Tag Archives: blocking

Did I do this crap?!

After some (a lot) of procrastinating, I’ve washed and blocked the swatches that were ready yesterday.  It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.  I found out a huge number of little sins on them and am leaning towards knitting most, if not all of them one more time.
One of the most interesting findings was that my worse swatches are the ones with the simpler stitches.  Some of the things I didn’t like I can explain, others I can’t (and so, I’m blaming the needle size).  Last night I did two new gauge swatches using 4.5mm needles, which are soaking as I write.  I’m hoping to get the proper gauge with those needles, as I like the fabric I get with them better.
I had a few d’oh moments while blocking, the first of which was when I realized that a gauge swatch has more than one use – as in: I know how many sts/rows I should get on an inch, so why am I not stretching the swatches to the expected measurement?  I figured that my simpler swatches (ST and garter st) have the most flaws because I go into automatic mode and don’t pay them the proper attention.  Speaking of the garter swatch, I might need to knit it by turning my work (sigh) as I got a somewhat irregular edge on the right side (can you say tension issues?).  Another example of not paying enough attention?  My YO swatch had the wrong number of YOs…
I’m torn between using a reverse long tail cast on or a normal cast on (normal for right handed people, not so much for me).  The reason being, when I do the cast on using my right hand, I get an uneven cast on, with some bumps being longer than others.  This issue can be somewhat fixed with proper blocking (which I also didn’t do), but my reverse cast on looks better.
The more I read the sanctioned group on Ravelry, the more confused I get about the expectations.  At some point, we’re told we need to show we can follow directions (so doing a reverse cast on would be a no – no), then someone else will say we have to show skills adapting the way we knit to come to the exact same result as everyone else ( read: right handed continental knitters).  How much of the first and the latter is acceptable is unclear to me, hence my doubt about which cast on to use.  I’ll keep on trying to do it using my right hand, but if I’m not satisfied with the results, I’ll just switch to the reversed long tail one.

Now, from what I’ve seen of the approved swatches, the ones I have right now are ok.  I’d probably pass level one with them, but (and a big one for me), these swatches are in no way, shape or form, my best work and this is why I’ll re-do them.  It’s a matter of pride ;P.

Something else that I found quite interesting is that the increases and decreases I like best (because I thought they were the best option) aren’t as nice as the ones I wrote off as not so good.  The swatches aren’t bad, all the increases and decreases are as they should be and the result is what is expected.  The thing is, by knitting them using larger needles (and thicker yarn) I could see more clearly which ones work better (as in, how much they show).  I’d heard of most, if not all, increases and decreases we have to do and have done all of them except for one decrease,  and still I learned from the process.

On an ending note, I have to say I’ve lost a lot of steam on this project as I got side-tracked by discussions that didn’t apply to me and doubts and worries that were silly to say the least.  Last night it finally hit me, I was too hung up on “but that’s not the way I knit” to realize that it isn’t about how I knit, but about my ability to do what I’m told.  My standards are different from others and looking at the swatches I can say, for sure, they are below my standards.

How to block Dorothy

Dorothy might be a bit of a problem when it comes to blocking, so I decided to write a tutorial showing the most important steps.  This is a very image heavy post, so I decided to go with smaller pics here.  The photos are all linked to my Flickr, so if you need to see more details, just click on them.

First of all, we need a flat, “pin-able” surface, a bunch of pins and a spray bottle.  Since I knit from a cone, I soaked the shawl in very hot water with some shampoo in it (to take the sizing off the yarn) over night.  I then put Dorothy through the spin cycle of my washer to take the excess water out and placed it over my surface in the approximate shape it would have after blocked:

I then pinned down the lower tip and the center back of the neck.  Be prepared to move pins around.

Next, I started pinning the various tips, alternating left and right side ones so the shawl would have similar measurements on either side.  Pay attention to the spine line and try to keep it straight.IMG_2192IMG_2193

IMG_2194    I pinned down all the scallops, starting at the top of each “mountain” and then going back and pinning the “valley” between each scallop.

To get the edging to behave properly, I spread them out with my hands as I went.  This way I didn’t end up with scallops overlapping each other.  IMG_2195

What do you do when you run out of space on your pinning surface? Why, you turn the fabric around and pin it to the back side 😉IMG_2196  On this next photo you can see that I’ve already pinned one of the “valley” too.IMG_2199

Here is the shawl with all the scallop “mountains” pinned down.  Keep alternating between left and right side, trying to keep the spine as straight as possible. IMG_2197

Due to the shape of this shawl, you’ll need to pin two loops together at some points.  This last picture shows the shawl with all pins in place.  I decided to shape the neck line in such a way that I’d have waves after the shawl was blocked.  You can keep it as a straight line if you wish.IMG_2200

Blocking is a time consuming activity, but it’s worth every second of the work put into it.  Don’t be afraid of blocking, if you don’t like the end result, you can always soak your item again and re-shape it to your taste.
A few last tips.
– Keep the spray bottle near and don’t be afraid to use it often.
– I usually let my lace remain pinned for at least 12 hours.
– Different fibers will react differently to blocking, with some yarns you’ll get a little shrinkage after you take the pins down, others (like cotton) will stay the same size.
– I block harshly as I can and usually, when I’m almost done, find out that I can pull the fabric a bit tighter.
– If you’re using cardboard or Styrofoam as your surface, you can use push pins.  Blocking mats, mattresses and carpet require longer pins.


This is the Summer Stonington Shawl which I designed sometime around May/June of last year.

I was asked to review my Summer Leaves design. Problem was, I don’t usually care for knitting the same pattern more than once. I began knitting it and then I decided I’d just keep on doing it and try some new (to me) ideas while knitting it.

I will, eventually, gather all my notes and posts about this shawl and publish it as one file. For now, if you want to knit it and have access to Ravelry, I created a series of posts, with charts, schematics and answered a few questions here.

Now, those are old news and you might be wondering why I’m talking about it now. Well, this shawl was made from my handspun. I bought some merino/silk roving, dyed it and then spun.
I spun short draw, so the yarn is a true worsted one (not as in worsted weight), yet, by the time I was knitting the border I began to see piling. I wasn’t happy with my discovery, but was getting closer to finishing and had people waiting for it, so I kept on going.
The second disappointment with the shawl came a few weeks after the knitting was done. I took it with me in a week long trip and when we came back, the blocking job was all but gone.
I give away almost 99% of everything I knit, this shawl is one of the few exceptions. I kept it because it’s too small for almost anyone else, there are huge design flaws in it and I wasn’t really pleased with the dye job, how the colors came out, how the yarn behaved…What can I say? I’m a perfectionist.

Anyway, I kept the shawl and even though I love to block (yeah, I’m crazy), never bother to try it again on this one, because I thought it wouldn’t hold the blocking – maybe because merino fibers have too much crimp.
The other day I was really bored and looking for something to do so I wouldn’t have to do the things I needed to do ;). I finally picked up the SSS, washed it and blocked it again.
I usually block something and let it sit pinned down from one day to the next. This time, though, I kept it on the blocking board for almost a week. I just took the pins out and have a feeling this time the blocking will hold. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.