Friday, May 23, 2014

FO Fridays - Butterfly Shawl and a blocking tutorial

The sample shawl is finished! Although I think I shall have to rename it "Butterfly Shawl", because right now, that's really what it reminds me of.

Several people have asked me what the deal is with blocking, so today's FO Fridays post will come courtesy of a quick blocking tutorial!

Mind you, not everything needs blocking. I never block socks or mittens, but it's always a good idea to block garments that need to be seamed. And lace? Well, lace HAS to be blocked to come to its full potential.

This shawl (or shawlette rather - it didn't turn out quite as big as I had thought) had only a bit of lace, but enough that it would still benefit nicely from a blocking.

Step One Measure wingspan pre-blocking. I forget this about half the time, but love it when I do remember, because it's awesome to have tangible proof that blocking works ;)

78cm wingspan. I forgot to measure top-to-bottom, but never mind.

Step Two Fill your sink with lukewarm water and add a bit of no rinse wool wash. I use Eucalan because that's the one available in my local yarn shop :) Submerge the knitting and leave it to soak for 15-30 minutes (not an exact science - you just want to make sure it has taken in as much water as it can).

Step Three Carefully, without letting any part of the knitting drag (as the weight of the wet fabric can pull it uneven), pick up the knitting and squeeze out as much water as you can. Don't wring it (as it might felt), just squeeze.

Step Four Lay out the knitting on a towel and roll up the towel around the knitting. Squeeze out the water by either pressing down hard on the towel or even taking off your socks and stepping on it (you don't want to get wet socks!). With this shawl I just used my hands. For larger things like sweaters and other garments, I'll stand on the towel.

Step Five Next get your blocking station ready. I use baby mats as my surface, as they're cheap and really easy to get my pins into :) Before getting hold of these I used a blanket instead, but it didn't work as well, as you really want a surface that doesn't move around with the knitting.
I also get out my blocking wires, my pins (special blocking pins exist, but ordinary ones for sewing work just fine) and a measuring tape.

Step Six Carefully roll out the blanket sausage and place the knitting on the mats to figure out how best to block it. If this was a garment, I'd block it to measurements, but since it's a lace shawl where size isn't crucial, I just stretch it to its very limits and "block the life out of it", as the Knitmoregirls would say :)
I find that wires work best for straight edges, and save the pins for the shaping and finer details.

(Sometimes neither wires nor pins are necessary. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a great blog post on how to block a little sweater just by patting it into place.)

With this type of shawl I start by blocking out the "spine" by inserting a blocking wire into every 3-5 stitch.

I stretch it out as far as it will go, and add pins at either end to keep the shawl straight.

Next I do the same with the two straight edges at the top of the shawl.

Finally I want the fan-and-feather pattern at the bottom of the shawl to stand out, so I use pins in order to emphasize the curves of the pattern.
Doesn't it look like a beautiful butterfly? :) Wingspan while blocking: 105cm x 64cm. It grew quite a bit.

Step Seven Leave until completely dry. Depending on weight of yarn and time of year this may take as much as a week... at least in our climate. But it's worth the wait :) In the height of summer 24 hours is plenty though.

Step Eight Unpin and enjoy your beautiful creation :)


  1. Looks amazing! And thanks for the step-by-step; I always love to learn how other people go through processes!

  2. thanks for tut on blocking explains it nicely. love the shawl