July 17, 2010

tutorial: wet blocking lace

Posted in knitting, tutorial at 2:29 pm by peachknits

Believe it or not, it took me about two years before I tried wet blocking my knitting. But as someone who loves knitting lace, I’ve obviously realized that blocking is essential to the process, and often takes your knitted piece from “just okay” to pretty gosh-darn spectacular.

The steps to blocking are pretty simple. And look, there are pictures!

1) First, knit your lace piece. As you can see, it’s pretty small and garbled; not shawl-like at all! Wet blocking stretches the lace so the yarn overs are exposed and the pattern is clearly seen, which also brings out the drape in your yarn.

Step 1: My shawl, ready for blocking.

See how the edges are all curled and unattractive? Wet blocking will fix that!

2) Now comes the “wet” part of wet blocking. Prepare a bath for your knitting with tepid, lukewarm water and a soap specifically for yarn. I like Eucalan because it’s a no-rinse formula, but Soak is also good, and there are many others. Swish your hand through the water a little bit to get some bubbles going. Place your knitting into the water.

Step 2: Get that lace wet!

3) It’s important to completely submerge your knitting in the solution. At the same time, be mindful of the fiber content of your yarn. This shawl was knit with merino wool, so I must be careful not to agitate the water too much, or wring the piece–this will induce felting! Gently squeezing the knitting will release the air bubbles and let in the water; just don’t overdo it. Let your shawl sit in the water for 15-20 minutes.

Step 3: Make sure it's submerged, but remember: gentle does it!

4) When 15-20 minutes has elapsed, remove the knitting. Again, be gentle when draining the water from the piece. Don’t don’t don’t wring it! Gently squeeze out the majority of the water, then lay it on a towel. (Some dyed yarns will “bleed,” so you may want to use an old towel.) Spread the piece out slightly so it doesn’t sit in one lump, then begin rolling the towel into a snug roll.

Step 4: Rolling, rolling, rolling...

5) Once the towel is rolled up, apply lots of pressure to squeeze more of the water from the piece. I sometimes sit on the towel!

Step 5: Squeeze out that water!

6) For good measure, repeat steps 4 and 5. Your shawl won’t be bone-dry from all that squeezing, but it shouldn’t be dripping with moisture, either.

7) Now comes the fun part. Select a surface to block your knitting on. This could be as simple as a towel, but I suggest using something that’s non-porous, such as a rubber mat. You’ll be sticking pins into this surface, so make sure it’s not something that you don’t want lots of little holes in! My blocking surface was purchased at Walmart in the athletic section: it’s several interlocking rubber mats that are usually used as padding beneath treadmills and workout equipment. However, lots of people also use interlocking play mats found in toy stores.

Step 7: My blocking surface of choice is an interlocking rubber mat.

Step 8: Spread out your knitted piece on the blocking surface. I always begin pinning in the center of the piece and work outward. Since my shawl is triangular, I’m starting at the point where I cast on.

Note: Make sure to use non-rusting (nickel-plated works!) quilting or straight pins, unless you want rust all over your nice knitted shawl.

Step 8: Pinning along the top of the shawl.

Step 9: For a triangular shawl, I use blocking wires to evenly angle the left and right sides of the shawl. Thread the wires through each of the natural “points” in the shawl that were created from the knitting. Thread both wires through the bottom point. The wires should cross at a 90-degree angle.

Step 9: See the 90-degree crisscross?

Step 10: My shawl had a crocheted bind-off, so it has a lot of extra points. I don’t have a very scientific method for pinning these smaller, less protruding points. I tend to just eye it until it looks right to me.

Step 10: Pin and stretch by eyeing it.

Step 11: Once you’re satisfied with how your shawl looks, sit back and let it dry! It takes a good 12-24 hours (sometimes longer!) for a shawl to completely dry, and you don’t want to unpin before then.

Step 11: Waiting can be so hard.

Step 12: Once the shawl is completely dry, unpin it. You should be rewarded with a beautiful piece that you’ll be proud to wear!

Step 12: Another wet-blocking success!