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