Drea Renee Knits

techniques

//Mix & Mingle// The Perfect Shawl For Color-play

brioche, fade, KNIT in COLOR, knitting, new pattern, sale, techniquesAndrea Mowry3 Comments
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If you follow my work, then you know that I love to play with color! But I really didn't start out that way. I used to be terrified of picking out colors, full of self doubt and feeling like I just wasn't born with the "color gene."

Fast forward a few years and now one of my favorite classes to teach is Color Confidence! Now that color has entered my life, it brings me so much joy! I will always equally love a neutral palette (hey - neutrals are colors too!), but I love pushing my color comfort zone so that I am continuously exploring new color combinations and bringing new hues into my life!

If you have taken my class, then you will already be familiar with my favorite ways to play with color - Marling, Fading and Two-color Brioche!! These techniques helped to open up a whole new world of color-play. And the more we play (aka practice) the more our confidence grows!

So this sweet little crescent shaped shawl combines my favorite techniques all in one and is a super fun way to boost your own Color Confidence! Mix & Mingle is knit from the top down and finished off with my favorite edge treatment - an applied brioche border. Knit up in 4 colors, the possibilities are endless. I knit mine out of Hedgehog Fibre's Cashmere Merino - because who doesn't love to drape their shoulders in cashmere?? I am already planning a second, larger version. This shawl is so easy to adapt to different sizes by just adjusting the yarn weight you are using! The original is knit up in lace weight, but next on my needles I am going to use fingering weight yarn!

I hope Mix & Mingle inspires you to explore color and techniques in a new way, for a truly joyful knitting experience!! You can snag your copy of Here or Here! Enjoy 10% off your pattern purchase with the coupon code MIX thru 4/11/18 at midnight EST! Don't forget to use #mixandmingleshawl when you post on social media so I can see all of your gorgeous shawls!

If you love the ease of using a knit kit - head on over to Kitterly to check out their beautifully curated Mix & Mingle kits!!

P.S. As a thank you to my newsletter subscribers for being a part of my community, they receive a larger discount when I publish my new patterns! Interested?? Sign up today! It's full of video tutorials, the latest DRK news, behind the scenes photos and a special section dedicated to sharing things I think you'll love!!

A Whirlwind Trip and THREE New Patterns!!

knitting, new pattern, sale, techniques, yarnAndrea Mowry3 Comments

Hello everyone!

I have just gotten home after almost 3 weeks of traveling in the PNW! I can't wait to share more about my trips in the next few weeks, but today I am so excited to share the release of not one, not two, but THREE new patterns!!

The Weekender

First up - my perfect pullover! When Brooklyn Tweed came out with their line of marls for Shelter, I knew I needed a marled sweater (or three ;) . I have been living in this sweater since it came off of my needles! It is perfect dressed up or down - whether going out to dinner with friends, or hiking in the woods this flattering sweater is fun to knit and even better to wear!!  The Weekender is knit from the bottom up seamlessly, with a three needle bind off to close the shoulders. The sleeves are then picked up around the armholes and knit down to the cuffs. You begin with a tubular cast on and end with tubular bind offs! If you have never tried any of the tubular techniques, now is the time! This was my first time playing with them, and I have to say - now I totally get what all the fuss is about! I love how they turned out!!

Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Marls in Narwhal

 Photograph by my lovely and insanely talented friend Jonna Hietala (Editor in Chief of Laine Magazine)

Photograph by my lovely and insanely talented friend Jonna Hietala (Editor in Chief of Laine Magazine)

I loved my long sleeve version so much, I immediately cast on a sleeveless version! This modification is SO easy!! Just don't add the sleeves - that's it!

Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Marls in Newspaper

Both samples were knit up in the size Small, with a finished bust circumference of 44"/112 cm for 10"/25.5 cm positive ease on my 34"/86 cm bust.

A very special thank you to Kjerste of Wax and Wool, etc. for helping me name this pattern!!


Hoarfrost Shawl

Next is my current go-to shawl - Hoarfrost.

I chose the super bouncy Lakes Yarn and Fibers Organic Targhee worsted weight yarn for this super cozy shawl. I love using heavier weight yarns for lace projects! It amplifies the look of my project while providing instant gratification! This asymmetrical shawl is worked sideways, casting on at the corner and using the bind off edge to form the last side of the triangle. I find that working this shape in a worsted weight yarn, creates an incredibly wearable and cozy shawl that is also pretty quick to knit! I began this shawl with my favorite knit and purl texture that is totally reversible, and ended it with my favorite fir cone lace pattern, enclosing the entire shawl in the super neat i-cord edging!

