Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blocking Haruni

Haruni was a labor of love from the start.  My creative, experienced lace knitter friends started working on the Haruni Shawl by Emily Ross, as a group project.  At first, I thought about using a smooth, silky yarn for Haruni, but I was drawn back to the chosen Habu yarn for its uniqueness.

The yarn is 1/14 spiral slub.  It's 51% wool, 20% polyester, 20% nylon.  Lace knitters might make the following assumptions:
  1. Slub yarn?  Forget it.  The lace pattern won't show up well.
  2. Wool with polyester and nylon? Forget it.  It won't block well.
  3. It's thread!  Forget it.  Too fine.
I couldn't help myself; it was a challenge.  I knit a little swatch.  The slubs made it more difficult to  keep an even tension, but the texture was interesting enough to keep going.  The yarn stretched and retracted in a weird way, probably due to the spiraling nylon and polyester.  Blocking was going to be interesting.

The pattern is repetitive until you get to the border, which requires a bit of concentration to get it right. I added several repeats to get the size I wanted, since the thread was so fine, even though I was knitting with size US3 needles.  I ended up with nine pairs of leaves per side, plus four center leaves. Big, open, superfine laciness.

I only had two cones of Habu, at 435 yards each.  From the notes on Ravelry and the pattern, I gathered that I would need about half of my total yardage for the border.  As the shawl gets bigger, I believe the ratio of border to shawl is reduced.  I needed approximately half of my second cone for the border leaves.

Initially, I planned to use some light violet silk for the border.  The silk is lovely, but it's much better suited to smaller needles and a denser fabric.  It was purchased from John Marshall at Stitches West this year.

Instead, I stayed with the Habu and beaded the border! The tiny 11/0 seed beads are slightly iridescent and accent the purplish binding thread that runs through the shawl. The tough part of the beading process was the size of the beads and the slubbiness of the yarn. I used a size 12 steel crochet hook to add the tiny glass beads as I knit, and often I had a bit of trouble pulling those slubs through.

So, here are the blocking photos.  I basically blocked it as I wanted it to look, rather than by any book or rule.  However, I did use common sense and experience as guides.

Haruni unblocked and unwashed
After laying out the shawl flat on my blocking board, I decided how I wanted to block it.  It was too large for the board.  My choices would be to a) block one half at a time, left side then right side, holding the center line straight with a blocking rod; b) block the main body and center point first, and finish the wing extensions separately afterward; c) use the big piece of berber carpet I have rolled up in the garage for the purpose of blocking large lace items.  I chose (b).

First I soaked the shawl in a cool water bath for about five minutes.  I added a drop of dishwashing liquid to the water and swirled it around, without too much agitation.  I did squeeze the soapy water through it a couple of times.  Then I rinsed with water of the same temperature.
Haruni in a cool water bath with a drop of dishwashing liquid

Haruni rolled in a towel

Gently squeezing Haruni to remove excess water
After the wash, I pinned out the top center and bottom center of the shawl.  I put the top edge on a rod -- except for the eight inches (or so) of wing extensions that I would block later.
Bottom center point pinned out

Top center area on a blocking rod
Then I pinned out every other pair of leaves, starting at the bottom, and working side to side -- two leaves on one side, then two leaves on the other side.
Pinning out every other pair of leaves
Then I pinned out the rest of the leaves, just two loops in the middle of each pair of leaves.  I tried to balance the two sides, so they would look about equal.  This shawl is curved and very fine.  You may hear knitters talk about blocking "by feel" or "by eye" -- basically, blocking using experience and common sense.
All the leaves pulled out and pinned
Then I pinned out all of the loops for each pair of leaves, followed by the few loops in between each pair.

Pinning out all the loops
Considering how many pins have to be pushed into a fairly rigid surface, I used this leather thimble.  It has a small metal disk built into the thumb pad area, and is very comfortable to wear.
Leather thimble

What happens when you push a pin too hard
These are the wing extension I mentioned that needed to be blocked last.  They extended too far over the edge of my blocking board.  I could have been industrious and looked around for some foam or some other surface to use as an extension, but decided to block these after the main blocking was completed.
Wing extensions to be blocked last
So I completed pinning the main body of the shawl, and I spritzed it with a bit of water.  Some of the shawl had dried a bit while I was pinning.  I wanted it to be evenly damp and dry evenly, holding its shape.
Spritzing the pinned shawl with a little water
Then it was time for break.
Lovely dark chocolate from the only chocolate factory in San Francisco

Pet the puppy
Back to work.  I unpinned the huge thing, laid a sheet down over the blocking board, and spread the shawl out again.  This is because I planned on using spray starch to finish it, and didn't want the starch on my board.

To finish, I used no pins.  I lightly sprayed one half of the shawl with Niagara spray starch.  Then I laid a white pillowcase on top of the shawl and used a medium iron (wool setting is okay) and gently ironed on top of the pillow case.  It's important to keep checking the piece underneath to make sure it's laying properly and to make sure your yarn doesn't melt!  Remember, I was using a yarn with polyester and nylon components, so anything was possible.  Also, if using beads, make sure that the beads are somewhat heat resistant.  I've used Japanese glass beads before, and they hold up well under this type of blocking and a light iron.  If possible, it's best to test a swatch first (I was impatient, but it would have been the smart thing to do).  Some beads can melt or change color.  You just have to be careful.
Haruni ready for a light starch
Then I pinned out the wing extensions.  This is where I made a slight error.  When I sprayed a little water on the wing after it was pinned, I also dampened the pre-blocked area around it.  No problem, right?  But it did soften up the points on the leaves adjacent.  I had to re-pin and block the points to make them sharp and pointy again.
Pinning out the wings
I decided to be really picky and pin out a few more points as well.  The loops were very reluctant to stay sharp, but I kept after them, and eventually, with pinning and starching, they behaved well.
Wings pinned with adjacent points repinned

Final result on a black background


Anonymous said...

thank you soooooo much for this post - it's so enlightening! and your shawl is so beautiful!


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I am having a heck of a time pinning mine out properly. I have plenty of surface but for every pin I place I have to move five I already placed.