Tech Tip: Blocking your Shawl
 
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Almost all knitting looks better when it has been blocked, but I think shawls are a special case. The difference between a shawl just off the needles and one that has been through a blocking bath is often night and day. After hours of work on a project, it can be discouraging to learn that there’s one more step before your beautiful shawl is truly finished. Blocking is one of those topics that can have new knitters feeling skittish, but it is actually one of the most magical parts of knitting. Stretching out your shawl to reveal its true beauty is a wonderful moment. All lace looks so much better blocked, even simple eyelets. The stitches open up and relax, the yarn fluffs up and “blooms” and the knitted fabric drapes beautifully once it dries. Here’s how to make the magic happen!

Blocking - five simple steps

Ingredient list:

  • Bucket or sink
  • Lukewarm water
  • Baby shampoo or wool wash
  • Large bath towel
  • Pins
  • Optional: blocking/dressing wires
  • Large flat area which can be pinned, like a foam mat or spare bed

 

Step 1: Weave in your ends. Make sure everything is nice and secure!

Step 2: Fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water. Don’t use hot water: it can cause your yarn to felt. You can also add a tiny amount of a very mild shampoo, such as baby shampoo, or a little wool wash.

Step 3: Soak your shawl. Gently push your shawl under the water. Don’t agitate the water too much, as the friction can also cause felting. Just gently press until the yarn has absorbed enough water to be fully saturated. Let it soak for 10 to 30 minutes.

If you are using more than one colour in your shawl and you are worried about bleeding, stay on the shorter end of the soak time and check on it often. You might also want to add a little white vinegar to the soak.

After soaking, you can rinse your shawl by emptying the bucket, refilling it with clean water (hold the shawl out of the way so that the agitation of the tap water doesn’t hit it) and soaking again for a minute. Repeat as needed until the water runs clear.

Step 4: The towel roll. Have a large towel laid out flat before you remove your shawl from the soak. Gently squeeze most of the water from your shawl: it’s quite delicate at this moment, so it’s important not to wring it or treat it roughly. Then, lay your shawl flat onto the bath towel, and start to roll the towel and the shawl together like a swiss roll, squeezing gently as you go, then unroll and check how wet the shawl is. You want it quite damp, but not dripping. If it’s still very wet, repeat the towel roll with a dry towel.

Step 5: Stretch. Lay your shawl out on your soft flat surface gently. Once you have the general shape, you can start to stretch and pin. If you are using blocking wires, you’ll want to start with a wire threaded through the top and bottom edges. If you are just using pins, start by finding and pinning the center of the top edge. From there, just start gently pulling and pinning as you go. You can slightly influence the shape of the shawl by the way you pin. For a crescent shawl, the ends of the top edge can be curved inwards into a soft “horseshoe” shape: this will make the shawl easier to wear. If your shawl is finished with a picot edge or points, you will want to pin each of the picots or points down individually to make them stand out. Keep adjusting and repinning as you go until you are happy with the shape of the shawl. Leave it to dry thoroughly.

Your yarn may react differently to blocking depending on what type of fibre you used. Wool blends benefit from a lot of stretching, so don’t be afraid to be firm. Luxury fabrics, such as alpaca, cashmere, or silk may require a lighter touch. If you’re in doubt, check with your yarn manufacturer.

Once the shawl is dry, you can carefully unpin it and try it on. The change to the way the fabric drapes after blogging is quite obvious. You are likely to have an easier time getting a blocked shawl to lay nicely than the unblocked version. The most wonderful part will be the way the stitches have relaxed and opened up, showing off the gorgeous result of all your hard work.

 

 
 
Noa Nesher
Announcing... Season II

This week, we released the shawls from The Shawl Society Season I as individual patterns! It’s a pleasure to open up a little taste of The Shawl Society to people who missed the first season. I know there were plenty of knitters who fell in love with one particular shawl on Instagram or Ravelry, so this is a chance to finally add your favourite pattern to the queue!

It has been wonderful to revisit each of the designs for the single pattern release, and to watch new people discovering them for the first time. It’s a whole new context, and this has been a chance to see the shawls with fresh eyes. I really love this collection, and spending a bit of time with it over the last few days has heightened my anticipation for what comes next…

…a new season of The Shawl Society!

Season II will be opening for pre-orders very soon, and I cannot wait to welcome back our founding members and meet all the new knitters that will join our community with this new session. I have been deep in the design and planning process for months; this is where I get to encounter the surprise which is at the heart of the Shawl Society experience. Each shawl begins with the kernel of an idea, a special skein of yarn, and then slowly reveals itself to me as I knit. In a way, being a designer is like participating in a never ending mystery knitalong.

That might be why The Shawl Society idea was born in the first place: I love sharing that mystery and delight in discovery with so many knitters all over the world.

The specific details of the next Shawl Society season are still under wraps for now, but the basic premise is the same: for six months, members will receive a gorgeous secret shawl pattern each month. There will be detailed yarn advice for those knitting from stash, and special relationships with the amazing yarn producers behind each sample. There will be encouraging knit alongs and wonderful prizes for finished objects. There will be fun and chatter and a heaping dose of surprise.

In the meantime, you can learn more about what it’s like to be a member of The Shawl Society with a little sleuthing of your own. Our “testimonials” page is full of lovely words from Shawl Society Initiates about their experience last year, and if you visit the Curious Handmade Ravelry Group you’ll find threads full of chatter and sharing. The project pages for any of last season’s designs are a goldmine of inspiring photos and notes about knitting each shawl, and the Instagram hashtag #theshawlsociety has enough beautiful knitspiration to keep you going for ages.

We’ll be building the anticipation over the next little while (it’s all part of the fun!) and sharing tidbits with you through the newsletter (if you’re not signed up yet, just enter your email on the homepage and you’ll be on the list!).

 

Noa Nesher
The Shawl Society Beginnings
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It has been almost a year since I opened the first season of The Shawl Society. I had such a strong sense of what I wanted this project to be about, but I had no real idea what it would become.

From the moment I launched Curious Handmade I’ve been fascinated by the community aspect of knitting and other handmade arts. I experimented with different types of community projects and challenges, and the results were always incredibly rewarding. I love the way we bonded over our work, taught and learned from each other, and admired each other’s achievements.  That encouragement and mutual growth is one of my favourite things about the knitting community. There’s also such an irrepressible sense of fun when knitters get together, whether it happens in person or online.

When I was developing The Shawl Society, I wanted to capture all of that in something that was more than just a collection of lovely shawl patterns. I took all my favourite parts of mystery knit-alongs, events, subscription clubs, and storybooks about brave bands of adventurers and mixed it up together.

What happened next was magical. The anticipation and joy everyone shared over each pattern release was almost a kind of fairy dust. And six months was really long enough to build meaningful relationships. As we got deeper into the session, I was deeply inspired to see all the ways that the members were connecting with each other.

4179 Instagram posts.

5588 project pages.

More than 10000 forum posts.

Mothers and daughters wrote to say they had joined together as a way to bond across the miles. Strangers recognised each other’s TSS shawls at knitting events and struck up conversations. In some places, Shawl Society members gathered to knit the shawls together in person. Some people reported that the Society gave them courage to knit a shawl for the very first time, while others discovered that the group’s enthusiasm inspired a fresh love of shawl knitting, even after dozens of completed projects under their belts. As a group, there was so much momentum! The energy was thrilling.

At the end someone started a thread to display collages of all six completed shawls together. You wouldn’t think a thing like that could be so emotional, but it was. I was deeply moved to see everything The Shawl Society members had created together.

 

Noa Nesher