Fix-it Friday: Learn How to Use Blocking Wires
and Make Your Shawl Points Pointy!

Posted by on Sep 7, 2012 in Knitting | Comments


Fix-it Friday with Stefanie Japel.

I’m Stefanie Japel and I’m lucky enough to be a Craftsy instructor and part of the wonderful staff here at Craftsy HQ! Recently, I was asked to help a fellow Craftsy Staffer, Jenn, to help sharpen up the points on her shawl and thought that was a great opportunity to document the process and show you how I use blocking wires to block a lace shawl. If you’re a long-time blocking wire user, you may do the following steps in a different order, but this works for me. Be sure to share your methods in the comments!

 

 

Blocking Wires: Wet the piece thoroughly.

1. First you’re going to want to thoroughly wet the piece and blot out the excess water.  Be careful not to wring it or squish it too much, if you’re using wool yarn, it might felt! Although when you block some knitting projects you can just spritz the project with a plant mister or use a steamer, for this type of blocking the yarn must be really wet so you can stretch it as much as possible into the shape you want it to take.

 

Blocking Wires: Begin stringing each point with a blocking wire

2. Once the shawl has been soaked and the extra water gently squeezed out, lay it flat on the floor. Take your blocking wires – mine are from KnitPicks – and begin stringing each point through the wire. Blocking wires can be used to block any project that has linear edges, like sweater pieces, scarves, shawls, etc., but also bend for blocking projects that have curves. When putting the shawl points onto the wire, you want to get the wire as close to that last bind-off row as possible. Use the center stitch of each point as a guide so the point will be centered on the wire. Depending on how large the piece is you may need two to three wires to go down the entire side.

 

Blocking Wires: String wire through the edge of the side

3. Once all the points along that edge have been strung onto the wire, pin the center corner down. Use as many pins as you need to secure it (bigger pins are better for this, as they’re much sturdier than the small sewing pins that we had on hand at the office!). Start distributing these stitches along the wire to see what the length of the edge is. If the points fall off the wire on either end you need to use another wire for length. You may have to pin and re-pin several times throughout the process to adjust the shape. Remember that however you pull the shawl out, that’s the shape it’s going to be when it’s dry.

 

Blocking Wires: Cross wires over and begin blocking the other side.

4. At the point of the shawl, cross another wire over the first and begin blocking down the opposite side. How tightly you block or pull just depends on your own style, so pull it as tightly as you want!

 

Blocking Wires: Measure the length of each side.

5. Now you want to check the length of each side. Make sure that the lengths of both sides of the top and the lengths of both angled edges match up. Move the pins until opposite edges are the same length and the shawl is symmetrical down the spine.

 

6. Next we’re going to run blocking wires through the top edge of the shawl. The smaller increments you use when running this wire through, the straighter this top edge will be. If you use long increments, you might block points into the top edge of the shawl.

 

Blocking Wires: Pull the edges of the wire.

7. Pull out the edge wires to accommodate whatever shape the pattern calls for, or whatever shape you personally desire. The more you pull the edges out, the pointier those points will become. You can pin the edges to create straight lines or curves, it’s up to you and to the “give” in your yarn.

8. Now you want to pin along every edge to hold those points in place while the shawl dries. Be especially conscious of the center point to make sure it’s as spread out and defined as possible because that will be the focal point of the shawl.

 

9. Spot check the piece from above to make sure it’s symmetrical. Add more pins and adjust each corner pin as necessary to make everything match up (and measure up) correctly.

 

How to Make Shawl Points, Pointy!

10. Next we wait! Drying time depends on the yarn you used, the weight of the yarn, and humidity of your location. Here in Denver, Colorado it doesn’t take too long, but you want to make sure your piece is completely dry before taking the wires and pins out.

 

Jenn with her finished shawl points.    
I really hope you enjoyed this little “mini-lesson”! Jenn (Customer Service Manager, knitter, and photographer), Megan (copywriter and question-asker), and I had a great time working on it together today! Stay tuned for more “fix-it” lessons here on the Craftsy blog!

Have any suggestions or more tips for using blocking wires? Leave me a comment below!

Comments

  1. sheila e says:

    Thanks so much for this! I do appreciate all of the wonderful tutorials that you have produced! This one is especially important to know for anyone who does lace.

    1. Patti says:

      thank you so much for the lesson. I have made several shawls with lace, and now I know how to block the right way.

  2. Kate says:

    Hey Stephanie! I definitely appreciate that you mention you may have to adjust your pinning on the sides to get the look you want. The first shawl I ever blocked turned out a little wonky because I was too lazy to re-pin pieces after I had gotten them all down. One trick I’ve learned since then – especially for shawls with several points along the side – is to start at the center/bottom of the edge and the top edge and pin them in place, then find and pin the middle point, then find and pin the mid-point between those, and so on and so on. I find it distributes it better and doesn’t end up with some points squished together at one end and spread out at another, leading to the time-consuming re-pinning process :)

    1. Great trick, thanks for sharing it with us!!

  3. Susan says:

    How to block a finished knitted or crocheted garment has been the source of some discussion in my office lunchtime craft group. Thanks for showing us how it’s done!

