Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blocking the Romance

I give you the Romance Shawl from Fiddlesticks Knitting. I actually finished the knitting a while ago but I've just been waiting until I could manage to crawl about on the floor long enough to block it.

This is one of my very favourite parts of the art of lace knitting. The transformation from a sad-looking bundle of nothingness into the light, floaty, ethereal piece of lace is just enchanting. It makes me gasp every single time.

Here she is looking a little bit sorry for herself in the garden. Unblocked, just off the needles.

I put some lukewarm water into a bowl and add a good glug of hair shampoo. Wool is the hair of the sheep, after all. There's always discussion over the right temperature in which to wash wool. I don't actually think it matters all that much - the important thing is not to shock the fibres by changing temperature too radically. If you start with lukewarm, keep to lukewarm; if you start with hotter water, just make sure you keep the rinsing water at the same temperature. I use lukewarm because that's what I do.

Submerge the item in the soapy water and leave it to soak so that it is completely wet. This can actually take longer than you think - I usually leave it at least twenty minutes.

Squeeze the item gently. Gently is important here - wool really doesn't like to be agitated (but then, who does?). Take the item out of the bowl. Empty the bowl and refill it with water of the same temperature. (See above.) You do not need to be too exact, a thermometer is not necessary! Put the item back in and squeeze gently. Repeat until the water is clear - no more suds. Get the item out and support it. Here she is looking a right mess:

You need to get as much water out of it as you can. Some people squeeze it, then wrap it in a towel and roll it up into a sausage and walk on it. I tend to use my mother's patent method for drying salad leaves. She bungs the lettuce in a tea towel, grabs the four corners to make a "bag" then rushes out into the garden and whirls the whole lot round her head. (If you do decide to try this method for lettuce, or for the shawl for that matter, just try not to release one of the corners - there is nothing like having to retrieve stray lettuce leaves from far flung corners of the garden.)

I just hold the corners of the shawl and whirl it round my head. (Try not to do this when the postman is due. It tends to lead to difficult explanations.) Some people object to this method on the grounds that the lace is too "delicate" - you are just about to stretch it to within an inch of its life, a bit of whirling is not going to do it any harm.

Assemble your blocking ingredients. I put down a cotton bedspread with a handy grid of squares on it. Glass headed pins. Secret ingredient: fishing line.

Thread the fishing line through the edges of the shawl.

(You can do this before you wash the shawl but I get into a right old tangle and prefer to do it at this stage.) If there are points you only need to go once into each point but remember to go the same way each time. Front to back, back to front, it doesn't matter, just be consistent. Leave a large loop of fishing line at each corner. Sometimes I don't even cut the line, I just leave it attached to the reel. This time I did cut it.

Get a spare hand or two. ('Im indoors came to the rescue.) Pull the loops at the corners and, as if by magic, the shawl grows and reveals its true beauty. Use the pins to hold the shawl in the stretched position. It's not necessary to pin through the shawl - you can just pin the fishing line to hold it taut. The added advantage is that you don't run the risk of splitting the yarn and you avoid that "swoop" between the pins. You don't need half as many pins, either.

Here she is all pinned out - the lace has completely disappeared against the cotton cloth (but it is there, honest.)

Leave for a few hours/until tomorrow/until it's dry/until you can't wait any longer.. Remove the pins and weave in the ends. Yes, I know some people do this before the blocking. I prefer to do it afterwards so that the weaving in is done to the same tension as the finished shawl. You decide which you prefer.

Wear with pride. No picture of me in it as there is no-one here but me. However, here's a picture of her on the chair:

There have been other developments, too. The "She Sells Sea Shells" Shawl is finished. Well, the knitting part is finished, the blocking has yet to be accomplished. I used a new method to aid in the grafting (shudder) of the start of the border to the end of the border and will tell all about that another day.

I have also taken on board all your comments about the white cotton Japanese shawl and have decided to go with that and leave the Zephyr for another project.

AND I'm afraid I have started yet another shawl. This is the "GalKal" and there is a Yahoo Group for it. I did a mystery shawl KAL once (and once only). I wasn't very impressed with that one but this looks intriguing. It has rather an unusual construction, for a start. I am not getting all the emails of "I've started, have you started?" and "I'm using green yarn, what about you?" because they drive me bonkers. I have looked at the group messages once because there was a mistake in the pattern (easily sorted). This is it so far:

I'm using yellow yarn, what about you?


Kat said...

The shawl is beautiful, especially the edging. Thank you for posting a bit about blocking, it was very helpful for a novice like me!

Wendy said...

Your Romance shawl is really lovely. Nice tutorial on how to block a shawl, too!

Margaret said...

The shawl is lovely! What an interesting doubled edging. Blocking always seems like a miracle. I do like to add the thread before soaking, especially if the yarn has any mohair. Nothing like trying to thread a line through soggy furry mohair loops. But, you're right, it is a bit more tangly.

Which mystery shawl did you knit? I knit MS1, 2, & 3. Didn't care for the recent mystery shawl and watched the clues but didn't knit it.

littlelixie said...

"Crawl about on the floor"? Have you been ill or has it been a busy little easter chezKate? Hope you're good x

Jenn said...

Beautiful shawls! I'm intrigued about the GALKAL. I'll have to look it up. I would never have been brave enough to make a shawl of red and white - I'd be too afraid that the red would run. Did you wash the red yarn first?

N. Maria said...

I am so glad I stopped in for a bit! I really enjoyed reading about your blocking your shawl. It's stunning!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a clear description and photos of your blocking method - I have always been afraid of blocking but you've made it seem simple!

If I ever finish Anice from Rowan 41 I will use this method!!

I am so pleased that the red didn't run on Romance!

Tilly, Wales