If you’ve knitted a lace shawl, tablecloth, or doily and want the lace patterns show effectively, you need to block it (look at the before and after pictures to see how much better the lace looks). Here’s how I block all my lace shawls (and tablecloths, and doilies, and edgings, etc. — anything of knitted lace).
Others may do it other ways (check a book on Shetland lace shawls for pictures of lace shawls tied into wooden frames for stretching), but here’s what I do for all lace scarves, shawls, etc. (be they cotton, wool, alpaca, silk, or whatever) that need to be blocked out well for the lace to show to best advantage:
FIGURES – Rose of England Tablecloth – during knitting. Note this pattern is not my own design.
FIGURES – Rose of England Tablecloth – knitting finished, but unblocked (ruler is 24 inches long)
wedding doily (not my design), knitted but not blocked.
- Find a flat, padded, COLORFAST surface that’s big enough for the project (I use my double bed with white bottom sheet and mattress pad or my futon sofa-bed with a tablecloth spread over it). You can also use a carpet or large panels of Styrofoam insulation covered with a sheet or tablecloth.
- Wash the shawl as appropriate for the fiber, drain and press out excess water (I roll it in a bath towel, put the towel in the empty bathtub, then step on the roll to get all excess water out).
- Without stretching, gently move shawl from towel into a heap on the pinning surface.
- Gently stretch out the piece (with right side up if the shawl is not reversible) and determine where the edges will be pinned — e.g., for a round shawl, put the center of the shawl in the center of the pinnable
surface; for a triangular shawl, be sure the shawl is positioned so the long front edge will fit and the point will too (it the shawl is way too big even for a big bed, try folding it symmetrically in half and pinning the two halves as if they are one smaller item — putting all pins through both layers into the pinnable surface underneath, and then pin the fold every inch, too).
FIGURE – Unblocked Wedding Doily on blocking surface (futon covered with tablecloth) with blocking supplies (ruler and/or tape measure, rustproof pins, spray starch for doilies)
5. Pin out the edges, pulling as far as easily humanly possible (no superhuman strength needed here), putting in a RUSTPROOF pin every inch or so on straight or curved edges or one in each point of a pointed-lace edge. (I like to use glass-headed pins at least 1.5 inches long) If the lace is a circle, be sure that the distance from the center to the edge is the same all the way around (so you have a circle instead of an oval). If the lace is a square or triangle or rectangle or other geometric shape, be sure it’s still the appropriate shape after it’s pinned (I use a stainless steel ruler or yardstick to measure and be sure).
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If there are points on your edging, be sure they are equidistant apart (I usually eyeball the distance).
6. Let lace dry COMPLETELY before removing pins. If it is at all still damp it will retract to a smaller size and your gorgeous lace will not show to best advantage. OPTION: Have a ceiling fan or rotating fan blow over your wet project to dry it quickly in order to avoid any potential rust marks from pins or color bleeding from the pinnable surface (this is almost mandatory in humid climates and is also good in dryer climates) — I always use a fan.
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7. Take the pins out and Voila!!
8. NOTE — if your project is a lace tablecloth or doily instead of a shawl and is made of cotton or linen (or similar) I always add one more step — after step 5, I spray the damp pinned out lace with spray sizing or starch. Then I store the items gently folded or rolled. For long storage, wash the item and store unstarched.
P.S. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the round doily at the way top left (not my own design) is not quite a perfect circle (the bottom right quadrant is a little out of shape). I guess I didn’t follow my own rules well enough — I think I eyeballed the circular shape instead of measuring it.