In the past, I have only ever used straight needles to weave in the ends of my projects. Being part of a crochet group has widened my horizons as I have been exposed to different products and tools. One of the ladies in my group had these Hiya Hiya Darn It needles at one of our meetings, and I had been reading about these “bent tip” needles and was curious to try them. She told me where I could purchse them (at the Port Adelaide market), and I went and bought a set. I love them. I do think that they make weaving ends in easier as they can be manouvered a little easier through the crochet than a straight needle. They are smooth and glide easily and, best of all, they are colourful (I’ve currently lost my blue one!).
I have also seen that Clover make the same sort of needles. I love my Clover crochet hooks, and these needles come with a cute little container to store them in (which is always a bonus!). Whilst we were away in Melbourne, I found them in Yarn + Co and purchased a set. I love the container, it definitely keeps them safe and together and the lid has to be screwed on and off so it won’t accidentally be knocked off if they’re floating around in my crochet bag. They do the same job as the Hiya Hiya needles, the only difference is the finish. These needles have a slightly rougher finish and this prevents them from moving as smoothly through the yarn as the other ones. I find it interesting that two virtually identical products can actually be quite different. Either way, I love the ease they bring to that dreaded job of weaving in ends!
Blocking – I hate it! And I love it! It makes it take that much longer to finish a project I have been working on but the results are worth the time. What is blocking you may ask? It is the process of relaxing the yarn to correct any areas that may have come out of shape during the crocheting process. I have been crocheting for many years but have only come across this concept in the last year or two and it is revolutionising how my finished pieces look! There are a number of ways to block a crochet piece (googling it brings up many options) but the way I have settled on doing it is as follows. I pin the item out in it’s correct shape on a foam camping mat (bought at Aldi but you can also get kids alphabet sets at Kmart that work just as well, they’re just smaller!) and then I spray, spray, spray it with a spray bottle of tap water. I press down on it to make sure the water has penetrated the piece, then I leave it for a day or two depending on the weather and voila! Remove the pins and you’re done. If the piece is really wonky or very large, I would probably put it through the washing machine first and then pin it out to dry. My husband has bought me a wonderful big blocking table (hang on, I can hear him saying something about it’s meant to be a pool table for him to use!), so I leave my blocked pieces on that to dry. It’s an ideal surface for me to use because it is high and as I am a tall person, it is easier on my back bending over to pin everything precisely. You can leave your mats on the floor for the piece to dry but with two children and two cats (who would think it was the perfect place to sleep!), I prefer to keep it up off the floor!
Once your piece is dry, you WILL notice a difference. It has a neater, more professional look with crisper edges and corners. Much as I hate doing it, the end result makes me happy. Last year, I entered a doily in a local show. When I was collecting my pieces, a lady actually asked me if I had blocked the doily because she could tell there was a difference. This was very encouraging because I had put a lot of work into blocking it and didn’t think anyone would appreciate the difference. It has encouraged me to keep going with it!
I have just completed the main section of a bag (keep your eyes open, it will be appearing on the blog soon). I had the usual talk to myself – “does it need blocking? It’s pretty much in shape, the squares are a little “bubbled out” but I suppose it doesn’t matter because it’s a bag, not clothing, etc”. However, I decided to bite the bullet and block it and I am so much happier with how it looks now. I don’t have a before picture, but here it is blocking away nicely!
So, I thought, here I am rambling on about blocking and the benefits of it and so on, but you really need to be able to see a before and after shot to get a good idea of what blocking will actually do. And, I have the perfect project to demonstrate it on for you! I have been busily working on the Neave Collection Blanket https://www.facebook.com/groups/621056114767998/?ref=bookmarks. The centre square begins with a series of front and back post stitches and then evens out into a lot of half double crochets and single crochets. Due to the front and back posts, it tends to buckle. Although it has flattened out a little as I’ve gone on, it is still pretty wavy. I have been holding my breath because a lot of people have had the same problem, and it has been corrected with a block. So, I am up to the part of the pattern where it is suggested that I block the piece, so block it I have and it has made a huge difference.It’s not perfect by any means but it sits flat now and gives me hope that as I continue to crochet around it, it will correct itself even more. I am so excited to finish it and gift it to my friend!
So, now you have read about the benefits of blocking, go and give it a try. You can buy all sorts of fancy wooden blocking boards (I’d love to get some one day!) and pins, you can make your own wooden ones, or you can use foam boards like me but I guarantee you, it will make a huge difference to the finished presentation of your crochet!
I’m baring my crochet soul a little today. Normally, when sharing my projects, I want them to look beautiful, well finished and professional. Today’s doesn’t. I have been wanting to learn Tunisian Crochet for awhile. It’s something that I’ve seen pop up from time to time and thought I should have a go at, but until now I haven’t. Then, in January when I discovered the Petals to Picot Tunisian Dishcloth CAL http://www.petalstopicots.com/2016/12/tunisian-dishcloth-crochet-along/, I knew my decision had been made! Not only are they going to be small, manageable projects, but I have a bunch of cotton I bought on special that would be perfect. So, in January, I ordered some Tunisian Crochet hooks, which are the most interesting looking things – a knitting needle with a crochet hook on the end instead of a point! I haven’t had a chance to try the January cloth yet (I’ve had a few custom orders that required my attention) but, seeing as how this week was Valentine’s, I thought I’d stick with the theme and skip to February’s cloth. It was a bit harder than I was expecting really. I can knit as well as crochet, so I thought that would put me in good stead. It did help, there’s no doubt about that, but it did still take a number of tries before I felt that I really understood the process. It was also complicated by discovering that I wrap my yarn around the hook “backwards” when I crochet, so I was trying to change my way of doing that and it actually makes a difference in how the stitches look! I didn’t get along too well with the tunisian hook either. It’s going to take some time to get used to the length of it and how to balance it in my hand. I usually use clover amour hooks, which slide through the yarn so smoothly and my new hooks aren’t quite as smooth. I ended up using a normal metal hook with a hair tie wrapped around the end to stop the stitches falling off! However, it was a great learning experience. The cloth looks like it has a heart on it and, now that it’s blocked, it sits quite flat and nicely. I am not giving up – I will conquer this new technique and get it looking nicer – it’s just going to take more practise. And thankfully, this CAL has 12 different cloths to practise with! So, the moral of the story it – don’t give up. Try new things and keep trying until you get the concept. It will be worth it in the end!
I recently picked up a copy of “Stitch Craft Create”magazine.
It included an article on hand dyeing yarn. It’s not something I’ve really considered doing before – I assumed it would involve expensive dyes that were complicated to use. However, this article declares it can be done using food colouring and that the results are colourfast. That sounded easy enough, so I decided to give it a try. I spent a little time winding my yarn into a skein and soaking it in preparation for dyeing. I decided to immersion dye it to try and get a rainbow effect. Even if it doesn’t work out, it has been fun watching the colours slowly creep up the side of the bowls and to see that different colours move at different rates (the blue went fastest!).
An hour or so later……
Well, I’m impressed! It didn’t turn out exactly as I had imagined but it certainly worked and the colour stayed fast when rinsing – yay! It’s currently drying on a clothes rack (it’s horrid weather here at the moment!) and I’m keen to try crocheting something up with it!
What would I do differently? Next time, I’d probably mix an orange and green bowl and not just let the creeping colours mix. I’m definitely planning on playing with this method again. It was easy and fun and great to get a yarn dyed to my personal specifications! Highly recommended!