Yarn: Lakes Yarn & Fiber Worsted Targhee in Hoarfrost

 This and all other images, aside from Jonna's, are by my incredibly talented husband - Peter Mowry! You can find more of his photography on Instagram under @petermowryphotography

This and all other images, aside from Jonna's, are by my incredibly talented husband - Peter Mowry! You can find more of his photography on Instagram under @petermowryphotography


Tincture Hat

Last, but certainly not least is my new hat Tincture! As I was developing my brand new mosaic knitting class for Vogue Knitting Live, I wanted to create an extra special project for my students! It was so fun to surprise them last Friday with this brand new pattern that we all knit together! This super cute toque combines my favorite mosaic pattern with Brooklyn Tweed's Arbor for a gorgeous and modern hat that looks way more complicated than it is! If you have never tried mosaic knitting (coined by one of my heroes- Barbara Walker), I highly recommend it!! It is a great introduction into colorwork, without having to worry about tight floats or managing more than one color at at time!

Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in Thaw & Tincture

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What’s better than fall knitting?! To celebrate this huge November multi-pattern release, if you purchase Hoarfrost and The Weekender, you will receive Tincture as your free gift! Simply head on over to Ravelry and add ALL 3 PATTERNS to your basket and enter the coupon code NOVEMBER to receive Tincture for free! Coupon code must be entered before transaction is completed and is good through Friday, 11/10/17 at midnight EST! (Please note that all 3 patterns - Hoarfrost, The Weekender and Tincture must be in your basket before checkout or you will not receive the free pattern. The discount cannot be applied retroactively. Thank you!)

These patterns will be available on DreaReneeKnits.com next week sans promotion.

New Pattern // Marluks

knitting, new pattern, sale, slippers, techniques, yarnAndrea Mowry2 Comments
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One of my earliest patterns was a pair of mukluks (which I still adore!) The generous cuff length and afterthought heel make this style of slipper my most knit and (maybe more importantly) worn house sock! They are so comfortable and I love the look - they feel like a compliment to my outfit and I may have worn them in public more than once (although, my poor slippers didn't appreciate the jaunt on pavement!)

When A Verb for Keeping Warm told me they were getting ready to launch a new marled version of their amazing Pioneer line, I couldn't wait to try it out! If you have never knit with Pioneer, I cannot recommend it enough! This 100% Organic California Merino is woolly, but not scratchy - think sturdy but cozy, and great stitch definition! It is one of my all time favorite organic yarns! I'd been dying to get some new slippers on my needles and was so excited to cast on!

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With holiday knitting upon us, I wanted a fun relaxing knit that would double as the perfect selfish or gift knit! The mukluks are offered in 3 adult sizes and can be adjusted to fit different foot lengths. The textured panel keep this knit engaging, without being too complicated. I hope you love these new Marluks (Marled + Mukluks ;) as much as I do! Please enjoy 15% off with the coupon code MARL until 10/4/17 at midnight EST! You can also purchase a ready to go kit from A Verb for Keeping Warm HERE!

I also had a major "Aha!" moment with these slippers. I love an afterthought heel (as you may have guessed if you have knit any of my slipper patterns. An afterthought heel is awesome as it is pretty easy to execute, and if you ever wear out the heel, you can simply remove it and knit a new one! The trickiest part is probably the removal of waste yarn and slipping your stitches back on your needle. So while knitting these I realized I could place a lifeline in the rows of stitches on either side of my waste yarn, so that when my waste yarn is removed when I am ready to knit my heel, the stitches are safe and secure on my lifelines until I slip them back on to my needles! This also takes all the guess work out of if you are getting all of the necessary stitches back on your needles. I filmed a fun little video to show how I do this (below) and there is a handy link in the pattern as well!

For more fun tutorials you can head over to my Youtube channel and subscribe! I've also just updated my Interviews page with some fun new podcasts and blog interviews! If you hoping to attend one of my workshops, you'll want to keep an eye on my events page!

Knit Stars 2.0!! Early enrollment ends in 2 days- 7/7/17!!

knitting, teaching, techniques, workshop, knit starsAndrea Mowry1 Comment

I am SO THRILLED to announce that I will be one of the instructors for Knit Stars 2.0!!

