Tuesday 21 April 2015

Lily Pond CAL - Block Two

Today sees the release of the second set of CAL patterns. You can download the pattern for free via the Stylecraft web site here.

The pattern this time is for a square block that is worked in the round. You will start by making a small flower, like a tiny new Lily, which you then add rounds of crochet to in order to make a square piece. The detail at the centre of the flower is added later on by sewing a few stitches in place.

Working in the round:
In the pattern for Block One you were instructed to work in rows, but this time you will need to work in the round. The first thing you are asked to do is make and join a chain to form a ring as in the images below. The chain ring becomes your basis for the next round and is covered up by your first round of double crochet (US single crochet):

You can choose whether you want to make the ring by working the chain method as shown above or by making a magic loop. If you are not sure how to make a magic loop I have pasted some images and a tutorial below to help guide you. You could also take a look on YouTube - there are loads of tutorials for this:

Take the yarn tail around your index finger from front to back

Cross the yarn over

Slide your hook under the loop on your finger and catch the yarn loop

With hook facing down, draw the yarn through the loop on your finger

Reposition the hook so that the hook faces up

Make a chain

Carefully remove the yarn loop from your finger

Make sure that the tail end of yarn sits to the left

Work your crochet stitches into the ring

Pull the yarn tail to tighten

Work your slip stitch to join

Joining in a new yarn when working in the round:
In the pattern for Block One I showed you how to change yarn shade on the final step of the last stitch of the row. When working in the round it is neater to completely fasten off one shade at the end of the row and rejoin the new shade at a different point. Working in this way means you get a much neater colour change, but it also means you have to check your stitch count after every round to be sure you haven't treated your slip stitch as a stitch.

Here is my instruction paragraph from the pattern:

Fastening off and re-joining yarn: You will achieve a much neater colour change if you complete rounds and fasten off the yarn, rather than joining mid stitch. When fastening off a yarn at the end of a round, the slip stitch that you have made to join can look like a stitch when you are working the following round. Make sure you count correctly and do not count the slip stitch as a stitch when working subsequent rounds.

The images below show the way to join in a new yarn:

The image above shows clearly where one yarn has finished and where another one is joined, joining in this way means that not all your yarn tails end up needing to be sewn in at the same place and thus makes it much neater.

Weaving in yarn ends:
Sewing in yarn ends can be a real pain, but you could choose to weave some in if you like. I tend to do this when Im working double crochet (US single crochet) as these are nice tight stitches and the yarn is less likely to work itself free. There are a few rows later on in Block Two where you could choose to weave in this way. I tend to weave one yarn end in at a time as 2 can be a bit bulky.

Once you have joined the yarn in, hold the tail end of yarn in line with the top of your work, making sure you are holding it to the back of the work

When you crochet the next st, work under the tail end so that it gets caught within the stitch

You can weave the yarn end in on every stitch until you are happy it is secure

Working into a stitch 2 rows down:
There are some images within the pattern to help guide you through working into a stitch a couple of rows down the work. I have posted the images below so that you can save them to your PC, laptop or note book and really focus in on the detail if need be:

Sewing in the details:
As with the above images I have posted the images I took of sewing in the stitch detail:

There have been many questions and discussions about tension and I really don't want to spend too much time talking about it here, but you do need to be sure that this block is going to fit in with your other pieces, so please make sure you measure and check as you go along. This piece should block out to approximately 15cm square. If you have a measurement close to this then the chances are you will be fine, but a good way to check is to measure this piece against one of the first blocks (Block One) to check that everything is going to fit. You should be able to fit the equivalent of 3 of the small blocks along one of the Block One pieces. You can see more about tension and what we have called 'The Rule Of Thirds' in a previous blog post here.

Blocking and Pressing:
Blocking and Pressing is the term used to describe the process of laying out your crochet pieces and then either steaming or moistening them with water in order to make sure they look neater and more even before you begin the process of joining your pieces together.

