I came to a sudden realization last Wednesday: the wedding that I was knitting Mystery Wedding Project for was only three days away. Now I'd long given up on getting MWP done in time, but I did want to finish my shawl so I could show off the hand-knits a little bit. All I needed to do was block.
I collected some advice from some of the ladies in the shawl-KAL, and based on their suggestions a (half-baked) plan began to brew - instead of using a million pins, I would make a wire frame. First, I picked up some low-gauge stainless steel wire from the local hardware store:
I washed the heck out of it, since it probably had residual oil and grime from the production process. I couldn't resist playing with it a little bit:
The first setback was the fact that the wire did not want to keep any shape but a coil. I applied my materials engineering knowledge to something useful (for once): the wire needed to be 'work hardened' before it would be useful. Basically, work hardening is the concept that a metal becomes stronger when you do 'work' on it.
In this case, I used my hands to bend the wire back and forth, and when those got tired:
Wrenches! I used the wrenches to pull small sections of the wire straight. With the wire primed, I bent it into a rectangle measuring 60" x 20". I fed the shawl onto the frame in a 'running stitch' style - basically passing the wire over/under the selvage stitches:
I did break down and use a few pins to hold the frame steady.
I moistened the fabric using a spray bottle filled with water. It dried within the course of a few hours.
Did it work? It did!
I couldn't really believe I had produced something so delicate (me = bull in a china shop).
Would I do it again? I would, but with the caveat that I'm really glad that I don't have to do the work hardening of the wire again--it took a while, and if I was to do it again, I would work with the wire long before I was ready to actually block the shawl, just to break up the tedium a little bit.