t touch the iron directly on your project or you will “kill” it (which I will explain further below).

Whatever you do, DON'T touch the iron to the project!
Whatever you do, DON’T touch the iron to the project!

Keep steaming the project until it is laying flat. You will notice it will feel warm and slightly damp to the touch. It will also soften up considerably. So if you have a scratchy acrylic, steam blocking can make it much softer.

Almost completely flat just by steaming.
Almost completely flat just by steaming.

If you happen to touch the iron to the swatch, this is what will result. A flat, slightly melted shiny fabric. It is what is commonly called “killed acrylic” and sometimes it is desired because of the look it produces. If you want to kill your acrylic be careful not to hold the iron on the fabric too long so it doesn’t completely melt into goo. Remember, acrylic is essentially a form of plastic, so it will melt like it with too much heat.

This swatch was touched by the iron and melted slightly.
This swatch was touched by the iron and melted slightly.

The other use for steam blocking is getting your project to the correct size. This can be used in conjunction with getting your project to lay flat.

For example, you are making a garment and need it to measure a certain size to fit, or you are making an afghan and need all the blocks to measure exactly 12 inches on each side. Using steam and pins you can make these things happen.

You will need the same tools as before and also a measuring tape. To show you how much you can stretch a project with steam, I’m starting with a 5 inch block.

I'm going to see how far I can stretch this swatch.
I’m going to see how far I can stretch this swatch.
Notice the pins are almost flat. This allows my iron to get close enough to let the steam do the work.
Notice the pins are almost flat. This allows my iron to get close enough to let the steam do the work.

Once your project seems warm and damp all over (which means the steam got into all your stitches) allow the project to cool and dry completely before unpinning. You need it to cool and dry for it to hold it’s shape, so don’t get antsy and unpin right away.

Here I begin to unpin, notice the piece isn't moving as I unpin (as in, it's not springing back to it's original size, so the steam worked).
Here I begin to unpin, notice the piece isn’t moving as I unpin (as in, it’s not springing back to its original size, so the steam worked).

If you notice your project isn’t holding it’s shape as you unpin, you might not have used enough steam. Don’t be afraid to re-pin and steam some more. It might take a couple of times steaming before you find how much steam you need to use to get your projects to hold. Once you get it though, it’s like riding a bike.

I got an extra 3/4 of an inch out of my swatch!
I got an extra 3/4 of an inch out of my swatch!

As you can see above, I got a whole 3/4 inch extra width on my swatch. Plus the steam made it very soft.

I’ll be added more ways to block in the coming weeks so check back to see if I’m covering a new way you’ve been wanting to learn about.

If you have any extra pointers about steam blocking I’d love to hear from you, or if you have a method you like better let me know below. I’d love to hear your feedback!

Back Up and Running

Whew! I finally got everything (well almost everything, my blog is highly disjointed at the moment) transferred over from my old site.

So why move everything you ask?

I finally came to grips with the fact that I am horrible at maintaining a website. I had one “fatal error” too many and cracked. keep-calm-and-fatal-error

I realized I was spending more time of fixing my broken website than working on patterns or keeping up my blog and wasn’t happy about it.

So I broke up with my old host, and got with a new one.

Now I’m in love with my new error free site. I can focus on making tutorials and patterns and new books and new bog posts and…

So what’s next?

Well, since it’s getting warm and no one wants to crochet a heavy blanket, I’m moving on to smaller lighter projects that will be introduced soon. A new book will hopefully be released within the next couple of months and I have  lots more free pattern workshops being made as I type.

I also will be bringing back my vintage awesomeness, all the old ones from the old site and lots of new ones I have yet to show you.

I’m going to begin a series on self publishing. All of the information I’ve learned through self publishing my patterns and books will be shared with anyone who is interested in doing the same. Though it will focus more on the photo-heavy pattern-centric type writing,  a lot of the information will work for anyone wanted to learn how to self publish on the various platforms available (Amazon, Pubit, iBooks, etc…).

So there is a lot going on and to make sure you don’t miss out on any of it, following the blog is a great idea and also signing up for my newsletter wouldn’t hurt (both links are found at the bottom of the page). Why should you sign up for both? The blog follow will let you know when I post new topics so if you are interested in self publishing, or vintage awesomeness, you’ll get a heads up every time something new is added.

My newsletter is a whole different can of worms. This is sent out usually when I have a new pattern or workshop that is available and almost always includes a discount for those new things (as much as 50% off). These great discounts aren’t advertised through the blog, only those signed up for the newsletter get the coupon codes.

So as always, if you have any request for tutorials leave them below in the comments and I’m always happy to answer questions on anything crochet related whether it’s in regards to my patterns or just crochet knowledge in general. And speaking of my patterns, if you haven’t already, go check out my new super elegant shop. I’m loving the theme and if you’ve previously signed up for my newsletter, don’t fret, the discount code you had included in it will work in the new shop. Yes, that’s right, when you sign up for the newsletter, you get an automatic discount to use on your first shopping expedition. So what are you waiting for? Get down there and sign up!