About Blocking

Knitters often ask me about blocking knitted items: Do I steam, wash or dampen? Which method is best? And what tools do I actually need?
Well, blocking is a big topic! I am no expert for every method, but I have found a way that works for me, and I will gladly share it here with you. First thing you need is equipment: Lots of pins (I use the ones with colored glass heads, but there are special blocking pins out there that are sturdier and longer). If you have knit something with straight edges or a circular shapes, blocking wires are probably very handy. I do not own any as they are hard to come by here in Germany and I always help myself by using lots and lots of pins – which is a lot of work, but the result is also fine. Also you will need a surface you can pin them into that is big enough to accommodate your knitted piece. I use some thin insulation board made of styrofoam that I found at the hardware store, but you can also use puzzle mats that you can find in a toy store or special blocking mats.

Now I let the knitted object soak in lukewarm water. Ideally you leave it there for 15-20 minutes. I usually do not have that much patience and just make sure every part of the shawl has soaked up some water. Then I carefully take it out, squeeze it gently, roll it up in a towel and step on the rolled towel for a minute or so. After that, I place the shawl on the blocking surface, making sure it fits. If it doesn’t, I add another piece of insulation board. Then I carefully arrange the piece such that straight edges are straight and the shape is the way it’s supposed to be. If the piece is not lace, that’s often all it takes. I might add a couple of pins to make corners more pronounced (like I did with “Heaven and Space”). If you have a complicated piece of lace (like the “Aeolian Shawl”, see pic below), it will only open up and look the way you want it if you stretch it. You will be surprised how much it stretches! It’s a good idea to have a look at the pattern or the pattern website to see how the designer has planned it and you can pin it accordingly. If there are any rectangular shapes, lines or circles on the inside of your shawl, it’s a good idea to block those first and work your way out to the edges. If you are blocking pieces of a garment that are supposed to be sewn together, look at the schematic and lay down and pin your pieces such that the measurements line up. This will make seaming a lot easier.

I cannot say much about other methods like steaming or dampening, mainly because the only steaming apparatus I own is my iron, and I have a lot of respect for it. But I also think that wool will better hold its shape if it has been thoroughly wet, not only damp. By the way: You will have to block your shawls afresh after each washing if you want them to look beautiful.

Blocking in my experience is never fast: simple things take at least 30 minutes, and a big complicated shawl might take up to an hour. And then you will have to wait until it is really dry. You should not remove the pins before that, otherwise it will not keep its shape. However, when it’s time and you can remove them, the whole beauty of your work will show. Enjoy!

Strickmich! Club Cast-on Event No. 1

Here is the video for the first virtual Cast-on-Event of Strickmich! Club 2017. Enjoy!

Corners, Edges, Stripes

My new favorite shawl: great colors, fun stripes, interesting construction, generous measurements – and the yarn is so soft and feels so good that I think I will never take this off! “Corners, Edges, Stripes” is the striped variation of my “Ecken + Kanten”-Shawl that everyone keeps asking about. I have worn the predecessor of this shawl until it became old and gray, so when I needed a new one, I thought it would be a great opportunity to write down the pattern for it: Squishy garter stitch is worked in an organic superwash Merino by Rosy Green Wool in your four favorite colors.

The triangles each use two of them, and each is worked in a different direction for knitting fun and an interesting look. The finished shawl weighs more than 300 g and is 340 cm (136 inches) wide which makes it extremely versatile – it even replaces your cardigan if you wish. But you can also make a smaller and lighter version using less yarn and the same instructions.

In Strickmich! Shop we have kits in three gorgeous color combinations, also the printed pattern and the pattern for download. It’s also available on Ravelry. Happy knitting!

Planner Peace

In 2008 I stopped using a paper calendar/planner. I had my appointments on my computer, also a non-organized notebook, to-do-lists and post-its flying around. Plus the nagging feeling that chaos was taking over. That was kind of okay during a couple of years, my kids were small (so there was chaos anyway), I did not have lots of appointments apart from vaccinations and kindergarten stuff. However, when I saw someone mentioning a miracle method to organize your life, work and everything called “Bullet Journal”, I knew I wanted to try it. Other knitwear designers mentioned it helped them get their life under control. I wanted that, too! The inventor of this method has published a video on how to do it:

I thought this was very clever and I have been using it ever since, carrying my big Moleskine with an added Leuchtturm Pen Loop everywhere. I mostly used it for my daily to-do list and notes, also shopping lists and event planning.

But right from the start I had the feeling that something important was missing: A real calender where I could write down future events, even those that are kind of trivial, but come with a time and a day. The Bullet Journal has a “Future Log”, a spread where you have a box for each month to write down future events. But they end up in the wrong order, and there is not enough space to accommodate parent-teacher-days, the days when the paper recycling box needs to go out or the days the library bus stops in our village. The monthly spreads that you create at the beginning of each month are not much better – I always thought it felt funny to use it to write down the dates when the organic trash would be emptied in my fancy monthly overview.

