Monday Project Report – Blocking

This is shaping up to be a week of process blogs as nothing is getting completed in time to post about it.

For example, today I had hoped to show you Chris’s sweater completed – but it is still blocking (I only have enough blocking mats to block parts of it at a time and each part needs a day to dry so . . . . .) – so I decided to just show you how I block my handknits because – well – that’s all I got for today.  So lets start.

First – I did finish knitting the second sleeve of his sweater – which looks just like the first sleeve – which is why I then moved to blocking the parts of the sweater so I could start seaming it together.  Found another part of the pattern that I am unhappy with but we will discuss that next week in the full baseball sweater post.

So, the first thing I do is fill my bathroom sink with some lukewarm to warm water.

Okay, you really did not need a picture to show you how to do this but lets be real, there is not alot for me to show you in blocking and I needed filler.  😛

Then I put my sweater section in the water, gently pushing it down until it is thoroughly wet and hopefully all below the surface of the water.

After it has soaked for about 15 minutes, I drain the water, pushing the sweater up against the side of the sink to gently squeeze any excess water out of the sweater – making sure not to rub the sweater against anything.

Then you lay the wet sweater piece on a clean towel.

Now here is my grumble with this part of the sweater – which is surprisingly not about the pattern – it is about the yarn.

I used the Berroco Pure Merino yarn to make this sweater – the same type of yarn used by the designer and in the sweater pictured in the book.  This is 100% merino yarn and feels just wonderful as it moves through your hands as you knit.  I followed the pattern exactly, knitting to the dimensions set forth in the pattern for length of sections.  Before I put the sweater section in the water it looked like this.

 When I layed the sweater onto the towel piece, here is how much it stretched out of shape by being wet.

I have never had a knit piece of fabric stretch out like this.  I don’t know if using size 9 needles were too big for the yarn – though that is what was used by the designer for the example in the book – or if the yarn just had no resilience.  It does not bode well for any finished garment to be able to retain its shape.  Not happy with Berroco yarns yet again.  Sigh.  Back to blocking, and how I am hoping this will fix itself.

Next I roll the sweater into the towel . . .

and step on it.

I think I got this hint from Kelly McClure of Boho Knits and it works really well to get the excess moisture out of your piece without felting it.  Thank you Kelly.  Just make sure that when you do this that you are either barefoot or have something that you can get wet on your feet because the water will come out onto your feet – and onto what ever is underneath your towel roll – which is why I do it on the bathroom rug.  I usually use my warm fuzzy LL Bean slippers (greatest slippers in the world!!) for this.

Then I place the damp material on my blocking mats.

The idea of blocking is to make sure that your final sweater, or project, is the same dimensions as the pattern directed.  Those dimensions are generally given to you in the pattern – in this case in a picture form.

Here, I have put T-pins at the corner points to mark each measurement point.

All of a sudden, I have ALOT more sweater than the pattern called for.  As I know I knit to the correct dimensions, this is the stretch in the yarn which has created this dilemma.  So what next?  Now I start patting the knitted fabric, working the yarn back together, closing openings in the stitches, to try to block it back into the shape it started in the first picture of it on the mats above.  Eventually I was able to get it back to this.

I had the same problem with blocking the sleeves.  After wetting, I had this.

After patting it back together I had this.

Because I will be seaming this sweater along all of its edges I did not put T-pins all along the sides as I did in the Sinead Scarf – where the edges were obviously exposed.  If I have a stockinette stitch pattern where the edge is exposed I will either T-pin it down so it lays flat throughout or I will take thin knitting needles, run them along the edge to make a straight line, secure the needles at both ends with T-pins and block it that way.  You can purchase metal rods for this too but it seems that a metal knitting needle is kind of the same thing.  I used this method in blocking the top of the Summer Mystery Shawl.

So why is it important to do this.  Well, for one thing I learned with this sweater – which is a gift to my son – is that he has to give it back to me for cleaning as it will need to be reblocked everytime it gets wet.  I also learned not to use this yarn to make a gift for anyone who is not in my immediate family.

