Category Archives: Tutorials

How to block Dorothy

Dorothy might be a bit of a problem when it comes to blocking, so I decided to write a tutorial showing the most important steps.  This is a very image heavy post, so I decided to go with smaller pics here.  The photos are all linked to my Flickr, so if you need to see more details, just click on them.

First of all, we need a flat, “pin-able” surface, a bunch of pins and a spray bottle.  Since I knit from a cone, I soaked the shawl in very hot water with some shampoo in it (to take the sizing off the yarn) over night.  I then put Dorothy through the spin cycle of my washer to take the excess water out and placed it over my surface in the approximate shape it would have after blocked:

I then pinned down the lower tip and the center back of the neck.  Be prepared to move pins around.

Next, I started pinning the various tips, alternating left and right side ones so the shawl would have similar measurements on either side.  Pay attention to the spine line and try to keep it straight.IMG_2192IMG_2193

IMG_2194    I pinned down all the scallops, starting at the top of each “mountain” and then going back and pinning the “valley” between each scallop.

To get the edging to behave properly, I spread them out with my hands as I went.  This way I didn’t end up with scallops overlapping each other.  IMG_2195

What do you do when you run out of space on your pinning surface? Why, you turn the fabric around and pin it to the back side 😉IMG_2196  On this next photo you can see that I’ve already pinned one of the “valley” too.IMG_2199

Here is the shawl with all the scallop “mountains” pinned down.  Keep alternating between left and right side, trying to keep the spine as straight as possible. IMG_2197

Due to the shape of this shawl, you’ll need to pin two loops together at some points.  This last picture shows the shawl with all pins in place.  I decided to shape the neck line in such a way that I’d have waves after the shawl was blocked.  You can keep it as a straight line if you wish.IMG_2200

Blocking is a time consuming activity, but it’s worth every second of the work put into it.  Don’t be afraid of blocking, if you don’t like the end result, you can always soak your item again and re-shape it to your taste.
A few last tips.
– Keep the spray bottle near and don’t be afraid to use it often.
– I usually let my lace remain pinned for at least 12 hours.
– Different fibers will react differently to blocking, with some yarns you’ll get a little shrinkage after you take the pins down, others (like cotton) will stay the same size.
– I block harshly as I can and usually, when I’m almost done, find out that I can pull the fabric a bit tighter.
– If you’re using cardboard or Styrofoam as your surface, you can use push pins.  Blocking mats, mattresses and carpet require longer pins.

A PPaola to dye for – a tutorial

I know…it’s been a long time since I last wrote here.  I was busy with a very welcome commission and then nursing a cold – such a bad one I didn’t even want to knit!

Anyway, I had promised the test knitters that once we were done with PPaola, I’d post a tutorial on how to dye the finished stole.  The photos were taken some time ago, but like I said, I was busy doing some other (not so fun) things.

Here is the image of the second PPaola I knit.  It was done with Franklin sock yarn, using AB beads instead of nupps. (I tried everything I could think of, but blogger insists on placing the image sideways).  You can find the specs for this one here.

This was my first time “painting” a knit item and I probably made a bunch of mistakes, but it was fun and easy to do.

Since it was the dead of winter (and I don’t have much space outside anyway), I did all the dyeing on my dinning room table.
You’ll need old newspapers and some plastic (I used the real big grocery bags).  There were two colors used to get the result you see above – Evergreen and Blue Spruce.  I used Country Classic Wool Dyes, but you can use anything you got handy.  You’ll also need a few jars to put the dyes in and one or two foam brushes.

We’ll start by soaking the item in water for at least half an hour.  A few tips here:  if you used coned yarn to knit your item, you’ll probably need to take whatever sizing the used on the yarn off – so, first soak it in very hot water (DO NOT AGITATE!!!).  I used a few drops of dish detergent on the water as I wanted the colors to “run” a bit – soap lower the surface tension.
After letting the stole soak for a good time, I made my first mistake: I took the excess water out by using the spinning cycle of my washer…because of that the yarn didn’t quite work as a wicker as I wanted it to.  If I were to do it again, I’d just squeeze the excess water out with my hands.
On the other hand, by spinning it on the washer I didn’t get a big mess of puddles in the carpet 😉

     Now, cover your working surface with newspapers and plastic and lay your item on top of it.  Spread the area you will be working next so you can cover the surface with the dyes.
I did the painting in steps, but if you want to (and have enough available space) you can paint it all at once and then set the dye.

Dip the foam brush into one of the dyes and paint your knitting.
Since I had never done this before, at first I was using strokes, as you would in real painting, but then it occurred to me that it could lead to felting.  I then began dabbing the brush on the fabric.
On the photo above I painted the center of the flower using Blue Spruce and then came over with the Evergreen on the center.
     At this point I took the stole over to the crock pot to set the dye.  As I said, you can do all the painting and then set it, but I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing and so did it the very hard way (TM).
I was hoping that the excess dye would bleed to the rest of the stole, but alas, it was knit with superwash (my experience with it is that it takes all the dye you put on it).

Once the dye was set (very fast as it is superwash yarn), I took the excess water out one more time and painted the next set of petals using the Evergreen color.
Remember don’t rub your brush over the fabric, instead dab it.  The foam brush holds a lot of dye and you can get a good area done with you just squeeze it down against the knitting.

You will notice on the picture that there are a few stains where a few drops of dye fell off the place I wanted them to be.  It didn’t bother me, as I was going to overdye the whole thing after it was painted anyway.  If you want a more precise result, cover the areas you aren’t working on with some plastic.
This PPaola took another trip to the crock pot to set the dye again, the excess water was taken off (again) and it went back to the table for the last painted areas.

       At this stage, I painted the edgings with the darker green at the very border and the lighter one below it.

I painted both edging the same way and took the stole to the crock pot one last time.  This time around, I added some dye to the water so I could get the whole piece to have an overdyed color.

Because of my choice of yarn, size of the item and size of crock pot, I had to take it out a few times and add some more dye to the water.  I then let the dye set for an hour or so, turned the crock pot off and let PPaola sit in the “bath” until the next day.

A few disclaimers before I show you a close up of the finished item.  If you’ve never dyed before, please take a look at some tutorials to get you going with the basics of dyeing, like temperature, acidity and whatnot, as I didn’t talk about it here.
I like very saturated colors, to get the shade you want you’ll have to try different concentration of dyes.  Did I mention you shouldn’t rub your brush against the yarn?

You can buy the pattern for PPaola here and try your hand at dyeing, but of course, you can also try this technique with anything else you knit.