How I block lace

Recently I knit an Echo Flower Shawl with Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail. It was a present to my friend Jenni for her upcoming nuptials next weekend. It’s very hard for me to wait to surprise people, so I had to give it to her a weekend early. I don’t expect that it will be cool enough for her to wear on her wedding day with her dress, but I wanted her to have it anyway.

I don’t have a picture of her modeling it yet, but I will show you how I blocked it.  I think lace needs a nice wet blocking.

lace blockingThe shawl is bound off, without ends woven in, and is a lovely, but lumpy mess.

lace blocking-2I use lukewarm water and some no-rinse wool wash (Eucalan lavender scented in my case). For the wool wash, a teeny dribble goes a long way.

lace blocking-3I let this baby soak for at least a 1/2 an hour or more. You want the fibers to get wet and relax.

lace blocking-4Then I delicately lift the wet wool from the bowl.

lace blocking-5Gently squeeze out the water. Never twist or wring the item or you may cause some unwanted felting. You can also felt items if you switch from hot to cold or vice versa, so if you do need to rinse your item, make sure you use water the same temperature.

lace blocking-6Then I lay out a large bath towel, lay down the gently squeezed shawl, fold it in half lengthwise,and roll it up.

lace blocking-7I stand on it and move my feet across it a couple of times to squeeze out as much of the water as I can. If you are wet blocking a sweater, you might need more than one towel.

lace blocking-9In this case, I used some blocking wires from Knit Picks. I only used the wires on the long straight edge of the shawl, and I picked up the edge loop along the garter stitch. A little over halfway through I transitioned to a second wire to have enough length to stretch the shawl across it as long as I wanted it to be. lace blocking-10In this final picture, you can see my pins. I use straight T-pins. I took this picture, then looked again and straightened the spine of the shawl after I put my camera away. In this shot the center line is leaning a little to the right.

At the top, I first pinned right under the blocking wire, then I started at the bottom center and pulled the pieces out as far as it seemed like the shawl should go (I could have re-read the pattern for schematics, but I was too in the moment). Then I worked outward, trying to make the left and right symmetrical as I went. It probably took about an hour total, but that’s counting the soaking time for the shawl. Positioning and pinning took me about 20-30 minutes.

I really loved making this shawl. It became predictable, but of course it was something I had to have some evening focus time to put on this. I didn’t cart it to work, and I thought about pulling it out last Thursday at knit night, but lace and wine don’t always mix, so I left it alone. I’m very happy with the result, and Jenni was joyful when she received it, so I consider it a great success.

Today is the first day back to school on campus. There is a flurry of movement and energy that wasn’t present mere days ago. It’s overwhelming, but also makes for some great people watching. Since school is in session, it’s also the last day for my sale! Use BACK2SCHOOL to get a 50% discount on  TuxedoPrufrockBetwixtWendingRuffaluffagusThe Unexpected Hat, and my newest, Firefly Seeker for till midnight (Central Time) today.

Hope everyone is having a lovely Monday!

Edited to add: Blocking board is from WEBS, the larger size.

Summer, stay.

Time flies too, too quickly. I can’t believe it’s already July. This month is full of fun and challenges. I have a big bite of my dissertation proposal to finish and polish before it goes to my dissertation chair, Zooey is turning ONE (how is that possible already?), I turn 32, and we traveled this week to see some family members that we don’t see often enough. One of these family members is my brother’s girlfriend, Brenna. She was kind enough to meander around the yard taking pictures of me in this giant shawl, Nuvem.

nuvem-3It’s a miracle that I kept going through those insanely long ruffle rows, but I told myself that the ball knits up just as quickly even if the row is really really long. I was finishing a ball (236 yards) in about 2-4 days depending on how much time I had available to knit.

nuvem-4Each row took slightly over 7 grams. I left a little over 12 grams to bind off. Judging from other Ravelry users with helpful notes (thank you!), that was enough. I had one gram left over!  I went up 3 needle sizes for a bind off and bound off somewhat loosely.

nuvem-2This shawl is a lovely 58″ by 68″ size. I was a little worried that it would seem too thick to wrap around my neck since Classic Elite Mountaintop Vail is more like a fingering weight than a lace weight, but it feels fine wrapped any way.

nuvemI ended up using one skein each of slate, steel, parchment, sand, and adobe (from center out), and I used two skeins of camel since I knew the ruffle would gobble up a ton of yarn.

Here is a second representation of its size:

nuvem-5Seems like it could work well as a personal blanket too. I put together the 32″ and 24″ cables in my set of Addi Clicks to knit most of this project when it quickly overwhelmed at 40″ needle. The stitches had little room to move at the end, but the way they were packed on the needle and ready to go made them knit quickly.

nuvem-6I blocked it lightly by hanging it over my shower curtain rod and steaming it gently. Alpaca does not have as much elasticity as many wool fibers. I thought it best to avoid a wet block for this project. I’m pleased with the result, though I could still work on a couple of tiny spots with ladders from working on one 40″ circular at the beginning.

Summer, take your time. Let’s keep it slow.

If you feel like pattern shopping, my birthday sale only goes till the 14th of this month. Use the code Happy32 for 32% off all of my paid patterns.

Breathing life

I often personify my knits and talk about them as if they have personalities. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes they soothe us, sometimes they anger us, delight us, keep us up at night. We love them and cuddle them. We sometimes blame them for things. Sometimes it feels as though each piece of knitting is a living creature to treasure. I don’t have any projects in recent memory that I haven’t fallen in love with along the way. We breathe love into them with every stitch and later they breathe that back with their comfort and utility.

