Blocking Acrylic Yarn-Yes You Can!

Patchwork Kitty BlanketOne of my favorite 100% acrylic yarns to use is Lion Brand’s Vanna’s Choice, a great aran/heavy worsted weight yarn.  With its bright colors and easy care wash-ability, it is often my yarn of choice for baby blankets, throws and hat and scarf sets.  Even my kitty loves Vanna’s Choice!  Not everything you make with this yarn will need blocking.  However, when you do make an acrylic item that would benefit from blocking, don’t fear.

Blocking acrylic can be done and is easy.   To block acrylic, you must subject the fiber to heat in the form of steam.  Some call it KILLING ACRYLIC, and in many ways, this is accurate in that you do permanently alter the fabric.  The heat “melts” the fibers together to create the blocked shape.  If this is done properly and accurately, you will not notice anything more than a beautifully finished item.   So how do you do this?

First, what do you need?What you need to block acrylic yarn

  • Steam  I choose to use a garment steamer.  Some use an iron with a steam setting.  If you use an iron, it is important that the iron NEVER touches the fabric.  If it does, it will burn and you will end up with a shiny, flattened item with loss of stitch definition.  There are times when this may be the desired effect, but usually it isn’t.
  • Blocking boards
  • Blocking pins-no rust
  • Your item.  I’m using the scarf from the pattern Glacier.  The stitch pattern creates a knit look ribbing on one side and a beautiful texture on the other.  It also causes the scarf to curl.  Blocking is necessary to remove the curl.

how to block acrylic yarn step 1Step One

Pin the item to the blocking boards.  This is the time to stretch it to shape, open up lace and even out the edges.  For this scarf, I just want to remove the curl.  I’m not interested in stretching or opening up the stitches.  I like the ribbing and want to keep it as is.

how to block acrylic yarn step 2Step Two

Attack with steam.  Keep the iron or the garment steamer head about 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the fabric.  Work the steam over the entire item and use your fingers to make adjustments if necessary (do not place your fingers in direct steam, it will burn you).  I found it is NOT necessary to soak the garment.  Just damp is fine.  For this scarf, I steamed the entire scarf but spent additional time on the edges as that is my area of concern.

how to block acrylic yarn step 3Step Three

Allow to dry, mostly, then repeat on the other side.  I had a couple of sections that did get soaked.  I didn’t worry about them drying.  When the damp parts were mostly dry, about 20 minutes or so, I flipped it over and repeated.  As you can see by the photos, the scarf is laying pretty flat and there was no need to pin.  Giving it a second attack of steam on the other side will finalize the blocking.  Now allow it to fully dry and you are done!

Your finished product will now look like a polished and beautiful handmade work of art!

Glacier scaf before blocking acrylic

Glacier scarf before blocking

Glacier scarf after blocking

Remember, blocking or killing acrylic is permanent.  There will be items you don’t want to block as you wont want them to lose their stretch-ability. You won’t want to do this on something that is crocheted with negative ease.  The sample scarf has a ribbing stitch pattern.  It is purely decorative and not necessary for stretching.  The coordinating hat also uses a similar ribbing stitch pattern however it is necessary for the hat to have give and stretch for proper fit.  I would not want to block the hat as I would not want to remove this necessary design feature of the hat.

Blocking shouldn’t be something to fear but you do need to be aware that it does permanently change the crocheted item.  Therefore, go slow.  You can always block some more but if you do too much, you could end up with something you hadn’t planned for.

Glacier

Starting Crochet-Working in the Back Bump, video how-to

Working in the Back Bump of your Starting Chain

I’m a fan of working in the back bump of a starting chain.  It creates a finished edge on the starting chain which matches the top edge of the row.  It looks nicer and I think creates a more flexible starting chain with fewer gaps.

As always, the easiest way to learn something is to have someone show you-thank you internet for giving us this ability!  (In addition to being a crochet addict, I’m a bit of a geek, if you haven’t already figured that out…)  So I have spent my day off today (yeah! a day off) trying to figure out how to film a video and upload to my website.  Hopefully, this will work and I’ll be able to show you this awesome method.

Here it goes!

Buy 2 Get 1 Free on Ravelry, Crochet by Darleen Hopkins

P1010130 (1000x1000)

Eyes, Getting them Right, Part III, Crocheted Eyes

Part III in Eyes, Getting them Right

Capturing the right eye look for your crocheted creation may be as easy as  baby safe yarn stitched eyes or cute button eyes.  Or it may require something a little bit more than either of these.  For those times when you need just a little bit more, crocheted eyes are the solution.  And, just like anything you make with yarn, your possibilities are endless.

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P1010779 (1000x997)Mix it Up! Patterns will include instructions on how to make crocheted eyes.  But once you have made a couple, mix and match different eyes with different patterns for an endless variety of options.  My Kissy! Kissy! Fish Face pattern comes with instructions for 2 different eye options.  Same basic pattern but look at how different the two fish are with a small change in the eyes.

P1020025 (809x1000)Add Twinkle!  Probably my favorite part about crocheted eyes is the option to add a little twinkle to the eye.  With the tiniest amount of white yarn, your eyes go from bland to laughing eyes.  And you can use this twinkle to have the eyes looking in one direction.  I use the beginning tail (white) and make two tiny stitches at about a 120 degree angle.  The result is adorable.  He can look up, down, to the side or cross-eyed with this technique.  You do have to be careful.  If the twinkle in both eyes isn’t lined up just right, your critter will look “off”.

