Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A Little Bit Of Blocking

I don't know what is wrong with me. I ought to be writing a post most days, there is certainly lots to write about, but I just don't seem to have the time. My excuse is going to be that I have been knitting like mad over the last few weeks in an effort to make all the things that I want to give as Christmas presents. I've even managed to find time to knit a few commissions, a hat and mittens for one of my knitting group friends who is too busy to knit herself because she has started to make beautiful knitting project bags and is inundated with orders, and a lace scarf for her daughter to give to her Mum (she couldn't knit herself because Mum would have seen it and know it was for her).

It is this scarf that caused me to dream up the title for this post. The blocking concerned is not writer's block, but the blocking that is required to get a piece of knitting to its proper size and shape. You should really block all knitting before you start joining seams and doing the finishing touches, but I have never done that, because I know that I knit to tension and I am sure that the various pieces of any garment that I make will fit together easily.

But when it comes to lace knitting then blocking is essential. This is generally because you knit lace on much larger needles than would be expected for the thickness of the yarn. The resultant knitting usually curls around itself and has no real shape whatsoever. In order to block something you have to first soak it for some time so that every fibre of the yarn gets wetted, then you drain the water out of the bowl and squeeze out the excess water from the item to be blocked, first by squeezing it with your hands making sure that it is a squeezing action and not a wringing one, and then wrapping it in an absorbent towel to get rid of as much water as possible.

The scarf that I had to block this morning was knitted in a lovely yarn made from kid mohair and silk. The yarn is a delight to knit with but as anyone who is familiar with mohair will know the yarn has lots of fibres protruding from the yarn; it's these that give mohair its tremendous warmth capability. I put the scarf into the bowl of tepid water and it just floated on the top of it. The water just wasn't getting into the fabric at all. It took a good five minutes of prodding and poking to make sure that every stitch of the scarf had absorbed the water. Half an hour later with the scarf damp and creased from the squeezing action it was time to get the blocking wires and pins out and lay the scarf out on a couple of towels, pull it to shape, then insert the wires and add a few pins to make sure that it was kept stretched to shape while it dried.

Eight hours later I took the pins and wires out and lifted the scarf from the towels. I held up a beautiful scarf with its lace pattern clearly visible and the points at each end of the scarf firmly shaped. It will be going to knitting group with me tomorrow so that I can hand it over to the person who commissioned me to make it.

I have another scarf on the floor now. This one is a far more elaborate lace design and is made from a yarn that is a mix of baby alpaca, cashmere and silk. This one absorbed the water far more readily but I was surprised to find that the water had changed colour when I came to drain it away. Then I remembered that the yarn is from a company that uses natural dyes and so a certain amount of colour should be expected to come out of the yarn when it is first wetted.

This scarf was a little easier to apply the wires to because of the eyelets that are a few stitches in from the edge on all four sides. I'm hoping that it will be dry in the morning and I can block another scarf before I head off for knitting group. I have five scarves and I shawl to block in total and the shawl will require me to move all the furniture around in my room so as to ensure that I have a large enough area on which to lay it out.

I think that in future I will block each item as soon as it is completed so as to not have this blocking frenzy that I am going to have to endure over the next week. But at least it is keeping me busy and I don't have time to think about how difficult the next few weeks are going to be for me.


mini said...

would love to see a picture, sounds beautiful. Good to see you back posting too :o)

Jim Baxter said...

Do you think you could knit me a hat like the one in my picture? I'd donate £25 to your nominated charity.