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Blocking a Crescent Shaped Shawl

Oh, hey there, Blog. Seems I’ve been neglecting you a wee bit. Oops. In my defense, I’ve been knitting up a storm the last while, trying to get a few designs under my belt because I know I’ll have less time to knit during the summer. Hopefully, I’ll get the website up to date in the next few days!

But, one thing I’ve been meaning to address for a while is how to blocking a crescent-shaped shawl – or, at least, how I do it. See, it seems many people have trouble with the crescent-shaped shawl bump, which marrs that nice straight edge all shawls should have. I’ve been actively trying to find a cast-on that prevents that hump, and it seems that I’ve got it sussed out, more or less. But, I’ve noticed that blocking is a huge part of getting a nicely shaped crescent-shaped shawl, and it just doesn’t seem like many people talk about the how-tos of blocking. Most knitting patterns say “block”, but they don’t state how to block in a manner that will help a knitter arrive at a nicely shaped finished object. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways of doing this, but since I seem to be able to get a nice straight edge on my crescent-shaped shawls on a regular basis, I thought I’d share my process in case it helps others.

Warning: this is an image heavy post! But, I figure that’s the best way of doing things, since blocking can take an hour or more to do!

For this little tutorial, I’m using a lace weight version of my Sap Moon shawl. This is what it looked like once I had bound-off:

 

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Gizzy Cat demanded a cameo, hence the weird crop on this photo.

 

The lower edge of the shawl will become the curved border, and the curved edge, at the back of the frame, will become the straight edge. So, basically, when you bind off a crescent-shaped shawl, it’s an inverted triangle (and a bit ugly looking). Blocking will reverse that, along with opening up all those lovely lace stitches.

Before you block, you’ll need a couple of things. First of all, you’ll need something thin and straight that you can weave into the stitches along the straight edge. I purchased a wire blocking kit from my LYS about a year ago, and it has been wonderful. It came with 4 long straight wires, 2 long flexible wires, 6 shorter straight wires, and a set of t-pins. The set cost me about $25, and I consider this money very well spent! The second thing you’ll need is more t-pins. T-pins are used for quilting, and therefore also called quilting pins. I’m not sure how many I currently have, but I think it’s always better to have too many than not enough (that’s the general rule with blocking and pins!). I purchased mine at my local Michael’s, but they’re also availabe at most sewing and quilting stores. They do come in various weights and lengths – try to get heavy ones, as I find the finer pins bend too easily. And, I also have a spray bottle on hand in case my knitting begins to dry out as I’m blocking – oh, and my handy dandy blocking mat. It was a Christmas gift from my husband, and what I really like about it is that it’s got a grid, which makes it easy to line things up. However, the mat is a luxury, not a necessity. Many people use the interlocking rubber mats used for children’s playrooms, although it’s possible to block on any surface that will hold a pin. I use to block directly onto our carpet – probably not good for the underlay, but it needs to be replaced, so…

Anyhow! If you don’t have a thin, straight wire, bamboo BBQ skewers work in a pinch. You’ll need more of them, but they’re a cheap alternative (but do consider a blocking kit – you’ll be glad you did!).

The next thing you’ll need is a curved wire – I’ve actually take one of the straight wires from my blocking kit and curved it into the approximate shawl of the outer edge of a crescent-shaped shawl. I found the flexible wires a bit too flexible, so the firmer gauge wire works for me. Now, this isn’t absolutely necessary – it is entirely possible to pin out the edge of a shawl without a shaped wire, but I’ve found it gives me a lot more control over how I stretch out my lace. Plus, it saves time and pins, so that’s a win-win!

So, now that you have your supplies handy, give your lacework a wash and a soak. I usually soak mine for about 30 minutes or so in a sink full of lukewarm water. However, when it’s time to take the shawl out of the water, I don’t try to get all of the water out. I simply wrap my shawl in a towel, give it a light squeeze, and then, leave it fairly wet. This seems to work for me, but it’s important to make sure you support the lace at all times – don’t let it hang, or your lace will distort. I simply set the lace, still wrapped in the towel, on my blocking mat, unwrap it, and then shape the shawl a little.

 

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This is what my shawl looked like once I unwrapped it from the towel. Now, the curved edge is where it’s supposed to be, hooray!

