Realizing I Have Something, That Has Probably Always Been There

ScannedImageThis time of year has always been a time of reflection and re-connection, almost a little melancholy for me, and this year is no different.

I had an epiphany recently about my designing. In the past I would have probably laughed if you would have considered me a “designer”. I would never consider myself as “fashion forward” or anything like that. My personal style is pretty simple and definitely reflective of northern California, meaning my wardrobe primarily consists of jeans, T-shirts and flip flops. However undertaking another home improvement project really helped me to focus and realize that I do have a style, I may not have a word to define it, but it is there.

Paintbrush with Blue PaintFor the last decade, my husband and I have taken on various projects of home improvement on our 1920’s farm house. Last week, I tore everything out of the kitchen (yes, a little ambitious just before having people over for the holidays, no one ever accused me of being sane). While getting my “kitchen vision” on track I realized that I approach my crochet designs in much the same way…I need a starting point. I need something to expand from, my ideas do not come from a void, and they need to grow around an inspiration. In the case of my kitchen it is my new sink. I was unable to refinish the sink that I already had, and after some hunting found a great deal on a copper one, and everything else has expanded from that…the counters, the colors, the style, everything from the sink. In past projects the most difficult undertaking I had was re-installing a bathroom, it was a blank slate and I remember how I felt completely overwhelmed with the project, until I finally found a small piece of tile that became my “jumping off point”.

In comparison to my crochet designs, the same thing is true. I need a point of inspiration. Some of those are as simple as a challenge. Such as “What can I create with just this single skein?” or randomly reaching into a bag of yarn and then having to create something with what I pull out. Some inspirations come from architectural designs (believe it or not, I find a lot of ideas from The Old House), or even hotel carpets. The common point that they all have is a point to begin.

I guess I have been designing for much longer then I might have realized, it is just my style seems so everyday to me that I just take it for granted. It is simple, and clean, I attempt for balanced visually not necessarily symmetrically. It is, I hope, a little classic, and not trendy and date-able. It is warm and not afraid of color. I may not have a name for it, but one thing at a time, I only just realized I had one.

Crochet Cursing! Blocking?

ScannedImageI am going to use a curse word in the world of crochet…Blocking. Okay I said it, and I admit it is not my most favorite part of crocheting.
Over all my many years of crocheting, I never blocked my work, but I have a new understanding and appreciation for it in the more recent years.
So in my earlier years of crocheting I mostly created afghans made of acrylic yarn, really looking at it, blocking would not have made much of a difference in my work. But as I began using more natural fibers, I can really see the difference blocking has to offer. This is even true of some of the new synthetic yarns.
I began to thinks about blocking different when someone expressed it as “a way of setting the stitch”. This one phrase opened up a new line of thought about this process, and caused me to investigate how this technique affects my fabric.


Unblocked, they look okay, but the detailing is not as evident.

So what is blocking? Blocking is the process of using moisture to open up the yarn fiber and set it into a desired shape. Yes, you may have already crocheted it into the shape you want, but the original structure of the yarn want s to pull it to itself. By adding moisture, (using a spray bottle of water, or steaming with an iron) the fiber in the yarn relaxes and opens up to the structure you have created. For best results, you should test the blocking on a swatch to determine what the best method of blocking is. Essentially this is a “lay flat to dry” kind of project.
This process is not only used in your finished fabric. The method of getting a fiber wet and setting it to a desired structure actually takes place in handspun yarns as well. It is referred to as “setting the twist”. After a yarn is plied (more than one strand spun together in the opposite direction of the single strands), it is submerged in water to remove the air. It is then snapped like a whip to remove the excess water, and hung to dry, sometimes even weighted (hanging weight at the end of the hank) to set the twists of the yarn. So setting a stitch by blocking is much like setting the twist in the yarn to begin with. It allows the fibers to “receive a new memory” of how to sit and where to belong.


Blocked, you can see more of the open work, and everything is a little crisper and more defined.

I do not use blocking to attempt to create something other then what I stitched, I do not attempt to get an additional several inches to my project and become something it is not. I use it to open up my open stitch work, my lace, help set my edges straighter, help my yarn to know where its new home is.
I guess I really cannot call it a curse word any more; it is a functional tool in my bag of techniques…but still not one that I love…