Category Archives: Textile Arts

Block Afghan

Blocking is one of those things you could easily miss if you teach yourself how to knit or crochet on the internet, but blocking is an essential final stage to many projects. This is your opportunity to shape the piece, coaxing the fibers to go where you want them to go — you can lengthen sleeves a bit, straighten lines, soften curves.

For this mostly-alpaca afghan, I let it soak in water for a few minutes, squeezed it out gently, rolled it in a towel and squeezed out a bit more, and then laid it out on my interlocking blocking mats, using T-pins to get the lines where I wanted them to be. Blocking will give you a much more professional result, and it’s so quick and easy, there’s really no good reason not to do it. The hardest part is waiting for the yarn to dry, so you can unpin it and luxuriate in the gorgeousness of your final result.

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I was upset to discover that we had closet moths a few months ago, and that they had eaten holes in my absolute favorite sweater (plus a few others). Argh. I could have tried to do an invisible mend, with matching grey thread, but the sweater has a fine weave, and one of the holes was quite large — I didn’t think I had the skill to repair it invisibly.

Instead, I decided to experiment a little. Several months back, I’d picked up a book, Kazuko Aoki’s _The Embroidered Garden_, and I’d been itching to try embroidering some little flowers. This seemed like the perfect piece to experiment on.

Now, I am basically a complete beginner with embroidery. I took one basic hour-long class at one point, where they ran us through the simpler stitches: running stitch, outline stitch, back stich, satin stitch, chain stitch, split stitch (which is my favorite, for some unknown reason). We also did French knots, which are useful, but finicky. The class was years ago, though — I had no idea where my embroidery hoop even was.

I should have hunted it up before starting, because as I was working, the fabric did pull in sub-optimal ways, and I started to get really worried that it was going to look terrible when done. Also, I was impatient, and had decided to work with several strands of thread, to do the filling faster, which is effective, but gives you a lot less fine control, making for a slightly messy result. Anyone who really does embroidery should feel free to scold me for my laziness there. I’m not sure I really have the patience for embroidery as an art form — crochet is much more forgiving for hiding errors.

But in the end, I’m still happy with the result. The two holes are mended (while I was watching a couple episodes of Chopped), and the final result has a sparkly whimsy to it that I quite like. My daughter loves it (but anything sparkly has a big edge with her). I’ll block it a little (misting with water and then patting down the threads with a q-tip, to smooth the fibers), which should help. Now, the flowers aren’t exactly where I would have chosen to place them, but it’s not terrible, I think. I may, at some point, go back in and add more flowers or vines — but I’m going to live with it for a while first, see if I really want them.

Besides, I have a few more sweaters to mend first…

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Sometimes we are not running around. Sometimes we are just yarning and singing. Jed and I have a history of doing a lot of singing in the car, but it turns out that while he’s helping me wind a skein is also a perfect time for singing. Christmas carols at the moment, but it’s often musicals.

(Kel, I’m making this Flowers Scarf for Kavi with your beautifully dyed gradient set! It has lots of the pinks she loves, but also feels quite delightfully Hawaiian in its floral cheer.

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