Morning has broken in Sandwick and a jolly fine one it is too. Today I will be mostly knitting in the Hub and doing some natural dyeing. But yesterday was all about the technical stuff. Sometimes it is when you are forced down a route you had not planned upon that the journey becomes most fun. Yesterday was a case in point.
I had not been able to get one of the classes I had hoped for, it had sold out in minutes. So as my second choice I opted for Dressing Shetland Knitwear, in other words how to block your knitwear once you finally get it off the needles. When I first began to knit I was desperate to wear my creations, I didn’t want to have to wait for them to be blocked. But now I understand the magic that takes place when the knitting, upon which you have bestowed some of the best hours of your life, is transformed from mere knitting to a thing of beauty – and a thing that actually fits – blocking can be a dark art too!
I, like most knitters, usually block with pins. This involves finding a very large unoccupied double bed or a room with a huge clear floor upon which no animal (two, four, six or eight legged) will roam unhindered and then painstakingly shaping and pinning and reshaping and repining, stopping for tea, resuming the pinning stopping for gin to lift the sagging soul and finally accepting that this is the best that can be achieved (and that sleeve hanging over the side of the bed will be fine really).
Rachel and Freya Hunter put a stop to that pain. It will involve Stuart (a) doing some magic with 4 x 4 and creating a hap board and possibly “investing” in a jumper board (if I can find one for sale) but it will be worth it.
This hap is about 5ft square. That is a lot of hap! Once washed and spun dry a single piece of mercerised cotton is threaded through the edges (being careful to thread through a couple of rows of knit to ensure the yarn doesn’t snap as it dries!)
Once all the loops are wrapped around the pins it is time to start pulling and stretching to ensure that the hap is evenly laid across the board. It is slightly scary pulling something so beautiful so tight but the yarn (in this case 2ply jumper weight) is strong – AS LONG AS IT IS DAMP! If you let it dry and pull tightly it can snap so keep a spray bottle to hand if it feels as if it is drying before you have finished the adjustments.
The hap board is a VAST improvement over pinning on the floor. Not only is it far easier to adjust and obtain a neat square (or circle) but it stands upright so takes up almost no space and as it is open to the air on both sides it dries faster and more evenly. Stuart has been given his instructions!
The jumper board was a thing of wonder and beauty, but also rather hard to obtain (believe me I have been trying).
This too is fully adjustable and ensures an even blocking on both sides. I think creation of this may be beyond even Stuart, but if there are any joiners out there who would like to give it a go, please let me know.
Lacework has to be blocked, even the most beautiful work (which mine is not) has a tendency to look like a dishcloth until it is given the blocking treatment. But did I ever think about using a board for lace scarves? Reader I did not!
First we folded this cockleshell scarf in half and tacked the sides using running stitch. Then it was pulled over the end of the board and adjusted until the sides were flush. Three lengths of yarn, each four times the length of the end of the scarf to the end of the board were threaded through each peak (again make sure you thread at least two rows in). Then the thread was carefully pulled and tied with a slip knot and the peaks adjusted until they were exactly (ish – we weren’t entering our scarf in a competition where symmetry is measured in mm!) the same length and matched on the back on the front. How simple, yet how clever is that?
Finally hats, gloves, socks and mittens. Meet Fred.
This is my 2019 Wool Week Roadside Beanie. Traditionally hats would have been blocked on balls but a balloon (ecological caveats notwithstanding) enables you to match the hat size to your own head. Measure your head where the brim will lie. Blow up the balloon to the same size, thread waste yarn through the edge of the ribbing and fit the damp hat over the balloon (and in my case insert ear plugs as the noise is horrible!). Tighten the waste yarn. Face optional.
There was time for a very quick cheese and pickle sandwich and then I hotfooted it (with Fred in tow) up to Market Street for a workshop designing a stranded colour work motif for a shawl based on flowers from the Shetlands.
I had no idea what to expect and Felicity of Knitsonik did not disappoint any of my rather wobbly expectations of what I might be able to achieve. First we had to choose our colour. No problem there, orange please. And then our flower. Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca).
But then the hard work began, how to turn the idea of the flower above into a motif that can be repeated throughout the shawl using the colours not to paint a picture of the flower but to represent the flower throughout the shawl. Much chewing of pencils over squared paper and much creation of strange pacman like flowers but I got there in the end.
I’m not explaining this very well I know. Maybe it’s best to have a look at Felicity’s website!
However these are my colours
I would love to show you my finished motif. But sadly I didn’t finish it! However, I now think I know what I am doing and have the resources to start the multicoloured swatch. Watch this space.
Now time to get my tam out and get those needles clicking.
Love Gillie x