Well, it seems that I have a bit of a thing for knitting lace all of a sudden. Having both finished and started lace shawls this week, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy some proper blocking gear.
When it comes to most of my crochet and knit pieces, all I need to effectively block them is patience, my ironing board, a hot steam iron and a pressing cloth. This works perfectly for all my favourite yarns and is especially effective for silk based yarns like this silk and baby camel crochet wrap:
It's also great for my favourite mohair and silk yarns, even when the yarn includes sensitive elements like sequins or metallic thread:
But, when it comes to shaped lace shawls, it becomes a little more complicated.
To block my first lace crescent shaped shawl:
I used my ironing board, lots and lots of pins, a hot dry iron and a damp pressing cloth. The result was perfect, but the process was very time consuming and involved pinning and re-pinning, to ensure that the shape was just right and properly balanced. Stitcking my longer quilting pins in it at strange angles to get the shawl tauIt didn't seem to do my ironing board an awful lot of good either:
Before making my decision about what equipment to buy, I did my research on line, including watching a number of how to videos. This one was excellent and I'd highly recommend it for a super clear and simple explanation of what wet blocking involves.
When searching for blocking wires to buy, I came across the KnitPro ones all the time. Because it's a brand I know already, I decided to go with them. However, I was absolutely not parting with £25 to buy their blocking board and opted for some simple children's interlocking playmats from Amazon for £4.75 each (I bought 2 packs and found that I needed them):
On Monday morning, I cleared the floor of my studio, gave it a good hoover and set out my kiddie playmats – they're super comfy to kneel on too! I took my latest completed shawl, a blackcurrant coloured crescent shape made with a yarn called 'Yaksino' (a delicious mix of Merino, Silk and Yak from Skein Queen) and after weaving in the ends, I put it in warm water to soak for 15 minutes with a little Persil wool and silk wash. Although the video I watched didn't say to rinse out the shawl, I did rinse it – surely it can't be good to leave the wash on it, however little you use? I got all my equipment to hand, set my latest audio book to play and got started.
The wires themselves are brilliantly bendy and the KnitPro set I bought from Amazon has a number of sizes in it, although it has to be said that £20 is a lot of money for what you get. I found that I needed to use 4 of the longest wires – two for the top and one for each bottom side. My one complaint about the wires is that they have flat ends with sharp edges. Would it have been difficult to make one end softly pointed like a dullish knitting needle or a darning / tapestry needle? That would have made the process much, much quicker. As it was, I had to work very slowly threading the wire through the stitches to make sure that I didn't snag the yarn anywhere. This was easier with this particular yarn, since it is well twisted – but I could imagine how much trickier it would be with a lot of the pure silk yarns I use, or anything loosely twisted. Having said all that, it wasn't really a lengthy business and the wires were soon in place. I made the mistake of pinning down the top before threading the bottom wires and I won't do that next time as I ended up having to contort myself, in what is quite a small space, to thread the last parts of the bottom edges. Next time, I'll try threading all the wires first – hopefully without sticking myself in the eye with the end of one of them…
As well as being glad that I bought the second set of playmats, I was also glad that I bought an extra 50 T-Pins to pin out the wires. This meant that I could use lots of pins without worrying about rationing them on each wire. They went into the playmats like butter and the whole thing worked a treat.
Given that I'm in England and it's March, it certainly took the shawl longer than the couple of hours to dry as mentioned in the YouTube video, but if you live in a warmer climate, it would be pretty quick. As it was, I left the shawl all day Monday and overnight too, which was way more than it needed. When I took it up on Tuesday morning, I was very pleased with the final result and am certainly a convert to wet blocking with wires! I did give it a little press with a dry iron and damp cloth, just to give a final finish to the feel of the shawl and to fine tune a couple of picot points at the edge, but that could just be the perfectionist in me 😀