Waifs down a mossy path: Dries Van Noten’s clothes for next spring.

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle

Dear Ann,
You are the Prophet of Block-it in America, and I am your devoted acolyte. Blocking is the way to true handknit salvation. It makes the nicest, most even garter stitch plump up and look even nicer and more even. It takes the scratch out of Noro Silk Garden. It straightens all wobbly lines. It is a chiropractor for biased stockinette.
But blocking wrecked my State Street Cowl.
Here we see the State Street Cowl, pre-blocking. Note the lovely texture.
statestreetpreblock.jpg
(Aside: this was a super quick, super fun knit. The yarn is Soul Wool Bauhaus in Bat Gray, as described in the post below. Took me approximately 4 hours in front of the TV over two evenings.)
Here we see the State Street Cowl after a short soak-and-squeeze. Flattened. Stretched all to hell.
statestreetblocked.jpg
Before y’all chime in and tell me I stretched it out too far–listen. I stretched nothing. The yarn absorbed the water and stretched itself right on out, with no encouragement from me whatsoever.
Do I still like it? Yes. Do I like it as much as I liked it before blocking? No. Will niece Maggie still wear it? I do not know, but that will not likely depend on whether I blocked it or not.
On the plus side: it now has a beautiful drape.
Next time I knit with an unspun, unstructured yarn like this–the Bauhaus is pretty much pencil roving–I will use steam instead of the full immersion method, and see if that tidies things up without all the stretching. This did NOT happen with the Twinkle Chunky Baby I used in my last Very Bulky Cowl. So maybe it’s just this yarn, or just this day.
riddaribadsleeve.jpg
In other news of Things Not Working Out All That Great, I knit the first sleeve for my second Riddari pullover, using the same size needle as I’d used on the body to get spot-on gauge of 4 1/2 stitches to the inch. Same SIZE needle, but different type of needle (wooden, short circ instead of metal, long circ). Fleetingly thought it was knitting up a little looser; brushed aside this thought while watching Argo at the cinema.
Measured gauge. It’s 4 1/4 stitches to the inch. This really does make a difference to the fabric. I think it’s possible that after washing and blocking, the gauge on the sleeve and body would equalize (my first Riddari really grew and plumped up), but I’m not feeling lucky with the blocking right now. It’s just a sleeve. Stop whining and re-knit the thing.
riddarireboot.jpg
Here we go again, with a smaller needle. Will check it a bit earlier this time.
HAPPY MONDAY!
Love,
Kay

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. The exact thing happened to me recently with a Snow Cowl knit in Cascade Eco+. It was squishy and bouncy and cheerful pre-block, but once it got wet it stretched out and lost its personality. I ended up re-wetting it, squishing it into a handful and just leaving that handful to dry. It didn’t regain its full bounce, but it helped a lot.

  2. Hmm. I guess this would be the wrong time to suggest that you swatch and launder before a project? yeah, me, neither…

  3. Maybe your yarns are missing Carrie as much as you are?

  4. Maybe your yarns are missing Carrie as much as you are?

  5. Hmmmm….. is it wrong for me to say I like the blocked version better?

  6. I almost NEVER wet block, for precisely this reason. Steam is, 95% of the time, more than adequate. Steam and a gentle patting. Damp it slightly (spray mist RS and WS) and chuck it in the tumble drier on hot – stand by the tumble drier and check it every 90 – 120 seconds or so. Generally 5 minutes when slightly damp will restore the bounce.
    But you really do have to watch it. Don’t start watching Downton instead or you’ll have a new coat for Olive.

  7. It was a sleeve gauge mismatch like yours (on an EZ EPS pullover) that got me started knitting sleeves with magic loop so I could use the same needles. Fourth try’s the charm! (And the sweater, a very plain Lite Lopi pullover, is my absolute favorite item to wear of anything I’ve knit in the past decade.

  8. I like the post-blocked cowl better too because you can see the lovely lace pattern. Who would ever think that you should do a gauge swatch for a cowl!

  9. You’re going to have to wash a cowl once in a while, so you’d have the same issue later on. Of course, then the recipient would have to do the fretting, rather than you.
    Your sleeve knitting makes me nervous. Smaller needle, are you kidding? Why not the metal long again? Oh, I’m slightly uneasy here….

  10. The same thing happened to me with an alpaca cowl…
    As Mary just wrote, since knits need to be washed eventually, it might be a good thing to find out how a yarn will react to water, before knitting something that’s a bigger investment in time and money, like a sweater…

  11. I recently encountered that blocking bugaboo, also. A lovely tweedy lambswool, Plymouth Tweed in a color affectionately named “baby poo” by my baby-nurse friend , and the texture-rich Warriston. I know from the swatch, ;D , that the rich texture will be lost in the blocking, so I’ve steam-blocked the stockinette bits and am planning to just wear it until it absolutely demands a laundering… Sigh.

  12. I recently encountered that blocking bugaboo, also. A lovely tweedy lambswool, Plymouth Tweed in a color affectionately named “baby poo” by my baby-nurse friend , and the texture-rich Warriston. I know from the swatch, ;D , that the rich texture will be lost in the blocking, so I’ve steam-blocked the stockinette bits and am planning to just wear it until it absolutely demands a laundering… Sigh.

  13. I recently encountered that blocking bugaboo, also. A lovely tweedy lambswool, Plymouth Tweed in a color affectionately named “baby poo” by my baby-nurse friend , and the texture-rich Warriston. I know from the swatch, ;D , that the rich texture will be lost in the blocking, so I’ve steam-blocked the stockinette bits and am planning to just wear it until it absolutely demands a laundering… Sigh.

