Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blocking with a Hula Hoop

When it comes to blocking, the books will tell you to pin the finished item on to a board. I used to do that too. But after moving so many times, my blocking board was long gone; I still have loads of pins though.

Few years ago I needed to block a doily. I was looking around the house for something to use when I had a light bulb moment. I remembered reading a book about the history of Shetland lace and how the islanders made size specific square frame to block their knitted shawls. How about stretching the doily like my embroidery onto a round frame with thread? The hula hoop was the only thing I had that was big enough to use as a frame.

Well, I need to block a new doily and have to wash two old ones, I thought I would take some pictures to show you how I block using the hula hoop.

First thing I did was to soak the doilies in Oxi Magic (a stain removing solution with no bleach) for 10 minutes. I put them in an old pillow case that has a zipper to make sure they all stay inside the case during washing. They went in the washing machine with the rest of the laundry. These are the three doilies after the wash, still damp.
I put a clean bath towel on the floor; place the hula hoop on top of the towel and the doily in the centre of the hula hoop. I used a waste yarn and threaded it through an edging loop of the doily and tied it to the frame at 12 o’clock, stretching a little but tried not to move the doily from the centre.

Then work the opposite end at 6 o’clock. This is an important step: this sets the size of the doily.

You should have an idea about the finished size from the pattern if you use the suggested yarn and crochet hook size. My pattern said that it should be 16 inches. But I used a finer thread and a smaller size hook, so I stretched mine out by feel but still knowing that it should be smaller than 16 inches.

As I pull the thread at the 6 o’clock position, I use my right foot and put my big toe on the thread to keep the thread under tension while I use a measuring tape to determine the diameter of the doily from point to point. I set mine at 15 inches and knotted the thread securely at 6 o’clock. It would be great if you have a friend to help you with this.
I moved myself to work on the 9 o’clock side, followed by 3 o’clock. Again, I measured the doily diameter while I held the 3 o’clock thread under tension with my toe. I would release more thread or pull the thread tighter and would only tie the thread securely when the diameter is exactly 15 inches.
I moved around the doily to work on the major points, always working one end and then the opposite end and measuring each time. Now the frame work of the doily is set, I don’t need to measure any more. I use these major points as a reference to tie the other threads. Also I am now able to lift and move the hula hoop rather than moving myself around to work on the doily.I was about to work on the little doily using an embroidery frame when Poppy came in to check on me and to let me know it’s break time.
I don't normally use starch but one of the doilies is so fine I decided to use it this time; leaving them outside to dry.
Poppy is smelling the starch.
Hula hoop is not ideal because it is flexible; a rigid frame is better. Still it works. The doily might be off centre of the hula hoop, but provided that you stretch the doily to measurement, the doily blocks out good. Just cut the thread to remove the doily. You could recycle the used waste yarn as toy stuffing.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial, it is a way I've never seen to block a doily. How very clever of you to think of this!

  2. Best. Idea. Ever!!!!!!! However, this does mean I have to go to a toy or discount store to try to find a hula hoop, which is never high on my list of happy activities... I think it will be so worth it, though!!