Knitter's Block

I have to confess, there is a small piece of knitting that I would rather do without. I will spend months hand spinning yarn, choosing the perfect pattern and slaving over the insanely detailed instructions to produce an heirloom quality piece of work. I’ll go through great pains to learn new techniques and stitches and use every bit of focus I’ve got to make sure the finished product comes out well. Once the piece comes near completion, I cast off with great joy, knowing that I have “finished” something of significance that will likely be passed down for generations.

And then I’ll let the unblocked mess sit in my closet for months.

I hate to block my knitting. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Perhaps it’s a deep seated fear that once I block it, all of my excuses are gone. Blocked lace shows every flaw, from missed or poorly executed stitches to uneven gauge. Then there’s all those scallops.

I can’t tell you how much work goes in to making sure each and every scallop is exactly equidistant from the center point and each scallop next to it. I’ve bent many a pin in frustration as I tried to get a point to just the right place. It is completely and totally maddening.

Even before those scallops, though, there’s the painful process of finding the right size to make the piece. Of course, patterns flippantly give exact measurements, as if that is any help. I’ve measured out lace to the pattern dimensions to find that is still looks like a floppy dog. I’ve also tried stretching the lace to meet the “suggested” size and watched the yarn begin to look as stressed out as I am.

Of course, I put myself through this process on a fairly regular basis. I wish I could say I allowed myself to live in blissful ignorance while the knitting was going on, but I don’t. The entire time I’m watching my project emerge, I hold a small secret dread that I will eventually have to block the damn thing.

Ultimately, it’s guilt that gets me to block my projects. I know there’s a thing of beauty sitting in a wadded up ball in my closet just waiting to be let free. Perhaps I sympathize with it a bit; I was that wadded up ball in my adolescence too. Finally, the mood strikes and I find it in myself (and my schedule) to spend the time blocking out my lace.

I am rarely dissatisfied with the results. The moment when blocking is completed is one of the best in knitting. It is the consummation of months of effort when I can finally see exactly what I’ve created. I hate the work, but the results are so fantastic. I guess I’ll just keep knitting.

Image icon unblocked.jpg1.26 MB
Image icon blocked.jpg1.39 MB


KenInMaine's picture

It always amazes me to take an unblocked piece of lacy knitting, block it, and get to see the delicate geometry that had been hiding there all that time. I do agree with you that it can be a time consuming process for sure. But, for me, the end result always outweighs the time and effort of blocking. What is the name of the piece in the pictures, by the way? It's beautiful!

knittingman's picture

Ken- I was looking at the book a few days ago and now I can't seem to find it anywhere. I think the book was called "old fashioned lace" but I've got no idea what the name of the piece was. As soon as I find it, I'll be sure to let you know.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Gorgeous knitting. I also hate to block but just grin and bear it when it comes to lacework.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

CLABBERS's picture

Beautiful piece of knitting. How big is it? Your painstaking attention to detail has certainly paid off!
I have only blocked a few pieces and nothing like you have done. I have to be in a certain mindset to do it fastidiously. I know it's going to take a long time, so I get everything together and agree with myself that I will be busy for an evening. Rushing through it is never wise, I have learned. I think that blocking is as much of an art form as the knitting itself. When it produces a work of art like you have made, it is worth the time spent. I would love to enjoy a glass or two of wine while blocking, but I have a feeling anything round would come out more like an egg by the time I was done. So some home brewed iced tea does the trick... decaffeinated, of course.

Again, stunning job.


knittingman's picture

Thanks Mark. This particular piece is 31" across. I'm nearing the end of one that will measure a full 6'! I am... excited for it to be done. :)

Tallguy's picture

Agreed. That is beautifully written of the process we go through to produce lace. I enjoy the process, even if it is rather boring and tedious to do.

When I have cast-off the last stitch, darned any ends I may have, I immediately throw it into a hot soapy bath! I don't delay it. As you, it is easy to go to the next project and forget about this one. However, once it is in the water, it needs to be completed somehow. I may leave it there for a day or two, but I know eventually it has to come out and be blocked. And that is how I handle it.

Yes, the final results are truly worth all the effort and time that goes into them. Beautiful piece of work! I can't even see that missed stitch! :-)