Fine Crochet - Materials You'll Need and How to Wash, Starch and Block Your Fancy Work
Fine Crochet Has the Look of Lace
Materials You'll Need for Crocheting Fine and Fancy Items
If you love the look of fine crochet and desire to try your hand at it, rest assured, it's relatively easy to get started. All you need is a metal hook and crochet cotton, and using these two items, you can make fine crocheted items.
Your choice of crochet materials determines the look of your finished product. If you are interested in making crocheted edgings, doilies and tablecloths, crocheted runners, valances or curtains, these are best made with crochet cotton and a finer hook, because you want a less dense texture, stitches that reside close together, and more of a lacy effect.Yarn and a larger hook aren't usually recommended for fancy work and they are often used to make sturdier items, like afghans and clothing.
As the old saying goes, the right tools, make for the right job, so make sure you have the right materials before you try your hand at fancy work.
Steel hooks, size .75-1.25
Mercerized cotton, size 10-40
What You'll Need to Make Fancy Work
- Steel Crochet Hooks--Steel crochet hooks generally come in smaller sizes and they work very well for making lacy crochet items. (You may choose to use a magnifier, depending on how small your hooks are and how small the stitches are.)
- Mercerized Cotton--Mercerized cotton (pearl) is treated to make cotton thread stronger and to give it a lustrous appearance. This treatment also helps the cotton to resist mildew. As well, mercerized cotton is particularly suited for fine crocheting because it has an inherent stiffness which helps finished pieces to hold their shape.
A Word About Crochet Books
All crochet books are not created equal. If possible, purchase a book that not only includes written instructions, but a visual guide, as well. Being able to see which stitches should be used and where can help very much if you are unsure about the instructions.
Marking Where You Are
While you can count rows, it is so much easier to mark each row as you complete it. Using a pen is not recommended. I find using a yellow pencil crayon works very well. You can color over, without it obliterating the text or images underneath, and it is very easy to see.
Washing Your Fancy Work
You've completed your first fine crocheted piece. But how you treat your fancy work can make a huge difference to its overall appearance and can add years of life to any piece.
- Never, ever launder crocheted items in your washing machine. Your machine will beat your crochet to pieces. This is the fastest way to end up with huge tears in your work.
- Delicates must be washed by hand.
- Avoid using hot water because the cotton will shrink. There is an exception to this. If you feel your work is on the loose side and looks a tad thready, washing it in warmer water can help it to tighten up and make it look better.
- Squeeze gently and place your crocheted pieces on a towel
Pulling out and Blocking Instructions for Your Fine Crocheted Pieces
While still damp, spread pieces out with your fingers, pulling gently and working with your hands to push out and shape. Keep spreading and working out toward the edges so that pieces assume the same size as prior to washing. This step is important and will transform the look of any crocheted piece. By spreading and gently pulling, you almost give your work an ironed look. The stiffness of the cotton will help the crocheted items to retain shape.
I always pay special attention to the outer edge of any of my fine pieces. These may be scalloped or may include picots or points. Go around the outside edge and pull each one of these out, so that when your piece is dry, they are clearly defined.
Using a Doily Board
Some people opt for a doily board. This can be made from a piece of Styrofoam and you follow the same procedure, gently pulling out your piece until it's the desired size, then you pin your work on the board to dry.
You may choose to pin one side, then pull, then pin the other. The goal is to get your doily as flat as possible.
Why a Marked Board?
As seen in the video below, a board that includes measured squares is ideal because you can ensure that as you pull out your piece, all lines up and is even and the same size. As she pins, you can see how much better the doily looks. It goes from being misshapen and smallish-looking to looking as if it has been ironed. Pulling out really brings out the beauty and design in a fine crocheted piece.
Starching Instructions for crocheted items
Some people opt to starch their crocheted items. This can be done after pieces are washed.
I like Ivory Starch. This comes in a cardboard box and is a whitish powder. I add some Ivory Starch to water and stir (following starching instructions), then dip my crocheted items in the mixture, then continue pulling out and pinning.
It may take some doing to find powdered starch but it is well-worth picking some up. Starch adds to the look of a finished piece. If you've taken the time to pull it out and pin it, starch ensures that it retains its shape and adds extra stiffness.
See the video below about using rust-proof pins. Avoid unsightly marks on your fancy work. Once cotton has a stain, it is very difficult to get it out, so prevention is key.
If you are stuck and can't find either dry or liquid starch, there are alternatives as shown in the video below. You can make your own starch and it's not as difficult as you might think.
Washer and Dryer Alert!
Keep you fancy work away from your washer and your dryer. You may already know not to put delicate crocheted items in the washer but what about the dryer? This is also a no-no and shrinkage could occur. Always air dry your items.
Drying Instructions for Doilies and Fine Crocheted Items
Never place items in dryer. Always allow crocheted items to air dry. Any heat would cause shrinking and your crochet thread would lose the necessary stiffness needed for the finished appearance.
But... What About Pressing?
Blocking does an amazingly good job of "disciplining" a doily into a respectable, non-rumpled shape, but what if you still wish to press your work? While not recommended because of the risk of scorching and cotton discoloring, this may be done under certain conditions. Place a cloth over your crocheted item first, then press with a warm (not hot) iron. The cloth not only prevents scorching but it also prevents the pointed part of the iron from catching in a hole and tearing your work.
Have you ever blocked your crocheting?
Size Makes All the Difference
The wall hanging you see below was actually a table runner. I liked the pattern so much, I wanted to create a much large panel, so I used thicker cotton and a larger steel hook and the results were just as I'd hoped for.
Lacy Crocheted Wall Hanging
What are your favorite crocheted items?
Take Care of Your Fine Crochet and it Will Last for Years
By following the instructions in this article, you will turn out lacy-looking crocheted items you can be proud of and by starching and blocking them, you will ensure they stay looking their best.
© 2008 Athlyn Green