I'm talking about the Power of Mist. Not steam, not water, not a special soaking liquid, just low-tech plain cool water mist!
Photos: before and after simply misting with water.
The designers I know who understand its power are also the ones best known for the elegant, stylish, professional quality of their crochet patterns. It's an essential tool in our project bags along with scissors, and yarn needles for weaving in ends. They wouldn't think of traveling to crochet conferences without packing a small spray bottle.
I use plain mist first and often exclusively these ways:
(first photo, pre-blocked Tunisian Islander Wrap; second photo, after blocking.)
2) For solid stitch patterns like Tunisian Simple Stitch, or single crochet, post stitch patterns, etc., I mist a bit after I work 12 inches or more of the project so that I can see the fabric look its most sleek, flat, and even. It's a boost for me to see my stitches look so good.
3) When I start with the inside end of a new ball of yarn and it's too crimpy. I mist the stitches to see if the crimps are distorting my gauge. Or, I pull out enough of the yarn from the ball, wind it loosely over a chair or something, and mist it lightly so that it relaxes the crimp some so that I can crochet it comfortably in 15 minutes or so.
4) To renew my confidence or excitement in the project, especially lace. I want to see the full beauty as I go! It was great for the Weightless Tunisian Wrap.
5) To learn more about an expensive yarn that may be delicate. Mist is very, very gentle. I choose expensive yarns for their beauty, so I mist a swatch of one to get a preview of the full finished beauty of the stitch pattern I chose. I can also see if it sheds easily, if it goes limp and flat, if it gives off dye, etc.
6) For clothing, to make minor adjustments in the fit.
7) To avoid re-doing a seam or edging if possible. Mist might be all it needs to look smooth and make the stitches play nicely with each other. (Depending on the yarn, steam might be better but I rarely resort to steam.)
8) To make corners and angles look crisp and clean and pressed. I mist, stretch, pat, press it with my fingers like it's dough until it's the way I want it, then let dry.
When I swatch with a yarn that's new to me and it's unexpectedly stiff. It's amazing how a little mist will bring out a yarn's true personality! Especially with linen, hemp, cotton yarns.
9) When I mist a swatch with any yarn while designing, I can get a quick sense for whether I'm on the right track: how good a stitch pattern looks in the yarn, whether I think I should go up or down a hook size, and how much the stitches might stretch out or grow.
I spent most of my life not blocking my crochet. If I liked how my stitches looked, I kept going until I was done. When I was done, it looked fine to me, and that's that. I wasn't crocheting clothes, nor doilies that needed to lie flat and even. When I went through a phase of crocheting every snowflake pattern I could find, it was a new world of wetting, starching, and pinning them evenly so that the lacy stitches looked gorgeous. I hated waiting for them to dry. I did not call this "blocking." I don't think I knew the word and I thought it was only for snowflakes and doilies.
A spray bottle is a crocheter's best friend and it sometimes has magical powers. Blocking can be fun!