Tuesday, July 22, 2014

blocking block

I've had a little lace shawl off the needles since the end of May, and it's just been hanging out waiting to be blocked. I've also got a baby blanket I just cast off that's been added to the pile. This step always stymies me. It's my least favorite part of knitting besides the first row post-cast on but really does make a HUGE difference in the finished piece. Especially with a lacy project, blocking is essential.

Part of my issue is that I don't have a great place I'm willing to lay out a big project. The kitty would tear at anything on the bed or on the floor (or more likely, sit on it). As a result I end up blocking in stages on my ironing board. Second issue, I hate pinning. Seriously hate it. I get really caught up in trying to stretch a piece to the max but also not have those annoying little points from where the pins are anchoring the edge. Add to that the staged blocking and trying to pin to match up sizes and shapes along a whole piece and it's enough to drive anyone batty.

So I splurged on myself a little and bought a set of blocking mats and blocking wires! I've been thinking about buying these for quite some time, so at least it isn't an impulse splurge. The mats can be rearranged to suit whatever size/shape project I may have in line to give me plenty of room to lay everything out just so. And the wires should take care of at least some of my pinning problems (I'm looking at you, straight lines and smooth curves!).

(mats from Knitpicks)

I have lots of projects in the queue, and I'm excited for these new gadgets to come so I can try them out and hopefully wave my blocking woes a fond farewell.

As an aside: After researching blocking mats and wires, I have come to have a suspicion that my wool-based projects might benefit much more from wet blocking than steam blocking. A couple shawls of mine ended up disappointingly small and it has only just occurred to me that perhaps it was the blocking. I have a great handheld steamer so usually steam block everything. It works wonders with acrylics, but I wonder if I could get my woolies to stretch a bit more if they were soaked. I always see the fiber relax as I steam and it will hold shape after drying, but it appears soaked wool will stretch more than dry so a piece may start out already larger at the pinning stage. Hm… I may have just created a problem where none exists, but it's worth a shot on my Pacific shawl(ette) at least, as the fiber seems to have relaxed and shrunk back down over time. Thoughts?


  1. I have only wet blocked so I don't know what the difference would be. Certainly my wet blocked pieces get quite a lot bigger generally. I have found that different yarns "hold a block" better than others. I haven't been scientific enough with it to keep track but I know that some of my shawls block beautifully but then soften up to be closer to their original shape after a bit of wear.

    1. Thanks Amanda! You're convincing me that wet blocking is a good idea to at least try… especially if I do it with the same piece I tried steaming, I should be able to see a difference if any. :) Such a scientist, me.


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