how to block stuff
Oh hai! I sort of forgot I had a blog, I have been doing things like working and cooking and reading and being lazy. I don't think anyone is reading any more, but I'll try to get back in the swing of posting again, and maybe people will come back?
I know this info is out there on the internet, but I was recently having a Ravelry conversation with another knitter working on her own Juneberry shawl, and she asked about my preferred method for blocking, so I thought I'd share my response here, just in case anyone reading is working on their first lacy project and wondering what to do when they finish knitting.
First of all, I am obviously still pretty new to lace, and I'm sure there are many ways to do this. This is just what I have been doing, and it's worked well for me. If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments, I'm always ready to learn better ways of doing things. Also, I waited to post this until I had a project finished that needed blocking, so I could take pictures. It turns out that my Daybreak shawl was much more challenging to block than any of the lace shawls I've done, so at the end I'll tell you everything I did with that, and what I learned from all my struggles. It also turns out that I am not too crazy about the finished project, I love the pattern, and I love the yarn, but they just don't belong together, I think. I'll probably frog the whole thing and make some crazy bright socks instead.
Here's what I like to do:
- Fill a sink with tepid water and some wool wash if you have it (I like Soak, Eucalan is another nice one. They are a little pricey, but I have been using a tiny bottle of Soak and have blocked 7 or 8 things and still have half a bottle left).
- Just drop your finished item in the sink and walk away for a long time. Let the weight of the wool pull it down under the water. I’ve left things for a couple hours, no problem, but I would say at least one hour.
- After that, pull the plug and let the water drain. You can walk away again and just let gravity get a lot of the water out for you. If you’re impatient, you can go on to the next step :o)
- Get a big towel and carefully lift your knitting out of the sink and lay it on the towel. Wrap it up like a burrito.
- Take the burrito to your washing machine, and lay it inside. If what you are blocking is large, place another towel opposite for balance.
- Run the spin cycle for just a minute or two. It sounds dangerous, but it really won’t hurt anything and it will get so much water out, you won’t believe it.
- Now for the fun part! Find a spot where you can pin it all out. I use a couple big towels on the floor in my little studio (the only pet-free zone at my house), so you don’t need anything fancy. One day I’d like to have a blocking board, but this works just fine for me. Blocking wires are really handy for lace, but you can get by with just some pins. You just have to be careful about getting everything straight and even. Either way, you want to really pull it into shape. It’s pretty amazing how much bigger a piece of lace will become, and how strong the yarn can be, so don’t be scared to give it a good tug. The pattern will give you some measurements to aim for, I think of them as a guideline and don’t worry too much if I’m a little off.
Then you just have to wait impatiently for it to dry!
So I thought that with my Daybreak shawl I could use blocking wires in the outer edge and gently curve and pin them out. The problem was that it took two wires for each half of that edge, and I couldn't get a smooth curve, there was a big jog where the wires intersected. I did get it mostly pulled into shape with the wires, however, so I just eased them out and carefully fine-tuned the edge and just used a few pins to hold it in place.
So there you have it. Blocking makes the difference between something being ho-hum or incredibly beautiful. It's also one of my favorite parts of knitting. I don't have anything lacy on my needles at the moment, so I think I should remedy that ASAP!