Tag Archives: Niebling

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.
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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.