I did have all my appointments on my computer and my phone – but that was not enough. It happened to me more than once that I messed up adding events on my phone: Wrong time, no title, no clue what I meant. Also, all events are equally sized in the overview: the big deadline and my son’s piano lesson. I feel that I have more control if I can write down things by hand. I love sharing events and appointments with my husband on iCal, but I want to have them on paper, too – and unfortunately that does not work for me with the Bullet Journal.

First I thought I would add a weekly calendar to my Bullet Journal by hand. Some people draw a weekly spread for themselves every week, but I would have needed to make 52 at once to fit my needs. I have no talent for that, no time and also: I don’t want to. I want a real calendar that somebody else (or a printing machine) has made for me, plus lots of blank pages to keep on making lists and taking notes as in the Bullet Journal.

If you search the internet, you will find lots of people who have converted their Bullet Journals to real works of art, some of them resembling colouring books for grown-ups that seem to be very popular nowadays. That may be a nice pastime for some, but not for me. I have no ambition to beautify my notebooks. I want a simple tool to help me organize my life. And that is, as far as I understand it, the original idea of the Bullet Journal. When I look at all the modifications and ideas surrounding the Bullet Journal I cannot help but feel overwhelmed and under pressure: gratitude logs, pretty lists of movies to watch and books to read, tools to track whether you have had enough water, did mediate, exercise, clean the kitchen and post on Instagram. If you are into this kind of thing, check out this website. I personally prefer to spend my time knitting – I want somebody else to design a pretty and useful calendar for me.

First I thought I would just add a calendar to my journal – there are systems out there that let you have various little notebook attached to one cover with rubber bands (e. g. X17). I even could have added my knitwear design sketchbook to that system, so everything would have been in one place. But after years with a solid notebook, this did not feel stable enough. I also could have achieved this by reviving my old Filofax, but the pages are too small for my taste (I have the personal size). By the way: Those knitwear designers who recommended the Bullet Journal to me a few years ago are now returning to the Filofax system, so it may be the next hot planning thing!

After a few days of obsessive research I found something that I really like: The Weekview Business Planner. It is a bit smaller than my Moleskine and has a beautiful and well-structured weekly spread. Enough space for my tasks (they come with pre-set priorities) and notes. A weekly task list makes more sense for me, as I usually cannot complete everything that I have to in one day, and the Bullet Journal made me re-write everything that I had not accomplished the next day (which, for obvious reasons, I did not like that much).

In the back of the book there are pre-indexed lists and notes, so the planner does all the work for me. I think the layout is really cool, and I love the little index tabs you can add. There are also little stickers (unnecessary but nice) and an erasable pen (which I find surprisingly useful). On the Weekview Web Page you will find various planning books, most of them in German, but one of them is available in English (slightly smaller and the layout is a bit different). I also like the story of these planning books: They are designed to help everyone, not only those who are well-educated and know about time management, to organize their lives, especially in difficult times. The founder of Weekview is a volunteer in a project for former drug addicts, and some of them find employment in his company.

I am going to give this a try – right now, I am pretty excited about my Weekview Business Planner, so saying goodbye to the Bullet Journal is not really hard. I will keep you posted on how it goes!

P.S.: All that said, I still think the Bullet Journal Method is awesome and useful, and if you look at the planners and notebooks that are on the market today, the Bullet Journal has certainly been an inspiration and has helped improve planning and journaling systems. Thanks, Ryder! I just found that I need more guidance and more structure when it comes to planning – but that’s just me!

Strickmich! Club Cast-On-Video No. 4

Here’s our 4th virtual Cast-On-Event for Strickmich! Club 2016. Enjoy!

Anstrick-16-4-ENGLISH from Martina Behm on Vimeo.

Smooth Sailor

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This is probably the one single thing that I have designed that makes me most proud – because Smooth Sailor is whatever you would like it to be: Put your arms through the holes and wear it as a shrug. Fold it lengthwise and pull one end through one of the holes, and it will turn into a cozy scarf. Stick your head through one of the openings and one arm through the other and it becomes an asymmetric poncho. Fold it in half such that both holes lie on top of each other and pull it over your head as a capelet.

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The special 3-dimensional construction makes it all possible! Smooth Sailor is the perfect canvas for a beautiful handdyed laceweight, consisting of a plain stockinette body with a little ruffle added at the end. It also is a wonderful project to take on your vacation: Work the cast-on and the setup at home, and have a mindless and lightweight project to knit on in your deckchair. Smooth sailing!

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This pattern was published in May 2016 as part of Strickmich! Club and is now available in Strickmich! Shop (also as a printed pattern) and on Ravelry.

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Strickmich! Shop carries the beautiful yarn used for this pattern: Manos del Uruguay Marina, a stunning laceweight. We have a few skeins of the exclusive club color “Martina’s Berry Pie” in stock and offer them as Kits. Enjoy!

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