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Video: Blocking A Large Lace Shawl

May 4, 2009

If I am knitting a piece of lace in public, friendly strangers will ask, "What are you knitting?" When I tell them it is a lace shawl, they get this very polite, back-away-slowly-from-the-crazy-woman look on their face. I look down at what I am knitting and realize that to them, the rumply thing on my needles looks more like some bit of knitting my cat may have mauled than the gorgeous lace shawl I can see in my mind. Lace doesn't look like much when you are knitting it--in fact, on the needles, lace looks a bit of a crumpled mess!

But add the magic of blocking, and voila: That crumpled, rumpled mess spreads out to reveal its true beauty.

I've heard so many knitters wistfully say that they would love to try lace--"but where would I block it? I don't have a blocking board!" Most have heard stories of blocking a large shawl on one's bed, but don't have any clue about how to get started.

Today, I have a great video to show you how it's done--a clip from Knitting Daily TV Series 200, where Kathy Elkins demonstrates how to block a large circular shawl.

If you have trouble watching the video above, click here to view it. 

Looking for a great knitted lace shawl pattern? There are some pretty ones, from beginning to advanced, in the Interweave Store! Browse the lace shawl patterns in the store. (You might also check out the scarves and the wraps, too. You never know what might catch your eye!)


 

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.




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Comments

katitude1 wrote
on May 7, 2009 4:06 AM
I was quite disappointed in this video. I wonder at how helpful new laceknitters/blockers will find the information, since they were only simulating blocking with an already blocked piece, not actually blocking anything. And what surface do they recommend people put their checked cloth onto for blocking? Certainly not a hard table top!
elizaduckie wrote
on May 5, 2009 6:47 PM
Many purchase and use the foam play floors, also sold as kitchen floors, inexpensive and the best part is they are light to handle, fit together firmly and can be stood up against a wall after pinning out the large project. So for those who have no outdoors available or don't have good weather, and those who have very little indoor space and who need to sleep in that bed and who also don't want to pin to the carpet overnight, the foam sections work really well. I have seen them sold at Target, Cosco and toy stores. One can use T pins, blocking wires, tig welding wires or long strong pins with a head to pin out shawls, etc.
Bonnie wrote
on May 5, 2009 6:16 PM
I wrote a nice,informative post about how I blocked this shawl (I am the person who designed and knit it), but apparently most if what I wrote is lost in cyberspace - only the last little bit showed up here! Feel free to pm me on Ravelry - I'm bluepeninsula there - if you would like to know how I block a large circular lace shawl.
Bonnie wrote
on May 5, 2009 6:09 PM
If the fabric begins to dry as you work, spray the shawl to keep it wet. To block this type of shawl out to its full beauty, you really want to stretch the fabric, and it will stretch most easily when wet. Leave the pins in place until the fabric is I blocked it in the evening and left it pinned overnight. The fabric might FEEL dry in just an hour or two, but it may not be thoroughly dry, so be patient. Bonnie Sennott
on May 5, 2009 3:06 PM
I, too, bought the 4' x 8' foamboard from Home Depot (they'll cut it by machine to any size you want for free), plus a few yards of flannel-backed vinyl fabric in gingham checks (1") at the fabric store. What you'd use to make a picnic tablecloth! I was going to staple it to the foamboard for blocking. But then I wound up just putting the fabric right down on the carpet in my spare room & blocking from there. I found it easy & comfortable to be on the floor. The 1" squares were perfect for measuring & pinning. I sprayed the pieces or they were wet before I started. Then I closed the door to keep my cat out 'til it dried. Then I just picked up & folded the fabric 'til the next time. Perfect every time! So, you see, I never used the foamboard. I think the vinyl fabric is better than plain fabric for accuracy on the carpet.
on May 5, 2009 3:05 PM
