These final steps can be the most important of the crocheting process. Once you've finished creating the body of your piece, you'll need to tie up loose ends and make sure all elements are working together in harmony. These finishing techniques will ensure that your garment looks lovingly handmade rather than like a homemade mess.
Although the word “blocking” sounds ominous, like something that should be avoided, it’s actually one of the most important steps to successfully completing your garment. In essence, blocking is a method of shaping and molding your crocheted pieces to match the measurements and shapes on the schematics. Blocking will also remove wrinkles and creases that might occur if the pieces have been folded.
Keep in mind that blocking is only to shape and not to correct mistakes by making a piece wider or longer so it matches another piece. Unlike most grunt work, the payoff to a successfully blocked garment is huge. With some time and effort the end result will be a beautiful sweater that looks lovingly handmade rather than a homemade mess.
There are two main categories of blocking: wet and steam. To know which one to use with the yarn that was used for your project, refer to the ball band for the fiber content and to the pressing guide below. To get started, gather up all the supplies you’ll need, including the schematics or the measurements from the pattern. The schematics and measurements will serve as a blueprint for you to follow, so you’ll know exactly what size and shape the pieces should be stretched and molded into.
There are two ways to wetblock your crocheted pieces. Both techniques work equally well, so choose the one that appeals to you most. The first is to immerse the pieces in cool water, then squeeze out the water, taking care not to wring or twist them. Working one at a time, place the piece on a flat, covered, padded surface (or a blocking board), then stretch and mold the piece into the same size and shape shown on the schematic. Referring to “Pinning and Blocking,” pin the key edges to hold the piece in shape until it is totally dry. Depending on the room temperature and humidity, drying time can be in excess of twenty-four hours, so just be patient.
The second method is to pin the pieces first (following the schematics), then wet them down using a spray bottle filled with cool water. Again, leave them be until they are dry. And no cheating! If you unpin pieces that are even slightly damp, they will lose the blocked shape and you will have to start all over again!
To steamblock, first pin the pieces on a flat surface following the measurements on the schematics. Set your steam iron on the lowest setting that will still produce steam, or use a handheld steamer. Once you have a good steam going, hold the iron or steamer close to the fabric, then work in a circular motion over the entire piece until every inch is evenly dampened. DO NOT touch the iron to the fabric! If you find that you must lightly press the piece, cover it with a colorfast towel or a pressing cloth to protect the fabric from the hot metal plate. Drying after steaming takes a lot less time than wet blocking, but you still must allow the pieces to dry thoroughly before unpinning.
pinning and blocking
1. Pin the key areas as shown, omitting the bottom edge. For perfectly straight edges, make sure to space the pins evenly.
|2. Following the schematic, use a tape measure to make sure you pin the piece evenly to the padded surface.|
All fibers react differently to heat, so it’s a good idea to know what to expect before you press or steam them (or even if you should). Many yarns are a combination of fibers, so you should choose a method that is compatible with all the contents. Read the ball band to see what fiber has the highest percentage, then go with the recommended method for that fiber first. Test the method on your gauge swatch to see the results and determine if you have to make any adjustments before committing the technique to your garment pieces.
|Angora||Wet block by spraying|
|Cotton||Wet block or warm/hot steam press|
|Linen||Wet block or warm/hot steam press|
|Lurex||Do not block|
|Mohair||Wet block by spraying|
|Novelties||Do not block, unless there are specific blocking directions|
|Synthetics||Carefully follow instructions on ball band—usually wet block by spraying, do not press|
|Wool and all wool-like fibers (alpaca, camel hair, cashmere)||Wet block by spraying or warm steam press|
|Wool blends||Wet block by spraying; do not press unless pretested first|
1. Flat, covered, padded surface large enough to hold one piece of crochet and thick enough to insert and hold pins (such as a carpet or mattress covered with plastic and a towel). Or you might want to invest in a blocking board, which is easier to use and more convenient (although a little pricey).
2. Rustproof T-pins or glass-headed pins. Do not use pins with plastic heads. They will melt when they come in contact with heat.
3. Tape measure
4. Schematic for the sweater you are blocking
5. Colorfast towels
6. Spray bottle with cool water or a sinkful of cool water
7. Steam iron or handheld steamer
8. Pressing cloth
The pieces of your garment are complete; now it's time to put them together. Attaching sleeves and hems requires patience and careful attention to avoid puckering or pulling, and there is a certain order to putting pieces together, so don't skip this important section.
ORDER OF ASSEMBLING
When you’ve finished crocheting the pieces for a sweater, it’s time to assemble them. (Before you thread your yarn needle, you should block the pieces first to get the most professional-looking results.) There is a certain order to putting pieces together, and for good reason. Not to follow the order is like putting the cart before the horse. All sweater patterns have finishing directions at the end. The finishing directions will state what and when to sew and how to complete unfinished edges like a neckline. As an example, here’s what you should expect to find for a crewneck pullover that has dropped-shoulder sleeves: First, sew the shoulder seams. Second, finish the neck edge (with a neckband, trim, etc.). Third, sew the sleeves to the body of the sweater. And fourth, sew the side and sleeve seams. This is done in one continuous seam, from the end of the sleeve to the underarm and then down the body of the sweater to the bottom edge.
MARKING FOR ARMHOLES
The simplest sweater to make is one with dropped shoulders. Although the top edges of the sleeves are straight and the side edges of the body are straight, it can be a little tricky to sew the sleeves evenly to the body. First, let’s get a handle on how to mark for the beginning of the armholes, then we’ll discuss how to sew the sleeves evenly in place.