Enrollment for Knit Stars 2.0 is open (but only for 2 more days)! It's all online, with instruction from 10 amazing pros from all around the world - and you don't need to leave your home. The Knit Stars 2.0 online summit is happening in October, and this is your chance to get in at a special earlybird rate (save $50!!!) and get special access to the exclusive Knit Stars yarns. Click here for all the information and to enroll!

You get access to the workshops from all 10 instructors and they never expire! I attended Knit Stars 1.0 last year, and I still reference my classes for helpful tips and inspiration! It was such an amazing experience for me that when they asked me to teach this year the answer was a resounding YES!

I am so excited to pass on some of the tips and techniques that have helped me to be a more creative and efficient knitter. Let's get our fade on together!!

I also can't wait to reveal the awesome yarn dyer I've been working with to create some super special colorways only available to those who sign up! Eek!!!

Don't delay - sign up today and get ready for a really amazing experience that will take your knitting to the next level!

stEEK-along! Let's take the EEK out of steeking!!

knitting, techniquesAndrea Mowry2 Comments

Happy Monday! This week I am teaming up with two amazing designers - Shannon Cook of So Very Shannon and Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks - to challenge ourselves to explore Steeking with a little Instagram stEEk-along!

Have you every steeked? Do you know what steeking is? Do you want to join us?!

In a nutshell, steeking is a method that allows you to knit your project entirely in the round (always a bonus in my book!), and then by reinforcing the stitches on either side of your cutting line (usually with crochet or a sewing machine), you then take the scissors to your knit, and snip snip snip! Perfect for cardigans, armholes, and even bonnets! This is especially useful for colorwork, as it is a lot easier to knit and follow a colorwork chart on the right side (or front) of your work, then on the wrong side (or back.)

I've done my homework and sketched up a little color chart I plan to follow for my swatch. I am going to use Brooklyn Tweed's new DK yarn, Arbor, in Humpback and Thaw. I have been dying to get these colors on my needles together! From what I have read, it is best to use a stickier yarn - so non-superwash wool is ideal. I think Shelter or Loft would be even better! I think for the first time around, avoiding super slick superwash yarns seems to be a good idea.

I am referencing this tutorial from Tin Can Knits, for when I am ready to do my cutting. There are lots of tutorials out there - so pick whichever speaks to you!

So here are the details if you want to join in on the fun!!

Beginning on Monday, April 3: Pick your yarn and start your swatch! Remember that you are knitting in the round ;) Not a fan of colorwork - no problem! You can swatch in one color, or choose stripes, or whatever fits your fancy! Make sure to post a picture of your yarn and scissors on Instagram and use the tag #stEEKal and #swatchnsteek, so we can all follow along and support each other!

4/3-4/10: Post a picture of your finished swatch before cutting it and tag it with #stEEKal #preop #beforethesteek

Monday, April 10: Snip day!! We will take the fear out of cutting into our knits and snip snip snip! Post a video or before and after pictures on Instagram with the tags #stEEKal and #snipyourknits!

Are you a seasoned steeker?? Tell us your favorite tips or share links to your favorite tutorials in the comments below! <3 <3 <3


Congratulations to the winner of Circus Tonic Handmade giveaway - Chris Hindle!! I've messaged you :)

 

Knitting with Yak Down, Fiber Wash for Fine Fibers, & the Importance of Blocking Your Swatches

knitting, techniques, yarnAndrea Mowry4 Comments
 Bijou Bliss 50/50 Yak Down &amp; Cormo Blend

Bijou Bliss 50/50 Yak Down & Cormo Blend

Let's start with the yarn, Bijou Basin Ranch Bijou Bliss - because without the yarn, there would be no swatch. This yarn was an unexpected treat for me. I had never knit with Yak Down, but I knew I loved Cormo. Cormo is so springy and soft, and I highly recommend it! Blended with the Yak Down, you get a yarn that is supple and soft enough to wear next to your skin, but that feels sturdy enough to be sweater worthy. The kind of sweater you adore and that can be lovingly handed down thru generations. This bouncy yarn was was telling me it wanted to be cables, and with my new stitch dictionary at hand, I happily agreed.

