LushPodKal Techniques 2: Blocking the Lace Yoke

lushpodkal soak wash blocking lace

Doing the lushpodkal? Need help with blocking the yoke?

I’ve put together my thoughts on blocking in general, with a handy video at the end of the post, for those who prefer to watch how to do it, instead of reading about it. The lace yoke, which is the first part of the cardigan that is knitted in this pattern, needs to be blocked before the stitched can be picked up for the collar and main body. In case you aren’t too familiar with how you’d do that, I’ve put together this handy guide.

What is blocking?

Blocking is where you apply moisture to a piece of finished knitting, before stretching and flattening it out to the size that you want it. Blocking can help to even out uneven stitches, make a piece flatter and so easier to work with (like ironing fabric before measuring and cutting it does) and helps to improve the appearance of knitted lace, by opening up the pattern and making it more visible.

Blocking can be done in 3 main ways: wet blocking, where you completely submerge and wet the item; steam blocking, where you add moisture and heat by steaming the item; and spray blocking, where they item is lightly sprayed before being pinned out to dry. It is important to use the correct method of blocking for the fibre content of the yarn you are using, or you risk damaging your item, possibly beyond repair!

The process involves the following basic steps:

1) Wet the item
2) Remove excess water
3) Pin out the item to the required dimensions
4) Leave to dry completely before removing pins

Lushpodkal Blocking Swatch 1

Which tools will I need?

There are a variety of tools you can use for blocking. As a minimum, you’ll need a set of pins. You can make do with a set of ordinary dressmaking pins to start, although later, you may wish to invest in T-Pins. You can also get blocking wires, which can be threaded through the stitches of the finished item, which is faster than using just pins, and produces a straighter edge than using pins alone. It also helps to prevent an overly scalloped, wavy edge to items which can sometimes result when blocking vigorously (and is a huge pet hate of mine!) Some people have used long cables from circular needles to help with blocking curved edges, or you could try and find some stainless steel wire in your local hardware store to make your own. I purchased the BlockIt Plus set of wires and pins around 2 years ago, which I have found to be very useful.

In terms of what to attach your blocked knitting to, you have a range of options available to you. Many people are advocates of using foam mats on the floor, and you can buy specialist versions of these from the likes of KnitPro. You could substitute in a cheaper alternative by using children’s foam mats, which, again, seems a popular choice as they are often on offer in supermarkets. I would be wary of very cheap versions of these and test them well for colour-fastness before using. I use my old issued military roll mat, which does the job nicely and was free! You could also use a yoga roll mat (again check colour-fastness).

Many people pin their items out to a towel laid on either the spare bed, or on the floor carpet. I’ve done both of these in the past too, and they work just fine too.

Finally, a tape measure for measuring the dimensions is useful. I got a metre rule (we don’t call it a yardstick, we’re British!) in the BlockIt Plus kit and this is very handy too.

What, if anything, should I add to the water I am using to block the item?

This is a personal choice thing. I use Soak wash, personally, and I know lots of others who use Eucalan. You could add a bit of hair conditioner, and I’ve also heard of baby shampoo being used! Choose your favourite fragrance or go for what makes the finished result feel best, it’s entirely your call.

If you’re soaking something hand dyed, especially if it is in the red family or turquoise, I would always advocate adding a bit of white vinegar to the water, to avoid any colours running.

Finally, 15-20 mins is usually sufficient for soaking. Any longer and you increase the risk of colours starting to run together.

Temperature

Image Details: ‘Temperature’ by ajc1, via Flickr.

What temperature should the water be?

Lukewarm, with room temperature water for spray blocking. Too hot and you may felt your project, which is fine if that is your intention…

How do I remove excess water?

Do NOT wring your item! Squeeze out excess water very gently or you may damage the item. The fibres will be more fragile when wet.

I spread the item out carefully in a large towel, roll it up and then stand on it. Repeat if necessary. This seems to be the universal way of removing water.

Be extremely wary of adding any external heat, as this will increase the chance of your project being felted.

How can I keep the item at the desired size?

Spread out and flatten your item in the area you want to pin and dry it. Insert blocking wires every few stitches around the edges, if using them, then secure them in place using T-Pins. If you are using just pins, you will need to carefully pin out the main corners first, before working your way around the pice adding more pins, every few stitches, until the item stays where you want it to.

I hate wavy edging! more pins needed here on the bottom edge to avoid the scalloped/batwing look.

I hate wavy edging! More pins needed here on the bottom edge to avoid the scalloped/batwing look.

How much can I block the item?

You can pull until your heart’s content, if you want to, but the main idea is to get the piece flat and to the right dimensions for sewing up or picking up stitches. In the case of lace, blocking helps to balance out and open up the ‘holes’ of the pattern. I personally am not a fan of what I call the ‘over blocked’ look, especially on garments. I think having the stitches pulled so hard that they get holes in the middle can make the finished item look like it is too small and ill-fitting. Likewise, I really dislike shawls that have all the edging blocked to give the appearance of a batwing. This is fine if it is a design feature of the pattern, but I often see this on items that should have a round edge. That’s just my personal opinion though, I’m not the blocking police, so feel free to block how you want to. Creative blocking can add an interesting dimension to a finished object!

What do you think?

Have you any top tips for blocking you’d like to share? Please do! You can add a comment at the bottom of the post.

Can you recommend a video to make explaining how to block my Lush lace yoke easier? I want to keep up with the rest of the LushPodKAL!

I quite like this video on YouTube from Crochet Ever After!

I don’t suppose the awesomeness that is Tin Can Knits did a tutorial on blocking, did they?

Of course they did. You can find it here.

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