A Long-Awaited Visit

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to see our family. This past weekend, we were able to travel to New York City to visit my children. We brought my mother’s piano (in a u-haul trailer) to my daughter who will USE it. We don’t use it and it’s a real shame that it just sat in the living room and wasn’t played.

On Saturday it was a gorgeous day and we walked parallel to the river with my daughters and their husbands and dogs to the weekly farmers market and to drop off their compost materials (they freeze it and then walk it to be composted every week!) My daughter’s step counter said it was more than 12,000 steps. She guesses it’s about 5 miles and the last bit was up hill. I haven’t walked five miles in forever! It was such a fun day and we completed it with a family dinner to celebrate (for the first time) my son’s 31st birthday. We were supposed to celebrate 30 last year when Covid required that we stay home.

I have been knitting! I knitted a pair of birthday socks for my son. I’ve never used this Schoppe-Wolle Das Paar sock yarn before. A customer last week bought a hank and asked that it be wound … I thought there was something wrong when it “broke” about half-way through until I realized that it was meant to happen! They made the yarn so that you get two socks that are the same! So, I had to try it and I loved it. I liked the hand (feel) of the yarn as I was knitting and the socks are exquisite! I’ve put aside two more hanks for future sock knitting.

I’ve begun a baby gift of socks for one of my daughter’s friends who had a new baby recently. The gift is socks for the boys – each the same, two-color socks (heels, toes and cuffs will be red and the body of the sock a marled gray.) I love knitting little socks! These are especially cute in my humble opinion.

When we got home I reinforced and steeked my Daytripper Cardigan. It’s thrilling to cut down the middle of a sweater and have the stitches hold. I’ve since picked up my stitches for the button bands and only have to secure the back side of the steek and find eight buttons to make the sweater wearable … just in time for warmer weather. I’ve steam blocked it to make it easier to steek but I’ll still give it a good wet block before it’s really and truly finished.

This is the beginning of my next “surprise” gift. New felted clog slippers for my LA brother. I made him a pair … I did the knitting and my sister-in-law did the felting and added the slipper soles … a bunch of years ago and they’re holey. She asked if I’d make him a new pair … we’ll handle it the same way as last time so they are felted to fit his feet (they live in Louisiana so it’s difficult to do at a distance!) This time he’s getting some LSU slippers. I decided to hold two strands of the different colors together which will make them quite different from the former pair that were dark gray or black. I hope he loves them. He’s such a LSU fan that he had a purple leather chair.

We came home on Monday to another beautiful day and the blossoms of spring in Maine. The forsythia is blooming and the rhubarb is starting to grow. It won’t be long before strawberry rhubarb jam season. My bleeding heart plant is growing so fast that I think you could actually see it growing. The daffodils are up and the birds are all traveling through … no sign yet of our hummingbirds but I’m sure they’ll be here early this year.

Life is good.

Gone knitting.

Wet Blocking vs. Steam Blocking vs. Spritz Blocking

Some tools you'll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

Some tools you’ll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

It took me awhile, when I started knitting, to figure out just what blocking means. There are a few (maybe several) terms that knitters use regularly that are not really clear to those who are new to the craft. So, I’m going to try to give a general description of two often-used blocking techniques – wet blocking and steam blocking.

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Blocked Shawl – wool. Wet blocked.

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Close up of what happens to garments when blocked – the lacy details just come alive!

For most sturdy fibers, I like to wet block. Wool is a sturdy fiber (and if it has a little bit of man-made fiber blended in, it’s still sturdy enough). I would also suggest wet blocking linen garments. I’ve read that some people “whap” their linen once soaked … sounds violent to me but I know it does get “softer” when washed a couple of times.

To wet block a garment, you want to immerse the garment completely in cool water mixed with a little bit of wool wash like Eucalan or Soak. Gently lift your garment out of the water and gently squeeze the extra water out. Never (NEVER) wring hand-knit garments. I usually put the garment on a clean bath towel, roll it up and then press gently to get even more water out of the garment. Then lay it flat on a blocking board or a new clean towel on your guest room bed. Or on an infrequently traveled area of wall-to-wall carpet. Gently pull the garment to the right shape and measurements and let it dry. It may take a couple of days.

An alternate method is to steam block. I set my garment on a clean bath towel and with my steam iron set to the steam setting, Pin the garment into the shape/size that you want it to be. I hold the iron over (without touching) the garment and give it a jolt of steam or two or three. The heat and moisture will relax the fibers enough to make it possible to give it a little bit of adjustment. Let it dry completely. (Another way I’ve heard some people steam block is by using a wet (clean) pillow case on top of the garment and putting the iron onto the pillow, pushing the steam button, until the pillow case is dry. This is a gentler method than wet blocking and you should get the same result.

Note: If your garment is made of hand-dyed wool, and the color isn’t “fixed” and you see dye in the water when wet blocking, you can also add a little bit of white vinegar (a cap-full or two) which should help “fix” the dye. If color is bleeding, keep rinsing with cool water until the water runs mostly clear.

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette (it’s for sale, if you’re interested)

The last method that I want to discuss is spritz blocking. If using this method (which is good for any fibers you have doubts about soaking in water or steaming with an iron … in my house that’s alpaca, silk, mohair, cashmere and anything I’m not sure of … I pin it into shape and then spritz it with a plant sprayer. Make sure the sprayer is clean (hasn’t been used for cleaning chemicals or anything) and filled with water and just spritz the garment until it’s moderately damp. Leave it there until it’s dry.

There you have it. A primer, if you will, on blocking. I hope this helps!

Gone knitting!