Blocking Process

The start-date for the Lakeshore Shawl Knit-along is less than one week away! I’m super excited for several reasons:

1. starting a new project! A few participants have already started their shawls and are zipping right along, loving the pattern and the yarn! I feel more confident that the timeline I’ve set for working on this shawl is actually a realistic amount of time!

2. getting to know a new group of people! Some participants are regulars at our Tuesday night knitting social, but many are not. Some I’ve known since opening the store, and some are very recent acquaintances. I’m excited for local knitters to meet each other!

3. testing out a new store feature – the Knit-along! This is our first one, hoping for many more. I’ll be figuring it out along the way, and taking suggestions for future KALs as well!

With the Lakeshore Shawl on the brain, I’ve been thinking about lace knitting in general. A couple months ago, while finishing another shawl, Clothilde, I decided I should take photos of my blocking process, since blocking is one of those topics that customers regularly ask for insight and advice on…

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Blocking. The Lace Edition.

Step 1. Finish knitting and weave in the ends, even if I don’t want to. Technically you can weave in your ends *after* you block, but one of the purposes of blocking is to have the yarn set itself in its new position (as curvy loopy stitches rather than plain straight yarn), so in theory the ends will also adjust to their new position as being woven in before blocking and are less likely to escape.

Step 2. Prepare some sort of water-holding basin. For large projects, a bathtub or sink. For small projects I like to use this little plastic tub – I use it exclusively for blocking, so I don’t have to worry as much about residue from other stuff getting on my knitwear like I would if I were soaking in the sink where my dirty dishes tend to congregate.

Step 3. Acquire feline supervision (optional but usually inevitable).

(this is Moodie, my cat.)

Step 4. Fill basin with tepid-to-cool water and submerge the garment. Sometimes I add Eucalan (or Soak) to the water, especially if I’m trying to soften a coarse yarn, or if the yarn is particularly stinky. Please be aware that many natural fiber yarns are a LOT stinkier when they get wet. Sometimes this goes away over time, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Step 5. After about 15 minutes or so (up to 30 minutes if I’m aiming for softness), I lift out the knitted item all at once (if possible), gently squeeze (don’t wring!) the easy bulk of the water out, and lay it on a clean towel.

Step 6. Fold the towel over top of the item, and step on it. A lot. I usually lay it in a second towel, fold it up, and step on it again. The goal is to have the knitted item uniformly damp and yet as close to dry as possible.

(Moodie likes to help with this part, too)

Step 7. Lay it out on a blocking surface. Sometimes this is a clean carpet, or a spare bed, or a stretched out dry towel. As I don’t have a spare bed or any carpets, I use these interlocking foam blocking boards, which are sold in sets of four as “play surface” mats for kids’ rooms. I like them because they can be arranged in a variety of different shapes to accommodate different garments, and you can pin directly into the surface (I found mine at Canadian Tire).

Step 8. Pin it out! When pinning out lace, like this shawl, I start with establishing the basic shape – put one in the top center and one in each corner and one in the point. Then pin along the straight edge along the top. Then starting at the point, pin towards the corners, establishing the scallop edge if there is one. Sturdy T-pins are the preferred blocking pin of choice, available at fabric stores.

Step 9. Hide it from the cat. Moodie finds the squishiness of these mats to be irresistible, so I usually lay them out on top of my laundry drying rack.

And then we wait. Depending on the project, the thickness of the yarn, the humidity, and a whole bunch of other little factors, a piece of knitwear can take anywhere from a day to a week to dry, but be patient! Especially when blocking lace, if it’s still even a little bit damp when you unpin it, it won’t hold it’s shape the same way (while waiting for it to dry, you could always cast-on a new shawl to distract yourself, right?)

Finally, unpin, wear, and enjoy!

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The KAL countdown is on! Five days ’til Lakeshore! I can’t wait!

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8 Comments
  • bossyfemme
    Posted at 15:17h, 10 July Reply

    MOODIE.

  • Doris
    Posted at 15:24h, 10 July Reply

    Very very helpful information Bridget! You’ve given very clear instructions and helpful information (like the foam mats). I am so looking forward to the KAL. I haven’t started mine but I might before Sunday!

  • Cleric at Large
    Posted at 15:31h, 10 July Reply

    So, I *accidentally* caught some Steven and Chris, and they were doing “care and feeding of your knitwear” and their guest suggested setting the item in a strainer to help resist the urge to wring things out. Thoughts?

    • needlesinthehay
      Posted at 15:58h, 10 July Reply

      Neat idea! If I were the type to be tempted to wring, I would definitely consider this as an anti-wringing strategy. (I would also consider having a dedicated knitwear-only strainer, since I get weird food bits stuck in my regular strainer *all the time*).

  • Good Things Sunday: SWINTON! « Bossy Femme
    Posted at 14:41h, 15 July Reply

    […] some time to do some workplace knitting. On the other side of the wall, my BFF Bridget is running Needles in the Hay’s first ever knitalong & I want to soak up the good knitting vibes. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • Melanie
    Posted at 17:33h, 15 July Reply

    Wow Bridget….thanks! This is the clearest description I’ve seen…including how to involve 4 legged helpers!

  • Mickey Bonham
    Posted at 15:19h, 19 July Reply

    Hi Bridge – Our internet has been acting up so I have just read this today – I never really knew how to block something so thanks for the very good instructions – and loved the pictures of Moodie! What a cat!
    Bye for now.
    M

  • TheKnittingGypsy
    Posted at 12:35h, 29 July Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I`ve been trying to figure out blocking for quite some time, but was afraid to ask. And what a cute kitty you have!

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