Sorry to have virtually “checked out” on you for so long. I’m dreadfully behind in posting, but this shall be rectified in the days ahead. Thanks to all of you for your good wishes on the blogaversary. Prize announcements forthcoming.
The last you heard about actual knitting from me was my
desperate frantic owl-hours effort to turn 1200 yards of bunched-up beautiful Nona in Seaweed into a finished shawl, Phoenix Rising by the brilliant Sivia Harding. Since I get a lot of questions about blocking, I figured I’d take you through the last steps that got me to my knitting destination: the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool.
A good blocking job takes time. Serious time. It is not a process to be embarked on in a hurry. In fact, for a large piece of lace, I budget at least 90 minutes just to pin out. There are a few tricks I’ve incorporated that make a big difference to the end product. It matters not whether you use wires or thread – I have both and mix them to achieve the structure I need.
Mark what matters in advance: I use locking stitch markers to mark a piece up – key places where curves start or center stitches so I can find them easily when the piece is wet. Wet lace is like wet tissue to handle. You’ll be glad you did it. If my shawl has “points” of any kind, before immersion, I take my trusty ball of crochet cotton thread and run a lifeline strand through every point, leaving a couple of yards of slack at each end. (Keep reading to find out why.)
Following a warm Eucalan bath of at least an hour, and blotting excess moisture in a towel, my routine follows the same path.
Start with the T: For anything triangular, I begin with the straight top edge. I weave my wires through every other stitch to prevent pulling on longer distances. I smooth the piece out with my hands starting at the midline and working outwards to maximize stretch and to keep things even. It’s akin to sculpture. Once I’ve pinned about six inches in both directions from the midline, I insert wire through the center spine. Creating a 90-degree T helps me keep things straight and balance the stretch along width and depth.
Lifelines: Once I have pinned the base of the T, where the center point hits the bottom of the shawl, I then smooth and stretch the thread to the place where it meets the top edge of the shawl and I pin it securely. Repeat with other side. This allows me to have the points “connected” in a relative sense, so that as I pin out each point, they continue to have a relationship to each other ~ one doesn’t stick out farther than the others. The actual depth of the point can be measured with a yardstick off the center spine. As you move these around, they stay connected, preventing any unwanted strange angles.
Pins move: Pinning out is a process ~ and nothing is irrevocable. I try to go back and forth from side to side of a piece, rather than pinning one whole side first, which significantly helps keep things even. Say there are 13 points on each side of the center spine. I will pin out the 4th point on each side, then the 7th and the 10th, and so on, filling in the others as I go. This allows for easy adjustment along the way and keeps things even.
It’s not dry ’til it’s dry: 48 hours, minimum. Longer if it is humid or sticky outside.
Now to the gratuitous photos, none of which adequately captures how this came out. It was a hard colorway to photograph and neither light nor location was cooperating. I used 2 full skeins of Nona with 41 g remaining, and one tube of 8/0 foil-lined beads.
Unblocked: 60″ wide by 22″ deep
Blocked: 80″ wide by 35″ deep
Pattern modifications: I used the Russian Lace bind-off rather than the simple knitted bind-off recommended. I like the edge it gives, which is both stretchy and sturdy enough to handle a severe blocking.
Yarn observations: The Nona (50% merino/25% cashmere/25% bombyx silk) was pleasantly fluffy while knitting. At times, the plies wanted to split when placing the beads. I worked around this on the few problem stitches by running a short piece of crochet thread through the stitch to be beaded, then using the crochet hook to drop bead onto the thread (and then sliding onto the stitch). No separating then.
In blocking, quite a bit of fuzz followed my hands off the piece as I smoothed and stretched. When finished, the fluff factor was gone; what remained was a cohesive soft and draping fabric.
Project marriage score: 9.5
Bottom line: Jennifer liked it!
Bonus: Sivia liked it!