22 July 2015

Washing & Blocking Shawls - Part two

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Righto, so you've followed part one - soaked your shawl and rolled it in a towel - now what? Blocking. That's what. 

Pinning out a shawl is a slow business. I often take between 30 minutes and an hour to pin out a shawl.

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1. Find a space to lay out your shawl and grab your tools. Then stretch your shawl firmly but gently along the whole top edge (especially the centre) to stretch it out as much as possible.

I like to block my shawls on the floor so I can spread them right out, crawl around and view them easily from above. There are lots of things you could use to spread your shawl out on. I use a large wool blanket and pin through that into the carpet. If you have wooden floors you'll probably want to invest in some foam pads. You can buy blocking mats although some people make do with yoga mats and kids foam puzzles. 

I have recently started using blocking wires and I absolutely love them. I was a bit daunted until I tried them and realised how simple they were to use and how much easier it made things. At the very least I recommend T pins. They're strong and long and perfect for holding your shawl in place while it dries. You can use them on their own or together with wires.

My blocking wires are made by Lazadas. I've got a set of long blocking wires (which came with some pins).

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2. If you're using blocking wires - thread your wire through the stitches along the bottom of your shawl or the picot points if it has some. It takes a while but it's worth it.

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3. If your shawl is wide or your wires are short, use extra wires and overlap them where they meet for a few stitches. I tend to use two long wires for my shawls.

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4. Lay your shawl out in roughly in the shape you're aiming for. You'll see that I've blocked crescent shawls in my photos. Notice that the top edge curves upwards. It may look like your shawl has a lump in the middle when you're knitting it but that lump can be flattened right out and curve upwards on itself. This will make the wingspan of your shawl wider and your shawl easier to wear.

If you're blocking a triangular shawl the top edge will (mostly) lie flat. But, sometimes triangular shawls will also curl up at the ends too (like my Southern Shawl) - it all depends on the way it's been increased along the edges of your knitting. Lots of edge increases correlate to more steeply curved ends. Play around with your shawl and see how it wants to spread out.

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5. I usually start pinning at one corner, pulling the lace open. As you pull the border downwards and work your way around the shawl your top edge will tighten. You can keep gently but firmly stretching that top edge as you pin to get more length into your shawl. I usually end up re-pinning lots of times as I get the shape of the shawl just right. 

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6. Sometimes I pin the top edge temporarily while I'm stretching and pinning the border out but I take those top edge pins out once I get going because the top edge will lie well without pins. It helps to get the corners pinned and then go back and readjust along the border.

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7. Crescent shawls want to scoop inwards and around at the ends into a horseshoe shape. Some (like my Antipodes Shawl) scoop around almost full circle. Play around and see what curve your shawl wants to adopt. I spend a lot of time fiddling with my pins as I go, pinning and repining to get the lace open and the shawl curved.

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8. You might like to experiment with how you block the border edge. Sometimes the pattern wants to fall into little points.

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9. Blocking wires make it easier to create curved edges on your shawls and they also make blocking picot points a breeze.

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10. I try to get my shawls symmetrical if they're designed that way but it can be super tricky to get them exactly right.

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11. Once finished, your shawl may feel a little like a trampoline - tightly stretched. That's how I like mine. A shawl that is blocked tightly in a scooping curve with the top edge stretched, the border opened right out and and the ends curling inwards will drape beautifully. I love a well blocked shawl that falls into gorgeous spirals at the ends when it's worn.

Leave your shawl to dry for a day or so. Then, unpin it, throw it around your neck and ENJOY!

If you still want more information and details, I talk at length about how I block my shawls on my podcast if you fancy watching that too.

21 July 2015

Washing & Blocking Shawls - Part 1

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It wasn't long ago that blocking was a complete mystery to me. I finished my knitting, admired my handwork and that was that. Nothing was soaked or washed until it was dirty some time later. These days, after learning a little about blocking and trying it myself, I'm a complete convert. Blocking is nothing short of magic - especially when it comes to shawls and lace. 

Recently, I've been noticing some degree of panic amongst many knitters when the word "blocking" is mentioned. Trust me, it's not tricky. There are a few tools that make it easier to block a shawl and some shapes that you're shooting for when you're laying it out, but overall the whole thing is not difficult and actually quite pleasant.

To help you make sense of blocking I thought I'd show you you what I do with my shawls once they're off my needles. Because it's a long process I've split it into two parts - soaking, then blocking - but I do one straight after the other while my shawls are still wet. 

Before I begin I have to say that like knitting, there is truly no one "right" way to block your shawls. I've worked out a way that I like through trial and error. If you have any tips or tricks that you've found useful I'd love to hear them and please feel free to fiddle and experiment until you find a method that suits you.

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1. Soak your knitting. I use very warm water and a splash of wool wash. Fill a bucket or sink, pop in your shawl, dunk it under the water and leave it to soak for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you're soaking more than one be mindful that darker dyes may run a little and it might be better to soak these separately. If you're using a wool wash that requires rinsing, briefly soak again in clean water. Take care not to change the temperature of your rinsing water too drastically or you might felt or shrink your wool. (I weave in my ends after blocking.)