So, now the shawl’s on your blocking surface. The next set is to determine which edge will become your straight edge, and also, determine where your cast-on tail is. I don’t weave my tails in until the blocking process is complete to make it a little easier, because the cast-on tail will help you determine the center of your shawl. Then, take your straight edge wire, and begin weaving it through the straight edge of the shawl, beginning about 1/3 of the way in from the left hand tip (or the right hand tip, if that’s more comfortable for you). Basically, you want that wire centered on the straight edge. I then use two shorter wires and weave them into the “wing tips” of the shawl – or, the bits on the right and left hand side that aren’t covered by that first wire. Some people might think it easier to weave the wires through the eyelets of a shawl (if the shawl has them), but I find, once I block the rest of the shawl, the eyelets get too big for my taste, but your mileage may vary!

 

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There’s the wire, woven through the first row of stitches past the eyelet row.

So, the straight edge now has a wire all the way along it. Next come the pins! To begin with, I take two pins and use them to secure the center of the straight edge wire, one on either side of the wire.  I always insert my pins at a 45 degree angle, as they seem to anchor the wires better this way, and I push them all the way down until they, well, pin the wire in place. I also have one pin angling to the left, and one to the right, just to make sure the center is nice and secure. Then, I begin to stretch the lace to the right, pinning as I go. Once that’s done, I pin down the left, taking care to make sure the left and right sides of my shawl are more or less the same length. Remember, more pins are better than less, especially since we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on that straight edge wire in the next step.

 

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A close up of the centering pins.

 

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The straight edge, all pinned out.

Now that the straight edge is nicely secure, take the shaped wire (if you’re using one) and insert it along the center of the curved edge. Then, move that wire away from the straight edge until you’re happy with how your lace looks. Pin it in place, using lots of pins, as the center will be under the most pressure. I usually insert my curved wire one repeat back from the edge of my shawls, leaving the edge free. This allows me a lot more control over how I finish my edges, as you’ll see in a bit.

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The curved wire is now in place along the center of the curved edge. It looks strange because the last repeat of stitches are all bunched up against the outer edge of the curved wire – these will be pinned out later.

Then, once the center of the curved wire is in place, begin to stretch and pin the sides. I use straight wires for the remaining of the curved edge, and generally don’t stretch the edges of the shawl as much as the center, as I find this gives the shawl a more pleasing shape.

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The right hand side of the curved edge is all pinned out!

 

 

Then, once the curved edge is nice and secure and I’m happy with how my lace looks, I go back to the center of the curve and begin to pin out the edge. When a shawl has a border, I usually pin out the repeats first – this is especially useful when I’m planning to pin the edge into points, but I also do it with scallops, as it’s much easier to get the scallops uniform this way. Plus, it’s a lot easier to take out one pin and adjust a point or a scallop than to have to unpin the entire edge and readjust.

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Pinned out points!

 

I pinned this shawl into points, but if I were pinning it into scallops, I’d insert the pins into the row of knitted stitches on either side of an eyelet, but not the eyelet itself. Pinning into an eyelet will make the eyelet look pointed, not rounded, but pinning into either side of the eyelet allows the eyelet to round, which is how I like my eyelets. Also, more pins are better than less pins, and insert these, too, at a forty-five degree angle. That might seem like a small thing, but it not only gives a better anchor, but it also helps prevent points where you don’t want points (unless, of course, you want points, in which case, put the pins in vertically).

So, that’s it! At the end, I often adjust things a little, and then, give the shawl a light spritz just to make sure everything sets properly. Then, all that’s left is to let it dry. Once I’m sure my shawl is completely dry, I carefully remove the pins and the wires, and then give it a little flap just to make sure I’ve gotten all the pins out. I’ve made the mistake of missing a pin and picking up a shawl, only to find a hidden pin has ripped a hole in my work, which is just heartbreaking! Then, let your shawl sit for a bit, just so it can adjust to its tension-free state. At this point, I’ll often reblock anything I’m not entirely happy with – after all, I’ve spent HOURS knitting my project. Having to wait a little longer isn’t much of a price to have something blocked just so.

Hopefully this will help others get a finished crescent-shaped shawl with a beautiful straight edge and no dreaded hump! But, one last tip: if that dreaded hump makes an appearance, I’ve found that a light reblock into an inverted crescent shape, with the center of the straight edge hollowing towards the curved edge, can really do wonders. Hopefully that’s not necessary, but it can help.

And, so you can see what the finish object looks like, my Sap Moon shawl in lace weight, with a lovely straight edge and a pointy curved edge!

