Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Interim Ministry, Knit Without Ceasing

In Which Our Heroine Blocks a Sweater

I've had the pieces of LP's "Christmas" sweater carefully tucked away in a see-through zipper bag acquired on a trip to the Gulf Coast of those holidays ago. I began the project early last summer, knowing that given my hands I might not be able to get it done if I waited until fall. She didn't like her most recent Christmas sweater; it's in my bottom drawer, and I still feel tempted to weep when I see it there, knowing how much effort went into it. But I understand the problem she had with it. And I think perhaps I should have blocked it.

I had never made a sweater for a young lady before. Oh, years ago, I made a sweater for myself, but I did not have the same standards for fit that certain middle school girls do, and I don't think I had ever heard of blocking, that means for making your knitting look the way it really ought to look. To block a sweater, you soak the pieces in a warm water bath, gently squeeze out the water, and then dry the pieces flat before assembling. For some reason this sounded daunting to me. What if I ruined the hand-washable wool! (By hand-squeezing it. Yes. I know it sounds silly.)

A great deal of effort goes into a sweater. This sweater, a tunic, has five pieces: a front, a back, two sleeves and an i-cord belt sort of thing. Blocking allows the knitter to be sure the pieces really match up in length and breadth, to encourage the yarn in a certain direction. The tunic has darts, and I am using blocking to encourage those little tucks in the pattern to NOT look like little holes!

Which is to say, I'm finally blocking it. The dining room table cleared off, the weather dry and cool, enough towels clean that half a dozen can be spared, the pieces lie flat and drying gently. Influenced by Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World to practice reverence as a kind of focused attention, I blocked both a scarf and the sweater at lunchtime yesterday. (So far, so good, though the darts continue to be a problem and that piece may be going back into the water.)

In the past, I've blocked socks on the dining room table, and I've walked off and left them there, because my cats just didn't go into that room, a favorite of the dogs. So it took me by surprise when Baby followed me in on an inspection tour and, before I realized what she meant to do, took a walk across the pieces.

When did the dining room become a cat-friendly zone?

Well, Sam does not chase cats (much), and the cats have grown bolder and bolder in the months since Molly died.

As I look back over the past year at 1FP, I see us making similar efforts and living through our own changes. We've tried things that felt new and perhaps challenging. We've gone back to the drawing board. And we've learned that without some people in the church family, the dynamics change in unexpected ways, ways that open possibilities for some of us while reminding others of their losses.

LP will, I hope, wear this sweater, and I will move on to other projects. I'm finishing a necktie, and have two pairs of socks on the needles. 1FP will continue into the next phase of a transition when I go, and this is the hard part of Interim Ministry. The reports I get on how their sweater looks will be second hand, at best. But if the process has been reverent, and it has for me, I must let them wear it and trust the fit.

3 thoughts on “In Which Our Heroine Blocks a Sweater”

  1. oh!
    oh….this is beautiful.
    (now I know what blocking is, too)
    living reverently. I love BBT. and what wonder reverence in the moment brings, huh?
    you rock.

  2. I know what you mean about contemporary standards for fit. I just placed an order for T-shirts for a campus event for freshmen in September. Some of the older staff (those who remember when a T-shirt could not by definition be too big) could not understand why the order was so heavily weighted toward smalls.

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