Do you ever get those moments when you realise something so basic, or so important, that you spend the next hour/day/week/month asking yourself why you hadn’t realised it before?
I’ve created a new page – my Eureka Moments, where I share these ‘light bulb’ moments. If it wasn’t obvious to me, maybe it wasn’t obvious to you either.
My first entry is about blocking a tension swatch. Simple, No? Where have I ever seen the instruction to block a tension swatch? Nowhere. Was I just supposed to know this – clearly I was – but it took me years to work it out.
Here’s the full story:
Block your Swatch
This sounds basic, No? I can’t tell you how many years it was before I realised that I needed to block my tension swatch before measuring it. I must have made hundreds of things before I worked this one out. It never says it anywhere, and in the days when I was definitely a follower of patterns, I did what the pattern told me to do. Patterns told me to block the garment, but not the swatch, so that’s what I did.
I used to wonder why things used to get bigger after a while, especially after washing. I put it down to the yarn, or the pattern being a bit on the big side. Note it was never anything I had done – or not done – as in this case.
Does it make much difference? Well, YES. Look at these examples of before and after swatches.
Here’s a couple of crochet squares before blocking – look ok, don’t they:
The same squares during blocking – hmmm, looking a bit stretched out, maybe the hook was too big:
And here they are afterwards – stitch formation is still a bit too open:
The stitches are too loose, it’s not a good-looking square, I need to change down to a smaller hook and try again.
The other crucial thing to be learnt from blocking a test swatch is the final measurement, in comparison to the original measurement.
Before blocking, these squares measured 20cm x 11cm. After blocking they were 22cm x 12cm. Now we can all see that that’s not too important if I was making a blanket, but what if I was making a cardigan, or anything else that actually has to fit? Something made out of these crochet squares that appeared to measure 100cm before blocking, would measure 110 cm afterwards, that’s a whopping 4 inches in old money, and very likely to be far to big to be worn.
I know some people are reluctant to spend time making tension squares – I used to be just the same way. When I start a new project now, I put aside the first evening (because that’s when I do my knitting/crochet) as a kind of preparatory evening. It’s when I do my swatching, blocking and measuring, and I don’t expect to start the actual project on that evening – if I do, that’s a bonus. Going in to a new project with this mind-set made the transition into swatch-blocking much more pleasant for me.
And guess what? Garments fit me now, even after I’ve washed them.