I think the term ‘pressing’ is extremely misleading as it implies that you should put something heavy onto your crochet and smooth out your stitches, in the same way that you would iron a crease out of a cotton shirt. In my time as a consultant and tutor I have seen many examples of knitted and crochet pieces that have quite literally been pressed beyond recognition. If you are not careful, pressing a crochet piece with a hot iron will destroy the fibres within your yarn and make your stitches flat and your yarn shiny – in some cases (when dealing with man made fibres) you could even melt or burn your yarn. Once the fibres within your yarn are flattened they will not recover, much in the same way as you can’t un-shrink something that you have washed too hot.

Working through my Crochet Along project you will put a lot of time and effort into creating your crochet pieces in order to produce what I hope you will think is a beautiful lap blanket, which you can take pride in and others can admire. With this in mind I suggest that you take plenty of time to make sure that all your pieces are finished in the nicest way possible and so, once you have sewn in all your yarn ends, I suggest you use the following blocking steps.

Prepare a blocking board:
A blocking board can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. You can buy special foam jigsaw blocking mats, or pick virtually the same things up in a toy store at a fraction of the cost. You can use the top of your ironing board or a bath towel. I use a folded towel on my work surface in the kitchen. I have a chequered tea towel, which I then lay over the top.

Pin out your pieces:
When blocking out a flat piece, such as a a granny square for example, I would lay my piece face down on the tea towel, however, because of the 3D nature of this project I suggest that you lay your pieces the right way up so that you can see all the flower petals and leaves.

If you have a clean chequered or striped piece of fabric or tea towel like mine, you can pin your crochet pieces out in line so that you ensure they are straight. Use a tape measure to ensure that you are blocking to the right size. If you have a plain background you can mark out the size with pins, or even sew in a tacked framework.

Use long, large headed pins to pin the crochet piece out. You should stretch the piece very slightly and put the pins in as flat as you can – I work from the centre out, marking the central point of each side first, then working towards each corner.

Using steam or a water spray:
If you have a steam iron that you know you can trust and that can produce steam without spurting boiling water, you can steam your crochet pieces, but be sure to hold your iron a few inches above your crochet to ensure it doesn’t get too hot.

I use a cold-water spray. I have an old pump action hairspray bottle, which is filled with clean cold water and I spray my crochet pieces until they are nicely damp, but not soaking.
Once the yarn has taken in the water I leave the pieces to dry completely before I remove the pins.

Crochet pieces love to curl up so there is little point blocking each crochet motif as you complete it because by the time you come to put your pieces together they will have curled up again and will need re blocking.

A note on washing:
Stylecraft Life DK is a fabulous yarn – it is hard wearing and easy to wash, however I would suggest that you avoid machine washing this project if at all possible. The tumble and spin actions on many modern day washing machines can be quite destructive to hand made products and, if you put your completed crochet project in with other wash items, you could find that you get snags and catches caused by things like Velcro fastenings or clasps.

Once your project has been put together you may want to wash it. I find that washing a completed piece can make a really big difference to the finished appearance of it. Seams become flatter and stitches become more even. I always hand wash my knit and crochet items in a liquid specially formulated for that purpose, such as woolite or soak. It is wise to avoid biological liquids or powders as they can contain brighteners, which can destroy the yarn fibres, cause bobbles and shade changes.

Once the piece is washed I place it in a tied pillow case and give it a short spin in the washing machine to remove as much water as I can – don’t use a really fast spin as this can cause the piece to stretch and throw in a couple of bath towels at the same time to minimize the amount of movement the project will have, the towels will also help absorb water. Remove the project from the pillow case and lay your crochet project out on bath towel or large soft flat surface to dry. Don’t place in direct sunlight or over a radiator and do not tumble dry. If you have a trampoline in the garden this is an excellent drying place, so long as you keep your pets well away!

And Finally….
I hope you enjoy making these Tiny Lily blocks. I think they are really sweet and would look lovely all on their own in a project. I really like adding detail with sewn stitches; you could always sew the detail onto your lilies in different colour yarns or add some french knots of beads to make them look even prettier.

I am really enjoying seeing all the different colour ways and ideas for additions to the design that you are all coming up with. I'm so pleased that my design has captured the imagination of so many of you and I hope you will continue to send me your lovely images and comments. In the mean time, keep up the good work and happy hooking!

Janie x