Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lace Blocking Virgin

This morning my bed was empty. This might be a normal occurrence for most of you, but for me, this is rare. My husband is one of those rare souls who choose to work night shift. It has been "normal" for us since we were dating, and he would drop me off promptly at 10pm because he had to be at work at 11pm. Even with children, this has actually worked out fairly well. There is ALWAYS someone home if the school calls, or someone is sick. Javier is home for dinner with our family every night. He gets to play and talk with our children in the afternoon and evening when they are their most talkative. The down side is that he hardly ever sleeps, and I miss the warmth of him beside me during the week. But all in all this works for us.

Yesterday I finished the last of the "must do" Christmas Knitting. I had put metal to the grind stone, and cranked out the last 3 feet of my second mystery knit project. I was now faced with two incredible lace projects that needed blocking. Real blocking. The only blocking that I have done up until now has been pinning out pieces of a baby sweater on an ironing board and steaming them. A lot. Most of my work has been seamless, in the round - sweaters, hats, mitts. The occasional scarf, where I really just didn't see the need to block. But this is lace. It NEEDS blocking in the way that we need air and food. Blocking is what brings these things to life. But where? Where could I block these incredible works of art that I had wrought, with the sweat and blood of my own fingers. My pride in finishing these 2 things, and in finishing them well swelled in me - only to be following by the stark fear of blocking. This is where the sh*t hits the fan. Could I do it? I had to. I steeled myself, and scoured the house for an appropriate place.

The floor was out. I have a dog. A big black dog. A goofy, clumsy, labrador puppy. 3 years old. Nope. No floor space. Couch? No... this is still taken over with Mount Washmore, the eternal pile of laundry that I fight daily to fold and put away, but which grows to mystical proportions each day. Dining room table might do for one project, if I could find something to put on top that would hold pins, but the second project needs to be blocked out to 78" long. What's a girl to do?

At this point, I must say that I have been blessed with one of the most supportive and surprising husbands on this earth.

My husband is not the kind to model knitwear. He does not do "foo foo" things, prefers his everyday wear simple and unembellished. He is a simple, no-nonsense kind of man, and I can count the number of knit (hand knit or otherwise) objects that he has worn in the last 10 years on one hand. But in this last year, as my skill and passion for knitting has grown, he has packed the one sweater I made him as his only source of warmth on a trip to Vancouver, Canada. He asked for a hat and gloves, and wears those as well, displaying a quiet but overwhelming show of love just for me. No one else knows I made these things. But I do, and I know that this is his way of showing how much I mean to him.

Today he showed his love and support for me again - by sleeping in Liam's bunk so that I could block my lace on our bed. The bed that is never empty, but today it was. Then he topped himself by pulling a long tube out of his closet. Inside it was a blocking kit. Wires, T-pins, yardstick. I was speechless. He may not even realize yet how much this meant to me, but I hope that I can show him.


Today, I block. First I had to decide which one I was going to block first. One is smaller, but done in a fine merino/silk blend laceweight with about a bazillion stitches, and straight sides. The other, done in DK weight is much larger, but with a dagged edging - ultimately far fewer loops to push a blocking wire through. I chose to do my most delicate one first. I held my breath while it soaked in the bathroom sink,following blocking instructions gleaned from the Yarnharlot's, and Eunny Jang's blogs. I carefully balled up my pale lace, set it in a towel, pressed out the water, and laid it out on the bed. I then began the work of picking up each stitch along the edge, to make a nice straight line for the piece. This. Took. Forever.

I began at 10am, and wasn't finished until after 12pm. I finally found my rhythm about 3/4 of the way up the first side. The fabric was almost dry by the time I fnished, and I fussed about what to do if the blocking didn't take. I finally decided to let it be, and if it didn't hold shape, I could do it again. It would go faster the next time. And I wouldn't press out as much water.

But I didn't need to worry. It came out airy and smooth, a silken treasure. I can't wait until Christmas to give it to the recipient. I will definitely have to post a few photos of her wearing it.

The second one had to soak much longer. And I had to rinse. And rinse. And rinse again. The yarn is this gorgeous hand dyed from Briar Rose, called Wistful.
It was a sheer joy to knit with, and the colors are wonderful, but the colors bled. After 4 rinses, I decided that it was ready to block, even if there was still a little color left in the water. Compared to the delicate little ball the first one had made, this seemed enormous, and I didn't do as thorough a job pressing the water out. As a result, it is still not dry nearly 6 hours later. I am going to have to go to bed in 2 hours, dry or not. Sigh. I hope I don't have to block again tomorrow. As much as I appreciate that Javier is willing, I hate to evict him from our bed two days in a row. Setting up the blocking wires this time was MUCH faster. Instead of hundred of loops to pick up on each side I had a total of 44 per side. Quite the difference. Also, the larger guage made it easier as well. When I first took out the rigid blocking wires my stomach clenched. They seemed so thick! And there were no tapered ends! How was I supposed to get into these tiny stitches? At first it was a little frustrating, but after a few minutes I started to get the hang of it, and by the time I got the end of the first side, I had to accede to the fact that the people who designed these things might know a few things more about blocking than I do. So, the second piece was pinned, stretched, and blocking. I took a very close look at my piece, assessing the join, and the color change where I changed skeins. Remeber I said it was a hand dyed? This means "unique" in many different ways. The two skeins had some color variation, but I wasn't willing to have 10 million ends to weave in by alternating rows from each skein. If anyone knows how to do meld the colors, without having zillions of ends, or having to carry up the sides (just wouldn't have looked good on this piece) I would be truly interested in knowing the secret. I really liked this yarn, but I would like to meld the colors next time I invest in it - but if it means tying in thousands of ends - I don't know, I think that would ruin the joy of the knitting for me. I don't mind carrying up the sides - usually. But in this piece, it really wouldn't have worked. I might send the designer a line on her blog and ask if she has any suggestions.

So now I wait. And hope. Maybe I'll go make some fudge... just in case.


Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Lace-blocking-virgin no more! Dude, your cherry is totally popped. That lace is absolutely gorgeous. Although, how you manage it with 3 small children and a dog, I have no idea. And your husband GETS you! That rocks!

anne said...

it's lovely jen, congratulations! and please tell your husband we ALL appreciate his thoughtfulness.

anne said...

it's lovely jen, congratulations! and please tell your husband we ALL appreciate his thoughtfulness.

quiltyknitwit said...

That little photo of the ivory lace is just beautiful. Lucky recipient! Your turkey story was great too.

Susan said...

Love the blocking, too. It's always magical how that big lumpy thing can become lace.
Susan in NJ