 Cable Fabric knit up from  The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary  by Wendy Bernard

Cable Fabric knit up from The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard

I would love to knit a cabled Fishermen's sweater out of this yarn. I love both the cream and brown natural colors, but I also think the cream would be a delight for any natural dyer to work their magic on!

 Allure Fine Fiber Wash

Allure Fine Fiber Wash

After knitting up my swatch I gave it a soak in Allure Fine Fiber Wash. This fiber wash is amazing for any of your specialty fibers, including cashmere! It is a no-rinse wash, which if you read my last post on blocking, you know I highly prefer, especially for delicate fibers! I then squeezed out the extra moisture, gently, using a hand towel, and pinned it on a blocking mat to open up the cables while it dried.

So youmight be thinking to yourself - "Ugh! I already avoid swatching like the plague, and now you want me to block my swatch as well?!?! I just want to cast on!" I feel ya. But let's take a look at my swatches before and after blocking.

 My swatch  BEFORE  blocking.

My swatch BEFORE blocking.

 My swatch  AFTER  blocking.

My swatch AFTER blocking.

My swatch before blocking was 5 x 4.5 inches, after blocking it grew to 5.5 x 4.75 inches. Think about the difference in gauge! If you are knitting a sweater and try to go by your unblocked swatch, once you block your finished garment, it will be way too big. The nice thing about swatches - lay them in a sunny spot, and they only take afew hours to dry. It is so worth that extra bit of time to ensure that whatever you are knitting, will turn out just how you had hoped! This will also tell you what sort of drape can be expected of your finished fabric. Depending on what you are knitting, this may lead you to want to change needle sizes. And as you can imagine - when it comes to cables and lace, you have to block to open them up! Swatching has become a part of the process that I really enjoy now. I like to think of them as quick little "palette cleansers" between projects. Its my first opportunity to get to know the yarn and stitches that I will be using for my project, and I can't help but love my little basket full of swatches. Each one a memory of that time in my life and the project I was working on!

I highly recommend this yarn, especially for all of you breed-specific yarn fans! And now you know which fiber wash to get for your more delicate blends! Get swatching and blocking my friends, you won't regret it (and some of you may even come to love it!)


Congratulations to Meg on winning last week's giveaway!! I've emailed you!

Hand Care: Taking Care of Our Most Precious Tools

knitting, techniques, toolsAndrea Mowry8 Comments

This past week I have been very busy knitting EVERYTHING. As you can imagine, this can take a real toll, and so I wanted to take a moment today to talk about taking care of and protecting our most precious tool - our hands. Early in the week, with deadlines looming, I noticed I was knitting "thru the pain," and knew I had better start paying attention to that twinge of discomfort pinging in my thumb. Even though I didn't want to, I set my knitting down, did some stretches and a hand massage, and left my knitting for the next day. Taking this brief time out, allowed my hands the necessary time they needed to rest so that I didn't end up with a worse problem. In the past, I made the mistake of ignoring the warning signals - and paid the price dearly. Listen to your body, take short breaks now, so that your hands don't end up on the sidelines for a number of weeks (or worse months!)

I have been an avid knitter for many, many years, but before knitting became my job, my hands were still the force behind my livelihood. My twenties were spent baking as a pastry chef, with a brief stint as a hairdresser thrown in. I love to use my hands, and they have treated me well over the years. After a few injuries, I have learned to take good care of them, so I can continue doing what I love!

I am sure I am not the only one out there guilty of hours of marathon knitting whenever my life allows. You may have had your own experiences in the past of "over-doing" it, and ending up with very sore hands (or worse, a serious injury.)

Let me stop and say here - I am not a doctor. Everything contained in this post is what I, personally, have found helpful, and is my own opinion. If you are concerned you may have injured your hands, please see a specialist!


My top three tips for keeping your hands happy and crafty are:

1. Take breaks!! It is so easy to slip into the knitting zone (especially if you have a great Netflix series or audio book going ;). Your hands will fair much better in the long run if you take a break at least every 30 minutes. It doesn't have to be long, but just something to break up the repetitive movements. A few minutes, and you can pick up and keep going! If you tend to get lost in the meditation of knitting, try setting a little timer on your phone as a helpful reminder!