I, too, bought the 4' x 8' foamboard from Home Depot (they'll cut it by machine to any size you want for free), plus a few yards of flannel-backed vinyl fabric in gingham checks (1") at the fabric store. What you'd use to make a picnic tablecloth! I was going to staple it to the foamboard for blocking. But then I wound up just putting the fabric right down on the carpet in my spare room & blocking from there. I found it easy & comfortable to be on the floor. The 1" squares were perfect for measuring & pinning. I sprayed the pieces or they were wet before I started. Then I closed the door to keep my cat out 'til it dried. Then I just picked up & folded the fabric 'til the next time. Perfect every time! So, you see, I never used the foamboard. I think the vinyl fabric is better than plain fabric for accuracy on the carpet.
Susie Knits wrote
on May 5, 2009 1:49 PM
I for one purchased the wires to block a triangular shawl and used my carpet and towels, but the board itself made of ceiling tiles is a great one. We use those for design walls in quilting too, so if you happen to quilt too it can be handy for many uses. I may also recommend using flannel as the fabric on top since it has nap and will hold the knits more than regular fabric. You can mark out a one inch grid. There is also a product at the fabric store for making patterns that has one inch grid lines. I would like to learn how to use my wires properly, so I would love to see that. Take all the time you need, we'll all watch, right ladies??
Catarry wrote
on May 5, 2009 12:26 PM
I also felt that the guest was brought up short as she was ready to mention other approaches to blocking, including, from the array of bottles, other temps and substances. And craftcat...I'm pretty certain that April uses her skewers perpendicular to the knitted fabric. I thought at first that she was using the bamboo like blocking wires...worked through the outer edge and set to measure...but since she mentions leaving half the bamboo sticking out and lifting the fabric off with a partner, I think that her technique is more like a mini-stonehenge with a knit roof. (Well, not much like it, but the bamboo is vertical, not horizontal.) At any rate, the video was a start, so I can show something to my young friends who have never heard the word "blocking"
Barbara@12 wrote
on May 5, 2009 12:01 PM
My thanks and kudos go to readers/ viewers/ reviewers AprilL for her wonderful outdoor blocking instructions, knitting room for her/his Tyvek insulation board instructions, and SueMauer for her interlocking play foam idea. As for the video, the checked cloth was the ONLY helpful idea, but, as a precaution, see chrisandlaura@rtcol.com comment about pre-washing fabric. I agree with JK_in_KCMO, and DonnaM, and ditto alpacaowner. Barbara
craftcat wrote
on May 5, 2009 9:10 AM
I appreciate the video. It is very helpful. I am finishing a third lace shawl and have been waiting for some warmer weather to block them outside. I plan on using a large canvas drop cloth 9' x12' on the deck and to pin the shawl to that. Since these are rectangular shawls I'll use April's suggestion with the bamboo skewers. Thank you so much. Now any suggestions on how to keep my 6 cats away while drying?
on May 5, 2009 7:11 AM
spinning-a-yarn@hotmail.com - For a small space, I use a large, heavy duty cardboard box retrieved from my LYS- flatten it out and voila a blocking board. You can mark measurements on it. I love the idea of the fabric. I use an old flanellette sheet to absord the moisture. I lay the cardboard over my bathtub to be out of the way. Once the shawl is all pinned, the sandwich (cardboard, sheet, shawl) can be picked up and set aside for bathtime and put back again. Hope this helps.
DonnaM@7 wrote
on May 5, 2009 7:10 AM
IT would be nice when the experts show and tell us how to do something if they would look at the camera rather than each other. In this video, the expert talks to the lady and not into her microphone, so most of her verbal comments were hard to understand. I was extremely disappointed in the video. dmiller6478@aol.com
Laura@7 wrote
on May 5, 2009 6:39 AM
It is very important to wash and dry the checked fabric first! It is absolutely imperative to know if the dye runs or stains on it!
alpacaowner wrote
on May 4, 2009 8:36 PM
Wow! The video wasn't the greatest help for all the reasons mentioned above, but you all have been a GREAT help! I think I'll be getting some blocking done now!! Thanks.
AprilL wrote
on May 4, 2009 6:18 PM
