That pesky little thing called blocking. I have had a couple of comments in the past about the blocking frame I am using. Which made me go back and wonder whether I had ever shown and explained how I do that. Apparently the answer is no, or at least not explicitly. So, I thought I would try to explain some basics of blocking, as well as show you my method. Blocking is usually considered or explained as the shaping of a knitted item. Sweaters and socks are blocked, but so are lace shawls. Blocking is often obtained by washing the item, then getting most of the water out, either by rolling it in a towel, or running it through a spinning device, like a salad spinner or clothes washer on the spin cycle alone. Then you pat, shape and stretch your item until it has the dimensions you want. This can be as simple as putting the sweater or sock on a horizontal surface , and making sure all the lines/seams are straight.
Now a days, socks are often blocked on special sock blockers. The blockers are shaped like flat socks, automatically forming the sock into the right shape while it dries.
The only thing to watch out for is that the blocker can handle the moisture. There are a lot of very pretty wooden ones out there, but those are better used to display socks.
Sweaters are usually either just padded and tugged to the right measurements. If the measurements needed are for some reason very precise, you could pin the sweater down, making sure it dries to the right size. But the method my mother used when I was little (only when she was about to put a sweater together, now that I think about it) was to put the sweater parts under a moist towel to let them dry. Personally I don’t usually bother with blocking a sweater much. I wash it, and put it on a horizontal drying rack to dry. I just make sure that it looks ‘right’, and call it good. It is a sweater, usually a bit of positive ease has been added anyway, so the absolute exact measurements don’t matter after you are finished.
Lace on the other hand can hardly do without a good, thorough blocking. It usually resembles a bowl of cooked spaghetti after you finish knitting it. After washing it, and rolling it into a towel, I thread either some weed wacker cord (I usually try to use round, cheap cord) or blocking wires through the edges. This was especially easy for Oregon, because the edge was blocked in points:
I just threaded the blocking wire through the top most edge stitch of each point. This can be done while sitting in a comfortable chair, which sure beads sitting on the floor, trying to pin something down, in my book.
After you finish this, there are several things you can do to actually pin the shawl out, so it gets nicely stretched open, unveiling the gorgeous lace pattern within the pile of wet noodles.
One method is to pin it to a mattress or carpet. Usually lace dries pretty quickly, and is done blocking before you need said bed. But if at all possible, I would use an unused one, where you could leave it overnight or for a day or two.
There are also colorful foam puzzle pieces that one can assemble as a kids play mat, or a blocking surface. If you worry about the color bleeding, you just pin a bedsheet over them first, and the advantage is of course that you can stand them up on their edge, not taking up as much room, while the blocking project is drying.
And then there is a blocking frame. Over the centuries there have been many executions of this idea. However, it does not seem to be financially viable to produce blocking frames on a large scale. Maybe because the size is so… fickle? Anyway, here is my personal execution of the idea:
I used 3/4 inch PVC pipe. (This is the plastic pipes used to run water through the house, at least in the US.) It is relatively cheap, and I can get lots of parts. 3/4 inch is what I chose because it is still quite light, but strong enough to not bend much in small distances. For Oregon I actually had my full frame up, which is 7 foot by 7 foot (2,13 meters square). It did not quite need that size, but it was nice to have it. But for the 7 foot frame I did need an extra support. I did that by adding a brace almost in the middle:
See where the arrows are? That is where I put in a T-joint, on all 4 sides of the frame, and put a brace behind the shawl. It did need some support in the middle on the floor, but a stack of books helped there. I have several pieces, 3 foot (90cm) and 4 foot (1,20m) and would love to add some 2 foot pieces. Then I have a whole range of sizes, as I can connect them together with little connector pieces.
I have added little cup hooks every 2 inches (5 cm). The most important thing is to try to keep them in a straight line. I made holes with a drill every inch, but decided that I did not need them that close, and I did not have that many hooks. 😉 I can hook the blocking wires straight onto the hooks, or use cotton crochet threat every so often, as you can see in the photo just above. The trick is to keep the thread from just sliding right out again, which I do by winding it a couple of times around 2 or more hooks.
This also allows you to tighten as needed. I use several different lengths, so I have lots of opportunities to tighten any section as needed.
To me the advantages are that it is narrow, and can easily be stored right side up. It has airflow on two sides, allowing the piece to dry faster, it is relatively quick, and it disassembles (I use no glue, just pressure from the pipes and fittings) completely, stores relatively easily in a small space, and is very adjustable.