Actually, I want to talk about a Blocking Party. A friend asked me to come to her Thursday night knitting group and demonstrate how to block lace, using two scarves she had recently completed. It was a lot of fun to meet her group and see what they are working on.
The knitters that night asked me about the whole blocking process. Here’s what I do:
Weave in the ends: Some designers recommend weaving the ends after blocking but I like doing it first.
Know your fiber: It is best to test block a swatch. Your original swatch works great. (you do have one, right?) Be very careful of steam or any other heat with synthetics such as acrylic. The nylon in sock yarn (usually 20–25%) has done fine with steam for me. Again, a test run is the only way to know for sure.
Wash the knitted item: I wet block almost everything. I like the results and by the time I’ve finished a project it has laid on the floor, fallen on the front mat of the car and experienced assorted other indignities, so a good wash is a must. The alternative is to pin and steam the item which will likely set any stain or dirt. Leave the item to soak for at least 15 minutes, so the fibers are thoroughly saturated. Once you’ve let the water out, move the knitting onto a towel, supporting it so it doesn’t stretch. Roll knitting into the towel and press most of the water out.
Pin into Shape: With most lace, it is essential to stretch the fabric to open up the holes created by yarn overs and show the pattern to its best advantage. In the picture above, you can see two ways to pin a scarf. The scarf on the left is blocked to have straight sides and ends using blocking wires. The wires are run through the edge stitches and then pinned, creating a straight edge.
This scarf was knit from my Foot Steps Lace pattern that I showed you in a previous post. I stretched the width a lot knowing the slight rib in the pattern would draw it in once the wires were out. Also, scarves and shawls lengthen from their own weight as they are worn, so I like starting out as wide as possible.
This is a close up of the scarf on the right in the first picture. The scarf is knit from a pattern I call Ebb and Flow which will be released on Ravelry soon.
It is pinned with scalloped edges that emphasize the lace pattern. Until blocked, this edge is straight, without shaping. Estonian knitters use this pinning process to create points and scallops on their lace scarves and shawls. Nancy Bush talks about this edge treatment in her book Knitted Lace of Estonia.
Blocking Surface: At the blocking party, we used children’s tumbling mats as a blocking surface. They are good to protect the surface under the mat and really grip the pin. The surface texture of these particular mats has straight lines which can be helpful. Knitting stores and catalogues have a similar product.
At home I use an old sewing mat, shown here with the body of my CustomFit cardigan pinned on it. I like the grid in inches for blocking knitting to the size I want. I usually work on a bed or carpeted floor so I don’t worry about the pin scratching what is underneath the board. Here I laid it on the kitchen table to get a good picture in the natural light.
To steam or not to steam? Steaming the lace sets the pattern more firmly but it not always necessary. After pinning the item, while it is still wet, is one good moment to steam the lace. Another moment is after the piece has dried, if you want the pattern to be more firmly set than after drying alone.
Understand that I do mean “steam” not “iron”. I never put an iron down on a knitted piece, even with a cloth between the iron and the knitting. Hold the iron a couple of inches above the knitting. Again, be sure the fibers in the knitting can take heat well.
Thanks for dropping by. I’m off to more KnitKnot Adventures.