Live Wire

Have you ever knitted a project that you just couldn’t put down? One that you carried everywhere with you, talked up to all your crafty friends, and were secretly disappointed when it was over?

waitingforrain

 

I knitted a project like that last week. Allow me to introduce to you Waiting for Rain by designer Sylvia Bo Bilvia. This beautiful garter-and-lace shawl uses one of my all-time favorite techniques, short rows, to create wedges of delicate lace that flow smoothly into the garter stitch body of the shawl. Knitters of all skill levels will find this pattern easy to follow and highly entertaining, and the finished product is elegant and wearable.

Of course, having the perfect yarn helped, too! I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, a fingering weight alpaca/wool/nylon blend. It’s a treat to work with- smooth and sturdy, with no splits or snags to worry about. When blocked it is airy and drapey. It comes in several rich, heathery solids that really show off the lace in this pattern. And best of all, at just $13.75 per skein the high yardage used for this shawl is no obstacle- two skeins was more than enough for me!

I finished this delightful project this morning (boo hoo) and planned on blocking it today. Since there’s lace involved, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to share with you the magic of blocking with wires!

wirepinned

For anyone who might not be familiar with the process, blocking is an important part of finishing many projects, especially loosely knitted or lace patterns. It softens the fibers and opens up the stitches so that the fabric becomes more even and often more comfortable. It also gives you the opportunity to reshape your knitting slightly so that it fits just right.

In this case, the blocking process is assisted by the use of blocking wires- long, flexible wires that can be run through the stitches wherever you need extra help shaping an edge, a seam, etc.

The picture on the left above is my shawl fresh off the needles. As you can see, it’s generally the right shape but still needs a lot of attention- the top edge needs to be relaxed so that it will lay flat and the lace sections (shown on the right above) need to be stretched so that the design shows better.

wet blocking

The first step of blocking is to pour your knitting a bath. Lukewarm water is best- it will relax the fibers without shocking them. I also highly recommend using a dollop of Eucalan. This lanolin-based wool wash adds back to the fiber some of the natural oil that makes it feel so soft and cozy, as well as adding a pretty scent. Gently place your knitting in the water, submerging it without agitating it too much. Let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes while the moisture does it work. Then lift it out of the water and let it drain- do not wring it! When most of the water has run out, you can bundle your knitting in a towel and gently squeeze more moisture out of it. The key throughout all of this is to be gentle!

wetblockednowire

Next, lay your knitting out on a good surface for blocking- it should have plenty of space to spread your knitting out and be somewhere your knitting will not be disturbed for a day or two. A table top covered with towels or a mattress in an unused bedroom will do, but the best solution is a set of blocking mats. These foam tiles (pictured above) can be reconfigured for any size or shape project, you can stick pins right into them, and they protect your table from moisture and scratches.

Now it’s time to add the wires! You can purchase these in sets that include different thicknesses and lengths of wire. To block this project, I needed several of the longest and sturdiest wires in the set. Insert the wire by weaving it in and out between stitches wherever you want to control the shape- the straight top edge and curved outside edge of this shawl were the best places in this case.

pinningwirededge

Once you’ve inserted the wires or working as you go, pull them into position and watch as the fabric stretches evenly to its new shape! The wire helps distribute the tension on the stitches so the result is tidy stitches and crisp, clean edges. You can also bend the flexible wires to achieve a curved edge. Every few inches, insert a pin to the inside of the wire to hold it in place.  Continue until the area you wish to block looks just right, then take a step back.

finished

Viola! You’re done.  You can walk away and let your knitting finish drying for a few hours. (As you can see above, I’m using a small fan to speed things up.) Once it’s completely dry, you may remove the pins and wires and marvel at the miracle of blocking. It really helps all that hard work to shine!

If you’ve never tried blocking before, you can pick up all the supplies I recommended above at The Yarn Patch. If you’d like to try knit this irresistible project for yourself, we’d also be happy to provide you with the Waiting for Rain pattern and two skeins of  Ultra Alpaca Fine.

Have a great week!

Sheri, Emily, Susan, Shawndrese, and Anita

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Debbie Roberts
    Mar 02, 2016 @ 13:53:34

    What. A. Fabulous. Post.
    ‘Enuf said,
    Debbie

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    Reply

  2. Sandra David
    Mar 02, 2016 @ 15:23:08

    Lovely design, gorgeous work! The blocking with wires tutorial is a great idea.

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    Reply

  3. Jackie Stonecipher
    Mar 02, 2016 @ 16:57:22

    Hi Sheri. I love, love, love this pattern, and I love knitting shawls. How much for the shawl and pattern?

    I miss seeing you all,

    Jackie Stonecipher

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    Reply

    • yarnpatch
      Mar 02, 2016 @ 18:57:15

      Hi Jackie! Oh, I miss you too! This is so great that we can keep in touch. Emily knit the shawl and did a beautiful job. We have the pattern available as a download or in print. The download is 17 pages because it gives you a TON of info. In print its only the pattern with the charts, etc. for $6.00. We used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine – 2 skeins @ $13.95. So its a great value to make for you or as a gift. We carry some wonderful colors – so go to our store and take a look. http://www.yarnpatch.com Let me know if we can help in any way – and give yourself a big hug from me!

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      Reply

  4. Lynn Clendenin
    Mar 02, 2016 @ 18:49:03

    Beautiful shawl! Love the pattern and the color!

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    Reply

  5. Kathy
    Mar 04, 2016 @ 08:07:45

    Wow chippy, that was quite a review, looks like great project

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    Reply

  6. Gail
    Mar 10, 2016 @ 15:16:21

    Emily, what a wonderful shawl and tutorial. Every step was informative and thanks to you and Sheri I may just become a fan of lace work. I really love the pattern and I think I would enjoy working with the yarn. I think a trip to Crossville is coming again real soon to see you all.

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