21 September 2008

Adventures in Lace Blocking

So you want to learn how to block a circular piece of knitted lace, hmmm?

Then you may or may not have come to the right place.

Actually, this is not really a lace-blocking tutorial. It's not exactly the anti-tutorial, either. It's sort of a mid-tutorial. It has little instructional value and also contains little or no destructional value. It's not Lace Purgatory (that's where you are while you're knitting something like this), but it's... it's a Tutorial for Wafflers (holding inside all political commentary, starting... NOW).

I was so excited when I finished knitting the Firmaments Shawl.

Voila, the finished piece of lace:

it doesn't look like much, does it?

If you find your finished piece of lace looks rather like a disappointing amorphous blob (see photo above), rest assured, you have done nothing wrong. Yet. You'll find out shortly if you have messed up in your knitting. Rest assured that you will, in the coming segment, have plenty more opportunity to mess it up completely.

(Still holding inside all political commentary)

Technical notes: the grey foam block thingies are pre-cut exercise matting bought at Lowe's (a home improvement chain store, for my out-of-country readers). They are found in the flooring section and come in a package of four. I figured four of these large blocks would be sufficient space for blocking my shawl...

The first thing to do when blocking a piece of lace, if you want it to look good, is to chuck it in the sink.

Please note that it's a good idea to be extremely gentle with your piece, depending on fiber content. This requires a degree of common sense and research into your fiber. If you're using non-superwash wool, don't chuck it in there with hot water and soap, mash it around, agitate it thoroughly and rinse in cold water. To find out what this does, please reference Nicky Epstein's Knitting Never Felt Better.

I was less than super-careful when washing this piece because it's silk and alpaca. Silk is incredibly strong and near-indestructible (except by its enemy, MONSIEUR SOLEIL! Keep your silks out of the sun unless you want them to disintegrate) and alpaca does not felt readily. I used a teensy amount of Seventh Generation brand liquid dish soap, filled the sink with warm water, added shawl, let soak for a few minutes, drained; squished, rinsed, washed with a little human shampoo, rinsed with a little human conditioner.

So I have a wet blob of alpaca and silk.

Next, I started to stretch it out on the blocks and realized the blocks were not large enough. I went back to Lowe's and bought another package of foam blocks. To get the appropriate size, I cut the new blocks in half, and half of those halves into quarters:

I pinned the center, then started working in the cardinal directions, pinning opposite sides (e.g. pin north, then south; pin east, then west; NE, SW; and so forth).

Fully pinned out:

The Firmaments Shawl

  • Yarn: Valley Yarns 2/14nm Alpaca/Silk
  • Pattern: Emily's Firmaments Shawl by Bonnie Sennott
  • Yardage: unknown until I bother to weight the remaining cone
  • Diameter after blocking: YES.
  • Awesomeness factor: +++1
  • Ends darned in neatly: no comment! this interview is now OVER.

I let it dry overnight and unpinned it the next day. I don't have after-blocking photos yet, but, as with most things, I'll have them eventually.


CraftyGryphon said...

Exercise floor blocks for blocking. What a *fantastic* idea, and far easier to acquire than any of my harebrained notions!

Shawl looks lovely. I may just get brave and try to block one of mine one of these years.

Right after I get the floor blocks, of course...

nanabear said...

The shawl is gorgeous and I love the idea of the floor blocks.