Where or how to mark for the armholes depends on the way a sweater direction is written. You will encounter two ways, and both are acceptable. The first way is when you have crocheted the stated amount of inches to the underarms. The directions will say: “Mark beginning and end of last row for beginning of armholes.” To mark, simply fasten one safety pin to the beginning of the last row and one to the end of the last row. Continue to work following the directions, until you have reached the armhole measurement stated in the directions. Before you join the sleeves, join the shoulders (referring to the finishing directions).
The second way is when the directions have you mark for the armholes after the shoulders are joined. To mark, lay the sweater out flat on a flat surface. Measure down from the center of the shoulder seam along the side edge of the back (or front) to the stated amount of inches (take care not to stretch the fabric), then fasten with a safety pin. Repeat along the front (or back) side edge, then mark for the armholes along the opposite front and back side edges. Just to make sure that all things are equal, also measure from the safety pin marks down to the bottom edges. Make any adjustments necessary.
Now that you know how to mark for the armholes, here’s how to center the sleeves in the armholes. Using a tape measure, measure and mark (using a straight pin) the center of the top edges of the sleeves. Place each sleeve along the armhole edge between the armhole markers and so the straight-pin mark is centered in the center of the shoulder seam. Join each sleeve following the seaming directions. Don’t forget to remove all the pins!
Whenever you have two pieces that are to be joined together, they must be the same length. For a cardigan, both fronts and back should be the same exact length. Mismatched seams will give you a lopsided sweater that will not only fit poorly but also look silly. The same goes for sleeves. Each should be equal in length so that when you wear the sweater, each cuff will fall at the same point on both wrists.
There are two ways to tackle the issue of length. The first is to measure precisely using a tape measure. Lay the piece on a flat surface and measure the length without stretching the piece in either direction. Pulling on the fabric to make it meet a measurement is only a temporary solution. Yarn has a memory and will spring back to its original shape once tension has been released.
The second way to ensure equal lengths is to count rows. This is the most reliable method. You can either opt for a row counter or go for the old paper and pencil. Mark or check off the row as you are about to crochet it, so you’ll always know where you are and have an accurate count. But just in case a row or two is missed, recount the rows just to be absolutely sure of the count before you fasten off the last stitch.
Once you've fastened off the last stitch of all your garment pieces, it's time to assemble them into something you can wear. There are a few ways to join crochet pieces together and each version serves a different purpose. Some use a yarn needle and are woven or sewn together and some use a crochet hook and are crocheted together. In all instances you will use the same yarn that was used for your project. For the most part you want to join edges together neatly without creating bulky seams. However, sometimes you need a very sturdy seam for a garment that will get a lot of wear, so a little bulk is a small price to pay for longevity.
1. This method gives you an invisible seam with no bulk. Work on a flat surface. With the right sides of both pieces facing you, and the two edges adjoined, secure with safety pins every 2"/5cm. Thread a yarn needle with the tail from the foundation chain. To secure the edges together before weaving, insert the needle from back to front into the corner stitch of the piece without the tail. Making a figure eight with the yarn, insert the needle, from back to front, into the stitch with the tail. Tighten to close up the gap.
|2. To begin weaving the seam, insert the needle through the first stitch on the left edge and then through the first stitch on the right edge. Insert the needle through the next stitch on the left edge and then through the next stitch on the right edge. Continue to alternate weaving from edge to edge in this manner, carefully matching stitches (or rows) and drawing the yarn only tight enough the keep the edges together.|
1. The backstitch is used when you need a seam that’s extra strong and bulk is not an issue. Place the pieces together so the right sides are facing, then pin every 2"/5cm. Thread the tail from the foundation chain into the yarn needle. Working from back to front, secure the beginning of the seam by taking the needle twice around the bottom edges. Working from back to front again, insert the needle so it exits about ¼"/.5cm from the last stitch, as shown.
|2. Insert the needle into the same hole as the last stitch, then back up approximately ¼"/.5cm in front of the last stitch. Draw the yarn through, then tighten only enough to keep the edges together. Continue to work in this manner, taking care to keep the stitches straight and the same length.|
||The whipstitch is used for joining squares for an afghan together, like grannies, as well as other short, straight edges. Thread the tail from the foundation chain in a yarn needle. Place the pieces together so the wrong-side sides are facing, edges are even, and stitches line up. Insert the needle into the back loop of the piece in front and into the front loop of the adjacent stitch of the piece in back. Continue to work in this manner, drawing the yarn just tight enough to keep the edges together.
single crochet seam
1. Use this method for decorative exterior seams. Working from the ball of yarn, make a slip knot 6"/15cm from the yarn end. Place the slip knot on the hook. To work across top edges, place the pieces together so wrong sides are facing. Working from front to back, insert the crochet hook through both loops of each piece and draw through a loop. Yarn over and draw through both loops on the hook. Continue to work one single crochet in each pair of adjacent loops across.
|2. To work across side edges, place the pieces together so wrong sides are facing. Working through both thicknesses, work single crochet stitches directly into matching stitches at the side edge, making sure to space them evenly and at the same depth so that all single crochet stitches are the same size.|
slip stitch seam
|Use this technique when you want an especially sturdy joining but don't mind the extra bulk. Place the pieces together with right sides facing and edges even; pin every 2"/5cm. Working through both thicknesses and from front to back, insert the crochet hook between the first two stitches, one stitch in from the edge. Working from the ball of yarn, catch the yarn on the wrong side (about 6"/15cm from the end) and draw through a loop. *Insert the hook between the next two stitches. Draw through a loop, then draw through the loop on the hook. Repeat from the *, keeping an even tension on the yarn so the stitches are even in size and the joining has the same stretchiness as the crocheted fabric.|