There are times when blocking my knitting feels more like a Day of Reckoning than anything else. Yesterday was one of those times. The Rosebud Shawl was my first-ever Shetland lace knitting project, and it was over a year and a half in the making. True, it wasn’t the only thing I worked on during that time, but it was often my travelling companion for our college tour, vacations, and more trips back and forth to D.C. than I care to count. I had a huge amount of time invested in this project — over 500 hours — far more than for any other single project I’ve knitted. Blocking would reveal just which imperfections could be smoothed out and glossed over, and which ones I’d have to live with.
Most blocking jobs are rather anticlimatic for me. Many things (baby projects, hats, scarves) turn out more or less as I expected, and blocking merely freshens them up a bit for presentation. Sweaters used to be more anxiety-provoking, but even they are not so terrible any more, after I learned to swatch diligently for gauge and piece-block before finishing.
That’s not so with lace. Unblocked lace has all the charm of used cheesecloth, and remains stubbornly so until after blocking. For all these long months, I’ve had to take it on faith that the lace patterns would open up, that I could even out my stitches, and that the all-too-many knitting errors would block to a point where the finished shawl was at least presentable, if not the model of perfection.
So, it was with some trepidation that I decided yesterday would be Shawl Day. I was careful to set aside enough time for the exercise. I put chili in the crock pot for dinner and took care of the laundry early, so that my major obligations were taken care of.
I sewed up the remaining corner and gave the shawl a bath in water spiked with a little Eucalan, and then set to work blocking. Threading the shawl onto blocking wires was as tedious (and as necessary) as ever. I pinned the shawl to the guest bed, which I’d covered in an old bedsheet to protect it from the dark bedspread underneath. The bedspread should be colorfast, but why take chances?
The shawl blocked to about 52 inches square, which is just fine for my short self. The blocking process indeed opened up the lace patterns. I was particularly happy with the edging, which is a focal point and turned out nicely.
Alas, blocking isn’t a cure-all. I deviated from Sharon Miller’s meticulous instructions in one important way: For the borders, I increased at each end with a knit-into-front-and-back instead of the yarn-overs that were called for. At the time I knitted them, I couldn’t figure out why I’d want to end with yarn-overs, as they make the edge look sloppy (or so I thought). I went with the neater kfb stitch. Only later, when mitering those borders, did I realize that the yarn-overs were there so that the corners would miter well, with openwork mirroring the rest of the border pattern. My borders would not have that openwork, even though I tried to block them as best I could.
So, that was my reckoning. Blocking would not perfect that which could not be perfected, but it did reveal a lovely shawl that I’ll enjoy wearing.
It’s a little early in the season for shawl weather out here in the shadow of the Rockies, but as soon as I can, I’ll arrange for a photo shoot with additional photos.