LACE, CABLES, AND COLOR - KNITWEAR AND HOME DEC - OVER 50 PATTERNS TO EXPLORE

2. COMBINED CONVERSION CHART​

If you crochet and knit, and combine both arts when creating your projects, you may have wondered about what sizes of crochet hooks and knitting needles would work well together.

For example, in some patterns you may see a crochet bind off, or perhaps a crocheted cast on. Other projects use crochet hooks for beads, nupps, or bobbles. I also own a book that has many combination projects, entitled Knitting Loves Crochet.Though you can find many conversion charts for crochet hooks, steel crochet hooks, and knitting needles, there are very few that show all three together.

While I did my research on needle and hook sizes, I also found something unexpected. Although knitting needle sizes are pretty standard, I found many websites with conflicting crochet hook sizes. Many of the websites were respected sources of information, so this was surprising to me! Wherever I found discrepancies, I have listed both hook sizes. Play it safe, and always check your needle and hook sizes. I hope this consolidated chart makes your crafting life a bit easier!

  1. Learn how to do a crochet bind off.
  2. Use a conversion chart that shows both knitting needles and crochet hooks.
  3. Read all about blocking techniques.
  4. Watch a stop motion animation of a doily as it's knitted.
  5. See how dance can inspire knitwear design.

3. BLOCKING HAND KNITS

This doily at right is called Ranunkel, designed by Herbert Niebling, one of the most gifted doily designers of all time.  It's hard to believe it, but this beautiful piece looked like a shriveled mess before blocking!  This bit of extra work makes all the difference for many fabrics, but in particular, for lace. ​Below I have included some useful blocking information for you.  It is a portion of a paper I wrote for the Master Hand Knitter course from the Knitting Guild Association.  If you have any questions on this information, or on the blocking mat you see at left, please feel free to contact me.  My husband made it with a piece of yarn, a foam mat, a piece of string, a pin, a ruler and a permanent marker.  You can make one too!

 One of the most important steps in knitting is blocking.  It is the finishing touch that makes a project look professional and complete.  Blocking can help your knitting stretch to the required measurements, straighten edges for sewing, disguise flaws in tension, even out Fair Isle or intarsia color work, or open up an intricate lace pattern.   ​

 First, consider your knitted fabric.  Depending upon your yarn’s fiber(s), which will be listed on the label, you may use different techniques for blocking.  Blocking methods must also suit the type of fabric you have produced.  For example, if you have knitted lace or other open patterns, you will want to block your item with greater tension.  Blocking hard, as this is sometimes called, opens up the design, so that the intricate stitches are clearly visible.  Blocking a cabled project in the same way could actually distort the beauty of the cabled stitches.  So, let’s consider a few blocking methods and what types of projects they suit best. 

​For many projects knitted with wool yarn, damp blocking is the perfect technique.  Damp blocking also works on other fibers, but these may require more moisture.  You may dampen your work either by spraying lightly with cool water, or by laying a damp towel upon it.  Your work is then placed upon a surface that won’t be damaged by the dampness.  My preference is for interlocking foam mats, but blocking boards sold for this purpose or an ironing board also work well.  In any case, the surface must be clean.  For knitted hats, a wig form, partially inflated balloon, a bowl or plate may do the trick.  Other devices that may help you shape your work include blocking wires, shawl frames, sweater frames, and glove or sock boards. 

​Shape your damp knitting as desired or as stated in your pattern, evening out any irregularities in your work.  If you are blocking a pair of items, such as sleeves, it is best to block them as a pair, with wrong sides together.  For many projects, you will want to pin your work in place, using rustproof pins.  It is an excellent idea to have a grid or other markings on your blocking board that will enable you to block your item evenly, and to the exact size and shape.  Do not pull on ribbing or any other area of the project that will require stretch. You will not want to affect the fit or distort the shape.  Also take care that you do not flatten your stitches, particularly cables, twisted stitches, bobbles, nupps, or any raised areas.  If the project is lacework, place emphasis on stretching the lace outwards to clearly show the lines of the pattern.   When your knitting is completely dry, remove from your blocking surface.  ​

Knitted projects that require more aggressive blocking, such as lace, do well with wet blocking.  Wet blocking is also effective with yarns that “bloom” or expand a bit when they become wet.  Lightly wash the item in cool water with a gentle soap and rinse carefully, by hand.  Do not wring the water from your knitting, but squeeze gently against towels.  Also, be careful with lifting your wet (and heavy) project so that you do not put undue stress on the yarn.  At this point, follow the instructions above for damp blocking.  All my swatches and my project for the Master Hand Knitting Program were blocked using the wet blocking technique.  

