Blocking, and a trip to Kew Gardens

The two aren’t related! I finished the main elements of my jumper last week – ‘Gotland’ in Rowan Hemp Tweed – but haven’t had the opportunity to start sewing it together so I could start on the neck. At the weekend we took the train to London and went to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It was great! Apart from the rain, so I got soggy feet, but there was so much to see in the glasshouses we spent a fair bit of time inside anyway. We got there in the afternoon and knew when we left we hadn’t seen it all, but looking online when we got home realised just how huge it is and that you couldn’t see it all in one day anyway.

The Palm House at Kew Gardens
Fraxinus americana autumn purple

So last night I decided it was time to think about sewing up the jumper. However, confession time… I have never blocked a garment before! Or indeed, anything. I hadn’t even heard of blocking until reading ‘Nothing But Knit”s blog: https://nothingbutknit2.wordpress.com/. It will have been referred to in patterns and in the Rowan knitting magazines I sometimes buy, but I must have glossed over it! Mum never does it so it isn’t something I picked up at home. The Gotland pattern says to block, so with much trepidation I looked up online how to do it. I haven’t blocking wires, blocking pins, blocking mats or other equipment, and frankly nowhere to store them given how much quilting paraphernalia I have lying about, but it’s a simple pattern, no lace or cabling, just some detailing to the hem and cuffs, so I decided I could do without. I approach getting knitting wet frankly with trepidation, bordering on downright fear. I’ve had bad experiences in the past with washing garments on the wool or even silk cycle in the washing machine and them felting and shrinking, so know I must handwash them, but still I fear the results. So with some anxiety I placed the pieces in the bath with some lukewarm water and handwash liquid, left it for what I thought I’d read somewhere should be 15 mins but later read was 5, rinsed them gently, then considered how best to get the worst of the water out without wringing it, before the rolling-in-a-towel bit I’d read about. Husband decided to get involved, probably because I’d been vocalising my concern which he takes as a plea for help (don’t know if he’s right, haven’t psychoanalysed that yet), and rather worryingly decided to fold pieces in half and then quarters before pressing down on them. I was worried that would put lines in them so made him stop! I squeezed mine gently, don’t know which was worse. Anyway, we then did the rolling up in old towels in a manner akin to making a roulade thing, and I was amazed by how much water that got out of them. We then laid them on the floor on yet more towels and though I was going to just pat them into shape I found the edges were still curling up, so went pinned them all to the towels around the edges. I made sure not to pull them and pinned them in the shape I think they should be. In the process I found that the chest is about an inch wider than it’s supposed to be. I read later that blocking can make the garment bigger, but I’m a loose knitter anyway so don’t know whether to blame the blocking, and in any case don’t mind because it’s a winter jumper and being on the big side’s better than on the small. They were still a bit damp when I left for work this morning, when I took this rubbish photo – it was still dark outside and I didn’t have my camera to hand so this was taken on my ipad. If they aren’t fully dry when I get home tonight I’ll lie them on the clothes dryer I have, which is a very low temperature electric thing with ‘shelves’ to lie items on, and I’ve used it to dry delicates and even teddy bears on before so think it will be fine, just for an hour or so, I wouldn’t leave it on overnight.

IMG_0341

Here’s a slideshow of some photos of Kew, though first are 3 bonsai, because I think they’re amazing – one is 80 years old, and getting on eye level with them is really like looking at a full size tree. Won’t be growing any myself, but you have to admire the people with the patience to do it. The first picture in the slideshow, by the way, is steam coming into the palm house, it skooshes out automatically every few minutes, nifty. The titan arum from Sumatra isn’t in flower and I’m not sorry, it only flowers for 2 days every year and when it does it apparently smells like rotten flesh, an experience I am willing to forego.

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