Monday, June 8, 2009

Size Matters (a.k.a. Blocking the Princess, Part I)

I blocked my Princess shawl on a Sunday afternoon early in May, within hours of finishing the graft (see previous post). The process ended up striking me as uproariously funny, more or less by accident. I tend to find this particular species of unintentional comedy lurking EVERYWHERE around me. If you really want to hear God laugh, as the saying goes, tell him *your* plans...

Let me say first that it felt STRANGE to have reached this point, after nearly a year and a half of uninterrupted knitting, including *9 months* spent on the center triangle alone (which, being worked from the bottom point upwards, got wider and wider as it went, exaggerating the effect of slow-motion). It came as a bit of a shock to the system to find myself suddenly holding a great limp wad of cashmere/silk fabric that was no longer, in any real sense, a knitting project. No more dainty skein of yarn attached to it anywhere, no more "live stitches" to watch out for along any of its edges, no more complex pattern to follow, no more needles to hold in either hand. I almost didn't know what to do.

But I said almost. Of course the first step was to wash the thing gently. Even with the most careful handling and attentiveness, a LOT of dirt and grime can build up in a knitted fabric over time just from the oils naturally occuring in the skin. Check out this post from fellow lace enthusiast, with a photo of the bucket full of dirty water that came off a perfectly magnificent white shawl. Yuck!! Naturally enough, most of what came off my Princess was loose dye from the dark red yarn, but there was definitely some unpleasant brown ick in there along with the native burgundy. After letting it soak in the suds for a while, I rinsed it many times to take care of all the soap and any leaking pigment, and did not stop rinsing and re-rinsing until the new water stayed clean and clear. Then I drained the sink and pressed down on the shawl to squeeze out the excess moisture (being careful to avoid any lifting or twisting that might damage the fabric), rolled the damp, shapeless mass in a towel, and brought it to the bedroom. I intended to use the queen-sized mattress as a convenient platform for the blocking, because I like the way that the pins fasten into its firm yet pliable surface.

But when I unfolded the shawl began to stretch it out flat, I discovered — to my *astonishment* — that it was WAY too big to fit on the top of the mattress. Calling my husband in from the next room, I said: "Um, I think we have a problem here."

We both stared in consternation at the curiously unfamiliar object sprawled across the bed. It would seriously have sagged over the edges in at least two separate directions if I hadn't caught it and bunched it up in the middle again.

OK, time for Plan B.

Right, Plan B. Hmm...

What's Plan B??

I didn't have a Plan B.

It had never even *occurred* to me to formulate a Plan B.

Back to the drawing board, then.

So I took the shawl back into the bathroom and let it soak in cold water while I made alternate arrangements.

After casting about for suitable flat surfaces in size XXL, I decided that the living room floor would be my best available option. So I herded our six (yes, *6*) cats into the bedroom, cleared the living room and vacuumed the carpet, and then spread out a queen-sized comforter for padding, and started the blocking process all over again.

Even that wasn't quite good enough: in the end, I had to lay down a second comforter next to the first to accommodate one outer corner that needed some additional space.

Let me be clear: this piece of lace is *HUGE*. Mind-bogglingly so, as the late-lamented Douglas Adams would have said. And there is irony here of the deepest and juiciest sort, because I had added two extra border feathers to Sharon Miller's original pattern in order to prevent the finished piece from turning out too small. No, I'm not kidding.

Now, in my own defense, my previous Heirloom Knitting project, the Wedding Ring Shawl — done in the same tiny yarn with the same tiny needles — had turned out to be decidedly on the diminutive side, and I had not wanted the same thing to happen with the Princess.

Be careful what you wish for!!

Not that I was even remotely displeased with the results. Delighted, entranced, amazed, blown over — take your pick. But what made the whole experience that afternoon so overwhelming and surprising and comical is the extent to which I never saw it coming.

Even after watching the silly thing grow, indeed after holding it *in my lap* every day for almost a year and a half, I honestly had no idea just how big it really was.

No idea.


In its finished form, my Princess shawl measures 104 inches (8 ft. 8 inches) across at its widest point, and 68 inches (5 ft. 8 inches) from top to bottom.

I had a dickens of a time taking decent pictures of the entire thing, even with the wide-angle feature on our little digicam. But by bringing in a step-ladder from the garage and literally holding the camera ON THE CEILING of our living room, I managed to capture this aerial shot. Click on the image for a larger view, as usual. This one will be worth it.

I also got this photo, of which I am particularly fond, by standing in the doorway to the room and viewing the shawl edge-on. Again, click on the image for a full-scale view. What makes this such a "money shot" to my mind is the way that it seems to capture the full scope of the project.

I should add as a footnote (an academic can't resist) that once I got over the initial shock of watching my lace expand from a shapeless blob the size of small briefcase into a great wide expanse of gossamer fabric that took up most of the largest room in our house, I was not disappointed. And it's really not too big for me either: I am only a very average 5' 4" in height, but I can easily wear it without having it drag on the ground. :-)

Oh dear. I haven't talked about its shape yet, as promised in the previous post. Sigh. Ah well, that topic will just have to wait for my next installment.

No comments:

Post a Comment