This summer has been all about lace and shawls. (More on this later.) I am so in love with lace. I have also fallen in love with the magic of blocking. The newly-finished shawl is lovely, but so full of potential. It really needs blocking to bring out its true beauty. There are probably as many ways to block as there are knitters, but this is how I do it.
This is what a newly finished shawl looks like (right before the bind off). Notice how it’s all kinda crumpled-looking. This is the Feather Duster Shawl in Sanguine Gryphon Mithril, colorway “Moet and Chandon-White Star.”
The first step is to soak the shawl. I use a plastic tub full of lukewarm water. Settle the shawl in the water and scrunch it down a bit (no wringing or rubbing) so that it absorbs the water. Leave it for about 15-20 minutes.
When I deem it thoroughly soaked, I take out the shawl, drain out the water, and squeeze the shawl. (Again, no wringing or rubbing!) Then, I lay it out on a clean towel. It looks a bit wonky, but that’s okay.
Next, I fold it gently into the towel…
…and stomp on it! (Yes, those are hand knit socks I’m wearing. No, I haven’t blogged them. Yes, I will.)
This may seem a bit violent, but it helps get some of the water out. The shawl doesn’t mind; I promise.
Once the shawl is thoroughly stomped, I lay it out on my blocking pad. (I got mine from Knit Picks, but you can get these from your local hardware store, as well. Look for “fatigue pads” or “fatigue flooring.”) I slide blocking wires through the garter stitch edge at the top of the shawl, pull the ends as far from the center as possible, and pin that top edge straight.
This gives me a good baseline to work from. The next step is to pin out the points. I start at the center bottom and work out from there, moving from side to side to keep things balanced. (Symmetry is very important to me.)
I don’t measure very exactly between points, but I do pretty well keeping them even by eyeballing it:
This yarn is 100% merino and 8-ply, which makes it sturdy. I am blocking the heck out of it here, and it’s under a lot of tension.
This is okay. This is what is known as a “hard block.” The yarn can take it, and this is what opens up the lace pattern and shows it off.
For most shawls, this would be the end. I would just let it dry at this point. For this shawl, however, I want the “points” to have a more rounded, feathery look. The picot bind-off I chose makes this process easier.
I take my wee T-pins and pin out some of the picots. I don’t have to pin out every single one, just enough to pull the shawl into the shape I want.
This takes some time, but it’s absolutely worth it. Here’s the final shawl, blocking away:
Once the pinning is done, the hardest part of blocking begins: waiting. It is very important to wait until your shawl is completely dry before unpinning it. If you don’t, it won’t hold the block. The good news about this is that, if you mess up blocking, you can always soak the shawl and try again.