2. Moisturize! Especially in these colder winter months, are hands get so dry. Give them some love with a good moisturizer. And better yet, throw in a quick hand massage at the same time! My current favorite that I keep in my project bag is Love and Leche Lotion Bars. I have tried all kinds of different hand products, and I really love this one for a number of reasons. For one - it's adorable, I love the stamped bee on the bar, or even better the hearts they stamped for Valentine's Day! The scents are delicious, while being very mild. I love my essential oils, but I don't always want to impose them on the entire cafe I happen to be knitting at! Most importantly - this lotion doesn't interfere with my knitting. I have tried so many moisturizers that leave my hands greasy or wet feeling, which is not ideal when you are trying to work with fiber and slippery needles. These bars feel decadent as your rub them between your hands, and then leave a moisture that is easy to work into your skin, leaving your hands soft and ready to knit. I actually love my bar so much I wanted to share with you a quote from the companies site:

When you receive one of my soaps or lotion bars, they may have been hand-poured by my son Simon, and packaged by my daughter Roan. The packaging was designed by a local designer, and strives to be as green as possible for the size of my business: recyclable, reusable, re-giftable, or keepable-foreverable! The artisan designs were thoughtfully created as a collaboration between myself and local sculptor Stephanie Huerta...
— www.loveandleche.com

What a great treat to have in my bag - from a family run business that cares. To read more about the benefits of these bars, and to get your own you can head HERE. I am lucky enough that my LYS sells these - yours might too!

 While moisturizing my hands, I always give myself a little hand massage. One of my favorite parts of the massage is to pretend that my fingers extend all of the way to the base of my hand at my wrist. I follow this path all the way up, pushing and squeezing gently, to the tip of each of finger. Imagine you are "milking a cow."

While moisturizing my hands, I always give myself a little hand massage. One of my favorite parts of the massage is to pretend that my fingers extend all of the way to the base of my hand at my wrist. I follow this path all the way up, pushing and squeezing gently, to the tip of each of finger. Imagine you are "milking a cow."


3. Stretch! Below are some of my favorite stretches to do during my breaks.

 I typically begin my simply bracing my hands against a wall or table and pushing gently. I start with my fingers pointing up, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then rotate so my fingers are pointing down and hold for another 10 seconds.&nbsp;

I typically begin my simply bracing my hands against a wall or table and pushing gently. I start with my fingers pointing up, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then rotate so my fingers are pointing down and hold for another 10 seconds. 

 Here is another variation on that same stretch that you can do anywhere. I really like this version as I can very gently adjust my hand a bit to the right or left to feel the stretch stronger on one side, and then the other. This is great to loosen up your wrist. Remember to repeat this stretch with the other hand!

Here is another variation on that same stretch that you can do anywhere. I really like this version as I can very gently adjust my hand a bit to the right or left to feel the stretch stronger on one side, and then the other. This is great to loosen up your wrist. Remember to repeat this stretch with the other hand!

 This stretch I find not only alleviates any tension in my forearm and wrist, but also in my fingers. With your arm outright, gently pull back on your fingers with your other hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat with your other hand.

This stretch I find not only alleviates any tension in my forearm and wrist, but also in my fingers. With your arm outright, gently pull back on your fingers with your other hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat with your other hand.

 Thumbs! Mine seem to get the brunt of the work sometimes and can get really tight. In this stretch just hold your hand out with fingers spread and gently pull your thumb towards the back of your hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat with your other thumb.

Thumbs! Mine seem to get the brunt of the work sometimes and can get really tight. In this stretch just hold your hand out with fingers spread and gently pull your thumb towards the back of your hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat with your other thumb.

 Pinky's up! Same as the above stretch, just with your pinky instead of your thumb. Feel free to repeat this stretch with all of your fingers.

Pinky's up! Same as the above stretch, just with your pinky instead of your thumb. Feel free to repeat this stretch with all of your fingers.

 This forearm stretch is another favorite. I work down the outside of my arm, then rotate and work down the inside of my arm. Simply squeeze and then gently push down towards your hand (without actually slipping down your arm) to stretch. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Let go, move down your arm a little ways, and repeat. I usually do 2-3 segments to make it down the lower part of my arm.

This forearm stretch is another favorite. I work down the outside of my arm, then rotate and work down the inside of my arm. Simply squeeze and then gently push down towards your hand (without actually slipping down your arm) to stretch. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Let go, move down your arm a little ways, and repeat. I usually do 2-3 segments to make it down the lower part of my arm.

 Same as above, working down the inside of my arm.

Same as above, working down the inside of my arm.

