Hello, Leonor here guest-writing for this week’s post.
After reading the title, if you’re not a knitter, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. What on earth is blocking and why am I writing about it?
Simply put, blocking refers to the act of stretching a knitted item with the aid of specialised wires and pins, with the intention of making it look a certain way. Think of all those airy, lacy shawls you’ve seen people wear – those have been carefully and mercilessly blocked into submission.
Above is my latest project, the Banana Leaf Shawl. It looks nice-ish, but it lacks that finesse that one usually finds in store-bought shawls. The stitches look limp and you can see the differences in my gauge. Let’s make it right.
Firstly, soak the item in room-temperature water (add a nice wool wash if you want; I used Eucalan, a no-rinse Grapefruit-scented one). Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then carefully extract the excess water. Your knit needs to be damp but not dripping.
Now comes the fiddly part. Using blocking wires, you’ll need to catch the edges of your project so it’ll keep the shape you want (in my case, everything’s a straight line, but it can be crescent-shaped, for example).
I decided to do this just before going to bed, thinking it wouldn’t take me long – how wrong I was. After one hour, I was losing the will to live. I’d need another hour to finish getting the wire through all the edges.
Next, you’ll need to pin the wires to a surface. There are special fancy mats you can buy for that, but I got some for home gyms that are a fraction of the price and do the job nicely.
Because I have cats, I couldn’t risk them getting hurt on the blocking pins, so I had to move my blocks vertically for the night. I then used my desk chair to keep everything upright.
Once your finished object is dry, you can take the pins out and because fibre has memory (like the mohair and silk of this shawl), it’ll keep its shape… until you wash it again. Yes, blocking needs redoing every time a knit gets wet! Don’t you have a newfound respect for all the people who knit delicate lacy shawls?
And here’s the finished product. I hope you can see how different my Banana Leaf now looks, comparing it to the first photo – from a slightly misshapen piece to one with sharp, well-defined edges. It’s grown quite a bit, too.
The stitches look so much better, too, neater. They’re suddenly really well defined. This shawl now looks like something one would see in a shop front, if I do say so myself.
Even if you’re not a knitter, I hope you’ve marvelled, like I do every time, over the magic of blocking knitwear. If you fancy reading the technical bits about this particular project, head on over to my Ravelry page.
Have you ever done blocking? Can you think of any ways this technique could be used for other fibre endeavours? I’d love to read (and steal) your good ideas.