Blocking is not Optional!

by Sharyn Anhalt December 21, 2014 4 Comments

When folks ask us if they should block something, our answer is always an emphatic YES. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hat, scarf, or even a pair of socks. Blocking is the final step in finishing your knit project, and in my opinion, is something that should never be skipped. It will help even out your stitches, relax the yarn and encourage drape, and in some cases will transform your project into an entirely different look (such as blocking lace).

 I like to think of blocking as washing before wearing. If you think about all the places your project has been laying around while you worked on it, you’ll want to wash it, right? You’ll follow these same steps to wash your knit item in the future. Blocking is one of my favorite parts of the knitting process, and I typically get my knits washed and blocked as soon as I finish casting off!

 There are three main methods of blocking – wet blocking, steam blocking, and spray blocking. If your pattern recommends a method, then you should use that method. My preferred method is wet blocking and it’s also the most common, so we’ll concentrate on that in this tutorial.

 Blocking is also something that should be done when you start a project – with your gauge swatch, that is. Because blocking can affect your gauge and transform the knit fabric, it’s good to have that knowledge of how something will block BEFORE you start the project. When knitting a garment, I always wash and block the gauge swatch. There are actually some yarns that are not washed as part of the manufacturing process, so washing them through blocking will reveal their true gauge.

 Blocking is also commonly done with garment pieces prior to sewing up the seams. It’s much easier to sew sweater pieces after they are blocked and the edges are even and flat. Generally, this will be indicated in the pattern – but if you ever find yourself struggling to match up a seam evenly, consider a quick blocking!

 First, you’ll need a few supplies:

  1. Something to block on – foam puzzle pieces, a thick rug, a mattress – anything that will give you a large flat surface that you can pin into, and the pins will stay in place. My blocking surface of choice is my memory foam bed – I lay a thick towel on top of the mattress and pin into the foam. But, I do need to plan ahead and block first thing in the morning so it’s dry before bedtime!
  2. Pins – T-pins are recommended, since they are heavier than sewing pins and the T top is easy to see. Whatever pins you use, make sure they are stainless steel. You don’t want your pins to rust and add ugly rust stains to your hard work.
  3. Wool wash – don’t worry if you don’t have any, plain water will be fine too. A small amount of no-rinse wash (such as Eucalan or Soak) will help relax the fibers and freshen things up. Another thing I like to add is a small amount of hair conditioner, as it also helps to relax the fibers and does not need to be rinsed out.
  4. A pan or clean sink to soak your knitting.
  5. Two towels – you’ll want one to roll your knitting in to squeeze out the extra moisture, and a second dry towel to lay over your blocking surface.

 

Now that you’ve gathered supplies, we’re ready to start!

  • Weave in ends, but leave an inch or so to trim off after blocking. The blocking process will relax your woven-in ends too, so some of the length may be taken up into the knitting.
  • Fill your pan or sink with cool to warm water, swish in your tiny bit of wool wash or hair conditioner.
  • Get your knitting wet. You may need to hold it under the water surface and squeeze gently to get all the air bubbles out and wet everything. Be careful not to agitate or use very hot water, as this may cause the wool to felt. Let your knitting soak for about 15 minutes or more, so the fibers have sufficient time to absorb the moisture.
  • Remove your knitting from the water, and gently squeeze out as much water as you can. Do not wring, since this can cause excess stretching. Lay your knitting onto a towel and roll up, pressing out as much water as you can. Some people will stomp on the towel roll to help squeeze out the water.
  • Now you’re ready to lay out your knitting and shape it as you like. For small items, like a hat or mittens, you can usually just reshape flat and lay flat – no pinning needed. Use the pins when you’d like to establish a straight edge, keep an edge from rolling, pin out a point of a shawl – anywhere you want your knit item to dry to a specific shape or measurement.
  • Once your knitting is laid out and pinned exactly as you want it, let it dry.

 Obviously, some items will need no pinning and others – like a lace shawl – will require precision measuring, gentle stretching, and hundreds of pins to hold it in the desired shape until dry.  Blocking wires are an optional tool, too, and are generally used for establishing straight even edges in lace knitting.

 That’s it – hope this easy explanation motivates you to block everything from now on. If you just think of it as a quick wash, it won’t seem so daunting. Next time you cast off, I encourage you to head right to the sink and get your project soaking!




Sharyn Anhalt
Sharyn Anhalt

Author


4 Responses

Sharyn Anhalt
Sharyn Anhalt

November 21, 2018

Patricia, sorry for the slow reply to your question. Absolutely yes! You can block things over and over – in fact, some sweaters can require re-blocking after each wash.

Patricia
Patricia

November 21, 2018

Can you re do your first blocking for a knitted sweater? I blocked my sweater but it is still a little too small. What will happen if I block it again? It is so disappointing to have worked so hard and now it does not fit well.
Please advise.
Thank you Patricia

Sharyn
Sharyn

January 22, 2015

Good question, Josie. Manmade fibers do not really lend themselves to blocking in the sense of reshaping. But, washing your finished blankets will help even out stitches and bloom the fibers. I would always finish your project by washing & drying (as recommended for the yarn).

Josie
Josie

January 22, 2015

Hi, Great explanation, my question though is : I make blankets, queen, king actually any size. They are made of acrylic some wool and some polyester. Will this type of blocking work as well. They are so large I really don’t know what to do.
Thank you…
Josie

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