Much ado about blocking.

Much ado about blocking.

If you don’t block sweaters…why the hell not? Nothing makes a piece look as professional and finished. I almost always block a sweater before seaming, like I’m doing with this Hugohugo-2Blocking before seaming lets you make sure you get the pieces to the exact measurements you want and it smooths out all of the slight imperfections in the stitches. Pre-seaming blocking also allows the sweater to dry faster since it’s still in pieces. You need to block the pieces to get it to the gauge of the swatch you washed and blocked, right?

hugoI know, I know. It’s a pain. You need to soak it in some wool wash, like Eucalan, and squeeze out the water gently, then roll it up in a dry towel and smoosh the water out with your feet. Then you finesse the pieces into the finished measurements and maybe you pin it lightly. Maybe you pin it aggressively if it’s lace. I think the sweater pieces should be fairly relaxed when you pin them because if you’re getting aggressive at this point you might not have made the correct gauge or size in the first place. I’ve learned that lesson a couple of times.

But seriously, if you’re not a dedicated blocker, try it next time you do a sweater. It’s well worth the effort and I know you can hold on just a little longer on the finishing. Just cast on something new while you wait for it to dry. Read this Knitty article for more specific tips, especially for dealing with different fibers.

This sweater is now so close to being finished! After seaming it just needs the ribbed collar and some buttons. It’s for my brother and I’ll see him next weekend for our little sister’s wedding. Then he can cart it home to Minnesota where it will surely get lots of use. I should probably send him home with some wool wash and washing instructions. I made this out of Cascade 220 (non-superwash).

How I block lace

Recently I knit an Echo Flower Shawl with Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail. It was a present to my friend Jenni for her upcoming nuptials next weekend. It’s very hard for me to wait to surprise people, so I had to give it to her a weekend early. I don’t expect that it will be cool enough for her to wear on her wedding day with her dress, but I wanted her to have it anyway.

I don’t have a picture of her modeling it yet, but I will show you how I blocked it.  I think lace needs a nice wet blocking.

lace blockingThe shawl is bound off, without ends woven in, and is a lovely, but lumpy mess.

lace blocking-2I use lukewarm water and some no-rinse wool wash (Eucalan lavender scented in my case). For the wool wash, a teeny dribble goes a long way.

lace blocking-3I let this baby soak for at least a 1/2 an hour or more. You want the fibers to get wet and relax.

lace blocking-4Then I delicately lift the wet wool from the bowl.

lace blocking-5Gently squeeze out the water. Never twist or wring the item or you may cause some unwanted felting. You can also felt items if you switch from hot to cold or vice versa, so if you do need to rinse your item, make sure you use water the same temperature.

lace blocking-6Then I lay out a large bath towel, lay down the gently squeezed shawl, fold it in half lengthwise,and roll it up.

lace blocking-7I stand on it and move my feet across it a couple of times to squeeze out as much of the water as I can. If you are wet blocking a sweater, you might need more than one towel.

lace blocking-9In this case, I used some blocking wires from Knit Picks. I only used the wires on the long straight edge of the shawl, and I picked up the edge loop along the garter stitch. A little over halfway through I transitioned to a second wire to have enough length to stretch the shawl across it as long as I wanted it to be. lace blocking-10In this final picture, you can see my pins. I use straight T-pins. I took this picture, then looked again and straightened the spine of the shawl after I put my camera away. In this shot the center line is leaning a little to the right.

At the top, I first pinned right under the blocking wire, then I started at the bottom center and pulled the pieces out as far as it seemed like the shawl should go (I could have re-read the pattern for schematics, but I was too in the moment). Then I worked outward, trying to make the left and right symmetrical as I went. It probably took about an hour total, but that’s counting the soaking time for the shawl. Positioning and pinning took me about 20-30 minutes.

I really loved making this shawl. It became predictable, but of course it was something I had to have some evening focus time to put on this. I didn’t cart it to work, and I thought about pulling it out last Thursday at knit night, but lace and wine don’t always mix, so I left it alone. I’m very happy with the result, and Jenni was joyful when she received it, so I consider it a great success.

Today is the first day back to school on campus. There is a flurry of movement and energy that wasn’t present mere days ago. It’s overwhelming, but also makes for some great people watching. Since school is in session, it’s also the last day for my sale! Use BACK2SCHOOL to get a 50% discount on  TuxedoPrufrockBetwixtWendingRuffaluffagusThe Unexpected Hat, and my newest, Firefly Seeker for till midnight (Central Time) today.

Hope everyone is having a lovely Monday!

Edited to add: Blocking board is from WEBS, the larger size.

I’m a gambler

I’m blocking my Goodale cardigan, finally. It seems like I’m not able to churn out the projects as quickly, or I got distracted by a new phone and going out of town, and working on several projects at once. I added a whopping 6.5 inches to the body length (14.5 pre-ribbing) on 34″ chest size. I have a long torso, and this sweater was way too cropped for me as written. It doesn’t seem that cropped in the pattern photos, but she’s also wearing this over a dress with a higher waistline, and she probably has a shorter torso. Either way, this project is finally on the blocking board.


I did a wet block. The superwash yarn rapidly expanded and I had to squish it into place. It’s not the neatest or most exact blocking I’ve ever done, but I figure as long as I get the top and bottom sewn down neatly it will all be ok.

