Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blocking Part II, or The Four Ps: Pushing, Pulling, Prodding and Pinning

For things like stranded knitting and cabled or ribbed things, you don't need aggressive blocking. Usually. You can get away with washing the thing, prodding it into place, and letting it dry to just even out the stitches. This is enough for items where your gauge was correct in the first place and it isn't a kind of pattern where you have to stretch it open to really see the design, such as lace. So, for the straight stockinette socks with the colorwork, that is what I did. Laid them into place, made sure the toe was rounded correctly, and left them to dry.

You can see my big toe in this picture...heehee...

Next up was the Mystery Stole 3, a.k.a. Swan Lake. I really, really, really wanted to see this one done. It took so freaking long to make, and is my first large lace piece. Once I started the Secret of the Stole, a.k.a. Guinevere, I realized that I should have knit the MS3 using size four needles. Not a big deal, but there was no way I was going to get the size that the creator did when blocking!

Which brings me to my biggest gripe with lace knitting: Yes, gauge is not important, but when you give an estimated size for the stole, you should also give a recommended swatch and the SIZE YOU GOT WHEN KNITTING THE SWATCH! I am an engineer, so I understand that I desire a lot more from schematics and instructions than are normally given, but when you say swatch until it looks good and I think it looks good at a gauge a little over half the size of your gauge, then I will have to change things to get the size that you estimate. So I suppose I could take your stitch count and divide it by the length to see what the blocked gauge should be for a certain part of the pattern, but the type of edging can change it, and what about when you have seven different patterns going across and you can't really figure an accurate gauge. So what I'm saying here is please, when you give an estimated dimension and a gauge swatch so the knitter can decide what open-ness pleases him/her, also please give the dimensions of YOUR swatch instead of just saying "swatch until you like it best."

Back to blocking.

I threaded my blocking rods through the eyelets for the border. By blocking rods, I mean an $8 package of 100 orange marking flags picked up from Lowe's. Pull the flag off and you have 100 rods that are somewhat flexible, so you can shape them along curves if you want. I pinned the centerline between the wing and rest of the stole first, then pulled the sides out and finally tackling the length.

At this point, I was unhappy with it. I thought it looked squat and the curve of the wing was not very curved, and I really did want a larger one. But I did not have the time to be re-pulling it into a new shape, and I could always re-block it later, so I'm leaving it to dry and I'll decide if it needs a re-block then. If I re-block, I'll be pinning the length out and then going for the sides for a longer stole. It's 20" x 40", so the ratio is about the same as the original, but it just looks squat and un-pretty to me right now.

I also blocked the Hemlock Ring. For this one, I pinned the center, and moved out from there. I did the center circle, then the leafy bits, and then tackled the feather and fan section. It's not as large as the original, but that's really more due to material choice than anything. I made this from acrylic, whereas the original was made from wool. The wool would block much better than the acrylic does. I already made a version from this yarn, so I know it will turn out, but would be better with wool. Here's the pinned out Hemlock ring.

This one requires a lot of pulling and prodding to get into place. The thick yarn and the non-woolliness of it all make it not want to cooperate so much. But I got it pinned into submission, and there it will stay until it is dry.

Yay pelts!

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