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2. Gently squeeze the water from your shawls. Don't wring them, just squeeze between your hands until the worst is out. 

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3. Lay your shawl flat on a big bath towel and roll the towel from end to end.

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4. This part is fun - walk up and down on your sausage roll towel. You might find that other people like doing this job for you. Giving your towel a good kneading will get most of the water out of your knitting.

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5. Unroll your shawl from the towel and get your blocking surface ready. 

Ready to block your shawl? Head over to part two to read how I do it.


17 July 2015

Truly Myrtle Podcast - Episode 7!

Welcome back to the Truly Myrtle podcast! Grab a cuppa and your knitting and enjoy xxx




Here are links to everything I mention:


Happy knitting! (and making ... ) xxx

14 July 2015

Catch Up

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It's been a while since I popped in to touch base and chat about what I'm working on and I thought I'd tell you about some of the projects on my needles at the moment.

These three are all new designs. I can't seem to help myself cast them on. Two of these were spur of the moment knits, cast on when I should really have been working on the ginger sweater but fancied something small instead.

So far I've managed one sleeve of my gingerbread sweater - I've got a plan with myself to finish the whole thing by the end of August. Let's see if I can do it ... please feel free to give me a stern word if I don't ;)

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If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you'll have seen me start, knit and finish this glorious raspberry textured shawl last week. I was quite captivated with it - the pattern repeat is simple to remember and it's fun watching the shawl take shape as it's knitted from one side to the other. 

I've designed this (as yet nameless) shawl with scrummy merino/cashmere/nylon yarn dyed by my friend Andie at Midnight Yarns and she is busy dyeing up skeins of yarn to take to the upcoming KAN knitting retreat in Napier at the end of August. If you're lucky enough to be joining us for the weekend, you'll be able to buy some of her yarn to knit my shawl pattern which I'll release a few days beforehand. My shawl is knitted in her "raspberry sorbet" colourway and I gather she'll have that and many other lovely colours at KAN too.



You may have also caught a glimpse of my new hat pattern on social media too. At least, you'll have seen my hat before I decided it wasn't quite how I wanted it, ripped it back, rewrote the pattern and started again. It's true what they say, designers do an awful lot of unpicking so you don't have to!

I'm using a really lovely DK merino/possum yarn for my hat. It's an undyed yarn by Naturally called Amuri and it's 75% merino and 25% possum single spun yarn that has a rustic, dark halo from the possum. It looks almost felted, is super soft and knits like a dream. 

I'm aiming to get it knitted up quickly so I can publish the pattern and get some wear out of it while the weather is still cold. We're having an icy winter down here this year. It's absolutely freezing at the moment although I know that spring will be back before long (the first daffodil has popped up in our garden) so I'm making the most of my hats, shawls and sweaters while I can.

What's on your needles?


4 July 2015

I've Joined A Yarn Club!



Gee I'm super excited - I've just signed up for my very first yarn club!

Some of you are old hands at this but it's totally new and cool for me and I can't wait for yarn to start arriving in my letterbox!

Let me tell you all about it cos if you live "downunder" maybe you want to join too ...

Tash from Holland Road Yarn Company contacted me yesterday to ask if I'd mind spreading the word about her new yarn club. She actually offered me a couple of skeins of yarn in return. I've never done a "deal" like that before so initially I was a bit  "ah - not sure ... " but then I clicked on her link about the club, read all about it and decided it looked so cool that not only would I tell you all about it - I'd jolly well buy a subscription myself!

I can't tell you any "details" about who the yarn is coming from ... although you will NOT be disappointed ... but I can tell you; Tash has recruited three amazing indie dyers from North America to kick things off. I haven't tried any of them yet ...

To follow, three special NZ dyers are dyeing exclusive colourways just for us. You can sign up for either the Northern dyers or the Southern ones, or go all in and register for both. 

Each parcel will contain:
  • 100g approx of 4ply / fingering weight yarn dyed especially for us in an exclusive colour way
  • special treats worth at least $10

Here's the prices:

North

You get yarn for the first 3 months from all North American dyers
NZ - $150 including shipping
Australia - $154 including shipping 

North & South

All 6 months, North American dyers followed by NZ dyers
NZ - $300 including shipping
Australia - $308 including shipping

(Any leftover spots for South will go on sale in late September.)

The shipping dates are:

North
(the North American yarns)
  • late July / early August
  • first week of September
  • first week of October
South
(the NZ yarns)
  • first week of November
  • first week of December
  • second week of January

If you want to "join the club", head over to Holland Road and sign up at 10am, 9 July (NZ time). Spots are limited so get in quick.

Pretty cool huh?! I've signed up for the North club and Tash kindly gave me a discount to say thank you for telling all of you. 

p.s. I'll always tell you if I do a "deal" but I'll never ever do a "deal" that I don't love.