I'm almost finished with Solace! At this point I have less than 2 repeats to go, plus my garter stitch edging. I will block it some when I get it finished, but it won't be a hard blocking. I'll wash it and then smooth it out flat to dry - no pins, no stretching. Ramius has been sitting underneath it while I knit and he is happy to report that it does work properly and keeps him quite warm. That's a huge relief - I'd hate to get this all knitted and it didn't keep the cat warm!
Yesterday I did something that some would probably consider crazy, but it worked. I felted my ribbed raglan sweater in the washing machine. The day I got the pictures for the blog, I had just put the sweater on. By that evening, after wearing it all day, it was longer and droopy. I had been afraid that that might happen but I wasn't sure (this is where one of those swatchy things you hear so much about would have helped out). The yarn was a bulky weight and I don't care what size sweater you knit with bulky weight yarn, it's going to have some heft to it. Now if it had been a firmer yarn that probably wouldn't have been a problem, but this particular yarn (Elann Peruvian Chunky) is a two ply with lots of loft - probably to help offset the weight of the finished project. When I washed the sweater after I had finished it, I noticed that it seemed very floppy and the yarn seemed to REALLY relax when it was wet. Once it dried it felt right again, but as I said, after a full day of wearing it, it relaxed and drooped. Now I've done a few felted bags and a cat bed that Ramius pretty much refuses to use and I know that when you throw a knitted something in the washing machine to felt (or full - I'm not going to get into a discussion of the differences here), it shrinks more lengthwise than width wise. Since that was the direction I was wanting to shrink it seemed like a logical choice. If you've never felted anything before, it takes two of three things to do: hot water, agitation, and alkalinity. If you want to felt something really fast, you use all three. I wanted the sweater to just barely start to felt, to firm it up and make the fabric more stable so it wouldn't droop, but I didn't want to shrink it down to Caleb's size, so I chose to use warm water, agitation from the washing machine and alkalinity (soap is alkaline). Checking the sweater every couple of minutes, I stood over the washing machine to make sure that it was not shrinking too fast and after about 8 minutes, I could feel that the fabric was starting to firm up some. I gave it another minute or two and spun the soapy water out, rinsed it and now it's laying flat to dry. It's not any narrower than it was, but it's a little shorter and it's a little firmer, which should also have the benefit of being warmer. I think it's perfect now.