Blocking your knitting is not always essential, but when it comes to lace knitting, blocking makes a huge difference. When you are knitting a lace project, you might be disappointed by the way it looks, all jumbled up on the needles. It's often a bit of a mess that doesn't look anything like the picture you might have seen with the pattern.
That's because lace needs to be blocked to reach its full potential. While blocking lace can be tedious, it isn't all that difficult and you'll be richly rewarded with a project that looks beautiful.
All you need to block lace is the finished lace project, a sink, some wool wash or liquid dish detergent, a place to pin out your work, a towel or several and a whole bunch of rust-proof pins. A tape measure or yard stick is also very helpful for making sure your edges are even.
You can buy blocking boards or foam pieces that lock together like a child's floor puzzle (heck, you can even buy a child's floor puzzle for this purpose) or you can use a towel for a small project or a spare bed or the floor for a large project.
The key is that it's somewhere big enough to stretch the project out that won't be harmed if it gets a little wet and where the project can stay while it dries. Even large lace projects dry pretty quickly because they're full of holes.
You can also buy fancy rust-proof pins made just for blocking, called T-pins, or even wires that you run the edges of your knitting through -- these are particularly good when you have a scalloped or saw-tooth border on your piece so you can block every point evenly. Or you can just use pins made for sewing.
Preparing the Lace
I always use a wet blocking method for blocking lace, which involves giving the project a little soak in a sink or tub of lukewarm water with a little bit of wool wash. This relaxes the fibers and gets them ready to be stretched.
I like to let a project sit for 10 or 15 minutes before blocking to make sure the water has penetrated the fiber well.
Drain the basin and rinse the project carefully, pressing the water out without wringing. Use a towel or two to lay out the project, roll it up and gently squeeze out more water.
Blocking the Lace
Lay the project out on your blocking board or whatever you are using and begin to pin. I usually start with the corners, stretching the project out to the desired size as I go (if you're working from published instructions they should tell you what the finished size ought to be).
After pinning the corners, I place a pin in the center of each edge, then in between that pin and the corner pin and so on until there are pins about every inch. Some projects won't need as many pins; some will need more.
If your lace edging has points, you will want to put a pin into every point.
As you work, check and double check that you're stretching the lace evenly and that you are maintaining a consistent width and length across the project. This is one reason a blocking board is so great: it has grids on it that make it easy to ensure your project will have straight edges.
Once you've pinned the edges straight to the size required, let the lace dry completely before removing the pins and using the project. Again, this shouldn't take more than an afternoon or so unless you've used a really heavy yarn.
When lace has been properly blocked, you'll see the pattern that you expected and the beauty of the design will shine through in a way it never could have if you'd failed to block the lace.