I want to explain that this is the first time I have had this experience when blocking and that blocking is important – and necessary in many projects.  For example, if your project is made using stockinette stitch you need to know that stockinette stitch will naturally roll.  Obviously, if you need it to lie flat, you have to block it to give the fibers that memory.  It is in the drying process of blocking that the memory is set in the fiber so you have to make sure that it is dried thoroughly before you take it off of the blocking mats.  If it is still damp, it will not remember to lie flat very long.

If you are knitting a shawl or other garment with a defined border shape, you need to set that shape with blocking.  When you are setting the points in the border of a wet knit shawl you secure them on your blocking mats by pulling them out and setting them with your T-pins.  It is just amazing when you take the T-pins out and the points just hold – they are set and the yarn remembers its shape.  It’s just so cool when things work they way they are supposed to.

Also, if your knitting is not quite to gauge – you might knit a little tighter or looser as you progress through a pattern – it can often be corrected in the blocking process.  I remember when I started Chip’s Aran Sweater that I thought I was knitting it too tight – but then I saw that there was plenty of stretch in the yarn and that I could block it to the correct dimensions.  Woo!  That removed alot of my worry in the beginning of that project.

So that is all on blocking today.  I have two more sections to block before I can finish Chris’s sweater but it should be done for next week.  In the meantime I picked up Chip’s second sock of his Java Socks to complete for the following week.  I picked up the stitches to start knitting the gusset last night.

So, for this week I finished a sleeve, which used up another 3 skeins of yarn for my 2012 destash – I am up to 12 skeins of yarn knit so far this year – and I finished and filed an appellate brief – which is not really a blog project but it is what I do in my daily life and is kind of one of those big projects I do so I am going to count it here.  The boys are off from school all week so things may get a little backed up, but I will at least have some more process posts for this week.  Chip has something new for Thursday too and I will be cooking tonight – with the boys – for Friday’s food blog.  Onward and upward.

Enjoy your day – I’m getting back to work.  🙂

About Shelly R.

I am a Mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an attorney, a crafter and the granddaughter of an amazing woman - my Polish Grandmother. My Grandmother gave me so much, through her love and her patience, her sayings and her time teaching me how to craft and to give to others, that it seemed fitting to share some of that wisdom, to tell some of her story, and to chat about life and crafts in a way that would be a testament to what she gave me.
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4 Responses to Monday Project Report – Blocking

  1. danielle says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how it changed so much after getting wet! I would have been in a panic. I’m glad you managed to get it back to somewhat normal size. And I’m glad you’re working on Chip’s enormous socks again! And we have the exact same faucet fixture as you guys. Just thought you’d want to know. 😉

    • Shelly R. says:

      Great minds think alike!! I am sure you can imagine my moment of panic when I first laid out the sleeve and the dimensions were soooooooo completely off. Luckily the only other projects I am making using this yarn are a sweater for Chip and a vest for me. I am really disappointed with Berroco’s yarns though. This is the second bomb – the first being the Boho Colors I used for Katherine’s jacket. This is why we have to make our own yarn!!

  2. Ashling says:

    Curious–have you prowled the internet to see if others have the same issues w/ that yarn, and if tehre are some across-the-board adjustments anyone has found to accomodate all that stretch? It’s pretty amazing all the projects you have in motion!

    • Shelly R. says:

      I haven’t done a search but I am wondering if this is why they discontinued this yarn. I was pretty shocked to find out it was discontinued because it was so soft and had beautiful stitch definition and was available in a wide range of colors. Then it was gone. When I mentioned it to Lorraine at Warm Ewe she made a comment about it not being great and now I am trying to remember if she said that it did not hold its shape well. There is a vague memory there – but most of my memories are vague now (Hah!). I am hoping that I have better luck with their Peruvia Quick as I purchased it to make the Aidez sweater which I wanted to make this year. As for the projects, they were all started last year, it is just that I am finally getting to the end of them. I find that I am able to produce more completed projects if I have alot of projects going at the same time and do parts of each in a round of sorts. I tend to get bored of a project if I am only working on it from beginning to end. Breaking everything into parts gives me little accomplishments and keeps me moving. No second sock syndrome because I completed the first sock months ago so it feel new again.

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