Your beautiful crochet afghan is done. Straight or assembled from squares; you lay it on the floor and it looks a bit wonky. You kept an eye on the long edges, counted and adjusted stitches, practiced consistent tension, frogged where necessary...
So, why are there some bumpy and wavy spots up the sides? Why aren't the ends the same length? Because there are two more crucial steps! Blocking & Bording!
Basic crochet abbreviations are used throughout this tutorial.
You should have a general knowledge of basic crochet skills: Sc, dc, tr, increase/decrease, weaving ends and how to start/finish each row.
Blocking and bordering go together like peas and carrots. You’ve spent time working and visualizing this pretty blanket for gifting, home or friends. Now’s the time to finish it with love and some TLC so you're proud of your hard work.
1. Is your blanket made acrylic or wool (or something else)? Squares, motifs or stripes? Big or small? Each of these factors need to be considered before blocking.
Acrylic yarns don't hold their blocked shape like wool and other natural fibers do. And, while applying a bit of gentle steam when blocking acrylics can tame problem spots, it can also "break" the yarn if you're not careful; resulting in fused (or melted) fibers which make those fibers weak and limp.
I work primarily with acrylic yarns because I need a wide array of colors for yarn bowls photos and acrylics are more affordable than natural fibers. As a result, I've spent a great deal of time perfecting a technique to ease and coax my bumps and waves into straight, smooth borders. I love to crochet, but I’m not an expert. If I don’t finish properly it shows, and that blanket will be stuffed in the back of a closet to torture me whenever I come across it!
Even if your blanket is perfectly straight, don't skip blocking. Blocking stretches and evens out the stitches and improves the overall appearance of your work!
2. There's a wealth of fiber and project specific blocking tutorials on the internet. You might want to search “How to block a (wool or acrylic) crochet blanket” to find the method best for your project and fiber type.
3. If your blanket is made from acrylic fibers, try my method. Soak your blanket overnight in a (portable) plastic tub with lukewarm water with a capful of Eucalan (no rinse!) fine fabric wash; well worth the price and widely available. After soaking, arrange the blanket evenly in your washing machine, pour in the blocking water and give it a nice spin on the delicate cycle. If you don't have a washer, press out the water gently, do not wring!
4. After the spin cycle, your blanket will feel almost dry. Block your blanket with t-pins, spray with water and let it dry. The longer it sits the better, overnight works well. Plan to spread your blocking and bordering out over a couple days.
This technique works for me. Work it or develop your own and watch a gorgeous blanket emerge from your hook. Before starting, do a little prep work:
Straight Blankets: You have counted your stitches and both blanket ends have same stitch count.
Squares or Motifs Blankets: Block each piece separately before joining. Doing this makes final construction easier as each motif is the correct size/ shape. It also gives you a more accurate finished size.
After your blanket is blocked, start your first foundation row.
Insert Your Foundation Rows Before Your Pattern Calls For Border Row 1
Before you start following the border instructions on your pattern, you can smooth out irregularities (bumps and waves) by adding foundation rows: f1, f2 and occasionally f3 as outlined below.
These inserted rows are the foundation for a straight and square blanket border. If your blanket is a bit “wonky” this technique will gently straighten your afghan with a nice foundation to finish the blanket with a simple or embellished final border rows as instructed in your pattern.
TIP! Choose the most neutral color for the foundation rows. After working the foundation rows, change to a color that pops!
Most patterns instruct to work a border with “sc evenly around all 4 edges...” assuming you know this rule:
Stitch up the (long) edges with
FOUNDATION ROW 1 (F1)
TIP! Drop your crochet hook 1 full size for foundation rows and use a looser tension than usual for added “give” to your foundation.
1. Single crochet F1 front facing, using looser tension than usual. Start a couple inches from the corner on an end row establishing an even tension before turning the corner and working the long edge. Work 3 sc in each corner stitch and try using the formula (above).
In theory the formula should work. However, if the prescribed stitches don’t look even to your eye, frog and adjust the stitches so f1 appears to be evenly spaced to your eye (see below).
I had to "eyeball" the long edges on this blanket because using the formula emphasized the areas with bumps/waves. Overall my long edges looked even, but some spots looked better after frogging and adjusting the tension in these problem spots before continuing.
Try going 2 stitches deep into the rows, making your stitch depth consistent and even. I find that catching a few fibers in the treble stitches will keep a gaping hole from appearing. Do whatever it takes to make your stitches look even on both long edges! Your first and last rows will work evenly provided you started and ended with the same stitch count. Complete f1 by fastening off and weaving in the tail.
2. COUNT your stitches! Place a different color stitch marker on each side. Count the stitches write down the stitch for each side count next to each color as shown below.
The long sides may have up 25 more/less stitches than the opposite side. If the sides are off much more than 25 stitches, this technique will help at bit, but the blanket may not come out perfectly square.
A varying stitch count on your long edges happens when you work your f1 stitches to look even (as opposed to formula method). However, working even f1 and f2 rows (and f3 if necessary) is what gently straightens out your blanket.
This afghan is a good example with a substantial difference of approx. 23+/- st on each of the long edges.
3. Lay your blanket on the floor and smooth it flat. If you still have some bumps/waves put a straight pin at the start and end of each problem spot. This wil help to identify these areas when working the f2 row up close. If you don't have bumps/waves at this point, pat yourself on the back and move on to step 4.
4. Evenly mark for increase and decrease st(s) on each side with t-pins –no need to count, just roughly space your t-pins evenly across to indicate placement of upir increase and decrease stitches. You may have a lot of pins in your blanket, but it's a quick and easy way to mark areas that need adjustment. Count if that's easier for you. Now you're ready for f2.
FOUNDATION ROW 2 (F2)
1. Start f2 anywhere and sc around, adjusting the pin marked areas as you go. It's best to start at the beginning of your first or last row because you won't have decreases/increases on those rows and you get a feel for the perfect tension before you have move to adjustments on the long edges.
Sc 3 sts in each corner. Try to keep your tension loose if you have a tendency to work tight. Decrease (in my case 11 st on the blue edge) and increase (11 st on green edge) when you reach the corresponding t-pin marker.
2. Have a full size larger hook handy for (straight) pin marked areas.
3. As you go, stop and look at your stitches frequently to see if you need to tighten or loosen your tension. If so, frog those stitches and rework for a smooth border without rippling. This is almost fun. As you look back and forward as you work, you don’t have much frogging to rework a problem spot taming it into a nice smooth foundation row.
4. Count each side again and write it down, if your stitches are evenly placed and you have the same count on corresponding sides, move on to border row 1 of your pattern. If your blanket could use more straightening, do a final f3 row, counting then increasing or decreasing where necessary. Adjustments on an f3 row should be minimal but it will enhance your border if you take the time.
You're almost done! Lay your blanket on the floor and decide if it will benefit from a final blocking –mine did and it was worth the effort!
This method works well on any crochet blanket, but this techniques really shines when you're faced with waving sides on acrylic afghans. Easing the border on the long edges in the manner, smoothed several spots that would have resulted in bumpy/wavy border. A final blocking was worth the added effort!
After row f2 and an overnight blocking, I finished with one row of hdc, a second row of dc, then 2 rows of loose sc using 2 strands of white fluffy yarn (Hobby Lobby Snuggle Up).
The blue foundation borders represent the sky, while the fluffy white edging represents clouds framing a fun southwestern baby blanket adapted from Red Heart Yarn's "Southwestern Rainbow Throw" scaled to a starting chain of 112 st with a finished measurement of 38"x 54".