I have finally cast off my new shawl design today and thought I would share some tips on how to wet block lace. This is a very important finishing step for lace work and will really make your work shine to its full potential!
There are several types of methods to block your knits. If you are working lace then the best results will come from natural fibres such as wool and silk, which can be wet blocked (shown here), steamed, or using a hap stretcher.
Apologies for the quality of these photos, they are taken from a video so they aren’t the best!
Soak your work
Before you wet block you will need to soak your project in cool water with a little blob of wool wash, if you have it. Regular washing soap is a bit too harsh for hand dyed yarn and would need to be rinsed afterwards, so it is best to avoid it. Leave your hand-knit immersed in the water for 20-30 mins until the water is fully absorbed.
Squeeze out excess water
When it comes to drying your work, remove it from the water and gently squeeze the excess water out (never wring it as it will damage the fibres.) Then lay the piece out on a towel and roll it up. I like to walk over my towel at this point to get as much water out as possible but depending on your project another squeeze might do the job.
Lay the work out flat on a blocking mat or yoga mat. I like to also use kids interlocking foam pads sometimes as you can alter the shape to fit your work.
Blocking wires work well with shawls as they help to create a long, straight edge that can’t be done with pins alone, so it’s worth investing in a set if you can make use of them.
Thread the wires along a row of stitches, going beneath both legs of the stitch every three to four stitches until you reach the end. If it’s a long row you will likely have to use two or more wires to cover the whole area. It’s important to make sure you stay within the same row when threading the wire through.
Repeat for the shorter edges of the shawl too, staying within the same stitch column and making your way down the row. For triangular shawls you can wiggle your way along the diagonal as best you can, even if you have scalloped edges, which will be pinned out after the inital triangle shape is in place.
My shawl in the example is a crescent shape, so I have placed wires along the two short vertical edges and along the horizontal top edge. I’ve then used T-pins to pull out the point of each scallop, making sure that these are straight. Ordinary dressmaking pins would also do the job just fine, T-pins are just a little bit stronger and will help to secure the blocking wires in place.
You might find after you’ve started blocking that you can adjust your work and stretch it even further, but make sure not to overstretch it as the yarn could break. Measure here if you are blocking to dimensions.
Stand back and check the work is symmetrical (if it is supposed to be) and all looks good. It should take about 24 hours to fully dry and hold it’s shape properly.