USE YOUR YARD!! I've knitted Shetland Lace shawls for years and I block them on the lawn, on a sunny warm day. I use the long bamboo BBQ skewers that you normally use for kebabs and my hose on superfine mist. Once when we were at the cottage, and had little grass, I went to the park and did it there with the same skewers and a spray bottle full of water. I soaked the shawl in water and popped it into a ziplok bag and away we went. It was a 6ft x 6ft square ring shawl, and it came out great. I kept spraying it with water to keep it from drying too fast and I think I recruited four or five more Lace knitters by explaining to the passerbys what I was doing. TIPS: Don't do it after the lawn has been mowed. Sand the Bamboo a bit to make sure there are no rough spots to catch your yarn. Leave about half the bamboo sticking out, even the biggest wind gust won't pull it off. When your finished just have a partner and lift the shawl up, then pull out the bamboo, keeps the dirt off. XOXO Lace!! And Knitting Daily!!!
LynneE wrote
on May 4, 2009 6:11 PM
Nice segment on blocking lace, but it didn't answer the question! What do you do when you don't have a table large enough to block the shawl?
SueMauer wrote
on May 4, 2009 5:50 PM
Count me among those disappointed with the content of this video. I expected a demo on how to block a large piece in sections. I could not tell if they started wet or dry. When she started pinning to the cloth I thought maybe she was going to stretch out the cloth on a wall or something, but no-- there was no help offered for someone who does not have a large bed or a carpeted floor. I bought a set of interlocking foam play mats for my blocking needs, but crawling around on the floor sure is hard on these old knees! Eunny's instructions at http://www.eunnyjang.com/knit/2006/12/how_to_be_happy.html are excellent, but even those do not address the space issues.
Jadielady wrote
on May 4, 2009 4:58 PM
I am so thankful that you posted this!!! I am knitting a circular shawl as my wedding veil, and had no idea how to block it (just that I needed to!) I didn't know you had to start in the middle and pin the whole thing, I thought I'd just do the outside. So glad I saw this! Thank you!
strabuls wrote
on May 4, 2009 4:05 PM
I, too, was disappointed in this "lesson," especially as so many have written or taught to wet block the lace.; and they didn't start from scratch as we must. I have a large blocking board but it's not big enough for a lot of projects. I did like the tiip about the checkered fabric, though. I once blocked a shawl on a sheet on a rug - and found it pretty hard - the scrambling around on my knees, for one thing, avoiding already pinned areas while measuring - especially because it was wet. The checked fabric would help a lot.
C. L.F wrote
on May 4, 2009 3:55 PM
Thank you! Last week, I finished a shawl for my sister's birthday. I have been afraid of blocking it and contemplating sending it to her unblocked. This gives me courage to go ahead and try it! Thanks again!
Marcy@3 wrote
on May 4, 2009 3:35 PM
How funny, I am busy finishing that exact shawl shown!
RachelB@2 wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:57 PM
Perfect timing, as I'll soon need to block the shawl I'm knitting for my mom for Mother's Day/her birthday. Great idea to use a piece of square-patterned fabric and use the lines as a guide. I agree with ChrisW above that it would be helpful to see blocking with a piece that hasn't been blocked already. This video was still helpful, though--thanks :-)
on May 4, 2009 2:56 PM
I do a lot of thread crochet. I have found that Tyvek insulation board 3/4 inches thick works very well for any size project. It comes in 8 X 4 foot sections and costs $4 to $5 per sheet. These can be used over and over and tape together nicely. Also, they are coated with polyethylene which has a grid pattern. The polyethylene wipes off with warm water (crochet blocking uses STARCH). The Tyvek is foamed and accepts taylor or T pins very nicely.
JK_in_KCMO wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:39 PM
I would have much rather seen the experts demonstrate blocking a "just off the needles" piece. To have them say at 2:21, in regards to why they are demonstrating with an already blocked piece, that "otherwise it would have been all squished up and to try to do that at the same time would have been a little crazy" is not really helpful. The knitters interested in learning more about blocking WILL be working with an unblocked piece and it WILL be a little crazy. Why not show how to do it, instead of making it seem so difficult they can't even show it in the same segment? Disappointing.
JaniceH wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:22 PM
