Thursday, April 19, 2012

Washing Your Wool and Blocking

Hi Knitters,
Do you wash your wool? I do and often. I have become a regular wool washing convert. If there is one good point I want to get across in this post it is that washing your 100% wool knit items is incredibly simple and produces gorgeous finished projects. In fact, even when I have knit a garment in superwash wool, I still wash it by hand as if it is regular wool because I don't want it to stretch out. I enjoy giving my handknits gentle attention and extra care. Plus, it is easy.

You don't need to be intimidated by the care involved for wool garments or accessories. It is a snap to wash and block. Blocking is actually kind of fun. If you follow some simple, easy steps you will be a wool washing convert, too. The results of the washing and blocking of the 100% wool yarn is a match made in heaven. The wool fibers relax, the fabric becomes softer and the stitches even out. It is a beautiful thing.

I am going to take you step-by-step through the washing and blocking of the shawl I finished called, Piper's Journey by Paul Emons-Fuessle of the Knitting Pipeline Podcast. It is knit in the 100% American wool by Quince & Co. in the Chickadee base which is a dk weight. The colorway is Icelandic, which is a beautiful heather gray.

I will link all information about the knits and everything I use today to wash and block my shawl at the end of the post.

Step 1: (photo above)
Pull out all of the things you will need to wash and block your item before you start. In this case I used blocking boards, flexible blocking wires and pins, wool wash, and a tub for soaking.

Step 2: 
Pour a little of your wool wash in your tub and fill the tub with lukewarm or room temperature or cold water if that makes you more comfortable. I use lukewarm water. I don't measure the amount of soap. I like lots of suds and I love the smell of the Soak so I am generous when squeezing that bottle to add the soap. I fill enough water to cover the item I am washing.

Step 3: Place the item to be washed in the tub.

Step 4: 
Gently squish your woolly knit into the soapy water so it saturates and seeps into the fibers of the yarn.

Step 5: 
Let your item soak for at least 20 minutes or so. Here is a place in the process where I fudge around quite a bit. For this project, I ended up making lunch for my son and husband and came back to my soaking shawl about an hour later. It's all fine! Some people soak their items for a lot longer than I do.

Step 6:
While your woolly knit is soaking in the wool wash, set up your blocking area. I pieced the blocking boards together and got my wires ready to go.

Step 7:
After the item has soaked long enough I gather it up and gently squeeze it over the tub to get the excess water out. I don't rinse the Soak out at all. I love the scent and it conditions the wool and dries beautifully. It is like leave-in conditioner for your hair. After gently squeezing I place the knit item in a clean towel and gently squeeze it again. It is still wet at this point, just not dripping.

Step 8:
I carefully spread out the item on the blocking board.

I am going to specifically talk about this shawl now. The designer, Paula, said she gently blocked her shawl so really you could leave the blocking at that and just let it dry. It looked beautiful without adding any pins or wires. It's really up to you.

Here is another photo of the shawl without pins or wires. It already looks great.

Step 9: Adding Pins and Wires
I started at the ends of the shawl and added a couple of pins to hold them in place. This just seemed like a logical place to start.

Next, I really wanted to stretch out the lace edging to show it off to its full effect. I started at the center of the outer edge. Using one flexible wire, I threaded it through each garter ridge along the edge of the lace and continued threading until I got to the end on one side.

Then I added another wire starting at the center and threaded it through in the same way along the outer edge until I got to the other end. Next, I started adding pins just inside the wire to hold and secure the shape I wanted for the shawl. These flexible blocking wires are fantastic for round shaped shawls. I also have straight blocking wires that are great for straight edges.

Above is the finished shawl with pins and blocking wires pulling the lace out quite tight. I didn't measure or worry about it being exact in any way. I just used my eye and it worked out wonderfully. Some people like to measure to make sure things are even and perfect and that's good, too.

I didn't pin or use wires on the neck edge of the shawl. I didn't think it needed anything.

You can see how the pins pull the wire out to really open up the lace edging. It was nice and tight.

I just wanted to share the beautiful stretched garter stitch in the light and airy Chickadee. I love this yarn more than I can say. It is simply gorgeous.

Step 10: 
Let it dry! Now comes the test of patience. You have to wait it out until that yarn is completely dry. I like to put a fan on my blocking items. You will be amazed at how much this speeds up the process of drying.

Wait, wait, wait!

Step 11:
After your item is completely dry (this shawl dried very quickly but I left it overnight), carefully remove the pins and pull out the wires.

Next up? Check back to see my finished Piper's Journey Shawl!

Links to the items used in this post:
Quince & Co. Chickadee yarn
Piper's Journey shawl pattern
Soak Wool Wash
Soak Basin
Inspinknity flexible blocking wires
Knitter's Block blocking boards

I hope this was informative and helpful.
best, susie


Sara said...

