Hi everyone! I’d like to write a post about blocking lace. I know that many, many other knitters and crocheters have written about this, but I recently finished a project that made me, once again, completely in awe of the wonders of blocking. And, in fact, I used to hate blocking and think that it was for squares. So, just in case any of my followers are in the latter group, I want to share about the crazy, defying-the-laws-of-common-sense awesomeness of blocking lace!
The project I finished is the 2014 Game of Thrones Mystery Knit-a-Long by jimmybeanswool, aka the Stormborn Shawl. While making it, everyone on Rav kept saying that they were seeing dragon’s eggs/scales in the pattern, but I couldn’t really see it. It just looked bunchy, unless I stretched it waaaaay out. You can see what my finished shawl looked like in the first picture above. The yarn, Lorna’s Laces Fire and Blood (which I pink-puffy-heart LOVE and wish I had bought a gazillion skeins of before it sold out) is breathtaking, but the shawl itself isn’t much to look at. It’s laid out on my kitchen table, which shows stitch definition fairly well, if nothing else. It barely covered my upper back and shoulders at this point, and as you can see, barely covered one person’s seat at the dinner table. So it’s basically place-mat size.
In the second picture (in which the color is unforgivably awful - I’m sorry - I took it with my phone), the shawl has been blocked.
It is now the size of a small beach towel, and check out that stitch definition! Dragon wings, for sure!
So, here’s how I made the magic happen.
I scrubbed out one side of my kitchen sink and stopped it up. I just used regular dish soap, and made sure I rinsed it out really well. After all, you don’t want your project smelling like Dawn or whatever you use. There shouldn’t be any soap residue left. Some people say to block with mild soap, but I find it causes me trouble later.
Once the sink is stopped up, fill it with lukewarm water. I use the baby bottle test - run the water on the inside of your wrist. When you can’t feel it, it’s about body temp and is perfect. The reason you want to be careful about temp is that if you’re using anything that isn’t superwash, if the water is too hot, it might felt. You could also use cool water, but most directions I see say to use lukewarm, so that’s just what I tend to do. If you’re going to err, err on the side of too cool.
Then just put in your piece. Try to completely submerge it. Little bits and pieces will always stick up, and that’s not a big deal. Just do your best. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes, to make sure all the fibers are completely soaked through.
What’s a little freaky about this part, and which I’ve never read it other blocking tutorials, is that the dye tends to leak. Every time I’ve blocked something by soaking it, the water turns the color of the yarn. When I made my Bigger on the Inside TARDIS shawl, the water turned really dark blue, almost black; this shawl turned the water a purpley red (don’t know if you can see it in the picture). The first time, with BotI, I totally lost it. I thought I had ruined the shawl, that it would be white now, and that when I reached in to take it out my hands would turn blue/black. This, it turns out, is completely not true, and is a completely normal process. It’s just excess dye leaving the yarn. Your piece shouldn’t, if it’s good yarn, lose color, and when you pull it out of the water, the dye shouldn’t stain your hands or the inside of your sink (although mine is stainless steel - can’t say for sure about other types).
The other thing that made me freak out the first time is the smell. When the yarn gets wet the first time, it stinks. No, it doesn’t stink - it STANKS. Like rotten eggs. Not super bad - it won’t permeate your entire house - but the area around your sink, and your lovely knitted project, once you take it out of the sink, is going to smell until it dries. This, too, it turns out, it totally normal. So don’t panic, like I did, and hit the Rav forums leaving all kinds of weird notes about how you somehow made your knitting smell like garbage and someone please help.
Once it’s done soaking, lift it out of the water carefully and let the water out of the drain (obviously, don’t let your piece go down the drain!). VERY GENTLY squeeze some of the water out WITHOUT ringing it like a towel (otherwise you’ll ruin your stitches (this is the only part you have to be super careful about). Then lay it down at the short end of a big towel (it’s okay if it’s all bunched up) and then roll the towel up and punch/pat/squeeze the towel (still don’t ring it) to get the moisture out. This is the part where blocking with soap causes me trouble - maybe I’m just a moron, but I have trouble rinsing the soap out without ringing the piece out. I find it’s easier to just avoid the soap altogether.
And now for the magic - it will have already grown in size from getting soaked through. All you need to do is spread it out on a flat surface (preferable with towels under it) and pin it into place. You can use the floor, a bed, a table, whatever you’d like. Use straight pins or even push pins (like for a bulletin board) in a pinch. Place the pins at logical points - not somewhere that there should be a curve. You can block it the way it naturally lays, or get really aggressive, like I did with my Stormborn Shawl, and stretch it a little further so that you have points and things to make it look more dramatic. And another good tip I’ve learned along the way is to block the piece upside down. That way, after it’s dry, if the edges curl at all, they curl towards the back instead of the front, leaving the pretty side unmarred.
So that’s blocking lace! If what you made is not lace, really all you need to do is soak it and lay it flat to dry. Or, if your yarn is machine washable and dryable, just run it through the wash. The water will still have the magic effect of straightening and stretching your stitches to make them prettier - it just won’t be quite so dramatic. But it’s definitely worth it!
So, those of you who have blocked before - what’s your best ever blocked piece? Mine is definitely this shawl - I feel like I could take off into the sky and start breathing fire when I wear it.
Those of you who haven’t blocked before - what’s stopping you? Any questions I can answer?