And this is why we steam block, folks!

I’m in Christmas gift mode. The holidays are coming, and I am determined, as always, to give as many handmade gifts as I can. And if they aren’t hand-made, then they’ll be charitable or sustainable if possible. More about that last bit in a later post!

One of my favorite gifts to give is hand crocheted scarves. They work up quickly, and are very in style at the moment. They’re easily tailored to the recipients particular style or colors, so they feel very personal. The key to making a crocheted (or knitted) piece pop is blocking. Yarn, be it acrylic or natural, tends to be springy. I crochet pretty tightly, and the tighter the stitches, the greater the tendency that the yarn has to curl up on itself. This results in murky looking stitches, especially if the pattern is lacy. See?

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Not good. Luckily, the process of steam blocking is extremely simple and only a little bit time consuming. An added bonus is that steaming yarn makes it softer, since the whole process works by relaxing yarn’s fibers, which is a huge benefit for projects that are worn close to the skin like a scarf. So how do you steam block an acrylic piece?

1. Start by stretching and pinning your piece into the desired shape. I stretched this scarf quite a bit to show off the detailed fan pattern. Note that my pins are placed as parallel to the ironing board as possible, so that I can get my iron as close as possible. You also want the pins to be fairly close together, so that you don’t get any funny looking points along the edges of your piece.

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2. Set your iron to its steam setting, and begin hovering it as close as possible to your piece w/out touching it. I usually go for about half an inch of space, but if you’re not comfortable holding it that close, then by all means give it some more distance. You DO NOT want the iron to touch your piece, so it’s better to leave some room and steam for longer, then to accidentally get to0 close and kill your acrylic. Touching the hot iron to acrylic yarn will “kill” it, which leaves you with flattened, melted looking stitches.

3. Steam each section of your piece for just a minute or two, until the steam has been allowed to saturate the entire piece and it is warm to the touch. Denser or more tightly stitched pieces may require a little more time.

4. Once you’ve steamed, walk away (but turn off your iron please!!) and let that baby cool completely before unpinning it.

5. Once your piece is completely cool to the touch, start taking your pins out. If the piece springs back when a pin is removed, then you need to steam a little more. Replace the pins, and steam again.

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Easy, right? And it makes such a difference. Check it out:

Before Blocking…

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After Blocking…

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I added tassels on to each end, and this one is now ready to gift. If only I could keep it…

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The details for those who are interested…

Pattern: Fan-Centered Scarf, by Barbara Khouri, from Crochet One-Skein Wonders

Yarn: Red Heart, Boutique Unforgetable, in Echo

Hook: 4mm

 

7 thoughts on “And this is why we steam block, folks!

  1. Beautiful! I had no idea this was a thing. How did you learn this technique or even hear of it? Are you selling your scarves? Still doing etsy? I’d like one in purple and white and green! 🙂
    —Lindsey

    • Thanks! Based on some of the blogs I read, I’d say blocking is pretty common among crocheters and knitters, but this was my first attempt. I stopped doing Etsy because of the time it took, but I would be more than happy to sell you a scarf. Just let me know the specifics, and I’ll get to work!

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