Al fresco blocking

WillowColor Affection is finished. I planned to darn in the ends before blocking it, but Monday dawned bright and sunny, albeit frosty. The sort of day that is just made for admiring the colour contrast of newly-minted leaves against a cloudless sky. I grabbed the chance to get my new cotton shawl soaked and then pinned out in the sun to dry before I started work.

This is the first time I’ve blocked outside, something that has only been possible since I acquired blocking mats (or play/exercise mats, actually) earlier in the year. I laid them out in the sun on a large, folding cutting-out board that I have, thinking that I might be able to drag the whole thing indoors if the weather turned bad.

Colour Affection shawl blockingThe sun soon warmed the garden, but I forgot to check on my new shawl until early afternoon. By then it was completely dry but a little distorted because the wind had got under a couple of the mat tiles and shifted them. Nothing that a steam iron couldn’t fix though.

Colour affection planThis shawl is one of those knitted pieces for which blocking is absolutely essential to achieve the intended shape. As you can see from the photo below, taken shortly before it was finished, the off-the-needles shape is a long way from the crescent that I achieved by blocking, or even the segment shape (like the schematic above) that other knitters have blocked it into.

Colour Affection shawlFor me, a crescent is a more wearable shape, it curves around the shoulders satisfactorily without leaving a wide gap at the neck. But it does rather depend how you intend to wear this shawl.

Colour affection 13Coaxing the solid coloured starting-point of my Color Affection into a concave curve took some doing. It would have been easier with an animal fibre, cotton doesn’t have the same elasticity. The edge wanted to be convex and fought hard to stay that way. Making it curve against its natural inclination created a hump that had to be gently patted flat until it disappeared. Although the end result is pleasingly crescent-shaped, if you look carefully at the two-colour striped arc around the solid-coloured segment in the blocking photo you can see that the stripes are distorted, narrower in the middle than at the ends. I’m sure this won’t be noticeable when the shawl is worn, but I wish the pattern had been designed to produce the intended shape rather than relying on some fairly aggressive blocking to achieve what shaping could have done. Seeing as the necessary shaping would be in the single-colour area, and therefore would not have been noticeable, the fact that there are stripes is no excuse.

Stripes Gone Crazy patternWith this project finished, I have cast on the Stripes Gone Crazy cardigan, as planned, using the same 100% cotton 4-ply (fingering) yarn as for Color Affection, but in chocolate brown. The stripes will mostly be coral red.  The construction is not entirely straightforward and relies on a fair amount of breaking and re-joining yarn to start with, to create the shoulders. I’m sure there must be a better way to do this, and one of these days I will investigate the ziggurat method which looks promising.

In the meantime, I’m following the pattern but will be starting the neck shaping considerably earlier than written. In part this is because my row tension is looser (fewer rows per 10cm) than specified when using a needle that gives (almost) the required stitch tension, which means that the neck of this top-down design which relies on row counting rather than measurement will end up lower than designed, and partly because I don’t like low necks anyway. I’m not entirely sure that my proposed redesign of the neckline will work, although one of the advantages of the one piece, top down construction is that it’s possible to try on the garment as you go. Once I’ve got to the base of the neckline, I’ll be able to slip it around my shoulders and see whether all is well or not.

The next decision is where to insert a pale blue stripe amongst the coral red ones. The use of some of the palest blue from Color Affection is necessary because I don’t have enough red yarn for all of the stripes. Possibly I will knit one of the narrow stripes at the top in pale blue as well as a “crazy” stripe further down. These crazy stripes are the ones that start narrow at one side of the front opening and dip down across the back, widening as they go, before levelling off to emerge around the side of the cardigan as wide, horizontal stripes on the other front. To keep the front of the cardigan balanced, I think the pale blue crazy stripe needs to be one that reaches the opposite front, not one of the ones that exits via the hem at the back, which limits the options – there are only three such stripes. Logically, it should be the middle stripe. I’ll need to hope that I have enough of the pale blue yarn to use it for the corresponding stripes in the sleeves too.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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3 Responses to Al fresco blocking

  1. AndreSue says:

    I had the same issue with the shape of my color affection shawl. :/ But, your shawl is still lovely. I love the colors you chose!

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