Monday, May 28, 2012

A Rant About Blocking (and some tips)

I'm about to embark on blocking several baby sweaters and a shawl -- yes, I sometimes leave the tasks of weaving in ends and blocking to do all at once, although it's not a smart tactic.  And it got me to thinking about the usefulness of blocking.  I mean, we're doing this for a reason, right?

I've had friends ask how they should block their finished objects, and first I swallow the urge to say, "here, let me google that for you."  (Have you ever been to that website?)  And then I say this:

  • It depends on what the finished object is, what it's made of and what condition it's in.  A plain old scarf or a hat?  I'd typically skip the blocking step altogether.  But if it's a fancy hat or a lacey scarf, I probably would block it.
  • If it's acrylic or some other manmade fiber, don't bother blocking it -- it won't do an ounce of good.  (Here is where I'd try really hard to resist the urge to say something obscene about acrylic.)
  • If the finished object is already at the desired measurements and isn't curling or creased, I'd block it lightly by pinning it down and placing a wet tea towl over it.  Remove the tea towel once the object has absorbed most of its water and allow it to dry comletely before unpinning.  A light blocking will make the stitches look more even and help the sweater keep its shape for a little while.  This method is great for baby garments and things you want to gift (or wear!) ASAP.
  • Finally, there's the full-soak method for finished objects that really need the help.  This includes lacey shawls that need to be pulled to bigger measurements, sweater pieces with inappropriate curls or off measurements (block before you seam!) or items with noticeable creases.  Soak your finished object for a few minutes until it's completely saturated, then press or roll it between clean towels to remove most of the moisture.  Don't wring it!  Then lay it flat, shape or pull it to the measurements specified by the pattern and pin in place.  Wait until it's completely dry to unpin it.  Now flaunt it like it's the most beautiful thing money can't buy!

And some tips:

  • Depending on the object, you'll probably need to block it each time you wash it, so it's a good idea to learn this minor skill.
  • Keep your blocking objects in a separate room with the door closed, away from pets and small children.  Just sayin'!  I have three cats who love to sit on wet wool.  Weird, right?  I can say from experience that it's a real pain in the arse when the pins get pulled loose and there's cat hair stuck to my finished objects.
  • It's worth it to invest in blocking pins and a real blocking board (and lace blocking wires, if you knit lace).  It makes all the difference in how the object comes out and ease of blocking.  Plus, the initial investment is pretty small.

  • Good luck!  If you need help, just google it!  : P


  1. Hi! Thanks for these tips! Just thought I'd post one more method of blocking; ironing with steam! I just knit a baby vest and since it was the size I wanted I just steamed/ironed it and it worked really well. (100% wool only!)

    You can see the vest I steamed/ironed here:

    Have fun knitting all the new baby stuff!

  2. Hi Rachel! Thanks for the tip -- I'd forgotten all about steam blocking! I've only done it once, but loved the results.

    Ah, the Milo vest. It looks great and your daughter is adorable. :) Nathan has a Milo that will fit him again this fall/winter and I'll be knitting our new baby one, too. Thanks for reading!

  3. I have a cat with the same problem! And for some reason my blocking board has bicycle tracks running across it... So your tips are very valid! (And if you google, they do not always tell you all that:)


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