Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Experiment in blocking acrylic

So, if you've looked at any of my patterns (seriously, ANY of them), you will note that I use acrylic yarns for everything. Absolutely everything. Hubby and daughter are allergic to wool and my sons have sensitive skin. Did I mention I have three kids? Everything I own needs to be wash and wear. I do own an iron but it lives in the garage next to my sewing machine for the few times I need to iron fabric before tracing and cutting patterns. Other than that, I don't believe in high maintenance wearables. Hence my love of acrylic.

This weekend I am heading to Las Vegas and I wanted to have a couple of kick-ass crocheted pieces to take along. I chose the Toshiko Popover and the All Shawl, both Doris Chan creations. I made the Popover in Spa, and the All Shawl in Red Heart Soft. They are rockin'! The All Shawl, though, is waaaay too short for my liking. I even added two extra rows but the inevitability is staring me in the face: I am going to have to block it.

Um, I've never blocked a thing in my life. Working with acrylic, I don't really find the need. Plus, it scares me. But this shawl is a thing of beauty and I am all about new challenges, so why not give it a go? Did a bit of research and it seems peoples views on blocking acrylic are all over the map. Wet block, steam block, don't block. What's a gal to think? This is when the science geek in me takes over. On to my experiment...

I made three swatches in Red Heart Soft. I used edc (extended double crochet) since that's the stitch used in the All Shawl. I made them 4"X4". One was a control swatch, and would remain in its original state throughout the experiment. One swatch was to be wet blocked, and one was to be steam blocked. I don't have blocking boards or push pins, so I made do with what I have. I used plastic canvas sheets and sewing pins. Seems to have worked just fine!

All three swatches...


Wet Blocking
For this swatch, I just soaked the swatch and rung out the water as much as possible. Then I pinned in place and waited. It took 5 hours to dry!

Wet blocking on the plastic canvas...

Steam Blocking
For this swatch, I pinned in place and held my iron about 1 - 2" above the swatch. I kept blasting it with steam for about 2 or 3 minutes then left it to cool...which didn't take long.

Steam blocking on the plastic canvas...

After blocking, both swatches were the same size, as expected.

All three swatches ready for the washer...

But remember, this household is all about the washable benefits of acrylic. So, which method would retain its shape after being thrown in the washer/dryer? The results are quite clear. Although the steam blocked piece lost a bit of height, it's the obvious winner. In fact, I couldn't tell which swatch was original and which was wet blocked. Should have put a little contrasting yarn on that one too, but it really wouldn't have helped, since it ended up the same size as the original.

All three swatches, post washer/dryer...

Hope you enjoyed the results of my experiment as much as I did. Guess a handheld steamer is in my future as I REALLY need to block my shawl. Once I do, I will add pics!