A long awaited update: the buffalo are indeed multiplying!

Two completed sleeve caps = two completed sleeves!

Can you tell that the sleeve cap on the left is blocked, but that the one on the right isn’t? I really wanted to show you the remarkable difference between the two, but couldn’t figure out the very best way to photograph “silky and smooth” compared to “bumpy and rough.” Maybe showing you the wrong sides would help?

WARNING: The photo below is not for the weak of heart! It is the wrong side of a sweater with intarsia motifs! There are many strands of yarn and their corresponding ends, and the whole thing is just plain un-pretty!

Do you see the smooth fabric on the left, and the textured mess on the right?

At least you’re seeing the back after I wove in the ends. Just try to imagine the fabric before: all kinds of tension issues to be tweaked and lengths of yarn dangling every which way! Weaving in the ends was the first pass at getting everything to look good – a little pull here, a little nudge there, maybe even a duplicate stitch if the situation called for it.

For this particular project I decided that steam blocking was the way to go. I wanted as much control as possible over every little stitch. Dunking the whole thing into a water bath wouldn’t allow me to take my time, perfecting every area in turn. Also, after steam blocking the knit pieces are pretty much ready to go – maybe they’re just a bit moist, but air-drying overnight takes care of that.

So, I placed the fabric on my ironing board, set my iron heat on “low-ish”, my steam on “full blast”, and got to work! Holding the iron about 1″ above the fabric, I allowed the steam to penetrate a particular area, and then took the iron away. I patted the fabric with my hand to smooth it out, and then used a sock needle to… coerce imperfect stitches into submission (Bwahaha! Also, a little scary!). If it seemed like the fabric wasn’t getting moist enough, I misted it with a water bottle. I repeated this process as many times as necessary for everything to look good. Then I placed a thin kitchen towel over the whole thing, and glided my iron over the fabric a few times. Flip to the wrong side, and glide over a few more times.

It’s important to remember that exposing wool to steam and heat in actuality felts it! Slow, gentle, and in a controlled fashion, but it’s felting nonetheless. And even though felting cannot be undone, the process allows the big bumpy mess to morph into smoothness! Careful… careful… steady does it…

The last thing I want to show you is in the category of “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”:

I knitted the intarsia on the left, and Cari’s mom knitted the intarsia on the right (I wove in ends on both pieces, however). Note how differently we chose to work our intarsia! Cari’s mom, a true intarsia-holic, did not hesitate to use a gazillion little bobbins, seemingly one for every little patch of color. I, on the other hand, tried to strand the yarns whenever possible! Limit the strands, limit the ends!


24 thoughts on “Steaming

  1. Seanna Lea

    I love seeing the backs of the sleeves. It reminds me that I enjoyed the intarsia I’ve done and that I might want to do more if I can find the right pattern (buffalo free for me). I never would have thought of stranding the yarns across, because intarsia was my first colorwork.

  2. Katy

    I don’t blame you for “cheating” a little on the intarsia- all those bobbins to manage and ends to weave in- yuck! I doubt there are many adults who could wear it without looking ridiculous, but I think the motif would make for a cute sweater for a little boy.

  3. mercuria

    I probably would have done the same thing you did for the tiny intarsia, but it seems to me that it would cause problems with the mismatched sleeves, where one would likely be stretchier than the other. I doubt it’s anything a wearer would notice, but I would have thought that the perfectionist Grumperina we all know and love would duplicate the “true” intarsia for the cuff.

  4. Kathy in KS

    Seeing buffalo always makes me laugh. We drove through Yellowstone last year and got caught in a bison jam. They were just crossing the road at their own very slow speed and traffic was at a standstill as not even the hummers wanted to challenge the buffalo. Now, whenever we’re stuck in bad traffic, we always say, “Hey, at least it’s not as bad as the bison jam!”

  5. Carolyn

    The back looks great…sign of an experienced knitter;)I really love steam blocking…but hate the barnyard smell…I need a little eucalyn or something.

    Can’t wait to see the finished sweater. It reminds me of one my Meme knit but that one was a landscape with a big Buck in it!

  6. domesticshorthair

    That’s probably the best example (i.e., with/without) and best description of blocking I’ve ever seen. It might make a good tutorial on your blogsite. The felting factor is what scares me, though, since I’m a bit of a klutz in all areas of life, and I can just see me felting my dear FO.

  7. Sunnyknitter

    I didn’t know intarsia-holics existed in the wild! My dad had a Cowichan jacket that was given to him years ago and it was a thing of wonder. I’ll have to ask him if he still has it to send me a picture. My husband and I want to be one of those little old couples wearing matching sweaters, but I’m not sure that it will involve intarsia although that is what I picture oddly. The sleeves look very matched and I know how hard that is. I’m finishing a sweater my mum started for me and her tension is MUCH tighter than mine. Makes it interesting…

  8. Teresa C

    Neat to see the differences in the intarsia knitting. I’m pretty sure I’d do the bobbin thing at least at the beginning and then tire of it all and switch to stranding when I could. That sweater is going to be really pretty.

  9. Mandy

    These are great pictures. I have often wondered if stranding behind an intarsia motif is “acceptable”. I’ve done before, and it is maddeningly ugly until blocked. You’re doing great on this Buffalo sweater!

  10. Tajhia

    That is shaping up to be a pretty nice sweater – I love the buffalo.

    I think I can actually see a difference between the 2 sleeves in the first picture too – I don’t know if it is just my imagination though.

  11. Heide

    Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” is now playing in my head… and it probably will be stuck there all night. Love the sleeve caps, I’ve never seen anybody specifically put pattern there that wasn’t an extension of lower arm pattern before.

  12. Marnie

    Sometimes blocking does nearly nothing but there are times when it makes all the difference and lets you see your piece in an all new light. I sort of love the latter, though it means you have to slog through the project until you can block it.

    I might be wrong, but I think that, as long as you aren’t agitating the piece, the steam won’t felt the fabric and is a safe way to get the fibers to bloom a a little. Of course, wet, plus manhandling, plus wool is always a risk but I’ve had good luck with steam, in general.

    I think the recipient is going to be over the moon when this garment is done.

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