Acer CAL: How to block your Acer shawl by Joanne Scrace
Once you’ve finished crocheting your fabulous Acer shawl, you will need to block it to achieve a neat, shaped elegance that will finish it off beautifully! Joanne Scrace from the Crochet Project is here to help with her simple how-to guide to blocking…
Not so very long ago I had never heard of blocking. I would look at the beautiful knitting and crochet in the magazines and sigh – mine didn’t look nearly as neat. Then I found out their secret. Blocking! Now my finished objects have the beautiful smooth, even appearance I hoped for.
Perhaps you are the same and you haven’t yet heard about the wonder of blocking? Perhaps you have heard about it but aren’t quite sure how or why you would do it?
Here is my quick guide:
What is blocking?
Its the process of setting your stitches in place. It is sometimes known as dressing. It can be as simple as washing and drying flat or can involve pins and wires to get the right shape and size.
What do you need?
- A bowl of hand-warm water – about 30 or 40C – large enough to submerge the shawl in.
- A non-rinse wash – this is optional but I recommend using a specially formulated no-rinse wash solution such as Eucalan in the bowl as it cleans, adds fragrance that is off putting to moths, smells amazing and, because it is no rinse, you don’t risk felting the wool when rinsing.
- A surface that is large enough to lay the shawl out flat, ideally is non absorbent so the shawl dries quicker and do a little test to make sure no colour or dirt comes off the surface when wet. It would be a shame to ruin your hard work when the varnish comes off your floor. You can buy specialist blocking mats that clip together like a jigsaw to make a variety of shapes and be easy to store.
- Non-rusting pins – these are optional, and only needed if you want to make the shawl bigger or to create a lacy efffect. The non-rusting requirement is non-negotiable though! Do not use dressmaking pins, many hard hours work will be ruined with little rust marks. If you are using them without wires you will need about 70 for the smallest size Acer and more, the bigger you have made it. If you are using them with wires you’ll need about 10.
- Blocking wires – again these are optional but if you are using them they need to be bought for the purpose so they have been treated not to rust. Using wires speeds up the process of blocking considerably so if you think you will be washing and wearing your Acer a lot or you have plans to make more shawls it is a worthwhile investment.
What do you do?
Your shawl needs to start off with a good soak. Washing the finished shawl gets rid of any dirt or oil from the fibres that may have been put there in the industrial processes or from your hands as you worked. Fill a bowl with handwarm water and about a teaspoon of the non-rinse wash (if using). Place the shawl in the bowl and leave to soak for twenty minutes or so, long enough that all the fibres get wet through. This not only gets the shawl clean but prepares the fibres ready to be stretched if desired.
Take the shawl out of the bowl and gently squeeze the excess water out. Be careful not to rub or press to hard as you risk felting. Place the shawl onto a clean towel, and roll the towel up to squeeze out the water.
Now you need to decide how you would like your finished Acer to look. If you love the textured finish of the bobble shell and the shawl before blocking was about the size you wanted it then all you really need do is dry it flat. Lay it out, pull it gently into the correct triangular shape, making sure that it is evenly spread out and all the little points and curves are even and flat. Leave it until it is completely dry. Easy, job done!
If you want a more lacy, open effect or you want to make your shawl a bit bigger then you will need to use pins and or wires to stretch it into shape. Pins and wires both give the same effect but blocking wires make the whole process much easier.
To use pins:
Start by laying the shawl out flat. Beginning on one edge stretch the shawl until you get the lace effect and or size you want. Pin at the two ends of that edge. Repeat with the other edges. Smooth the shawl out and begin pinning each point so that it is an even distance from the last and they are evenly spread across the distance of the edge. This takes some time so be patient and make sure you are pinning into the same point of the pattern each time for an even effect.
To use wires:
Starting at one of the points, take a long wire and run it in and out of the points on the pattern being careful to work into each point at the same place in the stitch for an even finish. Repeat with the other two sides. If the wire isn’t long enough for the edge then take a second wire and continue threading. Now lay the shawl out flat and pin the wires on the first edge so that they form a straight line. Repeat for the other edges, smoothing and making sure that the shawl is evenly stretched until it gets to the size you want or the lace pattern is as open as you want.
If, with either pins or wires, you can’t get the size or effect you want straight away because it won’t stretch far enough you can do this in a second round of blocking. Let the shawl rest and begin to dry for an hour, come back and stretch and repin the shawl a little larger. Giving it an hour lets the fibres adjust to the new stretch and be ready to stretch a little more.