Making a bunch of ragtag squares into a gorgeous afghan
After the squares have been knit, there's still quite a bit of work to be done. Scroll down to learn more.
1. Blocking: Done.
2. Misc. Square Finishing: Done.
3. Sewing Squares: Done.
4. Knitting Border: Done.
5. Sewing Border: Done.
6. Weaving in Ends: Done.
Step 1: Blocking
Blocking is the process of "finalizing" the shape of a knitted object. The exact process varies depending on yarn type and desired final shape, but usually involves some variant on wetting the knitted object, pinning it in the desired shape, and letting it dry. An unblocked piece tends to be lumpy and uneven, and may not be the right size; blocking it will allow you to even out the stitches, resize it, or straighten it. For more on blocking read this article on knitty.com.
Pictured above is the blocking board I made for blocking the afghan squares; it consists of a 12" by 12" wood frame covered with calico fabric with pegs nailed into the frame every three inches. In order to block a square I just have to wet it, squeeze out the excess water, stretch it across the frame (impaling it on the pegs at the proper places), and set it out to dry.
Ginette Belanger square being blocked.
Step 2: Misc. Square Finishing
Some of the squares (not naming names, BETTY SALPEKAR) require additional finishing such as grafting, assembly, sewing up holes, or adding accents. Depending on the type of finishing it may need to be done before or after the square is blocked. It's always easier to finish a square before it's sewn to the other squares, though.
Step 3: Sewing Squares Together
Twenty-six squares (not all in frame) sewn together.
One of the most exciting finishing steps is seaming all the squares together. It's incredibly exciting to see a box of random squares become a single huge piece of fabric. Each seam is sewn differently depending on the edges of the squares. Every square has a border of garter stitch (ridges), but the designers didn't always run their ridges in the same direction. On linear squares the ridges are always horizontal, but on the knit-in-the round squares they might radiate out from the center (e.g. Kathleen T. Carty) or they might circle the center (e.g. Betty Salpekar). Accordingly the two squares might be edged in three different ways: 1) both squares have ridges parallel to the seam, 2) both squares have ridges perpendicular to the seam, or 3) one square has parallel ridges and the other has perpendicular edges. Case 2 is the easiest to seam, followed by Case 3 and then Case 1. Both Case 1 and 3 are sewn in overcast stitch, but Case 3 is easier because the perpendicular ridges provide a guide to how far apart the stitches should be. Case 2 is sewn in a manner that almost looks grafted.
Step 4: Knitting Border
Knitting the border is fairly straightforward. A pattern is provided in the back of the book for a lovely little cable border which consists of three garter stitches on the side closest to the squares (same "border" as is used on each square) with a 14-row repeat cable on the far side. The corners are simple short rows.
Step 5: Sewing Border
Close-up of the Kathleen T. Carty square after border has been sewn on.
After the squares are all knitted and sewn together and the border is knitted, the next step is to sew the border to the squares. The sewing should be exactly the same as Step 3 above, with the nice little feature that only Case 2 and Case 3 will show up since the border aways has ridges perpendicular to the seam.
Step 6: Weaving In Ends
Close-up showing loose ends on the reverse (click to magnify).
This last step is often the only "finishing" that knitters do on smaller projects. Every time you start or stop a square, get to the end of a ball of yarn and start a new one, start or finish a seam, etc., you get a tail of yarn. While working you simply pull the tail through to the wrong side and keep working, but after it's all been blocked you need to hide those tails somehow. This is done by either threading the tail on a tapestry needle or using a crochet hook and pulling it through a couple inches of loops on the back (often mimicking properly-knitted strands). The friction between the tail and the loops it's pulled through will hold it in place, and it can be cut short.
Et voila--a lovely afghan!