Finishing a Project Tips

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A Happy Ending

Sometimes, a pattern will say "end with a wrong side (WS) row". What does that mean?! It means that, when working the last row of the fabric, the wrong side of the fabric should be facing you. When you finish that row, you are ready to tie off your work.


The Fringe Factor

Ah, you've just finished your fabulous scarf or blanket and want to add a fringe trim. What are some different ways to do this? First, you might want to consider, at the beginning of your project, leaving long "tails" of yarn when changing colors or starting and ending rows. These tails can blend into the fringe that you add at the end and can serve as a good way to measure how long you want your fringe to be when adding more at the end.

If you're adding fringe at the end of the project and the pattern hasn't given you any instructions to follow, then the first step is to decide how long you want your fringe trim to be. Take that number, say 4 inches, and double it, then add another inch (for the knot!), and that's how long each strand of yarn you cut for the fringe should be (in our case here, 9 inches). Don't pull the yarn too tight when measuring it, it'll end up being shorter than you think; in fact, err on the side of making the strands too long -- you can always trim the fringe once you've finished attaching it all.

Next, decide how thick you want the fringe to be. I usually combine at least 4 strands of yarn because, when folded, it'll be 8 strands, and I like a lush, thick fringe. Then, figure out at what intervals you want to attach the fringe segments, which will help you figure out how many strands of yarn you ultimately need to cut to finish your project.

Now it's time to attach our fringe. Use a big crochet hook and insert it into the joining point. Take the strands of yarn you want to use for that fringe segment and fold them in half. Slip the created loop at the top over the shaft of the crochet hook and wrap the ends of the yarn over the head of the hook and pull them through and tighten. One fringe segment has been completed!

At this point, things should go pretty quickly since you've done a great job prepping. Just be sure to be consistent in the technique you use to finish up the rest of the segments. Oh, and be sure to buy extra yarn at the beginning of your project if the pattern doesn't give specific measurements or directions.


The Shoulder Seams

The shoulder seams are probably the most important ones of your crocheted sweater or jacket -- they carry the weight of the entire garment. So, it's important to make these seams really strong, using yarn or thread that won't break or distort the seam. The backstitch is probably the best way to secure the shoulder seams --it's well-suited for creating a straight seam on the right side of the garment, especially across any increases or decreases that were used to create the shoulder shaping.

The backstitch involves a "two-step forward, one-step back" technique. Think of a "T" -- if you are right-handed, insert the needle at the right end of the top of the T and bring it out at the left end, pull out the thread and insert the needle again at the middle of the top of the T and bring it out in the middle of another T as if it were to the left and next to the current T. Then, insert the needle where you started and bring it out at the left end of the top of the second T. Keep repeating, working your way from right to left (reverse these directions if you are left-handed).


Securing and Hiding the Yarn Tails

You've finished your project, but now most likely, there is a "tail" of yarn, that leftover string, at the beginning and a tail at the end where you fastened off the yarn. There might be more tails if you have yarn color changes within the piece. It's important to secure and hide away these tails so that your piece really has that finished look and there's no risk of unraveling or fraying.

One technique is to try to hold the yarn over the chain into which you are working your stitches so that it just naturally gets weaved in during the making of the piece. Or, you can just wait until the end and use a smaller sized hook to then weave in the tails (be sure to pull the yarn through stitches on the wrong side of your piece a couple of times, each time pulling it through in a different direction). Or, you can use a yarn or tapestry needle, if you left a long tail, to sew the yarn through the piece.

There's no one best way to do this, and it's my least favorite part too, but it should be done (unless you're making something the interior of which is not going to be seen or is not at risk of unraveling, like a stuffed animal). Some people advocate putting a dab of superglue on the tied off knot to further secure, but I haven't tried that yet.


More on Blocking

A word of caution: you need to check the instructions on the yarn label before using water, heat or steam on your crocheted pieces. If heat or steam is not recommended, then an alternative is to smooth out the pieces, pin them down into the shape desired, and lightly spray the pieces with water or cover with a damp cloth, then put a plastic sheet on top, then some equally-weighted heavy books on top of the plastic. Let the pieces dry naturally overnight. Your pieces now should not be curling. They should be shaped as intended and ready to be sewn together.