 Lastly, a stretch I think we are all familiar with! Simply lock your fingers together, rotate palms facing out and push away from your body. Hold stretch for 15 seconds, repeat if desired.

Lastly, a stretch I think we are all familiar with! Simply lock your fingers together, rotate palms facing out and push away from your body. Hold stretch for 15 seconds, repeat if desired.

I hope this post helps to inspire you to take care your precious five-fingered assets. If you have any tips you want to share on you how take care of your hands- please leave them in the comments!!


Congratulations to Nikki - the winner of last week's giveaway!!

Washing Woolens & Eucalan Giveaway!!

knitting, tools, techniquesAndrea Mowry85 Comments

Grab a hot bevi, and let's talk about washing and blocking our woolens!!

I am passionate about blocking and truly believe it will take you to the next level as a knitter!  My favorite wool wash company, Eucalan, also happens to be celebrating their 25th year! So I thought it was perfect timing to really delve into another of my favorite topics ;)

I know there is many a knitter out there who finds blocking their knits akin to cleaning the bathroom - it's just not high on your to do list, or maybe better stated, your want-to-do list. I hope today I can change your mind.

In my earlier days of knitting, I avoided blocking my knits - I just couldn't be bothered! I wanted to get back to the fun part - the knitting! (And don't even get me started on swatching!) Thankfully, thanks to the wisdom of Elizabeth Zimmerman, and some eye opening personal experiences, I am now a faithful blocker, and I actually really enjoy it!

They take time and care to make, so wash them with time and care.
— Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears

I have two specific memories that helped change the way I feel about washing and blocking my woolly goodies. The first was a sweater - bulkier weight, hip length and full of big, squishy cables. The second it was off my needles and seamed, I tried it on and was so sad. It added about 10 pounds to my hips alone! The bulky yarn and the squishy cables I had dreamed of, were hugging me in all the wrong places and to say it was unflattering on me, was an understatement. I folded it up and gave it to a woman much more petite than myself. Guess what I didn't do? I didn't block it. Those beautiful cables never had the chance to open up - to really show themselves. The drape and fit of the sweater never got to bloom and relax thanks to a quick soak in the tub. The sweater was never given a chance to reach it's potential! Many sweaters later, I learned how powerful of a tool blocking can be, and how essential it really is. Had I blocked that sweater, it no longer would have been pulling in at odd angles from the freshly knit cables. It would have hung properly on my frame, given the opportunity to open up, thanks to a dip in some warm water and a few pins on the blocking boards.

...you are the master of your sweater. A damp sweater may be shaped to your will. It may even be made slightly larger or slightly smaller, by slightly stretching it, or gently coaxing it in.
— Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears

Okay, so I learned to block my sweaters - a big step in the right direction. But hats? Really? Do I really NEEEEDDDD to block my hats??? YES!!! Oh the lumpy crowns of hats I see out in the real world, that could be so round and beautifully shaped, if just given a teensy bit of TLC. The laces and cables that would open; the perfect drape achieved for the slouchy hat we all love so much!! It was cables that did it for me again - taught me the lesson I kept pushing back against. I knit a really beautiful cabled hat, and then threw it on my head (like I would do with all of my hats the moment I bound them off - often times forgetting to weave in the ends.) Hmph, I thought, this really doesn't fit as nicely as it does in the picture. The crown squished together, and the cables sort of enveloped themselves. So what did I do?? Gave it away. Again. Fast forward a year, when I designed my first hat. Being a good little designer I did everything the proper way - swatches, samples, and of course blocking. Mind blown. The crown of my hat was so perfect. I couldn't believe it. How had I not put two and two together all these years?? So that was it. From there on out there isn't a swatch or knit that comes off my needles without a trip to the tub. 

So let's get to the knitty gritty - this is how I block:

Water - think warm enough for a baby's bath (after all, these are your handknit babies you are about to wash). I opt for the kitchen sink, but the bathub, a bucket, a big bowl, anything that can hold a sufficient amount of water to soak your knit is just fine.

