Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sweater Blocking

I am posting these photos because they might be useful to someone else. I knit my first sweater when I was 12 years old and can't remember much about it except the colour and that our Labrador retreiver pup chewed a corner of it while we were out. He jumped up and grabbed it from on top of the washing machine. I don't recall if I even got to wear it before he destroyed it. No wonder I didn't knit again for quite a few years. Then I recall knitting another sweater when I was 18 years old, a gift for a girl who gave me a drive to school every day. She was thrilled and I am still amazed that it actually fit her and looked good. It was an Aran pullover with a turtleneck and I recall she wore it with suede mini skirts which were all the rage then. (not that I wore them!)

Despite the fact that I did quite a bit of knitting, I knew nothing about the process of blocking. My mother, who was a prolific knitter, never blocked anything. I remember her pressing pieces before sewing them together and her sweaters were always beautiful. She only knit with acrylic yarn however, and I think she missed out on the beauty of real wool yarn.

Thank goodness for the internet, because knitting magazines are sorely lacking on how to block your knitted pieces before sewing them together. 

The last few sweaters I have knit, I have pinned in place onto a styrofoam board which I covered with 1/4" gingham. I figured that the gingham would help me to line things up and it works very well for this. You still require a tape measure to get the finished dimensions correct, but then you can just use the squares to pin everything where it should be. After pinning the pieces to the board, I then misted them thoroughly with a plant mister until they were damp all over and then I left them to dry. This took several days.

But another visit to the internet and an alternate method was discovered on YouTube. Soak the sweater pieces in the sink in cool water, squeeze out the water, roll the piece up in a towel and squeeze out the excess water. Using wool, this works beautifully - the piece will be damp but not soaking and then you simply pin it in place to the measurements given in the pattern for the size you knit. And wait for it to dry. This latest sweater has taken about one day to dry. 

The back and one front pinned to dry
I began by pinning the back and one front because that was all that would fit on the board. Then when the back was dry, I removed it and pinned the other front piece. So easy to get it to match the other front as they are side by side. Once these are dry, I will do the same with the two sleeves. Then it will be ready to sew together and all that is left to do is pick up stitches around the neckline and work some ribbing there.

This sweater is far from perfect; some mistakes I undid and corrected; others I just let them go, thinking that if anyone is close enough to see the mistakes, they will have to be someone I know very well. And they will also have to be a knitter. The chances of both of those happening are extremely slim.

The front pieces side by side, the one on the right is already dry, the one on the left has just been pinned to the board and will be dry by tomorrow.

The essential tools for blocking: your pattern with the finished measurements (stretch the sweater out to measure to those numbers), tape measure and pins.

And yes, so original, I made the sweater in the same colour as the one in the pattern book. The yarn I used was Cascade 220, 100% wool, I love this yarn and it knits easily without splitting and shows stitch definition well. I have already cast on another Aran pattern, I really love cables.

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