How to Block Lace Knitting
At the end of every summer, to take my mind off saying a sad farewell to the last days of sunshine and balmy evenings, I dig out all of my favourite knits that have been packed away during the warm months and get them ready to dazzle for the season ahead.
I’m that girl that packs away all the woollens at the first sign of sunshine, so when it comes to digging them out again it is rather an exciting time. No matter how carefully all my hand knits are packed away (safe from those pesky moths and any nasty damp air!) they alway look as though they need a little bit of TLC.
I like to refresh them and make them feel like new by blocking them – to not only clean away any grime from the fibres but to also help to reshape them and make them feel a little bit more bright and new.
In the same was as when they we’re newly finished, wet blocking gives them a instant lift and makes them something that you can really wear with pride. Remember that day I spray blocked Crochet Granny Squares to get the perfect shape? This works on a very similar principle, washing in a very gentle detergent, rather than spritzing with water, and pinning out into the desired shape. This step-by-step guide will walk you through wash blocking lace knits – whether they are brand new, straight off the needles or whether they have been packed away in storage for the summer.
Grab your supplies…
Gentle laundry detergent – I really adore Soak wash for hand knits, it is the kindest wash for handknits and deliciates that have come across.
Blocking boards- you can purchase special blocking boards designed for knitwear, but I picked out a pack of playmats, and you know what? They do just the job!
Tape measure (optional)
Let’s get blocking…
With a sink or basin filled with warm water and a dash of gentle detergent, and agitate to get the water nice and bubbly before adding a single piece of knitwear at a time. You know what, you might prefer to bundle in all of you knits into the wash at once. Personally, I like to add in one a pair of socks, or a shawl at a time, if you pick out hand knits as your chosen yarn the colours might bleed into the water and stain any lighter items.
Rather then going at your knits in a heavy handed fashion, pounding the dirty out of them, think about gently moving the through the water to shift any grime. As a huge fan of Soak wash, I like to add my knits to the water and leave them to Soak – as the label suggests – for 20 minutes before gently agitating to clean. One of the benefits of using Soak wash is that it doesn’t need to be rinsed out. So, if you’re using a different style of detergent, drain the basin and rinse the knitwear clean with cool clear water.
It is all too tempting to wring out the water from the knits – but this is a big no-no when it comes to lace knits. The action of wringing, even if you’re being as gentle as possible, runs the risk of damaging the fibres, stretching stitches or even snapping delicate sections – so it’s simply not worth the risk.
I let the water drain away and softly press out any excess water, ensuring that I hold the weight of the knit in my hands to prevent the water-logged yarns from stretching out of shape. Once this has been drained, place the knitted items flat onto a clean towel and roll the up to create a sausage shape with the wet knitting rolled to the inside. This will squeeze out as much water as possible as safely as possible, as the fibres are being cushioned by the soft towel it is very unlikely that this will get damaged.
Lay out the blocking boards on a large flat surface out of the way – I know that it is tempting to spread them across your bed, but it can take a few hours for the knitting to fully dry out, so you want this to be somewhere that you can leave it undisturbed for a while – like the spare room or a quite corner where no one will bother it. With the knitting unrolled from the towel, lay out onto the blocking boards. Smooth out the the extremities and pin at the farthest points. On a lace shawl, I pin out to two upper ends and also the long point at the centre first, if this is a knit straight off the needles it is a great idea to refer to the measurements for the finished knit, or any schematic provided, and use the tape measure to pin to the garment to the full dimensions.
Once the extremities have been pinned out work along the upper section of the shawl, or the longest section of the garment and carefully smooth out the knitting between the pinned out extremities and pin evenly and neatly along this line. For knitted garments with a fancy lace stitch, the process of smoothing them out will reveal the design of the stitch work much more clearly.
The best thing about lace shawls is that they commonly have a line of yarn over, knit, yarn over stitches that run down the centre of the design, I use this a guide to check that I am pinning out the design correctly, that I have not veered of to a crazy angle or have stretched things too much or not enough – if this backbone of the design is running straight, then things are looking good!
You can keep on moving the pins, smoothing out the knitted fabric and repinning until you are completely happy with the overall shaping of the garment.
One of the things that I adore about shawls is the fancy stitches that make up the edging – this shawl features a gorgeous scalloped border – which, without taking the time to neatly pin out when blocking will be completely lost on the finished piece.
Starting at one side, draw out the points of the scallop or other prominent element of the border and pin into position. Work down towards one point and down the second side to the point until every scallop or feature has been neatly pinned out. The pins can be adjusted and moved, the knittied fabric can be smoothed until all are equal and neat.
Before I step away from the blocking boards, I always give the whole thing one last look. Sometimes, when your face is very close to your work as you pin everything out, you don’t realise that things have got a little off centre and wonky.
So, take a step back, look over the knits and check to see that all the seams are straight and neat, all repeated elements are neat and even, before stepping away and leaving to dry fully. Now, you see why I suggested that this was pinned out onto boards out of the way in the spare room, right?! I don’t want to have to tel you how many times I’ve pinned out a piece for blocking on to boards on my bed, only to find that it’s not fully dry at bedtime and have to find a way to move the pinned out item on the boards into a different space…or, have to unpin, move and repin. That’s not a bag of fun, I can assure you!
This shawl is the heavenly Kiri by Polly Outhwaite is one of my all time favourties and, after a little TLC with blocking and pinning out when it is brought back into circulation after a summer tucked away, it always draws lots of lovely compliments.
So, whether your lace is newly off the needles, or is a much loves piece that has been stored away for the summer, show it a little love by washing and blocking it to true glory!
Now, all this talk of lace and blocking as got me thinking about knitting something lovely and lacy – who’s casting on something this week?