The Magic of Blocking

July 20, 2010

OK, that was definitely worth the effort.  I’d long heard about the wonders of blocking lace and had seen lots of photos on various blogs.  And I’m a big believer in the power of blocking (don’t scoff!) to turn ordinary knitting into something more finished, polished even. But even I wasn’t prepared for the rush I got after blocking my first lace shawl.

For those blocking rookies, a bit of explanation.  Blocking is a technique of wetting and shaping a finished piece of knitting, then letting it dry into a smooth, even, better-looking piece.  I block pretty much everything I knit from wool, which can be shaped quite nicely after it’s been soaked in water.  And, yes, I’m a full-immersion blocker — no spritzing with a steam iron or spraying with a water bottle.  Into the sink the whole thing goes for a good 15-minute soak, so every fiber gets really wet.  The wonderful Yarn Harlot has a good post about such things here.

When I finished the Cleite shawl (Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Lace, nearly one skein or 874 yds), it looked kind of fluffy and smaller than what I wanted.

Shawl before blocking

The detail of the stitches were somewhat lost. You couldn’t even see the lovely points along each of the two side edges.

Into the sink for a soak. Then I carefully transferred it to a bath towel, pressing, not twisting, much of the water out.

Shawl soaking in sink

I carefully laid out the damp shawl onto Hannah’s bed (she’s away for a bit) and began pinning.  First, I pulled the top edge straight, really stretching the wool (it’s resilient), and pinned all along the top.  Then, I pulled the center point and made sure the center line was straight.  Then each point along both side edges was pinned into place.

Pinned shawl edge

The stitches — all those thousands of yarn overs and decreases — just blossomed before my very eyes. I felt a bit giddy.

Shawl pinned for blocking

And then I let it dry while I took Michael and some friends to an amusement park for the day.  But not before making him come upstairs to admire the work in progress.

“Wow, Mom, that’s the first really beautiful thing you’ve ever knit.  It’s like a work of art.”

I take it as the compliment it was intended. And I just might have to try this again someday.

8 Responses to “The Magic of Blocking”

  1. […] wrote on the blog about how I blocked the shawl, starting with the somewhat crumpled fabric that came off the […]


  2. […] is the opportunity to learn something new — whether it be a new stitch, discovering the magic of blocking,  or figuring out how to make a too-small sweater bigger.  For at least a year, I’ve been […]


  3. […] final step in my knitting projects. I first experienced the transformative power of blocking with my first lace shawl. And while the difference isn’t as dramatic in every project, blocking gives your finished […]


  4. […] home, I plopped it into the sink for a good long soak before blocking. I discovered the magic of blocking quite a few years ago and now soak and block every wooly item. Washing is a definite […]


  5. Mary Ann,

    I knit very badly and haven’t done it for years but your knits are gorgeous.


  6. Kristen Dennison Says:

    Nothing like your kid to give you the great compliment! What an amazing piece – just gorgeous.


  7. Claire Danaher Says:

    Looks like a butterfly wing!


  8. Anna Gretta Says:

    I am proud to call you my friend, what a beautiful bit or art !!! Well done MaryAnn, please bring it with you to Maine !


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