Category Archives: Tutorials

Blocking a crescent shawl

The first time I had to block a crescent shawl I was unsure on how to do it and it didn’t turn out good.  I was baffled, because honestly, I’ve never had problems blocking anything before.
You see, triangles and squares/rectangles are easy since you have straight lines to guide you.  Circles are a little more complex, but still very logical, since all you have to do is pin opposite sides until you get a circular shape.

I think my biggest struggle was with the top edge, because I was never quite sure how to shape it for blocking.  Then, one day it hit me: I don’t have to pin the top edge!  Once I get the shape right (ish) the tension of the fabric does the job of shaping the top for me.

So without further ado, here’s how I block a crescent.  Mind you, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but hopefully it will give you a good idea of how to do it.

Tru Wuv 1
sloppy shaping

I started by soaking the shawl in warm water with a bit of soap in it.  The longer you let it soak, the better.  This one was left over night.
After rinsing and squeezing the excess water out, I placed it on the mat and roughly shaped it as I wanted.

A few notes on taking the excess water out of your knitting: you can squeeze the fabric between your hands, then roll the knitting in a towel and step over it.  Or you can put it through the spin cycle of your washing machine.
If you choose the latter, make sure you have a spray bottle handy – sometimes the work dries out before you have the time to block it fully.
It’s also a good idea to double-check your washing machine setting, so that it doesn’t accidentally felts your work.

I like to start pinning from the bottom center and then the tips:

bottom center
Bottom center pinned


Tip pinned

I kept on placing pins in between the leaves because I wanted those to be the longer points.  When I had a shape I liked I stood up and checked for symmetry and/or anything that looked odd:

not there yet
not there yet

After I’d pinned down all the points I wanted I fixed the ones that were crooked/wonky looking so they would lay flat.
At this point the spray bottle came handy, since the shawl was starting to dry and I hadn’t achieved the right shape yet.  The pins on tips that weren’t right were pulled out, the tip re-shaped and pinned again.


Here’s the final result, after I was happy with how the shawl looked. I aimed for straight lines on both the leaves’ “spine” and the filler (branch?) between leaves. I think I got most fairly straight, right?

K approved
K approved

Here’s another photo san-cat. The cat, BTW is optional IF your cat doesn’t like to inspect your job. K demands to check everything we do because she know we’re only humans and will make mistakes.

All done
All done


As you can see there’s no need to pin the top edge, in fact when I place pins on the top edge I can’t get a nice shape on crescent shawl, YMMV.  I do – sometimes – place a pin or two on the top edge before starting to pin the points so I can better visualize how far on the mat the shawl will stretch.

Let your shawl sit on the blocking mat for as long as you can get away with – over night is good, unless you block on your bed.
The time that a knit item will keep its blocking depends on, among other things, the fiber content of the yarn you used and how you store it after it’s been blocked. If your shawl lost its blocking or you didn’t like how it turned out on the blocking board, all you have to do is soak the shawl and block again.

Turkish Cast-on

The test knitters and I are working on my new design – Alohura, which is – over all – a simple pattern, but has a twist right at the beginning.
Alohura is a crescent shawl, started with a tab.  The twist is that the tab is worked in a lace pattern in such a way that it blends as seamlessly as possible with the borders.
To achieve that, I needed a provisional cast on and I chose the Turkish one because (once you understand it) it’s one of the simpler cast-ons out there.  It’s my favorite cast-on for toe-up socks and it’s possible you’ve come across it before.  There are many tutorials available online for it – here is one with photos and here‘s a video.

I decided to make my own photo tutorial, because unlike the ones I linked above, when working with the Turkish cast-on for Alohura,  the second half of the sts will remain unworked (spell-check tells me this isn’t a word.  Well, now it is.) for a little while.

If you clicked on both links above, you might notice that the way the yarn is wrapped around the needles is different.  It has to do with the way you knit.  If you knit Eastern uncrossed, like me, you’ll wrap the yarn like it’s done on the second link (and my photos).  Otherwise, making a figure 8 – like it’s done in the first link – might be easier for you (as in, the sts won’t be twisted).
BTW, if you click on the photos below, you can see them bigger.

You’ll need two different needles – I’m using two circulars, but you can use dpns.1  Make a slip knot and place it around one of the needles.

Wrap the yarn around the needle as many times as necessary to get the amount the stitches you need (in this case, 9 times).
On the picture here <–, the metal needle will be called needle 1 and the wooden one, needle 2.  The stitch count is done when the yarn is wrapped around both needles – the photo shows the first stitch being done.

