QUESTIONS – WORKING NOTES AND BLOCKING THE SHAWL

?People are asking me for the Paisley Shawl’s pattern source, why/how I blocked it and final dimensions.

As I’ve mentioned before, the center part of the shawl up to and including the wide paisley border is Evelyn A. Clark’s?"Paisley Shawl" from the Spring 2005 edition of Interweave Knits. The outer border, including the double column of eyelets joining it to the shawl’s body is original. I’ve shared both the process I used to noodle it out and the final pattern here on String. The yarn I used was Helen’s Lace from Lorna’s Laces. My shawl, including my additional edging took about 80% of my skein. There’s enough left over for (perhaps) a small lacy ascot or scarflet.

I used US #5 needles, starting on DPNs, but quickly moving to first two circs employing standard two-circ methods, then one circ when I had enough stitches to go around the circumference of one. I could have kept on going using the two-circ method, but I’m not a big fan of multiple dangling needle ends, and the fine lace yarn was easy to manage even after the shawl grew larger than the circumference of the one needle. I worked the edging on one DPN and one point of the same circ that was holding the bulk of the shawl’s stitches. It took me less than a month to make the entire thing, including designing the companion edging. I’d say I did about two weeks of casual knitting of about an hour a day, plus five days of intensive vacation knitting (three or four hours per day).

Blocking

I did a quick and dirty block. I didn’t even use any pins. Instead of running the wires at the base of the edge triangles then pinning each one out separately (the thorough way), I opted for a less labor intensive method.

First, I gently hand-washed the shawl. While there was some minor bleeding of magenta into the wash water, the piece’s colors didn’t muddy or change, and there was no bleeding onto the blocking towels. Then I laid out my towels and threaded the points of the damp piece onto the blocking wires. I made sure never to run the wires under just one thread. Instead I was careful to pick up the entire point-end stitch. Then I teased the wires into a square, using the friction of the wet wool on the terrycloth towels to hold the wires in place. The whole thing took maybe two hours to dry, tops.

The down side to my quick and dirty method is that my basic saw-tooth edging was distorted a bit, and the points ended up (mid-block, anyway) looking a bit more like equilateral triangles than the shark-fin shape they’re supposed to have. For the record, I do note that as the points relaxed post-block, they reverted a bit to their native shape.

Yes, if this were a more important piece I’d have done a more meticulous job of blocking. But for the purposes of this project, my approach was good enough. The final (relaxed, post-block) dimensions are about 40"x40" (120cm square).

Lessons Learned

This started as a special request gift – a lace shawl of a size practical for regular winter wear with a jacket, preferably in purples and blues. I found the yarn and tried to force it around a pattern I had wanted to do for a while. While the pattern looked great and the yarn looked great, they didn’t work together. ?Conclusion – If I want to use it for some sort of lace, unless a hand-dyed or multicolor yarn has extremely short or extremely long color runs, I’m better off sticking to a texture pattern that’s mostly solid ground pierced by eyelets.

The two-circ method can be used for flat pieces knit around their circumference in addition to being used to knit tube-based items. Absolutely. Worked great. This wasn’t the first time I’d tried this. My Waterspun Kids’ Poncho also used two circs, but as I was working that – even though it was mesa-land flat – my mind was thinking "poncho = tapered tube," and not "poncho = tablecloth with hole in center." One caveat – the corner where the needles meet is just as stressed as a corner where two DPNs meet. Perhaps more, as the long lengths of the two stitch-loaded circs can lever themselves into all sorts of odd configurations and apply more force to that juncture than can two short DPNs. Care needs to be taken that the stitches at the needle junctions aren’t distorted. This is especially true if there are YOs involved.

Not every project needs to be executed with the fanaticism of a full-bore perfectionist. You may disagree or you may scoff, but for me – this was a valuable lesson. I tend to over-agonize about my knitting. Sometimes I end up squeezing all the fun out along the way. I decided that this project was for pure relaxation. The pattern was very simple, and required very little thought on my part to execute. Even the edging wasn’t that hard to noodle out. In fact, writing it up for String took more time and thought than did working it. There are some mistakes in the thing that I didn’t catch until much later, but I didn’t rip back and start again. I didn’t agonize over blocking either. All in all this one was easy, fast, and very relaxing. So I repeat the most valuable thing I learned from the whole thing: Not everything is an heirloom. Just have fun.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s