 

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I’m sure others have more great advice, so feel free to share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

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Release day for Cold Moon!

So, at long last, the pattern for Cold Moon is now available for purchase on Ravelry. I’m particularly fond of this shawl, not only because I designed it, but because it really challenged me. I’ve never seen anything like it, and so I had to do a lot of reworking to get it just so. Fortunately, it’s been tested and all the test projects came out wonderfully, so now it can go off and be knitted up by other people – hooray!

 

Use this Kari

 

 

My thanks go out to all of my testers, who are such troopers, and to my good friend, Kari, who served as my model for this shawl. Now, I’m away because I’ve got a bazillion (exact number) of projects that need finishing, and time’s a-wasting!

 

 

 

knitting patterns, release day, TWW

New Year, New Patterns!

So, it’s been a little quiet here on the blog, but not in the workshop! Despite dealing with a serious of rotten colds from November onward, I’ve been busy working up new patterns. This week, two new shawl patterns went live on Ravelry:

Flower Moon, which features the Flowered Fields stitch pattern for the body, and the gorgeous Estonian starflower pattern for the border. This shawl is suited to intermediate knitters – you should be comfortable doing increase stitches (3 into 9, for example), as well as shifting stitch repeats. However, once you get into the flow of the stitch patterns, they’re really fun and interesting!

Flower Moon Feature

And, Snow Moon, which knits up quickly in DK weight yarn, but is easily adaptable to fingering weight as well. Some of my testers added beads to their projects – check them out! They’re gorgeous!

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Both of these patterns are now available for purchase on Ravelry – just click the links above and you’ll be magically whooshed over there.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a new shawl pattern about to go up for testing, two toque-and-mitt sets that I’m knitting up, several new shawl patterns for spring and summer, and several sweaters that are waiting to be swatched and started. One of the challenges of all this designing work is trying to figure out what to work on when. Right now, the sweater that’s calling to be designed is knit in bulky weight, but if I was knitting it, I would have started it in late summer, so it would be ready for wearing in the fall. So, do I put it on the back burner for a while and work on summery things for a bit? I’m thinking that would be the smart thing to do….except for the pattern is tickling my brain, begging to be created. We’ll see what wins out…

In other news, I’ve also been thinking about content for the blog. One new feature I’m adding will be WOMN – What’s On My Needles. I’m planning on running this post on Fridays, and I’d love people to play along! I may just add a giveaway or two to entice readers to post photos of their works-in-progress, because who doesn’t enjoy a giveaway? I sure do! And also, as soon as I finish posting this, I’m going to sign-up for a solar dyeing workshop. I admit, I’m getting seduced by the idea of dyeing my own yarn, since when I come up wit a design idea, I often have a specific colour in mind, and I can’t always find it. Solution? Create my own! I haven’t informed the husband-person of this, though…hehehe.

Anyhow, happy Monday and happy New Year to all! And most importantly, happy knitting!

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New pattern release: Wolf Moon!

Today is release day for my newest knitting pattern, Wolf Moon! Wolf Moon is a crescent-shaped shawl that features a simple, geometric lace body and a gently ruffled border. It’s a quick, fun knit that flows off the needles. I’ve used one of my favourite yarns for the sample – Sweet Fiber’s Sweet Merino Lite. This yarn is so wonderfully soft and fluffy, and comes in nice, big 115 gram skeins. Plus, Sweet Fiber uses fantastic colours that just inspire me!

 

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Anyhow, should you be interested, the pattern for Wolf Moon is available for purchase over on Ravelry.  Happy knitting!

 

(PS: Updated have been few and far between because I have been double-dog sick the last month. Hopefully, the worst is over and I’ll be back to blogging about my creative adventures very soon!)

 

 

TWW

This Week in the Workshop

So…I’ve missed a couple of weeks. Oops. But, it wasn’t my fault! Honest! I was actually away on an all girls’ holiday with my sister and niece (Disneyland, woot!), which was super-fun. Unfortunately, the day I left I got super-sick, and am still struggling to kick this cold/plague/blech out the door. Currently, I’m on day 14 of the cold, and day 7 of razor-blade throat. The doc says it’s viral, so I’m gargling salt water and resting and doing all the stuff I’m supposed to, but….can it go away, already? I don’t have time to be sick!

