Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

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Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Yes the title has significance. At first it was just my shorthand photo label for "madeira scarf blocking photographs" but upon reflection I realize that it captures my whole lace-blocking experience pretty well. In the "as a hatter" not "as a wet hen" sense.

When last we met, I had finished knitting the Madeira Scarf (Possibly Table Runner) and was intimidated by the grafting process. That turned out not too badly. I caught the rhythm of the thing fairly well--you go through TWO stitches on each side each time: one is the "old" stitch you went through previously and one is the adjacent stitch. I didn't pay close enough attention to the way the stitches were mounted so I ended up with a purl ridge on the right side of the work, but heck, for my first time grafting it was certainly quite presentable. Didn't even have to rip out anything.

So I had a finished but unblocked long skinny rectangle of knitting. The first problem was finding a place for the pin-out. I knew I needed someplace level that would remain undisturbed by kids or critters for a good 24 hours which was hard to even consider in my overstuffed house, but I finally created a spot by moving my stash-tub:

I thought that using a striped bath towel was just too clever...and we all know pride goeth before a fall. Thinking it would all be no big deal, one evening after work last week I tossed my scarf in the sink with my lagniappe wool-wash from Knitivity:

I thought it was kind of fascinating that the yarn was pink but the water turned blue and thought of both red cabbage and litmus paper. The soaking-and-squeezing part was very easy so in no time flat I had a piece of damp lace all ready and waiting for the "severe blocking" that was going to make it open up into a Thing of Beauty if not also a Joy Forever.

That was when it started getting dicey. What I didn't know then but do know now is that blocking a piece of lace is not an enterprise one can do lightly or in one's spare time. Silly me, I thought that pinning out six feet of openwork was something I could do with a glass of wine during Olbermann. So fine, still pleased with my striped-towel idea I started at one end:

That part looks pretty good but only because it took something like fifteen minutes just to get the first two pattern repeats pinned down. Right away I learned about frame of reference because I had to figure out what was going to be pinned first and then used to brace the stretching process. I decided on the side selvedge because it was formed by a slipped stitch at the beginning of every row and therefore didn't have as much "give" as the rest of the knitting...also it was easier to pin a straight line against a stripe than it was to figure out how to stretch those triangles into aesthetically pleasing shapes.

By the time that picture was taken I realized I'd bitten off a far bigger time commitment than one evening could chew. Pinning lace is not brain surgery but does take patience, eye-hand coordination, a dedicated spirit and plenty of time. Also good knees since you're on them a lot. Halfway through Countdown and a second glass of wine I was running low on all of those and starting to realize what a crazy thing I'd gotten into. I'd also discovered that I would need not just a second bath towel (which I knew) but a THIRD and that the length issue was going to be a big problem. Also that if you pin too much in one direction without stretching and pinning out the other directions you get Skew Problems which require UNpinning at least some of the previously-tediously-placed pins.

It was about then I realized "my life just doesn't have room for lace." Blocking lace is more like a religious event than a casual household task and as such there ought to be a place of worship. I envision an entire gymnasium with wrestling mats permanently on the floor already stamped with grids and pie-divided circles and big triangles in permanent ink. There would be boxes of kneepads, endless T-pins (those straight pins hurt the fingerpads after a while) plenty of large plastic rulers and magnets. Calming chamber music would play quietly in the background and there would always be an attendant for "could you help pull on this?" or "does that look even to you?" People like me could tell their families "I'm going to the Lace Gym; I'll be back...eventually" then take all the time they needed to make their creations lovely. Heck, the very act of getting to the Lace Gym would be time to change mindset from "everyday" to "contemplative."

Yeah, well, not in this world.

So after much grunting and struggling and pulling of pins and interruptions, by eleven-thirty the first night I'd gotten this far:

You'll notice right away that's only half a scarf. I got about two repeats into the other half and realized it was too late and I was too tired to be thinking of actually finishing the project that night. So what did I do? Wrapped the other half up in the now-wet towel I'd used to press out the extra water way back at the beginning of the evening. Pinned the rest of it out early the next morning but in a much more "git 'er DONE!" kind of way. Like with half the number of pins and three times the attitude. Yeah, it had dried out; I shook some club soda out over my thumb (used to sprinkle shirts for ironing at age 2.5) to wet it down before I left for the day.

The next night I started unpinning. Lasted about five minutes. Then I got very Alexandrian by pulling up the towels with knitting and pins still attached. Took another night to extract the pins back into their sealed container. Was it worth it?

Tune in next post. Blogger won't let me put all the photos in this one. Poo.


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