Blocking Your Finished Piece

If you've just finished crocheting a garment, before you start putting your pieces together, you might want to "block" them. Blocking basically means setting the shape of each piece to prevent them from curling. You'll want to put the piece, right side facing down, on a smooth heat-resistant surface (probably an ironing board or another surface you've prepped for this purpose with some padding and a sheet over it), smooth it into the shape it should be, and then press it. Pressing is NOT the same thing as ironing – the iron should be put on the steam setting and should be held near to the piece, just hovering over it for a second or two, and then lifted off. You should never actually slide the iron over the piece -- at most, you should just touch down slightly and quickly on it. Alternatively, you might also want to place a damp pressing cloth on top of the piece if you want to be able to slide the iron over it.


Stuffing Crochet Toys

When it comes time to stuff a crochet toy that you've made, you begin to worry that the cotton-like stuffing called for in the pattern is going to poke out between the stitches. A great way to avoid this is to first put the stuffing into some clean nylon hosiery before inserting it into the crocheted item. Try to pick a pair that is close in color to the yarn you used in your project. You can even double up on the hose if you really want to ensure that no stuffing is going to escape.


Liquid Starch

So, you've finished a crocheted item to which you want to add some stiffness. You might be tempted to use liquid starch, but I'd caution against it. First, liquid starch can attract and serves as a food for insects. Also, especially if the item is light in color, it will cause yellowing over time. Instead you might want to water down some regular glue (like Elmer's) or purchase a specific product labeled as a fabric stiffener (usually available in crafts stores). Rather than dipping your item into the stiffener, use a brush to "paint" the inside. That way, you don't have to worry about any discoloration or saturation.


The Mitered Corner

If you want your finished blanket or jacket (or other piece on which you put a border) to have a crisp corner, then you need to use the "miter" technique. It's easy -- just do single stitches until you get to where you want to create a crisp corner. Then, place 3 stitches into that corner. On the next row, place 3 stitches into the center stitch of the 3-stitch corner from the previous row. Repeat until the border is the desired measurement.


Pinning the Pieces Together

So, you've made all of the pieces of your new crocheted sweater, that's so great! But, now, the time has come to join them together. This can be so challenging because, unlike cloth pieces, it's hard to pin together the crocheted pieces in order to sew or crochet them together. Thanks to designer Annette Petavy, I've found that safety pins that don't have coils (so that the yarn won't get tangled in them) or those little claw-like hair clips really hold the pieces together while you join them.


Fasten Off

Whenever the pattern instructions tell you to "fasten off", that means that you are finished working a certain section of the pattern, that you are finished with that color of yarn, or that you have reached the end of the project. Fastening off in crochet is easier than in knitting -- you do not need to cast off, you have already completed your last stitch. All you have to do is cut the yarn (you should probably try to leave at least a 4 to 6 inch "tail" of yarn), wrap it over your hook, and pull it through the loop on the hook.


Putting the Pieces Together

If your project has more than one piece, you're going to have to decide how you want to put the pieces together. Sometimes crocheting the pieces together works out fine and creates a nice seam or border; other times, such a seam is too bulky or you want a less apparent joining of the pieces. Here's where that yarn/tapestry needle mentioned in a previous tip comes in handy. Keeping a pack of these thick needles, through which yarn can be threaded, on hand makes it much easier to finish up your project.


Putting on Your Best Face

If you're crocheting an amigurumi toy or any kind of doll, and the time to put on the face has come, should you do it before or after stuffing? I think it depends on which you find easier, but my recommendation would be to do it before stuffing -- that way, you have better control over placing the stitches and taking them out if necessary. But, in determining placement of the face, you might want to put in some temporary stuffing to see what the finished head size and shape will be. Be sure to check out my tip on stuffing techniques!

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Phyllis Serbes