In other words, I couldn’t wait to get this posted and try a Nick style tutorial. Though I am sure I will never measure up.
Creatures of the reef, which I finished today and am blocking, is my first official lace project. Now, you may say that you have seen me do lace before, which is true, but this is the first one I ever started. So we will explore both blocking and early lace mistakes associated with this project.
When you cast off for lace, you end up with a pile of strange looking stitches. Blocking is what gives the lace shape and what brings out the pattern.
Here is a cast off Creatures shawl.
So, to start the blocking process, I fill my sink with lukewarm water. If it is too hot or cold, the wool will felt. Since I am using a blend, 50% wool/50% tussah silk, I need to be concerned about this. (Personally I think tussah silk smells vaguely of fish for some reason, appropriate in this project huh?) I first add to the water a bit of eucalan wool wash. This is a wash that does not have to be rinsed out, lessening the chance of felting due to agitation. It also has eucalyptus in it which keeps moths at bay. Finally, it gives the wool a softness, taking away some of the scratchies. To be honest, with this yarn, it isn’t much of a problem as it is wonderfully soft and warm to start out with.
I then add my project, and press it gently underneath the water. Being careful not to agitate it. I need to leave it there for 20-30 minutes at least, as I want the yarn to be really soaked so it will hold its blocking.
When it is ready, it sinks nicely under the water.
While the project is soaking, I prepare my blocking space, get out my pins and blocking wires, and put towels on my kitchen floor. Now is also a good time to take a pain killer if you have a bad back, blocking is really hard on it! Or perhaps you can cast on for your next project. It is probably not advisable to do the dishes!
Once the project is well soaked, I let out the water and carefully squeeze the excess out of the project. Remember your delicates, don’t wring or twist. I don’t even do a very good job squeezing out the project because I am convinced less handling is more at this point. And the next step does a very good job getting out the excess moisture. As well as making your knees wet.
Put the project out on the towels
I cover the whole thing with another towel, so that the project won’t stick to itself.
I then begin to roll it like a sleeping bag. As I go along, with every roll, I push on the roll to absorb the moisture.
Once it is all rolled up, I kneel on it for good measure. Trust me, it really helps! Then I unroll and put the project on the blocking surface I am using. In this case, the project is so large that I need to use my bed. Which is easier on my back anyhow, considering that it is so high up!
My first step is to identify the straight lines in the shawl. In this case, the sides are not technically straight edges. So I use the top and the middle. I am using blocking wires from Knitpicks, but this can be done with all pins (it just takes forever and tons of pins!) There is also another method using string, I would search through yarnharlot’s archives for a good tutorial if you want to try that method. And frankly if you don’t have blocking wires, thats the one I would try! If you want cheap blocking wires, I have heard that you can get soldering wires and wipe them clean. The advantage to this is that besides being an inexpensive alternative to formal blocking wires, is that you can have them cut to your specifications. I would have actually gone this route had I heard of it before I purchased my blocking wires!
Now that I have the blocking wires in place, on the straight lines, I have to secure them with pins. The idea of blocking is basically stretching the HECK out of the project! So a secure line is necessary.
It is at this point where I realize I have a potential problem. This particular project starts with casting on both edges and then decreasing every other row until you have 5 measly stitches left on your needles. A common problem with new lace knitters is that they cast on too tight. I was apparently not immune to this. As you can see in the picture below, where I am supposed to have seashells I have these tight straight lines. I am not quite sure, at this point, if I am going to be able to fix that! But onward and upward!
So now that I have secure straight lines, I need to pin out the seashells and stretch the project. I initially pin the longest point of each seashell.
But it still doesn’t look like much at this point. The next step is to pull each pin out further over and over again. Think lug nuts when changing a tire. A bit at a time. When you pull out some, others are then too far behind. The next 2 pictures show how that happens.
See how 2 of the pins are farther in? Now I have to pull those out and I get this:
Now obviously I need to pull the side pins out farther.
I do this until they start to look like seashells and/or the top line cannot take the stress any longer!
Now, the seashells need to be rounded rather than pointy, and as I have it, they will end up pointed. So I need to add pins to round them out.
That is my last step, so now I have a fully blocked shawl.
Now it just needs to dry thoroughly. Which means I am sleeping on the couch tonight. Good thing I have a comfy couch! The good news is that I can wear a new shawl to church tomorrow!!!
A couple notes about the project. The seashells should be much more defined. I was luckily able to mess with the project, getting them into some semblance of seashells, but my tight cast on really caused me to have soft scalloped seashells rather than the clearly defined ones pictured in the pattern. Which I am ok with since it is technically lace project #1.
Stay tuned for final pictures taken tomorrow!