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Technique Thursday – Blocking Shawls

by Rebecca Redston February 13, 2014

After putting hours of work into a shawl I know it can be tempting to wrap it around your neck and start wearing it immediately but if you really want to show off your knitting then you’ll want to block it, my favourite bit! It’s like magic and completely transforms a pile of knotty yarn into a beautiful shawl. Blocking 4-ply / fingering weight yarn is not quite as magical as blocking laceweight but it’s still pretty special. The pictures above are of my Gigantic Orchid Thief that I knit during the Orchid Thief KAL we did in October of 2012.

Before blocking

You can see that straight off the needles the stitches aren’t very well defined and the edge curls in. The photos below are of my Sherilyn from the KAL we did in September of 2013.

Soak your shawl in lukewarm water, and if you’d like add a non-rinse wool wash such as Eucalan or Soak to the water after filling the basin to avoid lots of bubbles.

After about 20 minutes, gently scoop out the shawl using both hands being careful to collect it all in your hands. When the yarn is wet it’s much heavier and delicate fibres can be damaged.

Gently squeeze out the excess water before laying it out on a towel. Roll the shawl up in the towel and squeeze it again. I walk up and down on mine so the towel soaks up as much water as possible.

Next, lay the shawl out flat to dry. You could use blocking mats, a spare bed, or the carpet. You’ll probably want to find somewhere you can leave it for a day or so to dry. As it’s a lace shawl it won’t take nearly as long as a sweater to dry, especially if you’ve rolled it up in a towel and stomped out the water. 

Ysolda shared the advice below in the Follow Your Arrow Group

My main advice for blocking is to follow the major design lines. Start by stretching out the spines and then the upper corners. And then you can pin the points out between with the middle lower corners and upper edge more or less rounded depending on shape. But there’s not really a wrong way – B could be blocked with the edge scalloped rather than in points. Blocking wires are immensely helpful but definitely a luxury rather than a necessity.

Pin out the shawl using pins, blocking wires or the String Method. I prefer T-pinsover regular sewing pins as they are stronger and the T shaped head makes them easier to push in when you have tension on the pin. You can get two different types of blocking wires: straight or flexible, both types are useful but not necessary. We have both here in the studio and I quite often use a combination of both for blocking. The flexible ones are really useful for achieving a nice even curve. 

Scroll through the photos above for more examples of blocking shawls. Warning spoilers for Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

After blocking – crisp well defined stitches

Ta da!  Stand back and admire those beautiful stitches!  Once your knitting is completely dry carefully remove your pins or wires and wear your shawl with pride. You can click through the photos below to see more blocked shawls but beware of spoilers if you are participating in the Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL.

Yes this is an updated version of the Blocking post I did for the Sherilyn KAL, but we felt it was an appropriate time to update it as many of you are finishing off your Follow Your Arrow shawls


Rebecca Redston
Rebecca Redston



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