Thanks for your suggestions. The shawl is gawwwwjous! I like Soak as well!

Judith said...

Very helpful. I also like to include my salad spinner in a Blocking Kit.I find it really helpful to spin off the water rather than squeezing and it is gentle as you control the pressure. It means anything takes less time drying and usually needs no wet towels around.In fact my salad spinner no longer sees salad nowadays, just knitting!

Debbe said...

So helpful! I am a relatively new knitter ( a couple of years), and I have always been so intimidated by blocking, but no more!! Thank you!

Debbe said...

So helpful! I am a relatively new knitter ( a couple of years), and I have always been so intimidated by blocking, but no more!! Thank you!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for sharing your process for hand washing. It really is easy!

Kate (KnitsInClass) said...

That was an excellent tutorial - I tell people over and over how easy it is to wash wool, because it's true! And, a good hand wash also helps preserve hand dyed yarns much better than a run through the washer.
I'm envious of your lovely shawl drying undisturbed :) Lots of little "helpful" hands (and paws) around here, so I have to hide my blocking pieces!

Anne said...

thanks! I needed that!

Suze said...

I agree!
Only with super wash wool, I find stuff sometimes stretches despite my best efforts and I have to stick it in the dryer for a few minutes to get back into shape. That's just what happens when they treat the wool not to felt, I guess. I don't like doing that, so I avoid super wash whenever possible.

Brandi Schoch said...

I've never used wool wash. I just use a gentle shampoo and a vinegar rise. I wouldn't mind trying a few different wool washes to see what the hubbub is all about. Quick question: isn't woolite good for wool?

Lisa said...

Love your shawl Susan! I'm just waiting for my yarn to arrive and this one will be on the needles!!! I'm doing mine in the Leek colorway!! Love love love this pattern! Thanks for the blocking tips!! :)

pens and needles said...

You've inspired me this morning to order the pattern and yarn. I chose Bird's Egg for my color -- cannot wait to receive it so I can cast on. I've sorta lost my knitting groove lately but I'm ready to get it back on!

Leanne said...

Thank you so much for your tutorial on blocking. I never knew about the long wires. I definitely need to get some for some capelets I made my girls. Do you have any tips on blocking a hood? Thanks! Leanne

Stefanie said...

I like how you have that separate, little tub. That's a great idea for shawls and garments.

Daisy said...

Thank you for this photo tutorial, it's great timing for a lacy scarf I'm finishing up. I have been waiting for months to purchase the Knitter's Block but they have been out of stock. I wonder if there's a similiar product out there?

mountain girl said...

Thanks, Susan! This is so helpful.
How important is a blocking board? (I normally spread my knits on a towel). And what kind of wool wash would you suggest? I am doing lots of baby things, so I would like something natural.


Tcsd said...

The idea of having a separate bin for washing knits is fantastic. I think that's the point that always hangs me up because I don't feel I have a great place to do it. I found a garden tub at Target that I bought since reading this and have already blocked a shawl! Hopefully this will reduce my pile of finished items so I can be wearing them! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Jaxie985 said...

I just finished blocking my second Praire Piper Shawl, this one made from Quince & Co Finch, the fingering wt. It's on the blocking boards now. Like you, I used Soak, but I use very warm water when I wash my woolen things. And I can still smel the scent on my hands!
I bought some flexible 1/16th stainless steel wires at the welding shop this morning, because the wire I had wasn't bendy enough for this shawl. I like the way you put the wire through the garter stitches on the curved edge, when I wash this shawl again, I'll try that technique.

abbie said...

Thanks so much for the detailed blocking information! Using it, I blocked a project I'd had sitting around for months and had been putting off for some reason. It turned out much better then the things I've blocked in the past!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this tutorial! I just finished my first shawl and blocked it according to your instructions. I just have one question: do you have to block the shawl every time you wash it, or only the first time?

Amy said...

Thank you! Just blocked my first lace project of many using your instructions. My husband left for work this morning and said "Sooo, are you going to iron it or what because it's all...squished." It certainly didn't look like the example this morning! Found your blog through pinterist

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh i can't believe you don't rinse out the wool do know that soap, despite its role is to clean things, is all chemicals? so unhealthy...

Teatimefan said...

Thank you for this blog! It was so helpful today when I soaked and blocked my first cardigan. It made me much less nervous about doing it. I'm definitely going to have to look into some flexible wires for getting bottom edges straight - I used pins since it's what I had on hand but the wires sound useful. Thanks a million!

Unknown said...

I LOVE your armchair there in the corner! The shawl is pretty too! Lol

Laura said...

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Hi. Can you make the blocking permanent by spraying with 10% vinegar and 90% water mixture like you can for permanent pleating?