Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Two of life's great mysteries: binding off and blocking

The Windowpane Seaman's Scarf is, for all intents and purposes, complete--with the exception of the tricky blocking process. I really like blocking in theory--it's so full of promise. I always imagine that my finished objects will look like they were cranked out by machine, perfectly uniform, all their quirks and lumps smoothed over with a wave of the magic blocking wand.
The reality of blocking is not quite so rosy. Perhaps it's because I really don't know what I'm doing. There's only so much you can learn from the pages of a book; the rest, I'm hoping, comes with experience.
My first attempt at blocking, I decided to try the steam approach. I carefully laid out my newly finished scarf on my ironing board and got to work. Unfortunately, the scarf did not react as I hoped. No amount of steam forced through its fibers seemed to make any difference; my scarf still curled up into something resembling a tube--I'm no fashion expert, but last I checked, scarves were flat. I became so frustrated I decided that hovering the iron over the scarf was silly--I was just going to mash the thing into shape. Which worked, kinda. The scarf is now flat--too flat, as you can see at right. The yarn is mushed and stitches flat and ugly. It later occurred to me that the reason none of my efforts really panned out was that I'd knit my scarf with something synthetic--blocking doesn't so much work on acrylic. Hmph. It also eventually started curling up again anyway. So much for brute force.
My second blocking attempt, I tried the soaking method, drowning my scarf in the bathtub, squooshing out some excess water, and then carefully pinning it out to dry. I still failed, however, to learn the lesson about using cheap yarn. So again, my scarf is a curling disappointment (it's actually worse now than in the photo at left, as each fiber fights to revert to its original form). This is especially frustrating because this was my first cable project, and the edges keep curling in over the pretty cable, completely obscuring my great knitting accomplishment.
So, what will become of my latest scarf? I have high hopes, and will post pictures of the end result, whatever it may be.

Finishing a project also requires facing my second knitting foe: binding off. The process seems easy enough, but for each project I finish, I wind up with one edge that's about as flexible as . . . uh . . . something really not flexible . . . oh, I got it! About as flexible as George W Bush's foreign policy. Ho ho ho, I crack myself up. Anyway, I've tried the trick of using larger needles for the bind off, but basically I just end up with larger, rigid stitches. Since I haven't ventured much beyond scarves, this isn't really a big problem yet--no one's trying to fit their head through one end of a scarf. But unless I come up with some magical, flexibility-inducing bind off strategy in the near future, I think it might be a problem as I start working on more complicated projects.
As a side note, this topic reminds me of the episode of Spongebob Squarepants--yes, yes, SpongeBob--where he knits Squidward a sweater made of eyelashes and uses a watermelon to measure the hole for the head. Unfortunately it doesn't look like anyone has succeeded in violating Nickelodeon's copyright and posting that episode on YouTube, so, sadly, I don't have a clip for you.

1 comment :

leann said...

found your blog through the library post on The Nest MM board. I'm just getting into knitting too! And yeah...blocking scares me. But I have two very pretty Harry Potter-inspired scarves that are hopelessly rolled. Must try.