Tips and Tricks: Steam-blocking a Ruffle

The Problem: Ruffled Edges

Recently I was finishing up a sample knit for a girl’s tank top.  I designed the shoulder straps with a ruffled edging … which is a little challenging to block, as it turns out.  Today I’ll share the method I used to get the ruffle to be “pretty” without flattening it into submission. Here’s a quick “before and after” shot, using both straps.  The lower strap hasn’t been blocked at all, while the upper strap has — observe the nice square ends of the blocked strap, and the pleasing curves of the blocked ruffle:

1465 ruffled strap (steam-blocked and un-blocked)

Step #1: Pin it out

You didn’t think you’d be able to get away without pins, did you? I used pins to hold the strap squarely on the proper measurements (in this case, 1″ x 7″).  Leave the ruffled edge un-pinned.  The strap is NOT washed beforehand — it’s dry.  Angle the pins away from the piece, to make it easier to get the iron in on the next step.  I’m using a sewer’s ironing board, with padding over a cardboard base (at least I think that’s what it is).

1455 ruffled strap (pinned)

Step #2: Steam it up

With a full iron on steam, hover over the pinned piece, flooding the entire strap with heat and moisture.  Move the iron slowly back and forth over the strap, without touching it. 

1457 ruffled strap (steaming)

Note the space between the iron and the knitting! Don’t let the iron touch the knitting.

1459 ruffled strap (iron clearance)

Step #3: Mold the ruffle

After steaming, the ruffled edge opens up considerably.  It’s no longer curled it a tight roll.  However, it still isn’t exactly right.

1460 ruffled strap (steamed)

Use your fingers to pinch the ruffled edge, molding it into a sinuous curve while it is warm and moist from the steaming.

1462 ruffled strap (shape ruffles)

Step #4: Cool it

Allow the strap to cool completely.  Keep the pins in place and do not disturb the ruffle.  Cooling will “set” the curve you’ve made.  Unsatisfied?  Fire up the iron and give it another go.

1463 ruffled strap (cooled)


Tips and Tricks: Interchangeable Cables as Blocking Wires

Early this week I finished work on a lace scarf — it’s a sample knit that I need to photograph and send off to Knit Picks for their Independent Designer Program.  Assuming all goes well, the pattern for my “Aviator Scarf” will be live later this month.  The pattern has two versions: one for lace-weight yarn, and another for fingering-weight yarn.  I made the lace-weight sample first, out of Alpaca Cloud in Oyster Heather.  It’s lovely, but I got lazy in the blocking and didn’t use enough pins, which created an unintentional “scalloped” edge, as you can see in this photo:

1306 aviator scarf (lace weight)

If that’s what I were going for, all would be fine and good.  However, I really wanted the scarf to have a smooth, straight edge.  I was able to fix the “scallops” with a little judicious steam blocking, but when I finished the fingering-weight sample scarf (Gloss Fingering in Robot — how cool a colorway name is that?), I wanted to block it right the first time. Now, of course this would all be easier if I owned some proper blocking wires, but I don’t.  However, I did listen attentively when my friend Heather talked about her plan to block her recently completed pi shawl using the cables from her interchangeable needle set.  Brilliant, I thought!

(Let us pause for a moment to admire her gorgeous shawl!)

Without any further information, I decided to give it a go with my scarf.  I had two 40-inch cables available, which was enough for one side.  My other 40-inch cables were in use (ahem, WIPs, ahem), so I had to make do with four 24-inch cables on the other side.  I put my smallest needle tip (US 4) on one of the cable, and threaded it through each purl bump on the garter-stitch edge.  After this, I put cable end-caps on for safety, although I don’t think I’ll bother to do that in the future.

1326 blocking with KP cables

Pinning out the cables was a breeze:

1325 blocking with KP Cables

Here’s the whole thing, all pinned out:


The results were fantastic — the cables came out smooth and easy.  The edge was great — just as smooth and straight as I could wish.  I was a little worried about some of the places where two cables met, but it turned out better than I expected. I still need to get pattern-quality photos taken of both versions of the scarf.  I’m hoping to steal away my photographer friend at this weekend’s agility trial for a few outdoor photos.  Failing that, I can take reasonably good photos on my own.  One way or another, the samples and the pattern PDF will be headed for Knit Picks early next week.