  4. Stefanie, great tutorial! For the newbie blockers out there, this should jump start you into the blocking world. Don’t be afraid of the word “blocking” in your patterns! If your skittish, try blocking a swatch!

    Would love to read about ideas on how to make your own blocking wires! For those looking for blocking pads, the ones that look like puzzle pieces, try the toy department in your local stores!

    Keep up the good work Craftsy team!

    Sheila

  5. Elly B says:

    Great tutorial. One question – what do you pin it to? I usually put a towel under it to absorb moisture but wet towels take a while to dry. What is the best under-surface to use? Thanks

    1. You can use blocking mats if you have them, or a towel…I just use the carpet.

      1. Jennifer says:

        I found foam tiles to work great as blocking boards…and many other uses like protecting ur knees in the garden and a cushion surface to lay on while working on ur vehicle. I got mine from http://www.rubberflooringinc.com
        the 1″ floam interlocking tiles work awesome :D, they even posted a pic of my shawl on the boards to show the tiles have more use than just as for flooring lol

        1. Jennifer says:

          http://www.rubberflooringinc.com/interlocking-tile/foam/1-jumbo-soft-tile.html
          Heres the link to the exact tile i used, took me a min to find it, they changed the name lol. If you look in the second page of comments you can find parts of my shawl pinned with some of the blocking wires

          1. Awesome! I love the “diy” spirit in finding alternative sources for the pads / mats! They can be expen$ive!!

          2. Olivia says:

            They also sell the foam mats at Home Depot and I have even seen them at Costco. Not very expensive either.

  6. Teresa Felina says:

    So helpful, thanks a lot!!!!

  7. Amy says:

    You posted this at the perfect time, since I’m going to need to block a shawl with points soon. Fantastic, thanks!

    1. Yay! I’m glad that it’ll be useful for you! :)

  8. carole tomaszewski says:

    I have just purchased blocking wires because i a planning to start a lace shawl soon .This will really help me when i am ready to block the shawl, Thanks.

    1. Great! I’m so glad that this post was helpful for you! Be sure to comment here if you have any questions along the way.

  9. Lisa Skaanning says:

    Question…does the shawl keep it’s shape even after washing?

    1. You’d have to re-block with every washing.

  10. Bev Kennard says:

    Thank you for the wonderful easy to understand instructions on how to use the wires. I have them, just have never used them.

  11. Carole says:

    Really sweet – hopefully I won’t need to wash often…

  12. CINDI LINDSEY says:

    I have never seen how to use blocking wires so this was very instructive for me. Thanks so much

    1. You’re welcome! Thanks for the sweet comment! :)

  13. Therese L Black says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’m on my last few beaded rows of a shawl and have already bought by blocking wires. I’m afraid I’ll need more T-pins though! I will use this as a reference.

    1. We used pins that just weren’t strong enough…which is why there seem to be so many! I do recommend the t-pins, they can handle the pulling that you need to do to get a good block.

  14. Lisa says:

    What are the wires made of? Stainless steel maybe? Would love to get a bunch of those! :)

    1. I have no idea what they’re made of, they’re kind of a dark silvery color. You’ll want something that won’t oxidize or rust! Here’s where I got mine, maybe there’s something in the description that would give you more information: http://www.knitpicks.com/accessories/Lace_Blocking_Wires__D80589.html

  15. maryann65 says:

    Thanks. I just bought wires yesterday and have to use them today on the Celaeno shawl I just finished. I really needed this!

    1. Great! let us know how it goes! :)

  16. Bizzo says:

    Perfect timing for me, too! My first lace shawl just got completed, my blocking wires are purchased, and I am no longer afraid to get it blocked! I know what I’m doing this weekend!!!

  17. Becky says:

    Before using your blocking wires be sure to wipe them off thoroughly with a clean cloth!!!

  18. Carmen Iglesias says:

    Very neat and usefull the bloking of the shawl.

  19. Carmen Iglesias says:

    Great lesson!! I have not used blocking wires before, and I can see how much difference they make.

  20. Maragret says:

    Pens and key-chains have been popular for the long time

  21. I use mats that I purchased from Harbor Freight. They come in a pack of 4 that measure 2 ft X 2 ft each and are about $8. I also picked up some stainless steel welding wire from some fellows to use for blocking wires. They are about 6 ft long and are light weight enough that I can do Circular shawls and straight lines with them. The best part is that they didn’t cost me anything.