​Starching may also be used effectively on lacework.  Starch works very well on cotton yarns, but a small amount may be helpful on wool lacework, or even lace knitted from artificial fibers.  A small amount of starch adds body to lace, while more starch will stiffen the lace, which is excellent for lace that is hung as an ornament or wall hanging.  You may use spray starch, or make your own starch solution.  My preference is to apply starch to both sides of the work, but to dry with the right side facing upward, so as not to crush the stitches.  Some authorities advise that you not store items which are starched.  Store only clean and dry hand knits. 

​Steam blocking is an appropriate method for many yarns which are not harmed by heat.  Remember to always check your yarn’s label before steaming.  It is very important that you do not hold your iron or steamer on your knitted item, for this will flatten out your work and destroy stitch definition.  Hover your iron about an inch above your work and allow the steam to penetrate the yarn.  Allow to cool before unpinning or moving your work.    ​

There is much disagreement as to whether steam should be used on artificial fibers, such as acrylic.  While many will block well and permanently with steam, other yarns may actually melt.  Therefore, it is wise to use caution and test your blocking method on a swatch before steaming your hand knitted work.  ​

Actually, it is an excellent idea to test any blocking techniques on your swatch for several reasons.  First, your swatch may end up quite a bit larger or smaller than before washing and/or blocking.  If you plan to wash your final project at any time, you would want to know the effects it will have on your stitches before you begin knitting.  Second, some blocking methods, such as steam, might damage the yarn.  It would be very sad to find this out on a finished project! Third, it will allow you to try more than one way of blocking quickly, to find which works best.  Remember that for natural fibers, you may re-block your work, and in some cases, you will have to do this every time the hand knit is washed.

4. STOP MOTION ANIMATION RONDEAU DOILY

While I made this video just for fun, it does show the steps in knitting a doily.  Each frame of the animation is one third of a round, which is one double pointed needle's worth of work.  Enjoy!

5. DESIGN INSPIRED BY BALLET

​If you've done much exploring here, you may have noticed that many of my patterns are named after ballet terminology. This is really the reason that I started knitting - something enjoyable to occupy my time while I waited for my daughter to dance.  When she was 11, she began her serious study of ballet, and now at 19, she is a company dancer at a ballet company in Miami.

​Pas de Châle Wrap literally means dance or step of the shawl. There is actually more than one variation, or solo, in ballet that is danced with a shawl or scarf - this one being from the ballet Raymonda.

What an irresistible idea for me!  This dance is traditionally done in a tutu, and the shawl is normally a diaphanous fabric, rather than knitted.  But my daughter is a good sport and danced with my knitting instead! 

Pas de Châle Wrap was designed for YarnBox, using the lovely yarn from Ancient Arts
Fibre.

1. CROCHET BIND OFF

There are many great videos on the crochet bind off.  Still, I thought it might be nice to show you a few photos of this technique, where the examples shown are doilies.  I hope this will be a help to you!


In the first, the stitches to be bound off are placed on the crochet hook and crocheted together using a single crochet stitch (or the stitch listed in your pattern).  

Second, we can see the chains that separate the groupings of stitches bound off.

Next, a new group of stitches is ready to be bound off.  Finally,  you can see the crochet bind off used for the Tulipe Estonian Inspired Doily.  


Several of my patterns employ this bind off, including Quadrile Lace Doily, shown in the three bind off photos, and Tulipe, Estonian Inspired Lace Doily, shown bottom right.