Tag Archives: blocking

Blocking a crescent shawl

The first time I had to block a crescent shawl I was unsure on how to do it and it didn’t turn out good.  I was baffled, because honestly, I’ve never had problems blocking anything before.
You see, triangles and squares/rectangles are easy since you have straight lines to guide you.  Circles are a little more complex, but still very logical, since all you have to do is pin opposite sides until you get a circular shape.

I think my biggest struggle was with the top edge, because I was never quite sure how to shape it for blocking.  Then, one day it hit me: I don’t have to pin the top edge!  Once I get the shape right (ish) the tension of the fabric does the job of shaping the top for me.

So without further ado, here’s how I block a crescent.  Mind you, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but hopefully it will give you a good idea of how to do it.

Tru Wuv 1
sloppy shaping

I started by soaking the shawl in warm water with a bit of soap in it.  The longer you let it soak, the better.  This one was left over night.
After rinsing and squeezing the excess water out, I placed it on the mat and roughly shaped it as I wanted.

A few notes on taking the excess water out of your knitting: you can squeeze the fabric between your hands, then roll the knitting in a towel and step over it.  Or you can put it through the spin cycle of your washing machine.
If you choose the latter, make sure you have a spray bottle handy – sometimes the work dries out before you have the time to block it fully.
It’s also a good idea to double-check your washing machine setting, so that it doesn’t accidentally felts your work.

I like to start pinning from the bottom center and then the tips:

bottom center
Bottom center pinned

 

tip
Tip pinned

I kept on placing pins in between the leaves because I wanted those to be the longer points.  When I had a shape I liked I stood up and checked for symmetry and/or anything that looked odd:

not there yet
not there yet

After I’d pinned down all the points I wanted I fixed the ones that were crooked/wonky looking so they would lay flat.
At this point the spray bottle came handy, since the shawl was starting to dry and I hadn’t achieved the right shape yet.  The pins on tips that weren’t right were pulled out, the tip re-shaped and pinned again.

Wonky
Wonky

Here’s the final result, after I was happy with how the shawl looked. I aimed for straight lines on both the leaves’ “spine” and the filler (branch?) between leaves. I think I got most fairly straight, right?

K approved
K approved

Here’s another photo san-cat. The cat, BTW is optional IF your cat doesn’t like to inspect your job. K demands to check everything we do because she know we’re only humans and will make mistakes.

All done
All done

 

As you can see there’s no need to pin the top edge, in fact when I place pins on the top edge I can’t get a nice shape on crescent shawl, YMMV.  I do – sometimes – place a pin or two on the top edge before starting to pin the points so I can better visualize how far on the mat the shawl will stretch.

Let your shawl sit on the blocking mat for as long as you can get away with – over night is good, unless you block on your bed.
The time that a knit item will keep its blocking depends on, among other things, the fiber content of the yarn you used and how you store it after it’s been blocked. If your shawl lost its blocking or you didn’t like how it turned out on the blocking board, all you have to do is soak the shawl and block again.

Quick tip

I’ve been drooling over a blocking frame I saw on a website for a long, long time.  The problem was that those frames are quite expensive and the shipping from Germany would probably be outrageous.
The frame itself isn’t that different from a big embroidery hoop, with holes along its length – if you have one of the Haapsalu books,  you’ve seen photos of frames with wooden pins to hold the knitting to the frame.

Where the German blocking system gets interesting is that it uses elastic bands with hooks at one end to hold the knitting to the frame.  Because the elastic is…well, elastic, those hooks distribute the tension better, which makes for a more even finished shape – be it a circle, a triangle or any other polygon.

I’ve had a wooden frame for some time now, but the first time I used it, I secured the knitting to the frame using push pins.

Alpenrose framed
Alpenrose framed

There were a few problems with that – it only really works if the knitting has scallops at the edges, you need a helper and, in the end, both Joel and I had sore fingers from pushing pins into the wood.

After using the frame, I took it apart and it had been sitting in the basement ever since.  I wasn’t happy with the pin method and didn’t really had a need for a 8 ft frame since then.

