Blocking: From Good to Great

Blocking takes knitting projects from good to great.

I've talked a lot about lace shawl knitting lately, and blocking is essential to bring out the beauty of lace patterns.

    
Weaving the string through the edges of the shawl

Marcy Smith, editor of Interweave Crochet, wrote a useful tutorial about how to block a shawl using string instead of blocking wires. Here's how you do it.

Blocking Without Wires

If you don't have blocking wires, you've come to the right place.

I also don't have blocking wires. But I did have a rumply lace shawl that needed blocking.

I found my solution at the Yarn Harlot, a.k.a. Stephanie Pearl McPhee. Stephanie developed a method of blocking without wires, which involves using string.

I added two boys and an exercise mat to the mix and here's how it shakes out:

Start by weaving a string through the edges of the shawl. This is a great shawl for this method, because all of its sides are straight; you don't have to do any fancy point-pinning (though you can do that too with this method). Leave a good amount of string at the ends — the shawl will grow when it's wet.

Then you proceed with the wet part of the blocking:

  

1. Soak for about 20 minutes (I used lukewarm water and a bit of Eucalan, a no-rinse soap).
2. Gather up the shawl and place it on a towel.

     
3. Ask a boy to step on it to squeeze out the water.
(Do not ask the dog to help. Clearly, she's not in the mood.)
  
Place the shawl on the mat and spread it out. And here is where the boys come in: Place a boy at each end of the string and ask him to hold it. When each has a firm grasp, ask them to gently pull it. The edge will straighten out and you can place T-pins along the string to hold it in place while it dries. (Theoretically, you can do this by yourself by winding each end of the string around a T-pin. In reality, the pin pops out of the mat under the stress. It works for the Yarn Harlot because she blocks on a bed, which you can stick pins into really deeply. If you're using a foam mat, however much better to use boys (or girls!)
if you've got 'm on hand.)

Pin along the top edge, then have the boys tug the string on a side edge as you pin along it. See how the lace opens up? When your whole shawl is pinned, let it dry. All the way.

Don't get impatient and try to unpin it when it's still damp or all your lovely blocking will be lost.

    

My finished shawl is shown at left. It's the Moss Fern Wrap by Kimberly McAlindin, from Interweave Crochet Fall 2009. It's beautifully blocked and ready to wear!

—Marcy Smith, editor, Interweave Crochet

I have blocking wires, but I love options! For more about blocking, and knitting fabulous lace shawls, check out our new video, The Structure of Shawls with Andrea Tong!

Cheers,

P.S. To block or not to block? Leave us a comment and share your answer to this question.

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