Here is another peek at the creature I’m creating, that will soon provide love back in the form of warmth and coziness. Other knitted children are distracting, but I’m doing my best to keep focus and press on with this gargantuan shawl.

nuvem-3

I’m on my last color!!!! Yes, that sentence deserves several exclamations when it means I’m almost on the last 1/4 mile of this mile long shawl. I have two balls of this dark brown and will have to begin the ruffle when I’m a little over halfway through the first ball.

Matt likes to remind me that he has two pairs of socks on the needles that I’m not working on. I remind him that he has as many projects on the needles that are for him as I have for myself, so he is a lucky man.

All of my doubts about this transition of neutral colors are fading. I think this shawl is growing up to be a lovely creature.

Guess who else is growing into a lovely creature? Zooey is 11 months old at the end of this month. She’s a blur as soon as I whip out the camera, but I got a couple of mostly still shots. I can’t believe it’s been almost 11 months. I think she’s cooler every single day.

11 months-2

11 months

Maintaining neutrality

ImageThis is my Nuvem thus far. I’m on the fourth color in about a week and a half of sole focus. That’s 708 yards down. This next color contrast is not as stark, but I think it will balance well in blending to brown tones.

One of my trusted advisors likes to say, “The world is ruthlessly neutral.”  I like to sit and think about that phrase sometimes. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s interesting to think about.

Neutrality can also be soft and very beautiful, especially when you knit it with and alpaca and bamboo blend.

Stockinette meditations

Working on Nuvem is soothing. The alpaca/bamboo blend slides over my fingers and I only have to think about 8 increases every other row. I can do it while reading and mindlessness of it relaxes me. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stockinette to work like a meditation from time to time.

nuvem-2

I miss bright colors, but I believe this is going to be beautiful in the end. I decided to go with the color strategy shown in the second picture from the last post, and I’m now on the third color in Classic Elite Mountain Top Vail. From the center out the colors so far are slate, steel, and parchment.

I augmented my collection of neutrals with a cream color to transition from the white to the lighter brown color. I want to use just one ball of each color to show how the bands of color get larger and thinner as they change. I did buy a spare ball of the dark brown though, because the ruffle will eat up double the amount of yarn per row. I will have 7 balls, 50 grams apiece. I have 50 more grams of yarn than used in the pattern, but almost 100 less yards. I’m getting gauge. I might just leave it be, or I might have to revise at some point.

nuvem

I’ve been reading a few books while I do these knitting meditations. Some of them aren’t noteworthy and are cheap (under $4) Amazon acquisitions that I finish in a day and a half. One that I will fess up to reading and loving so far is Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. It wasn’t on the under $4 list, but it’s awesome and addresses many barriers women face in the workplace.

What are you reading this summer? Suggestions? I listen to audiobooks too, so feel free to suggest one specifically if it is particularly good as an audiobook.

An obsession takes hold

What is it with me and stockinette projects? I do get a thrill out of completing complicated lace and cables. I love the way they look. I guess at this point in my life, I really love projects that I can pick up and put down without stressing about remembering a complicated pattern, or having one in front of me. And really, I think so many stockinette projects just look elegant.

I was corresponding with a new Ravelry friend, and of course I had to go and check out some of her projects. I saw this shawl/scarf/practically a blanket. I fell hard. Instantly. I’ve been wanting a giant shawl that could sort of double as a blanket at work because it’s freezing there, especially in the lactation room I use in the basement. The thing is, it takes about 1740 yards. EEP! That’s either a big yarn purchase, or many colors from my stash.

I decided to try to make do with what I have. I have stashed 5 skeins of Classic Elite Yarns Mountain Top Vail, in all coordinating natural colors. I originally got this to make an Aranami Shawl. Aranami looks gorgeous, but I just couldn’t take doing all of the little semi-separate pieces (with all of their subsequent ends to weave in). Soooooooo, I think this will be a good start for Nuvem. It’s not enough yardage. I need about 2.5 more balls to have the recommended yardage. There are more balls at my LYS in the three lighter colors. I won’t be able to make the width of the stripes even, but I think it will look interesting.

Which color progression is better? Either would start with the darkest color in the center and would move from right to left to the outside.

Right to left for center to edge color progression.

Right to left for center to edge color progression.

 

nuvem yarn-3

Right to left for center to edge color progression.

My only hesitation is that I never make things this neutral. Never. I hardly ever knit with neutral colors. Yet, the soft muted palate is appealing and I want to use this gorgeous yarn for something. It’s been wound and sitting in a drawer for a few months. I made just a few Aranami pieces before giving it up. I think it’s funny that some people have reservations about using really bright colors to knit garments and I’m hesitating about using really muted ones…  I know I’m mixing grey and brown…

I’m going to keep going with the darker grey at the center, but I’d love opinions about which progression to do. There isn’t more of the darker brown at my LYS, so that entire ball would likely become the ruffle. Expound away color theorists and fiber enthusiasts.

Block party

blocking-2

Yesterday was a good day for a little bit of blocking. I’ve got the Ellybob Cardigan on my Knit Picks foam blocking boards, and Ishbel on my larger board from WEBS and blocking wires on the straight edge. I’m pleased to be at this stage on both.

I feel like my edge elephants on the Ellybob could have been a little neater. Their trunks seem a little out of sorts, even with blocking, and I think my tension was a bit tight overall on the Fair Isle portion of the pattern, but it’s not extremely apparent, so I’ll call it good enough and move on. I found some cute little square buttons at my LYS that match the elephants pretty well.
blockingAs soon as these were secured to the blocking boards, I picked up Matt’s cardigan and began shaping the sleeve caps. I hope to block that today or tomorrow. It will have to be blocked and sewn before I can add the shawl collar.

Hmmm…what shall I cast on next?