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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Knitting Today: The Blocking Board Project

Many knitting patterns end with the words: "weave in ends and block".  I always weave in the ends and but usually leave it at that.  The Barbara Walker Learn To Knit Afghan project has changed all that.

Recently some friends decided they wanted to knit the same afghan and learn all the stitches. This seemed like such a good idea that I decided to go back to the beginning of the book and read the introductory parts again so I could be a real mentor to these friends.  I found two things of particular interest:

 1. Barbara Walker seems to encourage knitting a gauge swatch!  What?!!! For an afghan square?  

In looking at my box of afghan blocks I discovered that knitting a gauge swatch would have been a very good idea.  At least one of the blocks will have to be re-knit because it is about 14 by 14 inches instead of the 10 by 10 inches that the garter stitch block is...the garter stitch block (Block #1) being the one by which all other blocks should be measured.

Box of completed Barbara Walker Learn to Knit Afghan squares
You will notice particularly that the stocking stitch square is rolled up like a scroll! 


2.  Blocking really does matter!  When I measured the blocks that I had completed they were all over the place in terms of sizes.

So blocking here we come...  I have blocking wires.  Somewhere stored carefully away.  The other night I was in a semi-sleep state (sadly, a rather frequent situation) when it occurred to me that 14-inch straight knitting needles would make great blocking wires for 10 by 10 inch afghan squares!

Having realized this, I went to one of my knitting needle stashes and found a pair of US size 0 needles and a pair of US size 1 needles in the 14-inch length.  This made me very happy.  Immediately threading the size 0's through one side I realized that even though these are metal needles, I should probably get another pair of size 1 needles as the size 0 needles will become curvey needles instead of straight needles if much stress is put on them for very long!  I will have to be very careful which sides of the squares I use to insert those very slim needles...

Homemade Blocking Board!
So, since I needed a blocking board, and did not have the money to purchase one, I looked around the house for something that could be used.  Several people suggested pinning the blocks to an extra bed.  Knowing myself, and my proclivity for failing to pick up EVERY LAST PIN, I decided that would not work for my family and friends who come to visit and stay overnight.

Some years ago we purchased a very nice elliptical trainer and the pads to go underneath to protect our nice floors.  There were several left over so one of them because the blocking board.  I marked out 10 by 10, 11 by 11, and 12 by 12 inch squares thinking that one of those sizes would work.  It turned out that 10 by 10 was what we needed.

 An essential part of blocking is to dampen the knitted wool for some little time before attaching it to a blocking board.  Here I had the block already "wired up" sitting between two damp washcloths.  After blocking this square I thought I might want to actually soak the squares in a sink of warm water for a while.  That works pretty well, too, but takes longer to dry out.

This  photo shows the block wired and installed on the blocking board.  It has not yet had its ends woven in...that will be coming soon!

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