Despite the sick, I have been busy. I’ve finished prototypes for some super-cute cross-body handbags that I’ll be putting up for sale on Etsy. And, speaking of Etsy, I officially opened my Etsy store! So far, it’s pretty bare-bones – just my knitting patterns – but I’m hoping to add more items, including some of my hand knits, in the near future.

Meanwhile, Flower Moon, Cold Moon, and Snow Moon are all in testing. This is exciting! I really enjoy the testing process, because it’s my first chance to see what happens when other people work through my patterns. It’s one thing to knit the patterns myself. It’s something else entirely to hand the patterns off to others and see if the instructions really work. I have to say, I’ve been exceedingly lucky with testers so far. All of them have been so generously and supportive, and I wish I could thank them all personally for the time and energy they devote to helping make my patterns the best they can be.

And, while that’s been going on, I’ve been knitting the prototypes for my first mitten and hat patterns! These will be made in Ancient Arts Yarns’ fingering weight BFL (blue faced leicester). One of the things I really admire and respect about Ancient Arts is that they donate the proceeds from their Woof and Meow colours to animal rescue. We have always adopted our cats from rescue societies, and as a result, I’ll be donating all the proceeds from these patterns to a local cat rescue.

The mittens and hat are both designed to work with vibrant variegated yarns. I’m knitting them up in the Calico Cat colour way, and they really do resemble our Lily-cat’s coat! Here she is, inspecting yarn when it arrived:

 

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And with that, I’m away…things to knit, things to sew…busy busy busy!

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Newly Released Patterns!

Today is release day for Northern Lights, a pattern to make a medium-sized, crescent-shaped shawl with a cross stitch body and lacey border.

 

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And, last week saw the release of Hunter Moon, the third shawl in the Moons of Autumn series:

 

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I designed both of these shawls to showcase variegated yarns, because all too often, I find I fall in love with some gorgeous handpainted yarn, only to get it home and struggle to find a pattern that highlights the yarn. I uses Dragonfly Fiber’s Pixie yarn for both of these shawls, and for colourways, you simply can’t go wrong with Dragonfly Fibers yarn. Gosh, their colours are just beautiful, the yarn is soft and squishy, and it blocks out like a dream.

Both of these shawl patterns are availabe for purchase on Ravelry and Craftsy for $4.49 each. I hope knitters like them – I sure do!

TWW

This Week in the Workshop

Hey November! Boy, you sure snuck up on me, didn’t you?

I don’t know about everyone else, but this is the time of year when I get serious about my Christmas knitting. I’m already a bit ahead of the game since I’ve been doing all this designing, but now I’ve got finish up a couple of designs and get the needles going on Christmas presents.

But, here’s a bit of news I forgot to post about last week: Hunter Moon, a shawl pattern that I designed with variegated yarns in mind, is now available for purchase. It’s also part of my first Ravelry bundle, so that’s all a bit exciting. I’ve been working on several patterns that use variegated yarns, because they can be tricky to work with. It doesn’t take much for a gorgeous hand-dyed or hand-painted yarn to turn muddy if a pattern isn’t suited to variegated yarns. This has meant a lot of swatching, but that’s been good – I’ve discovered all sorts of new-to-me stitch patterns, and even if I’ve decided they’re not suitable for variegated yarns, I’ll end up using them for something else, I’m sure.

Also this week: preparing my first patterns for tech editing. Thus far, I haven’t had my patterns tech-edited – not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I really needed to sell a few patterns in order to pay for the tech-editing. Ideally, one day, I hope to be able to pay for all the support when creating a pattern – my models and my test-knitters included, but at this point, it’s all baby steps. But, now that I’ve worked through a few designs, I really think, to benefit both myself and my test knitters, it’s time to get my patterns tech-edited. I’ve had a few mistakes creep through into my patterns – none of which have been too major, but I’m very aware that test knitting is a huge undertaking, and though testers generally realize what they’re take on board when they sign up, I want to do whatever I can to make their experience a positive one. Plus, I think I’ll learn from the tech-editing process, which is really want I want. I’ve been having so much fun designing, and I want to grow and develop by skills. I’m sure that having a fresh set of eyes, viewing my work from a different perspective, will help with that.

Other than that, this week should prove to be a quieter one in the workshop. I’ve got a few patterns to write up, a re-knit to get off the needles, and all those Christmas projects to tackle…

And with that, it’s off to work. Happy knitting, everyone!