3       The photo on the right –> shows all sts that were cast on (Note that I don’t count the slip knot as a stitch.  Well get rid of it later).
Once I wrapped the yarn around both needles as many times as needed, I place the yarn between the two needles.
You will start to work the stitches on needle 1 (the one where the last wrap started).
One tip:  if you need to stop working before the cast on is complete (because the cat got into trouble again, the kids set the house on fire, your spouse is asking where is that thing right in front of them…), you can set the yarn between the needles and it won’t unravel.

4     You’re now ready to start knitting.  If you’re using circulars, slide the stitches that won’t be used right now to the cable.  If you’re using dpns, place tip protectors on  needle 2 and leave it be for now.
The picture on the left <– shows the first row already knit.

5If you pay attention, you’ll notice that on this last photo, I’m picking up stitches on the wrong side of the tab – my bad.  I just realized it after the pictures were taken, but it still illustrates my point, so I didn’t take any other pictures.

I kept the stitches on the cable of needle 2, but took the slip knot out (the little bump of yarn between my fingers) – if you find it too fiddly to do that, you can just ignore it for now and get rid of it when you start working the stitches on needle 2.
I used needle 2 to pick up (notice I didn’t work the loops yet) two loops from the side of the tab.  If you’re using dpns, pick up those loops using a third needle and a fourth one to knit.

Reiterating, work row 4 of the pattern on needle 1, work the loops you picked up from the side of the tab and then row 4 again on the stitches that are on needle 2.

Gradient Dyeing – take 3

This is by far, the less labor-intensive method (of the ones I’ve posted) to achieve a gradation in yarn.  It still has more steps to it than other dyeing methods, but it’s quite fun.

For this one you’ll need:
– yarn
– acid dyes (yes, Kool Aid is an acid dye) or fiber reactive dyes (if you’re using plant fibers)
– a pot (unless you’re using KA or food coloring, save this pot for dyeing only)
– a spoon/skewer or some other utensil to push the yarn down into the dye bath
– some time
– optional: a kind soul (or person you can bribe) to wind the yarn into a ball

I first came across this technique while browsing Pinterest and it inspired me to get back to dyeing, so I’d like to thank Xandy :D.  Here is her post on the subject.  In this link there is also an interesting spin on her method.  Now, how I did it.

First you have to wind your yarn into a ball (no skein winders, sorry, you have to do it by hand).  I’ve made two of those, one using wool and another using cotton (I’ll take a bit about this at the end of this post).  For the wool yarn, I used only one skein (100g), as I though the dye wouldn’t go deep enough inside the ball (I’ve tried it before):

Unlike the tutorial on the first link I’ve posted, I soaked the ball prior to dyeing.  I squeezed it until bubbles came out:

Mix the color(s) you want to use.  I used orange, pineapple and lemonade Kool Aid:

Put your dye mix in a pot or pan, turn the heat on and add the ball of yarn (I prefer to start with a cold dye bath, but you can heat it prior to adding the yarn):

Keep on rolling the ball (and squeezing every now and then) so that different areas of the yarn have a chance to take in the dye.  As the temperature rises (don’t allow it to boil though) and the dye sets in you’ll notice that the dye bath changes color:

Notice that the outside of the yarn turned an interesting orange/brown color.  I didn’t plan for that (I thought it would turn green), but I liked the way it turned out.
The problem I had with this technique was that you get a somewhat specked yarn as the dye goes deeper into the ball:

To fix this (if you like the specked look, you don’t need to do the following), I wound the yarn into a hank while still wet and over dyed it using green food coloring, some lemonade Kool Aid (I ran out of pineapple) and some yellow soap dye:

I don’t have photos of the finished yarn at the moment, but will post again showing all of my results later on.

Now, for the cotton yarn.  Two years ago I bought some natural dyes to try out, but up until recently did nothing with them.  I had an amazing success using Logwood, so I decided to do a gradient dyeing using some Madder root with cotton.
I used the method described on the second post of this series and got less than satisfying results.  I’ll use this yarn to knit Maria with you guys, so I had all three skeins into a hank.
Being lazy, I decided to wind up the whole thing into a big ball and dye it using Rit Dye.  I wasn’t expecting great results and was ready to over dye everything – I just wanted to it done.  To my surprise it did work.  Not only that, but it worked better than the wool yarn.
I’m not sure if it’s the cotton or the dye, the fact is, the dye penetrated deeper into the ball and I got less speckles.
So now you have yet another alternative dye you can use (Rit works on pretty much anything).

A few notes:  My not-so-inner child prefers Kool Aid as a dye – it’s faster to set the dye and it’s kind of magical to see the liquid’s color disappear so fast.  My anal self, on the other hand, prefers the flexibility and reliability of commercial acid dyes – with them you always know what color you’ll get.
After I had finished dyeing for this tutorial, Joel told me he always mixes yellow and black to get dark greens (which is something I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time now).  I haven’t tried this mix yet, but when I do I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: review of this technique here.