Category Archives: Blocking

Top Secret Knitting Project Revealed!

As soon as I knew my cousin Dano’s due date was July 4th, I started looking for baby items I could knit. On Christmas, I overheard Dano’s mom mention something about a soft neutral gray pallet for the nursery instead of typical baby colors.

On Pinterest I spotted a gray baby blanket with a row of white sheep, but that wasn’t a knitting pattern, it was a finished item ready for purchase. So I searched Ravelry for “sheep baby blankets” and found several options. Of course the one I liked the most—”Sheep Dreams”—was out of print.

It was originally published in a book called Knit Baby Blankets! and I was able to track down a copy of that book on Amazon.com.

As soon as the book arrived, I ordered several skeins of Cascade Yarns Sateen Worsted—a soft, light, worsted-weight yarn I thought would be better for summer than wool—in Gunmetal Gray for the body of the blanket. Because I was substituting yarns, I bought extra skeins in case it wasn’t enough. (That turned out to be a wise move because I believe the color was discontinued.) I also bought a skein of the fluffy, chenille-like Brown Sheep Berrocco Plush in Cream, and a skein of Sateen Worsted in Black for the details, but it didn’t show up well enough against the Plush, so I used a slightly heavier weight black yarn from my stash.

I was so excited to finally cast on. The textured border was really interesting to do. It’s called a ribbed stitch, but it’s more than that. You double the number of stitches of one row by knitting in the front and back of each stitch, then reduce it back to the original number of stitches by knitting two together then purling two together and repeating that across the next row. The process results in a thicker border.

Then the real challenge began.

With the bottom border, stockinette band, and Double Bind done it was time to form the “pens.”

The pattern was challenging enough to be interesting, but it also contained a lot of errors. Luckily the structure is pretty logical and there were several photos to reference, so I could see where the problems were and how to fix them—like when the pattern said to continue the Double Bind Stitch from border to border I could see that would interfere with the Checker Board Stitch in the center field.

Before long it was time to start putting the sheep in their pens.

A bit dark, but it was late at night and I was so excited to have the first four sheep penned I had to take a photo.

The sheep are done with a Duplicate Stitch—sort of like embroidering new stitches directly on top of existing stitches. Centering them was a bit fussy. You have to count stitches from the sides, top, and bottom to find the starting points, but the charts—one with a sheep facing left, the other right—were very clear.

Duplicate Stitch step one: I determined where the feet would go.

Working the Duplicate Stitch.

Yes, I know you’re supposed to work the Duplicate Stitch bottom-to-top, right-to-left, but for me it was easier to start with the right foot and work up, and then to the right before working to the left because the Plush is so fluffy it hid the stitches I needed to work on.

Close-ups of a left-facing sheep and a right-facing sheep.

Hoping the process would get easier with each sheep, I opted to do one corner, then the opposite corner, one side, then the opposite side so you wouldn’t be able to see if my abilities improved with each sheep. (They didn’t. For some reason the final two took the longest to do.)

Initially I was frustrated if I saw gray come through, or if stitches weren’t even or looked misaligned. But once six or eight were completed I realized those little inconsistencies give each sheep its own personality.

Funny how those sheep kept multiplying…

Several of the Sheep Dreams projects on Ravelry didn’t have all 14 sheep. Now I understand why some people stopped short. Each one took me about an hour to complete! Once the final sheep was in its pen and all of the ends were woven in, the only thing left to do was to block the blanket to size. The Plush yarn creates a subtle 3-D effect, which in turn slightly distorts the grid pattern of the blanket, so blocking is a must.

After it was pinned to size, I spritzed the blanket well with room-temperature water and covered it with a thick towel. I repeated the process the next day.

A different perspective of the sheep:

I loved the final result so much I found a pattern for a similar baby hat and made that, too!

I hope the little baby-to-be will have plenty of sweet dreams under this blanket.

 

 

I’m No Blockhead

Blocking is what knitters and crocheters do to ensure their projects have a finished look. Depending on the yarn and the project, garments (or pieces) might dampened by soaking, steaming or spritzing, pinned into shape and left to air dry. One yarn said to pin the piece into shape and cover it with a damp towel – that didn’t work too well so I gave it a good spritz and covered it back up.

No matter the method, blocking can correct a lot of problems. With my sweater vest below, I knew the shawl collar would be an issue. I’ve struggled with them before.

IMG_1383

My sister-in-law made the great blocking board!

See the horizontal lines in the middle section? See all the pin heads along the bottom edge? Before I pinned it into shape, the bottom edges of both sides were about three inches higher.

Why, you ask?

Because the shawl collar/placket is done in a ribbed stitch. Ribbing always contracts. That’s why it’s often used where you want a little stretch – like a mitten cuff.  Since I want the bottom inside edges to align with the rest of the bottom of the vest, I stretched it out and pinned it into place.

As excited as I was to make a garment with no piecing — the armholes were created by placing some stitches on a holder and knitting the top half in three sections, the last step was picking up and knitting a few rows of garter stitch for each “sleeve” — I didn’t realize it would be harder to block as an entire unit.

When blocking individual pieces the pattern will usually tell you the exact size and shape each piece should be. Most pieces are flat. But blocking an entire garment (especially one with a overlap like this) makes it hard to shape. It’s flat. When you’re not sure how far pieces will overlap when the piece is worn, you have to guess how far to stretch things.

When blocking this vest, my first goal was to stretch the ribbed collar/placket to the right length. My second goal was to use enough tension to make the textured pattern stand out.

Some knitters use rods to evenly stretch fabric. I’ve never done that, but wonder if that might be a good way to block no-assembly-required type projects.

Suggestions, anyone?

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