Soap - My current favorite is Eucalan Delicate Wash. It is non-toxic, eco-friendly, biodegradable, lanolin-rich and a big one for me - NO RINSE! When I first started blocking I would just use some gentle shampoo. Well if you have tried that, you might be able to feel me on trying to then rinse your woolen. I hated having to refill the basin a couple times to get the soap out. I have also just used a few drops of essential oils - but in my family, we really wear our woolens, and especially with a toddler, I wanted a little more oomph in my sweater bath. My favorite scent is Grapefruit, followed closely by the Lavender. The Grapefruit is scented with grapefruit essential oils which are also naturally antiseptic! The Lavendar is even more amazing - it's antiseptic, deters moths, is rich in lanolin to keep your woolens soft and static free and it's soothing scent is perfect for relaxing, especially for little ones! I love to use it for all of my daughters woolens. The best part is a little goes a long way. I find a capful in my sink is plenty, and my sink can fit a number of articles at once.

Soak - So you've got your warm (NOT hot) water, a bit of wool wash and now it is time to add your woolens! Just toss them in the water and give a gentle squeeze. If you are washing 100% wool that is not superwash, you want to be careful with how much you agitate the knit in the water. We don't want to felt anything, so just gently squeeze it to help it absorb the water. Then leave it to soak for about 15 minutes.

Remove Moisture - This step is pretty important, as you don't want a waterlogged woolen taking days to dry and left smelling like it needs another bath. First, drain the water and then gently squeeze as much excess water as you can with your hands. Next, some brave souls throw it in their washer and run a spin cycle. I have found a big bath towel does the trick just fine for me. I lay out my towel and gently spread my knit out on it. Roll it up like a burrito, and use your full body weight to help press the water out (in other words, go ahead and stand or sit on it!) If your woolen was still really saturated when you pulled it from its bath, you may want to repeat this once more with a dry towel. Not to get repetitive - but do remember to be gentle, damp stitches are heavier, and can get stretched easier if you aren't careful. I find this to be especially true of superwash yarns, which doesn't seem to have quite the same elasticity as their untreated brothers.

Lay Flat to Dry - Time to lay it out and let it dry! I opt for blocking mats, as I find them extremely useful. But you can easily use any large surface you've got! For years - I overtook our dining room table. A word to the wise - do not lay your knits out on towels to dry! The towels will soak in the moisture and now you just have damp garments on top of damp towels getting stinky together and taking forever to dry. If you aren't using blocking mats, I would suggest laying everything out onto garbage bags. The bags can't soak up moisture, so instead the moisture is forced to evaporate. If you need to pin, you can lay the garbage bags over a rug or on your bed, ect...

Blocking Pins and Wires - Some knits are going to want to curl at the edges, so you will need to pin them down. Other items (lace, cables..) need to be more aggressively blocked, and to keep them open you must use pins. In my opinion, pins are essential for blocking, even though you may not use them for every single project, you will most likely use them for most. Wires are great for us shawl lovers out there. They help give a nice straight edge and can be used in all kinds of creative ways when you need to do a "harder block" (i.e. opening up lace or cables.)

Shawls - shawls have to be blocked to obtain their desired shape and look.

Swatches - If you really want to be sure you can trust your swatch, block it the same way you would the finished item you plan to knit. Be amazed at how much tidier your stitches and tension look after a dip in the tub.

Hats - You can block hats flat, or, to really help with the crown shaping they do great draped over something. My favorite is a 6" cake pan turned upside down over a mason jar. An appropriately sized bowl would work great, too. If you want to have even more fun with it - blow up a balloon inside the hat to get the perfect, round head shape!

Our knits take so much of our time, love, and effort, let's take care of them so we can continue to enjoy them for years to come! I am so excited to be able to giveaway a collection of Eucalan's different washes! I am fascinated by these washes and their amazing properties! I touched on the Grapefruit and Lavender above. The Eucalyptus is a great unisex scent that is also a moth and flea inhibitor. If you store your sweaters for the warmer seasons, I highly recommend washing them in this first to help protect them while they are stored! The Natural is perfect for anyone with skin sensitivities, or if you have asthma that is easily effected by any scents. It is still lanolin-rich to keep your knits soft and static free. Lastly, Jasmine is the most intoxicating of the scents! Also rich in lanolin and antiseptic. It would be great one to use for your lingerie as well as your woolens. One lucky winner will win all of 5 of these! Just leave me a comment below with your email address and tell me what you plan to get in your wool bath first! The giveaway will close Saturday, 1/23/16 at midnight PST.

Do you have some great blocking tips?? Share with us in the comments below!

Congratulations to Vicky, our winner of the last week's giveaway!!