P1010130 (1000x1000)P1010663 (500x500)Crocheted Skull Hat100_6647 (550x371)Explore your Options! With crocheted eyes, you are only limited by your imagination.  Keep a folder-physical or virtual-of all your different eye patterns.  After you have a collection, start exploring.  Mix and match or come up with something totally new and unique.

Pros: Endless possibilities!

Cons: Takes a little longer to do and you may need to follow a pattern to get the right look.

IN SUMMARY

Whichever eye option you chose, make sure you do the following:

  • Keep the eyes even.  You want your hat/doll/whatever you are making to be silly, not odd-looking.  I always add 1 eye, then follow the same round/row to the spot where the next eye should be.  Also, I don’t work in the ends until I am certain the placement is correct.
  • For hats, eyes placed closer together is better than farther apart.  Hats will stretch when worn thereby adjusting the placement of the eyes.  Try the hat on before committing to the final placement (ie working in all ends).
  • Have fun with it!
Owl Drool Bib

Eyes, Getting Them Right, Part I-Yarn Stitched

 “The Eyes are the Mirror of the Soul”

Getting the eyes right on your goofy hat, bib or doll can make or break the cuteness factor of your creation.  Choosing the right eye may depend on the recipient of the item, it’s intended use or what items you have on hand.  I have three favorite easy and inexpensive methods for creating eyes; yarn stitched eyes, button eyes and crocheted eyes.  This series of blog posts will discuss the pros and cons of each method, as well as some overall tips to use and pitfalls to avoid when attaching the eyes.

100_6154Yarn Stitched

Just a little bit of yarn can convey an expression-happy, angry or laughing.  Make your doll asleep or stitch an “X” and turn her into a zombie.  Yarn stitching is a simple form of embroidery.  My Happy Pets hat uses a real simple eye to create happy, smiling eyes.  It’s basically a stretched out tip of an arrow.

Sleeping eyes are a snap with a little contrasting yarn.

Sometimes, with a doll, all you need is a  tiny eye and a French knot would be perfect in this case.  I have a future pattern in mind where I will use this simple knot for the eye.  In the meantime, I found this great resource if you want to give it a try.

Attack eyebrows

Attack eyebrows

You can combine yarn stitching with other forms of eyes to add emotion.  My Attack Sock Monkey combines a button eye with a simple yarn stitched eyebrow slanted downward to show he’s in attack mode.

The hardest part about this method is working in ends so they aren’t noticeable on the outside or bumpy on the inside.  It is a very safe baby option  as there is no choking hazard at all. Do an internet search for “embroidered eyes” and click the “images” button for ideas.  You’ll find some beautiful, amazing, complex options but also some real simple variations that will be easy for you to duplicate with your own projects.

Pros

  • Uses left over yarn.
  • Baby-safe, no choking hazard.
  • Great option for items that will be washed a lot.

Cons

  • Can be tricky to learn the more complicated stitches.
  • Ends need to be worked in securely, invisibly and without bumps on the inside of the hat.
Muno by Michelle Vass

Muno by Michelle Vass

Here are a couple examples of other designer’s patterns (Rattle Monsters by Kristi Tullus and Muno by Michelle Vess) that use simple yarn stitched eyes.  I love the creativity!  Click on the photos to learn more about the pattern.

Rattle Monsters by Kristi Tullus

Rattle Monsters
by
Kristi Tullus

Next, Button Eyes

Mr. Springy

Eyes, Getting them Right, Part II-Buttons

Part II in Eyes, Getting them Right

My last post described yarn stitched or embroidered eyes.    Another super easy method to adding character to your creations is with button eyes.

Buttons

Buttons are easy, inexpensive options for eyes and one of my favorites. You can find projects that use a simple basic black button sewed with black thread to projects that use three different colored buttons stacked one on top of the other and backed with felt.  You know the saying, “Cute as a button”, well, there’s are reason for it!  Buttons are cute and crocheted critters with button eyes are even cuter.

I prefer buttons that have four holes for attaching rather than two.  They are more secure and I find the four holed buttons look better.  Maybe it gives a slight illusion of a pupil, not sure, but it is a preference of mine.

Mr. Springy, The Robot DudeTIPS

Use yarn to sew on the buttons.  If your yarn is worsted weight or thicker it will be too thick to use to attach the button.   A simple option is to split the plies of the yarn and use just one.  Try sewing on the button with a coordinating color.   For example, Mr. Springy has button eyes that are sewed on with the contrasting yarn used for his stripes.

Watch out for the types of buttons that attach at the back only.  If they both aren’t secured tight enough they will hang uneven and ruin the look of a project.  You may want to avoid using this type of button on a hat unless you used very thick yarn to crochet the hat.  It is possible for the back of the button to poke thru and irritate the scalp.

Be careful of your placement of the buttons on a hat.  If the hat is a gift or for donation, try the hat on after you placed the eyes to make sure they lay properly and are positioned in a natural way-not too far out to the sides.  Hats stretch when worn and sometimes what looks good laying flat doesn’t look so great when worn.

100_6208_medium2Have fun with buttons.  I made a Goofy Spider hat-he was purple and I wanted to give him red eyes.  I had two mismatched red buttons in my button bin.  I think they made him perfectly goofy looking.

100_6617 (640x640)Get creative with your button options.  I had a hard time finding the perfect buttons for Blockhead Man.  I want flat shiny black buttons and all I had were ones with ridges.  So I flipped the buttons over, used the wrong side and they worked out perfect!

Pros

  • Cute, cute and more cute.  I love the homey feel button eyes give a project.

Cons

  • #1 Con, buttons are a choking hazard.  Do not use on items that will be given to babies younger than 3 yrs. old.

Next, Crocheted Eyes…