Wednesday, January 6, 2010

blocking en masse

Some people block their knitted stuff just as a matter of finishing it — just one more step towards the end, like darning in the ends.

I was always taught that if you have to block it, it means you did a crappy job knitting it in the first place. Knitters who claim you have to block to "get rid of uneven stitches" make me cringe. How about just not making the uneven stitches in the first place?

My mum told me recently the lace scarf I made her had been admired by a friend of hers, but was astonished that I did not iron my work. Iron? Iron? It's got bobbles in it! And it's made out of Kidsilk Haze! Even the biggest blocking fanatic won't iron bobbles, especially ones knitted into yarn of silk and mohair.

Apparently I have found one who would.

One of the tricks with craftsmanship is knowing when to deviate from your usual best practices, though, and I recently made four things that require blocking. Not ironing, mind you (shudder) —just some stretching to get them in the right form.

Three of the items are Estonian lace: two shawls and a scarf. One is a beret in stranded colourwork.

I waited until I had a nice, quiet stretch of time. In this case, it was Christmas Day. That might shock some folks, but I had a perfectly nice winter solstice celebration on the 20th, thank you.

I woke up, brushed my teeth, and got to work.

Soak

I gathered together everything I needed to block, filled up the sink with cool water, added Soak, and set a timer for fifteen minutes.
Note: Normally soaking several different-coloured items together like this would not necessarily be a good idea, because dye can bleed out and discolour other items. Since all my items were in the same colour range, I decided to risk it. Nothing bad happened to the knits themselves, although the jury's still out on my bedsheet.

During the fifteen minutes, I stripped the bed, put on an old fitted sheet, and scarfed down some breakfast.

Then the pinning started. Some knitters block things lovingly, measuring and re-measuring. I'm more of the school of "er, yeah, looks right, and I'm sick of pinning so I'm going to use some blocking wires now." Here are the two shawls blocked out on the bed, both using a combination of pins and blocking wires:
What's impressive about both these pieces is that they were half to two-thirds the size on the needles before blocking. Lace can be weird that way.

The beret got popped over a dinner plate. I tried just putting it on the mattress with the shawls, but it was draining too much water, so I set up my drying rack and put it on that.

By the time I got to the scarf, I had run out of room on the bed. Also, the scarf is made from Handmaiden Sea Silk, so it tends to smell like seaweed when wet, and I didn't want the smell near the shawls. so I just draped it over the top of the drying rack and gave it some tugs to set the width:
Yes, my living room looks like a workshop.

As of this writing, everything has been drying for about an hour and a half. I'm going to set this post to delay publishing until the first week of January. With any luck, the three items here that are gifts will be in their recipients' hands by then.

I'm not sure how long things will take to dry. If the stuff on the bed isn't ready by tonight, though, at least I have my sofa bed to sleep on. DIYers need sofa beds.

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