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Fine Crochet - Materials You'll Need and How to Wash, Starch and Block Your Fancy Work

Athlyn Green is an avid crocheter and knitter. She designs and sells handcrafted goods.

Fine Crochet Has the Look of Lace

A pineapple table centerpiece I did. I was very pleased with how this turned out and have received many requests for the pattern information.

A pineapple table centerpiece I did. I was very pleased with how this turned out and have received many requests for the pattern information.

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

Crochet Hooks

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.

Mercerized cotton, size 10-40

Crochet Cotton

A Word About Crochet Books That Include a Graph

All crochet books are not created equal. If possible, purchase a book that not only includes written instructions, but a graph, as well. Being able to see which stitches should be used, and where, can help very much if you are unsure about the written instructions.

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.
  • Squeeze gently to eliminate excess water and place your crocheted pieces on a towel.

Pulling Out and Shaping Your Fine Crocheted Pieces

While still damp, spread pieces out with your fingers, pulling gently and working with your fingers 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 item. 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 their 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 outwards, so that when your piece is dry, they are clearly defined.

Using a Doily Board

Some people opt for a doily board. These can be made from a piece of Styrofoam, and you follow the same procedure as you did with the towel, gently pulling out your piece until it's the desired size, then you pin your work on the board to dry.

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, everything lines up, is even and the same size. As its pinned, 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.

Why Starch?

It may take some doing to find powdered starch but it is well-worth picking some up. Starch adds greatly to the look of a finished piece and it is well-worth it to starch your fine crocheted items. If you've taken the time to pull it out and pin it, starch ensures that it retains its shape and adds extra stiffness.

Scroll to Continue

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 place them on a towel and gently pull them out and shape them. As they dry, they retain their shape.

Rust-Proof Pins

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.

DIY Starch

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.

But... What About Pressing?

Blocking does an amazingly good job of disciplining a doily and giving it a respectable, non-rumpled appearance, but what if you still wish to press your work? While not recommended because of the risk of scorching and the cotton discoloring, this may be done under certain conditions. Place a cloth (a tea towel works for this purpose) 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.

Lacy Crocheted Wall Hanging

A panel worked in filet crochet.

A panel worked in filet crochet.

Crocheting Poll

Take Care of Your Fine Crochet and it Will Last for Years

Using the right hooks and cotton will enable you to turn out fine-looking crocheted items that have a distinctive lacy look. By knowing how to wash, shape and block them, you will ensure they stay looking their very best.

© 2008 Athlyn Green


Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on October 25, 2016:

Hi Charlotte, this pattern, maybe due to its popularity, has appeared, it seems, in some different publications. Thanks for this info, which should help readers.

Spikewekpit on September 02, 2015:

Quality posts is the main to interest the users to go to see the web site, thatÕs what this web page is providing.

Homer Dastoli on July 24, 2013:

[quote]8192 characters left.[/quote]

Really all kinds of great tips!.

Kudos. Fantastic stuff.

Charlotte on January 31, 2013:

Hello, I think that the book that the table runner is BURDA Practical Handicrafts. It was published in Australia (I THINK) One was sold on their trader sight about two years ago. I contacted the seller but have heard nothing yet.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on November 15, 2010:

Wonderful well thought out hub. Thanks for sharing.

danielaridley from Texas on August 17, 2010:

Great Hub! I love to Crochet but haven't found many people in my area that also enjoy this craft. I am self taught and am always looking for great tips. One thing your poll was missing was wearables!

Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on August 10, 2010:

Hi Bedspreads,

Wow! Thank you and please let me know how your class goes.

Bedspreads on August 09, 2010:

great hub. I will use this for my next class called "craftywives"

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