It’s not totally done, because I still have to knit around the collar a bit and sew things down to make the pocket become a pocket. I wanted to make it as long as I could, but not run out of yarn, of course. I think I hit a good point for that. I have 10.4 grams of yarn left, and there doesn’t seem to be much to the collar finishing, and sewing won’t use much either. The ball does look a little small and sad. I got a little anxious before I bound off the body, but I forged ahead.


Of course, I could report back in a day or two when my sweater is dry that this was a total disaster and I should have made the body shorter, but I’ll cross my fingers and hope that doesn’t happen.

It’s the little things.

I’ve really enjoyed this super-quick little baby vest/tunic. Worsted weight baby stuff goes so quickly! This only took me about 2.5 days with a little ripping and revising at the very beginning.


I went down 3 needles sizes and I think the fit will work just fine. The pattern is only written for a 3-5 yr old, but I think this could work easily from about 15 months-2 years with the size adjustment. I could have stretched it more with blocking, easily, but it is a nice 21″ chest circumference right now, and I imagine that will fit pretty well in the fall. The length will work as a tunic or vest.

This is my second of the matching family sweaters in Cascade 220 Pyrite Heather that I have planned.

I modified the pattern slightly. Aside from going down three needle sizes to a US 5, I also made the stripes like this version, flipped the button to the other side of the neck so I could leave the neatest edge of the stockinette up (in my case the edge that starts with knitting) and I’ve added some short row sleeves instead of the ribbed ones.


The white portion of the sleeves will be turned inside the sleeve and sewn down, making little hemmed sleeves to complement the hem on the bottom of the tunic. I made the hem on the bottom in green on the inside, just for the heck of it.


This might be my favorite baby sweater yet, in terms of the finished item. I can’t wait to see it on her! I’m loooooooving the speed of baby knits, and they’re a great way to use some stash yarn too. Now, it’s time for some end weaving and sweater seaming.

Block party


Yesterday was a good day for a little bit of blocking. I’ve got the Ellybob Cardigan on my Knit Picks foam blocking boards, and Ishbel on my larger board from WEBS and blocking wires on the straight edge. I’m pleased to be at this stage on both.

I feel like my edge elephants on the Ellybob could have been a little neater. Their trunks seem a little out of sorts, even with blocking, and I think my tension was a bit tight overall on the Fair Isle portion of the pattern, but it’s not extremely apparent, so I’ll call it good enough and move on. I found some cute little square buttons at my LYS that match the elephants pretty well.
blockingAs soon as these were secured to the blocking boards, I picked up Matt’s cardigan and began shaping the sleeve caps. I hope to block that today or tomorrow. It will have to be blocked and sewn before I can add the shawl collar.

Hmmm…what shall I cast on next?



Unadulterated sweater lust

I’m still dreaming of more sweaters. I think I may be becoming a bit of an addict now. I am swatching for the Delancey Cardigan in Sublime Merino DK. I even washed my swatch the way I wash all my other clothes (without drying it), and the yarn looks good as new. I’ve never tested a swatch like that (or even wet-blocked one), but it seemed like a good idea.

sublime swatch

I am getting gauge on a 7, but the fabric has a little more drape than I want. Sublime is also a superwash so although the swatch didn’t change in size, I bet a full-size adult sweater will stretch more when I wet block it. I’ve been perusing Ravelry project pages and many people have noted how much their sweaters grew, especially in length.

I always wet block because I don’t have good equipment for steaming and I love the way you can make the piece more exactly what you want with a good wet-blocking. I usually use some Euclan so I don’t have to rinse the item, and I let it soak for at least 40 minutes (or maybe just 20 if I’m overly eager) so the fibers get fully immersed. Then I place the item in a towel and roll it up and walk on it a bit to get out the excess water. Sometimes I use two towels. I don’t block everything, but sometimes it makes an average-looking piece look really polished, and sometimes I need to do it to make the sweater fit the way I want.

For the Delancey Cardigan, I think I’ll aim for the 36″ size with a size 6 needle so I can alleviate some of the expansion. I’m excited to knit this piece because many people on Ravelry talk about the unique sweater construction.

Other sweater dreams include Twigs and Willows from the Botanical Knits collection by Alana Dakos. I believe this is supposed to come out mid-February. I will snap it up as soon as it is available. She has designed many, many gorgeous pieces.

I’m trying to be good, and knit up some of the sweater-amounts of yarn I have in my stash. I will swatch with some Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed (classified as worsted weight on Ravelry) in Berry that was given to me years ago by my friend Lynda Jo. She’s not a fan of purple. I have had it lounging in my stash for about 6 years (yikes!) waiting to be something brilliant. This might be the sweater.

I haven’t forgotten about making Walpole out of the lovely Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock that Matt got me for Christmas, but I thought I should give my hands and wrists a break from another fingering-weight mile-long project right now. The yarn will keep.

I feel like I’ve done almost enough sweaters of different types to just design one for myself. I don’t know why this still seems so intimidating, but I’d like to accomplish it soon. Even though I love the mindlessness of top-down raglans and not having to seam things, I really love the polished look and fit of set-in sleeves. I may have to design something to knit for Matt because I have a man’s cardigan in my head that I haven’t found on Ravelry yet. But that will require a hefty yarn purchase…