Monday, January 21, 2013

Vortex Shawl - How to Block a Circular Item or What I Do When I Am Too Sick To Run

I spent the past weekend bundled up indoors recovering from a respiratory virus. With all this downtime I finished up one project and even got around to blocking it. As the knitters who read this blog may know, lace doesn't look like much until it is blocked. 
Vortex Shawl pre-blocking

Now, I have knit many triangular shawls, but have not knit a circular one in nearly 20 years, and I don't think I bothered to block that one. Blocking wires work great when there are straight edges involved, but I don't have any that are flexible enough for this application. A little internet research (thanks Ravelry) led me to search out some fishing line. 

Super Strong and Nearly Invisible

But first things first. Into a sinkful of warm, soapy water (Dr. Bronner's Unscented Liquid Soap) to soak:
Wool Floats

After a nice long soak and a rinse it was time to squeeze the excess water out.  The key to washing woolens (or any fiber that will felt) is to keep water temperature changes to a minimum, avoid agitating the item, and never wring (twist) the item.

Laid out on a clean towel

A little extra weight applied to squeeze out the last bit of water

Now it was time to run the fishing line through the edging. Per some instructions I found I pinned a fabric measuring tape to the center of the shawl so I could achieve an even radius. I then pinned out the shawl, working first on one side, then the other to keep the tension as even as possible. 


It took over an hour to get this pinned out. I then spent some time tightening the fishing line to more evenly pull out the edges of the shawl. If you click on the photo below you might be able to see how I anchored the  ends of the fishing line to some extra pins to hold the line taut.

The shawl ended up being about 40 inches across, smaller than I initially thought it would be. Not sure what, or who, this is for, yet.


Patricia said...

THAT is crazy gorgeous. I love how the colours are circles and the lace is the vortex. Hypnotizing!

wildknits said...


Thank you! At some point, when the light is just right I want to get some additional photos. When folded in half there is a cool effect that happens.

AlisonH said...

Very cool! Beautiful shawl!

Susan Tomlinson said...

Super cool! I am starting to think I might have to take up knitting...

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the shawl I am trying to block out. Did you use any blocking wires? Sounds like I need another set of block mats and way way more pins, and fishing line. I love your colors!

Is this on ravelry?

Audrey Lintner said...

That is a slick idea! I once had two Vortex shawls to block at once, and not enough floor space. Ran some blocking wires through the picots (alternating one from each shawl) and whip-stitched the whole damp mess to my exercise hoop, which wasn't in use anyway because who am I kidding?

I'll have to try the fishing line radius method; might help with math homework! ;)

wildknits said...

Apologies for not seeing these comments sooner (apparently Blogger stopped notifying me of comments).

Susan - of course I think you should take up knitting. But I am biased on that count ;-)

Anonymous: I did not use any blocking wires. Just the fishing line and a lot of T-pins. I have two sets of blocking mats (18 in total) and there are times I wish I had more. What I also need is a larger space to lay them all out in for really big pieces (small home living = small rooms).

Audrey - I learned the fishing line method years ago before I had blocking wires. Works well for all manner of shawls and scarves, but especially for round ones. I actually have a piece of lacework framed - it is held in place with fishing line (or the fancy framing version of the same).