Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Last Stitch and the Next Step

I have stitched my last stitch on the Mariah. And let's hope for the last time! Although, I did in fact have to do it twice. (Because why would the end of the sweater be any different than the rest of it?)

Tuesday at lunch I had time to sit in my car and work on the last bit of the hood. I even managed to get out the tapestry needle and work the last row in Kitchener stitch to perfectly blend the knitting from one direction into the knitting from the other direction. With a cable in there too, mind. Well, on the first try, "perfectly blend" would not exactly be how I would describe it. But work was calling so I had to put it down.

After work, however, was wholly another thing. So I actually sat there in the parking lot, removed the previous stitching and did again instead of driving home. It worked out a lot better the second time, and I put it in the seat beside me happy enough with the results. And then drove home.

When I got home, I realized that I would have to work in all the ends before I could block it. And I was hoping to block it that night. And the sun was still shining into my car. So, yes, I then sat in my driveway and worked in all the ends that I had.

I'm trying something for the first time with this sweater: I'm not cutting the ends flush with the fabric. I am going to try blocking it first and then cutting all the strings so that they have a chance to reach their "actual" size after blocking. Hopefully this will lead to fewer little ends sticking out, especially in the hood where you're going to see the "wrong side" of the fabric as it hangs down my back. Wool ends don't work out like, let's say, cotton or acrylic, so it might not make any difference, but I thought it was worth a try.

So the next step is blocking. Anyone who has worn wool socks for hiking or used wool blankets for camping knows that wool is quite resistant to getting wet. I remember one camping trip where we had a wool blanket and a cotton sheet rolled up together (sort of like a jellyroll) and they managed, somehow, to get wet in the canoe. (Can't imagine how.) When we unrolled it, the wool was dry, but the cotton sheet was drenched, even though they were rolled up in alternating layers. Quite amazing.

Anyway, all this is to say that when you get wool wet for blocking, you actually have to work at it. I used to block with a spray bottle and finish up by laying a damp towel over the item. That is not really enough. You must soak. You must turn it over. And you must soak some more. And sometimes you've got to weigh it down to keep it under. All this to make sure the water really penetrates the wool.
I soaked my little drowned rat for a good 20 minutes, 10 per side. It was good and wet. The next step is to then drain the tub and gently remove the excess water. You don't want to wring or excessively squeeze. I am guilty of some squeezing, but nothing that's resulted in actual felting. (The BIG danger!)

Next you roll it in a towel (or two) and step on it to soak some more excess water out.

Then lay it out and pin as necessary.
I didn't need to aggressively shape any part of the sweater, but I did pin all down the edges of the right and left fronts so that they would stop curling under. (Please, please stop!) That's where I'll be inserting the zipper so I want it smooth and flat.

I also pinned parts of the hood. That was a little trickier to block because I don't want it to be flat; it needs some 3D shape to it. But I tried my best and pinned it to take out the excessively square shape it had from the way I constructed it. (More on that when you get to see it completed.)

I guess the good news is that if I don't like it, I can always resoak it and reblock it. And, really, why would this stage be any different than the rest of the sweater?

(But I really hope it is.)

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