  14. It must be the yarn. My montauk vest is all cables, soaked it, still lots of texture, just not so stiff. I still think it looks lovely.

  15. I went to the Soul Wool site, and sussed out enough of the Hebrew to see that almost every item says “coming soon.” But your yarn experience doesn’t seem to have been so great, even though it would be great to support products from Israel.

  16. Oh, Kay, I almost said something about this the other day! I felt exactly the same way when I blocked my “Magnifico” version, as you put it. Before blocking, I loved the way the ripples of the stitch pattern caused it to pile up on itself, almost like an accordion. It made me sad after blocking when it was all relaxed. But I’ve wound up totally loving the drape of it. So after having said I’d only steam it if I did it again, I’ve changed my tune.

  17. When I saw the first picture of the cowl, the stitch pattern reminded me of Monkey (the sock pattern, not the critter), before wearing (which is the sock-equivalent of blocking for me, unless the socks are a gift). Anyway, your post-blocking picture looks very much like the difference between the pre-wearing and post-wearing Monkey sock stitch pattern, also. So, maybe it has something to do with the stitch pattern? I dunno.
    I still think your cowl looks very pretty, by the way! But I know these little surprises can be rather unwelcome.

  18. I like it all stretched out, but it might bounce back a bit once it has dried and has been placed around a neck for a bit. It is still awesome either way.

  19. Kay, I cannot tell a lie, in 405 years of knitting, I’ve never blocked a single thing… Blasphemy, I know.

  20. Kay, I cannot tell a lie, in 405 years of knitting, I’ve never blocked a single thing… Blasphemy, I know.

  21. Kay, I cannot tell a lie, in 405 years of knitting, I’ve never blocked a single thing… Blasphemy, I know.

  22. Hi, Kay. Been there, done that. My sympathies. Something tells me there is no certain predictability for this phenomenon. How’d the dryer solution work for you? As for knitting plus “Argo”, what a combo. How did you ever keep track?

  23. Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day. Sometimes it just turns out that way….
    Yes and that goes for our knitting. Somtimes it just turns out that way. I do like the unblocked version. best, but there is something to be said for drape and definition of a lace pattern.
    HAPPY MONDAY!
    LoveDiane

  24. How I have missed this blog! I changed my life a bit and in the process changed computers and since it was not bookmarked, I totally missed the last 6 weeks of you all! Glad to see all the knitting goodness.
    PS – I wore my State Street Cowl for probably the last time this season – SPRING is coming!

  25. hmmmm. Have to appreciate the term “pencil roving” and would also finger it as the culprit here. I liked the comment about wetting and squishing cowl into a soft ball and leaving it to dry(ish) vs the lay it out flat method of blocking. Some yarns are just going to give up any structure they had upon meeting water, and I think the chunky/barely spun yarns are most likely to do so. Love the way you flaunt the old-timey rulebook of swatching and checking gauge, “take time to save time,” etc. Kay you are a true process/TV knitter but no one can touch your productivity either!

  26. Take a look at Veera V’s Shimmer in Blue cowl. Garter stitch, cables, and MMMMMalabrigo. Might be the trifecta of knitted cowls. Wait, that’s the Honey Cowl. A good backup pattern then.
    On a related note, had dinner in a college pub in Williamsburg, VA tonight and was surrounded by waiflike co-eds with grey infinity cowls carefreely encircling their necks. Coincidence that I recently bought two skeins of muted grey yarn for a cowl/hat set? Fear the beauty will not translate to my middle-aged “not fat but fluffy” self. Oh well.

  27. I broke a wooden needle once while knitting a Lopi sweater and continued with the same size metal needle – big mistake as it changed the gauge considerably!
    I took a finishing class with Deborah Newton a few years ago (she’s brilliant!) and she never wet blocks anything – and only occasionally uses a little steam. Her book is THE best ever (Finishing School)- give yourself a wonderful gift and order it today – you won’t be sorry, I promise!

  28. I keep thinking about why that yarn would behave that way. I feel somehow personally responsible for it not blocking in a cheerful way. The finished result is really beautiful, but it’s different from how it started. Weirdly frustrating.

  29. I have been known to toss something like that in the dryer. Not for long, and checking every 2 minutes, but it does the job. Fluffy, springy, just like you want it,

  30. I wonder if its the structure of the wool roving? If twist is energy, and it doesn’t have much energy, it might just lay around and relax when washed & dried?

  31. I have a cowl addiction to offer. ‘Fuyu’ on ravelry. 2 skeins, so far I’m halfway done after 2 nights, just about the pace of the honey cowl. You’ve been warned, you’ll want one in every color.

  32. Sorry to hear that about Soul Wool. (What does Tavy in the store say about it?) It’s made me think twice about blocking a sweater I’m finishing up in Takhi Jackson–big, fluffy, slubby, nearly roving. Might have the same problem.

  33. Well, if the cowl is a big hit and gets worn a lot eventually it will have to be washed (you know, immersed in water like it was) and blocked to dry. So this was always its inevitable fate. At least your niece won’t think she ruined the cowl by washing, it if she does. IMO, some yarns should just stay in a skein. This might be one of them.

  34. I’ll stand brave and almost alone: I think it looks much nicer blocked, as the stitch pattern shows up more cleanly and clearly! Now I shall run and hide.