Until Verão.  The stole is – without aggressive blocking – 8 ft long.  Up came the pieces of the frame and the first blocking began.
After many hours of fighting the frame, the cord I used to thread through the knitting, the knitting itself, I ended up with an upset husband and a very badly blocked stole.

Now, because I’ve had the German frame in the back of my mind for years, I’d already stocked up on rubber bands and paper clips ;).  After a week or so of waiting (for the first time since I began blocking my knitting, I was afraid), I soaked the stole again, grabbed the rubber bands and paper clips, the pieces of wood and went to block the stole again.  And this time I was alone.

Shadow of the stole
Shadow of the stole

I’m happy to report that it did work!   Despite the fact that Verão is big and long, the time it took for me to attach the stole to the frame was small and almost trouble-free.

The rubber bands didn’t slide as I hoped, but then again, the wood is unfinished and untreated.  If I had long enough dowels or even PVC pipes, evenly distributing the rubber band would had been easier.

If I ever make something this big again, I’d attach another piece of wood half way the long sides of the frame to prevent the wood from bending in, but other than that, it worked just fine and the stole has even dimensions throughout.

Close-up of the paper clips/rubber bands
Close-up of the paper clips/rubber bands

I think this setup would also work for things with straight edges and round shawls with a few adjustments.

For straight edges, I’d thread blocking wires or some cotton thread close to the edge and put the clips at closer intervals.

For circular shawls, I’d place longer rubber bands near the corners of the frame.

The one important thing about using this method is to make sure that when you put the paper clips in, you don’t split the yarn.

Niebling or: how I learned to stop goofing around and love blocking

I haven’t talked about Niebling here for a long time.  That’s because I’d been resisting the urge to buy anymore reprints from his many works for a few years now.
Well…last week I succumbed and bought two folios.  They were shipped from England and got here quite fast (last Friday, to be exact).  I spent the rest of that evening browsing through them and by Saturday I’d decided I needed to knit at least one of the doilies.
IMG_5160
I’m in the midst of a designing maelstrom – so far working on 3 different shawl patterns at the same time o_O, which is a new thing for me and way less confusing than I thought it would be.  The thing is, I don’t need to knit anything else, aside from the things that are already on the needles and need to be finished.  I wanted to knit something from Niebling, though.  So, I did.  In my defense it was a small doily and only took me 3 days to finish.

My first encounter with the genius that is Niebling was through Lyra – my first and the second.  There’s something magical about his designs that doesn’t really show up until you block the finished item.  My favorite ones are when I’m knitting and at some point stop and start staring at the images, thinking that there’s something wrong with the pattern, maybe a mistake, because the knitting doesn’t quite look like the finished item.
I keep on knitting, even with the doubt, because the stitch count is right and I just begin to suspect that it isn’t going to look like the picture around half way through the knitting (I’m committed by then).
Then, the magic happens: I finish the knitting, give it a good soak and block.  As I block, right there, before my eyes, the item begins to transform itself from a very angular shape into this organic beauty.

Herein lies his genius: he had an uncanny ability to predict how blocking would turn all those straight lines and sharp angles into fluid, organic shapes.  It isn’t really magic, of course.  It’s “just” a deep understanding of how tension applied to the material will work.

Every time I try to explain what I think about Niebling with words I feel like I’m trying to grab something just out of my reach – I can touch it with my fingernails, but I can’t put my fingers around it to bring it closer.  I think I know how it works, but I lack the vocabulary to explain it (and the technical knowledge of applied tension).
Some nights, while waiting to fall asleep, I make plans to take some time away from all the knitting things (as in, shawls and doilies), designing and all the other endeavors so I can sit down and apply my ideas to swatches, just to check out if I’m right about my theories.

Before I knit my first Niebling, I knew very little about blocking and seldom did it.  As soon as the first Lyra was bound off, I knew it had to be blocked – not because the lace was all crumpled up (it was, but I could see the different shapes), but because I found the idea of stretching the heck out of the knitting amusing.
With every pin I put down into the carpet, I understood better why blocking is so important in general and with Niebling designs in particular.
I love to block and honestly think that your knitting isn’t finished until the item is blocked.  Bonus points if the blocking is done properly – which, I admit being guilty of not doing in some cases.