Top tip: breaking in linen yarn

Hear me out, I’m not completely crazy!

If you have ever worked with linen yarn before you’ll know that it isn’t the softest, but finished pieces can become buttery soft by breaking them in. But just exactly how do you do that?

Well, here’s my lazy efficient knitter’s top tip for breaking in linen yarn: leave your finished piece in a hot car! (yes, really!) The heat softens up the fibres beautifully and really speeds up the breaking in process.

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I wouldn’t leave it in the full sun unless you want a shawl with a trendy faded look, but I also thought this was a better photo than the inside of my car boot! Leave it there for a day or two and you’ll find your garment is much softer than before, with absolutely minimal effort.

Other methods of breaking in linen yarn include bunching up your finished piece and sitting on it for a while (even better is you can combine this with more knitting time!), and threading it through the bars of a cot or chair back and gently pulling it from side to side over the bars.

Pictured above is the Snakes and Ladders shawl, which you can learn more about and buy from my Ravelry store here.

If you try any of these methods and they work for you, do share with your friends!

What is blocking anyway?

Blocking is basically the secret to creating perfect finished pieces!

Have you ever knitted (or crocheted) something that you’ve taken hours to make and poured your heart and soul into, just to end up with a wonky, lumpy looking thing that wasn’t what you’d pictured at all? Don’t panic and throw it in the naughty corner in despair, that’s where the magic of blocking comes in!

Blocking is simply the process of thoroughly wetting your finished creation, then gently stretching it to the right size and pinning it in place while it dries. This is an important step as it helps relax the yarn and evens out minor tension issues, and it can help get your finished piece to exactly the right size (which is obviously more important for a garment like a jumper, than a shawl).

Here I am going to talk specifically about blocking the Snakes and Ladders shawl, which is knitted in linen yarn. You can find out more about this pattern and buy it on Ravelry here.

There are various tools you can buy to make blocking easier, but all you really need is a flat surface and some pins. I recently invested in some T-pins (mainly to stop me bending my sewing pins from over enthusiastic blocking!) These pins are sturdier than sewing pins, with a T shape at the top for ease of use. (This post isn’t sponsored by the way, I bought these pins because I wanted them!). I also lay my projects out on these foam mats, which are exactly the same material as blocking mats, the only difference is they have numbers in the centre of each square (and I bought them for my kids in the charity shop for £1!). But a large towel on the floor also works just fine as a base. You can buy various other blocking aids such as flexible wires which are useful for blocking curved edges.

Once you have your base set up and your pins to hand, lay your thoroughly wetted shawl on the mat and stretch it out to roughly the right shape. I blocked mine folded in half so that it would turn out exactly symmetrical. Then starting from the top centre, pin and stretch as you go, maintaining the triangular shape of the shawl. You will probably find that you need to stretch it more sideways then lengthways to achieve the right shaping.

It’s best to not leave too big a gap between pins, especially on a piece that is being stretched quite a lot, as you will end up with an unintentional picot edging! By pinning your shawl at smaller intervals you reduce the tension on the fabric around each individual pin.

When you get to the edge you will need one pin at the apex of each triangle to help shape them. The best way to do this is to start with pins in each end, then in the middle, then at roughly 1/4 and 3/4, and finally the rest. This should maintain an even spacing, and stop any one triangle getting more stretched than the others.

An alternative method for blocking, which is also useful when you have washed your shawl after wearing, but have already blocked it properly, is shown here:

The weight from all the clothes pegs, placed at the apex of each triangle, is enough to gently block the shawl without over stretching it. (I was sceptical too, but it really does work!)

Once your shawl is dried it’s now ready to wear! You may find the linen is a little stiff feeling initially, but with a little breaking in the fibres will soften up beautifully, giving you a truly delightful summer shawl!

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Have you made a Snakes and Ladders shawl? I’d love to see it! If you share it, please do tag me on instagram @flora_fibres_yarn or use the hashtag #snakesandladdersshawl, and if you upload your project to Ravelry remember to link to the pattern page so we can all see!

Falling Leaves Hat and Scarf Set

I really love the stitch in this pattern: the interlocking leaves are so elegant, yet actually quite simple to create. This makes it an excellent first lace project, as there aren’t very many stitches required to create the pattern.

The set is a perfect one for any time of day: it’s so comfy you can wear it all day, and so classy you can also wear it out at night!

The pattern includes several clever design features, such as on the hat where the leaf pattern continues all the way to the crown, so there is no break in the pattern and leaves cover the whole hat; and the scarf is edged using seed stitch to prevent it from curling over.

The pattern includes instructions for two different hat sizes: S/M (teenage/small adult) and M/L (adult), and a one size fits all scarf, with both written instructions and a pattern chart.

You can view the pattern page on Ravelry here or you can

*Note: this pattern was published before I switched to only using vegan yarns, and so it calls for a yarn which I would no longer use myself. I’ve not yet found a yarn I’m completely happy to do a straight substitute with, so if any of you have any great suggestions, please comment below and let me know! Once I have found a cellulose yarn that works well with the pattern, I will update it.

Spring Diamonds Cowl

This pattern is a special one. You can’t buy it anywhere, but you can get it free as a bonus when you subscribe to my mailing list! Woo!

This cowl is a great project for everyone: beginners won’t find it difficult as it only uses 3 basic stitches to create the pattern, and more experienced knitters will like how quickly it knits up (because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice to just have a quick project on hand when you don’t want to have to think too hard!). It would also be a good pattern to keep for gift knitting.

The pattern calls for 3 x 50g of DROPS Paris (or equivalent, I’m not going to check up on you!), an aran weight cotton yarn, which makes this cowl cosy yet breathable, and very easy to care for. It is an ideal transition piece for those days which are still cool in the morning yet warmer by midday. If you choose to use the recommended yarn, you’ll find I’ve chosen one which is very reasonably priced and also comes in a fantastic range of colours.

The inspiration for this piece came from the simple geometric shapes in a game I was playing with my children. I wanted to convey the idea of the diamond shapes using only the texture of the knit and purl stitches to make this pattern as accessible as possible. I love how changing light levels brings out a new dimension to this cowl: in bright sunlight the pattern is fairly subtle, but once inside the texture really comes alive and the diamonds begin to sparkle!

This cowl is knitted on 6mm needles, with a gauge of 8 stitches and 10 rows in a 5x5cm (2×2 inches) square in stockinette. The finished piece measures 84cm (33″) long and 25cm (10″) wide.

 

Entrelac blanket

This was the first pattern I ever published on Ravelry! I wanted to start out by giving something back to the fabulous fibre community we are a part of, and so I made it a freebie. Since I published it, I have had over 1100 dowloads, making it by far my most popular pattern to date!

Entrelac is a really clever effect, it creates a finished piece of fabric which looks woven. To do this you knit every row at right angles to the previous one, which gives the gorgeous texture you can see. In my pattern I explain exactly how to adapt it to create any sized blanket you wish, so you can make it exactly how you want it.

I love this blanket, it has such a great feel to it and it drapes wonderfully, making it a perfect one for snuggling up with on the sofa!

You can find the project page for the entrelac blanket here, where you can browse the blankets others have made and shared using this pattern. Or alternatively you can download it straight away by following this link:

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