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Personally I feel that most knit and crochet (and weaving and tatting…) benefits from blocking. It certainly never hurts. But lace needs blocking more than other fabrics. The more delicate the lace, the more it will look like a mashed up mess until you block it. Blocking is what sets the overall shape and what opens up the yarn to show off the pattern. Think of it like ironing. Blocking gets out the wrinkles and makes it look respectable.
I love to block. Its all part of playing with yarn to me. There is plenty to discover and learn about fiber and how it “behaves” in the blocking stage. But… I know some people hate it. They lump it in with swatching. Here is what I say to all the grumbling about having to block: you made this shawl/scarf/sweater by hand, stitch by stitch, and it took you forever. Your efforts and your project deserve to be treated right. Don’t skip this last step.
Every piece of lace is different and will have to be pinned out in a different way. You’ll have some decisions to make. Experience and practice plays a factor. But there are some steps and techniques that work for every project and that’s what I’m showing here. And I’ll explain why I did what I did at each step so you can maybe get the benefit of my prior experience in blocking.
Making a Blocking Plan
The project: Its a shawlette/wrap made from one skein of Chroma fingering weight yarn. That yarn is a single ply made from 70% wool and 30% nylon.
What that tells me: Single ply yarns tend to “bloom” when they are wet. I knew this yarn would look puffier and softer when it was finished and the 30% nylon will add to that effect. Single ply yarns don’t (usually) have a lot of elasticity or spring in them so it should hold a stretched out shape and not spring back. Much.
The pattern: This is Crown of Glory Lace and it has (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) a big eyelet in it.
(This is an original pattern and I’m in the middle of writing it up for publication. It will be free and you’ll be able to find it here in… a few days. I promise! In the mean time you can check out my free video tutorial for making the Crown of Glory motif. )
What that tells me: Big eyelets have to be opened up in all directions to show them off properly. That means the blocking will have to stretch both length-wise and width-wise.
The shape: This pattern has short rows that make the whole piece curve. In between each repeat is a set of two rows that start at the saw-tooth edge and go 2/3rd the width. So the saw-tooth edge is wider than the smooth edge.
What that tells me: That this needs to be blocked as a curve. Trying to block it out straight, as a rectangle, won’t work and I’ll end of with ruffling. Also, those saw-tooth points need to be pinned out individually.
So now that I have a blocking plan in mind, its time to get to work. I’ll be wet blocking this which is a method that works for most yarns and projects. There is also steam blocking (beware of acrylics and high temperatures) and pressing with an iron. The iron method is usually done with the iron on steam mode and a cotton towel between the project and the iron. Again, beware of heat as some fibers don’t react well.
As I said, I’m wet blocking.
Washing the Lace
1) Fill up the sink with lukewarm water.
2) Add a small amount of wool wash. I use Eucalan, a no-rinse wash for wool, alpaca and other animal fibers. Because I use so little of it at any given time it lasts for-freaking-ever. My original bottle fell apart years ago and now I keep it in an old jar. So you’ll just have to trust me. That’s Eucalan.
3) Press the project down into the water.
Don’t shake or agitate. Delicate lace does not respond well to rough treatment. Just push it down under the water.
4) Walk away. You need to wait for the yarn to become fully saturated with water. You’ll know when that happens because it will sink to the bottom.
Don’t rush it. Instead go get a fresh cup of coffee and visit your yarn stash (because you’re blocking which means you finished a project which means you get to start something new!)
5) Drain the sink and press out the water. Don’t ring or shake. Don’t rough up your lace. Just gently push out as much water as you can.
Now we are ready to set the shape. Don’t be dismayed when your lace looks like a big hot mess.
Its only temporary.
Start by spreading it out, opening up the fabric with your fingers and putting it into a close approximation of what you want. Go slow. Work from one end to the other. Stand back a few times to look at it from several angles.
When its pretty close to what you want, you’re ready to set some pins.
For this I used my motley assortment of stainless steel straight pins. While you don’t need anything special, stainless steel pins won’t leave rust stains behind and they have sharp enough points to not grab your yarn. If you have something like that, great. If you need to buy, I recommend the T-head pins. They are thicker, sturdier, and easy to set.
(Btw, you can also get blocking forks, blocking wires, and blocking boards, etc. The more complicated your blocking, the more you may need those extra tools. Plus nothing makes an activity, like blocking, more fun than having a whole set of notions to play with.)
When you start setting pins, start at the center. Always. Also, get a measuring tape and use it regularly. Don’t rely on the naked eye to keep things even and in shape.
For this project, I settled on 9 inches wide…
… with 2.5 inches in between the saw-tooth points.
Work your way from the center towards the edges. Go slow and don’t rush it. Move down the lace a few inches at a time and keep that tape measure handy. When you reach an edge I think you’ll find that your pins are nice and evenly spaced.
After I finished setting the saw-tooth edge, I checked the width in several places and set a few pins along the smooth edge as needed.
And then its done. It needs to dry, and dry completely before you un-pin it.
Speaking of, how did it turn out after I un-pinned?
Really nice I think. I’m quite happy. Its going to be a lovely spring wrap. And I said above, I’ll have the pattern written up and here for free for all who are intrigued in a few days. Please check back.