Confessions of a Lazy Blocker

I’ve spent the better part of the summer working on a full-sized Hansel Hap for the arrival of my first wee one in October. It’s been a pleasant knit, but a big one, so I was thrilled when I finished the last of the border edging points a weekend or two ago.

On finishing, though, I was faced with a big question …. just how was I going to block it?

Here is where I make a confession. I love wet blocking. I really do. It does magical things to knitted fabric, and while I might occasionally pop a newly finished hat on my head without it touching water, pretty much everything I make goes for a nice long soak in the bath. BUT the bit that comes after — getting out the measuring tape, faffing around with pins, consulting schematics — well, sometimes my technique leaves something to desired. I’m just going to say it: I’m a lazy blocker. After my projects get their bath, I often simply smooth them out flat somewhere — maybe with a token t-pin or two — and hope for the best.

My lumpy and bumpy unblocked hap!

My lumpy and bumpy unblocked hap!

When my Hansel Hap came off the needles though, I knew it was going to need some actual attention to open up the simple lace bands and lace edging and smooth out some lumps and bumps — and to get as much growth as possible in the blanket, the better for wrapping a little baby in! Initially, I had dreams of getting my hands on a hap blocker, inspired by Jen’s excellent how-to on using one. Sadly though, I live too far from Jen to nip over and borrow hers, and with a recent house move and a baby due in a few weeks, making my own was not in the cards. So it was on to Plan B …

Having some good blocking tools really helps a lazy blocker like me. There are certain things that, no matter how good they will make my finished object look, I am just not prepared to do. Like individually pinning out every point of a shawl. Or lining up 100s of t-pins along a straight edge. That’s where blocking wires and pin combs come to the lazy blocker’s rescue. After letting my hap have a nice long soak and letting a towel absorb some of the excess liquid, I folded it in half on Jen’s advice (thanks Jen!) and got to work, using pin combs along the straight edge and wires held in place with some t-pins to stretch out the points. (And if you are interested in how to do this properly, Jen has video tutorials on using pin combs and blocking wires, as well as photo tutorials in Something New to Learn about Lace.)

You can see a small problem developing on the top right edge …

You can see a small problem developing on the top right edge …

The eagle-eyed among you will probably still spot that, even with my handy blocking tools, this is a fairly rough and ready job. Should I have used more pin combs on my straight edge? Yes (more on that in a second), but I didn’t have quite enough foam mats for the width of the hap, so there wasn’t a great place to secure them. Was I particularly careful about putting my lace wire through same part of every point on the lace edging? No — I blame dark yarn and the general physical discomfort I have bending and crouching at the moment. But using wires and combs, I was able to get the hap fairly well stretched out with minimal effort: perfect for a lazy blocker like me!

Because Shetland wool is amazing, the hap — even though it was sitting double layered — dried in less than 24 hours. When I unpinned and unfolded it, I was largely happy with the result. But my lax pin comb placement had let some of the knitted fabric shrink too much during drying, resulting in a few odd puckers on the corners. And because I hadn’t, ahem, exactly measured my hap as I pinned it out, I noticed my central square wasn’t quite symmetrical.

At this point, I considered grabbing a spray bottle and attacking the spread out hap for a second round of blocking with a tape measure and more pinning. That impulse lasted about 15 seconds. Instead, I reached again into my lazy blocker’s tool kit and this time pulled out an iron. A little bit of indirect steam took care of the puckering. The only thing that remained to do was final snipping of my ends — I always leave them a bit long so they have room to manoeuvre during blocking (another gem tip from Jen!).

And here’s the finished hap! It might not be perfectly blocked, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the result — or more excited to put it to good use in a few weeks’ time!

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The details: pattern is the Hansel Hap (full version) by Gudrun Johnston, knit in a mix of Jamieson and Smith Shetland Supreme, Jamieson and Smith 2ply Jumperweight, and Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift (more details on my project page). Tutorials mentioned: How to use a hap-blocking frame; Blocking Using Pin Combs; Blocking Using Lace Wires. Other helpful things: the A-C Knitwear shop has a range of accessories to help lazy blockers like me, including recently restocked Lace Accessories blocking bundles — you can find the full range of blocking tools here.