Knitting: Lace blocking basics tutorial

Now that you’ve knit a beautiful lace shawl, you need to block it! Blocking allows the lace pattern to fully bloom and transforms the small clump of knitting you’ve just bound off into the airy, flowing shawl you fell in love with from the pattern picture.
Materials:
Blocking wires
Blocking mats (or foam play mats)
Stainless steel T-pins
Setting Up
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1. Find a flat, open area to spread out your blocking mats. If you have kids or pets, it’s best to do this in a room where you can close the door. You’ll need a space that is either completely in or out of direct sunlight to avoid subtle, uneven sun bleaching.
2. Spread your mats in the general shape of your shawl and have wires and pins ready to go close by.
Soaking
1. Get your knitting good and wet. Soak the shawl completely in cold water. Though your project won’t actually need a wash, adding a few drops of wool wash or an essential oil like lavender will help protect against moths and make your knitting smell extra nice.
2. Gently but thoroughly squeeze out all excess water. If you’ve used a hand-dyed yarn, you may notice some of the dye leaching out into your water. Continue to rinse until the water runs clear.
3. Lay out your shawl flat on a bath towel, roll the towel and shawl together as one and gently wring the towel to get out the last of the water. Your knitting should be damp, but not dripping.
Blocking
1. Spread out your shawl in the center of the mats and readjust mats as necessary to accommodate the shape. Remember: Your shawl will grow significantly during blocking.
2. Begin by weaving blocking wires along the straight (usually garter stitch), top edge of the shawl. (For folks who sew, this is basically like making a running stitch through your knitting with the wire.)
3. You’ll most likely need more than one wire to cover the length of this side, so be sure to overlap wires by at least 3 inches for stability.
4. Thread blocking wires through the side edges of your shawl. You can use pins alone to block the body of you shawl or, as in the video, use wires woven through the end of each point. Wires help to get a nice, even opening of your lace pattern.
5. Pin the shawl onto the mat along the top edge by spacing pins about 1 to 3 inches apart on the underside of the wire (the side closest to the body of your shawl). I like to start at the center of the shawl and work my way out on either side for a nice, even edge.
6. Moving on to the body, place your first body pin in the bottom center of the shawl to establish the length, gently pulling out the wingspan of the shawl before placing the pin. You’ll want the shawl to be slightly stretched to fully open the lace pattern but not pull at it.
7. If using wires, pin under the wire, between each point of the shawl. If using pins only, pin each point at the tip.
8. Take a step back and survey your shawl for an even block. If something looks uneven or overstretched, you’ll be able to see it easily in the lace pattern. Readjust pins as necessary to even out the pattern.
Depending on the fiber with which you’ve knit your shawl (alpaca and silk tend to stay open longer, whereas wool bounces back), the weight of your yarn and the gauge you’ve knit at, you may end up reblocking your shawl after a year or so of wear. Choosing the right yarn, knitting at a loose gauge and binding off loosely will all help to make a lace shawl that stays open after blocking.
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For a visual step-by-step on how to block lace knitting, check out the WEBS video below:

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