Monday, September 20, 2010

What's In My Crochet Bag - Stiff Edition

Today, we will be discussing a topic in crochet, rather than me telling you about a project. I have a project, one that I am willing to share via Internet even though it's a holiday present. (Tee Hee, I love those people who don't "do" the interwebz, sometimes.)

But, it's currently spread out over my punchbowl. No, it's not drunk. Yet.

It's awaiting stiffening. Now, I don't know for sure if you stiffen anything in knitting (although, in theory, I'm sure you could), and I know some of you are uninvolved in the fiber arts, totally, so I'm not sure how many of you will be familiar with this concept. So, I'll explain: some things, in crochet require stiffening. Is it okay if I leave it at that? I'm already tired of explaining. Okay, well, you can make things stiff (like a doily) that need to be flat. Or, you can make things 3 dimensional (like an angel) and those things have to be stiffened as well. Or they won't actually be three dimensional, they will just flop over. Unless you crochet them out of wire, which is technically possible, but it seems like it would be hell on your hooks.

In any case, I don't like to do it. For one thing, part of the crochet experience for me is the tactile nature of the feel of the thread/yarn and the magic of crafting into something with it's own shape, own feel, own life. I don't like to mess with that. To make it feel less like fiber and more like plastic.

On the other hand, there are applications for stiffened crochet that are amazing. (On a side note, there are some that are horrifying.) And, hopefully, I'm doing amazing things. We'll see.

I have two projects going that need to be stiffened. The first is the aforementioned thing on my punch bowl. (Does anyone else love the word aforementioned? It may be my favorite word ever. Today, whatever.)

The thing on the punch bowl is a bowl. Hence, it's current placement on a punch bowl. It's not nearly as big as my punch bowl, but the base of the bowl is about the same size as my punch bowl, and therefore, I'm using it as a form. Hopefully, in a few days, I will paint a stiffener onto my bowl, let it dry thoroughly and then pick up - a bowl. Rather than a slightly misshapen doily, which is what it looks like in it's unstiffened form.

Secondly, I am making snowflake ornaments. I've done this before, but never in such quantity. I'm making sets of five and will then stretch them on a flat board, pinning the points to the board, all stretched out like, and painting on the stiffener to make them look more like snowflakes than hankies. Which is what they would look like if I put a piece of ribbon on them and hung them up right now. Tiny hankies. With ribbons.

Since I haven't done this in years, I thought I would come to you, my faithful readers for help.

I have a few questions:

1. What kind of board should I use? I'm leaning toward a piece of foam core, but I'm not sure it'll hold the pins. Be gentle - and cheap.

2. I have a recipe for stiffener that's basically sugar water, but I'm a little afraid of that. Will it attract ants? Will it melt and get floppy if it's humid (like say if kept in the kitchen)? So, I have broken down and ordered a bottle of commercial stiffener. I think I used to have a recipe that was basically watered down Elmer's glue. Any advice? What have you used? What works and what becomes a natural disaster?

3. Any advice for stiffening a 3-D item like a bowl? I've never done this before.

4. Out of sheer curiosity, has anyone ever stiffened an item made of yarn, rather than thread? I would think that it would feel pretty icky. All that heft, soaking up all that stiff stuff. But, maybe not. Maybe it wouldn't be all that different. I'm talking natural fibers, here. Cotton, probably.

Fill up the comments, peoples. I need you.


Orlandel said...

I have done this - years ago and it wasn't my favorite thing. Styrofoam board would be good to use to stretch the ornaments on. I actually have an extra piece. On my porch. Help yourself. What's better than free?

Mrs. Allroro said...

I don't crochet, but I did make some snowball things with string around a balloon once when I was a kid, and I used liquid starch. It worked very well.

Suze said...

I remember using laundry starch (LOTS of it) for stiffening some craft project involving string one time. Have you tried that? It was so long ago I can't tell you how to do it, but I think it worked.

As for a board to pin those snowflakes to, I think foam board would work fine. You could try some of those foam interlocking blocks like these blocking mats ( They would be reusable. You could also stretch some old towels over stiff cardboard.

Jessi said...

Orlandel - I'm totally taking you up on the styrofoam.

Mrs. A - You know, I never thought about liquid starch.

Suze - I thought about towels over cardboard, but I totally don't want all the laundry.