Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Blocking is amazing.  It's like magic.  I love looking at all those little stitches, relaxing into their new permanent home, all lined up like obedient soldiers.  Seeing pieces on the blocking boards is the first time I see what I've accomplished.  It's almost as satisfying to me as wearing the finished object. 

It does take some effort.  I spent about 40 minutes blocking this piece--longer than I've spent blocking anything else, even whole sweaters.  It took that long because I threaded blocking wires through every edge.  I wanted to avoid the little shark teeth that can result from blocking a smooth edge with pins.  When the piece dries, it pulls in a bit, leaving the fabric pinned down looking jagged.  So I spent the time with the blocking wires.  And in the scheme of a two week project, 40 minutes to make it look finished is nothing.

I learned about blocking from my mom and the internet.  It used to sound so complicated and mysterious, like it was this warp zone that only the really good knitters knew about.  But it's actually one of the easiest knitting techniques you can use.

I wet block everything.  I let the item soak in warm water for 15 minutes.  Longer if I forget about it.  Then I gently squeeze it out, not wringing it, since this can damage fibers.  Then I lay it out on a towel, roll the towel up, and kneel on it.  It's very important to make sure the cats are locked out of the room from this point on, since wet wool drives them bonkers.

Next, I spread the piece out, either on my blocking mats, or on an old sheet spread out over the floor if the blocking mats aren't big enough.  We have a spare bedroom with plenty of floor real estate for blocking, but before we moved to this house, I used the dining room table to spread out the blocking mats.  Then I'd put the mats on top of the fridge.  They were out of the way, out of the cats' reach, and--bonus--it was nice and warm up there.

Then it's just a matter of pulling and squishing into shape.  It's pretty important to have a tape measure with you so you can make sure your pieces match your measurements or schematic.  For the number of tape measures I own, I find myself without one an inexcusable number of times.  Even with shawls, where size isn't very important, you need a tape measure to make sure everything is symmetrical.  I always let my pieces sit for 48 hours.  I figure, even in the most humid of weather, they're totally dry.  And it's good to practice patience. 

I blocked my Daybreak two nights ago, which means, it's time to take out the wires and see what I've created!

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