I also kept waiting for info on blocking large items in a small space. Oh well. I don't have carpet or a spare bed that I can pin something out on. My solution is to use large pieces of styrofoam (you can get them CHEAP at Home Depot/Lowes.) You tape/fasten pieces together to fit the size of the piece you need to block. Then pin it out. And if you're careful, you can then stand the styrofoam up against the wall out of the way, for a few hours or overnight.
NOrineM wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:18 PM
I am happy to see a video on blocking, but much more information is needed here. What about blocking wires on the edges?, I realize this was a snapshot for blocking, but because it was just that, it really left a number of unanswered questions. For a first timer, trying to block based on this snapshot, I don't think they would get great results for a LARGE LACE SHAWL.\ I do like the idea of a checkered block fabric for aligning your project for assist in squaring to size.
JocelynG wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:15 PM
I saw the clip when it was on TV, and I was really surprised that there was no mention of the importance of wet blocking lace. I actually got advice on wet blocking from Eunny herself back in her pre-editor days.
KnitMini wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:14 PM
I recently completed a triangular shawl with a wide lace edging and blocked it in a class at my LYS. We used two acoustic ceiling tiles approx 2 ft by 3 ft, due to the shape it would not fit on one. The tiles were covered with gingham fabric so it was easy to line up. Also to conserve space we were able to stand the tiles against the wall while it dried. Hope this helps.
KnitMini wrote
on May 4, 2009 2:13 PM
I recently completed a triangular shawl with a wide lace edging and blocked it in a class at my LYS. We used two acoustic ceiling tiles approx 2 ft by 3 ft, due to the shape it would not fit on one. The tiles were covered with gingham fabric so it was easy to line up. Also to conserve space we were able to stand the tiles against the wall while it dried. Hope this helps.
AliceK@2 wrote
on May 4, 2009 1:43 PM
KelleyG - i just finished Girasole and blocked it - at my mother's house. i have hard wood floors - so i took it to my mom's, vacuumed the carpet, put down a sheet and, after soaking it and carefully spinning it out, I pinned it through a sheet to the carpeting. 2 days later - voila (which is why i didn't want to give up my bed for the experiment). It looks spectacular. If I couldn't have gone to mom's, I would have been SOL .... guess this motivates me even more to add a large rug to the wood floors.
JulianaB wrote
on May 4, 2009 1:14 PM
That was very helpful... and I get the concept... I've read about "wet blocking" and "dry blocking"... both methods seem to work well. However, what I'd like to know is this: what are they pinning into? There must be something underneath the fabric that holds the pins, right?
grngrl wrote
on May 4, 2009 1:10 PM
Sandi....this was a nice video on blocking lace, but it didn't answer the small space question. I live in a fairly tiny house and if I want to block anything over a couple of feet wide, I'm in a big pickle. I could use my bed for some things but then where would I sleep? I want to knit Girasole, but it wouldn't even fit on my bed. Does anyone have any suggestions for 'small space' blocking? Thanks, :)k
mrsCWmouse wrote
on May 4, 2009 1:07 PM
Thank you, I found this a help as a new lace knitter. It would have been more help, however, to have seen a piece blocked that was not blocked first, as a new lace knitter would have to approach it, from crumpled mass to finished blocking. Just my opinion, of course. Thank you for the help you offer to those of us trying new techniques.
debib@2 wrote
on May 4, 2009 12:56 PM
I made a littel girls jumper, the first two rows were knit 1 row, purl 1 row, it has curled the bottom, the remainder is basically knit on circular needles, how would I block that so it falls nicely?
on May 4, 2009 12:53 PM
Am I to understand I should block BEFORE the piece is wet? I was told to soak my knitting and then block it? Which is the correct way for lace??
SusanJ@2 wrote
on May 4, 2009 4:29 AM
One day - about a year ago - I just stopped receiving the email Newsletter. And not by my choice. I have asked before, why I have been taken off the list? Even though I don't have a subscription to Interweave knitting, I buy each issue at my local bookstore. Please - can I be added back on the email newsletter list?