The Whys & Hows of Blocking for All Knitting Projects
Learning to knit is an ongoing challenge with plenty of chances to pat yourself on the back along the way. Even with just a few basic stitches, you can already knit a scarf, and when you want to move on to more in-depth projects, you can learn how to read a pattern. By the time youíve knitted your first sock or sweater, you feel like a pro until you realize that your final product is sadly misshapen and doesnít look anything like the pattern photograph that got you hooked in the first place.
This happened because you didnít block.
What Is Blocking?
Blocking is an important final step for almost any knitting project. It can make something that was handmade by an amateur look like it was crafted by a professional.
Blocking reshapes an item and redistributes the stitches so that they sit evenly. It doesnít stretch a garment or make up for lost stitches, but blocking can help flatten out strange curls and lumps that developed while you were knitting. It also allows you to create flat, straight edges and hems. Blocking can even make acrylic fabric less stiff, allowing it to drape gracefully.
There are a number of blocking techniques available to you. Most of them involve wetting the fibers of your knitted piece, shaping it on a stable surface and allowing it to dry. Once it has dried, it will retain its shape until you wash it again.
What Types Of Yarn Should Be Blocked?
Blocking techniques vary, and many knitters use a different method depending on the yarn that makes up their piece. Most natural fibers, such as cotton, wool and alpaca, benefit greatly from blocking. These fibers will bloom when theyíre blocked, filling out gaps and making the fabric appear more solid.
Silk is too delicate to withstand water and heat. Therefore, you should focus on getting the right gauge in your initial swatch when working with silk.
Some knitters will insist that itís not worth blocking acrylics because donít always hold their shape after theyíre blocked. However, we recommend it since blocking can even out the stitch tension and make the final results look neater.
Many patterns simply instruct you to block your work when youíre finished or before sewing segments together. They donít always tell you how to go about doing this. If youíre concerned about which method to use, block the swatch that you knitted to check your gauge before blocking the entire piece.
Some novelty fibers shouldnít be blocked at all. You can check the washing instructions on the yarn to help you determine the best blocking method. Use the method that most closely matches the instructions for the most delicate fiber in the piece.
The wet blocking immersion method may be the most common technique. Many knitters choose to do this if they plan to wash the garment again at any point. Immerse your piece in cold water in a sink, bathtub or bucket. You can add some wool wash or gentle shampoo to the water to break up the oils from your hands.
Stir the piece around, but donít agitate it. Certain fibers, such as wool, will merge together and become felted with friction. Let your work sit in the water for about five minutes.
Rinse the garment by draining the soapy water and replacing it with clean water. Continue to rinse with clean water until you donít see any suds. Then, lift the piece carefully out of the water, ensuring it doesnít sag under its own weight. Lay it on a towel, taking care to straighten edges and shape the work in the way that you want it to look when itís dry.
Roll up the towel, stepping on it to remove as much moisture as possible. You can unroll it and leave it on the towel to dry or move it to a blocking mat. Before you let the piece dry, measure it to ensure that it matches up with your pattern. If youíre planning to sew multiple pieces together, make sure that the edges match up.
Steam blocking can be used when youíre worried that immersion blocking will make your fabric stretch out and you know that the yarn can withstand heat. Most natural fibers do well with steam blocking. In fact, heat can soften scratchy yarns, however, be careful when applying heat to acrylics since youíll reduce their rigidity and make them limp. This is desirable for some projects, but not for others.
Turn your project inside out and pin it to the blocking surface, making sure that you shape it to the appropriate final dimensions. Use a steamer or steam iron at the hottest setting, and run it over the project without touching the yarn. The goal is to work the steam through the fabric without applying any pressure. Once the piece is damp, leave it pinned to the blocking surface to dry completely. You might need to steam curved seams on a round surface, such as a pillow, to help them retain their shape.
Cold blocking is ideal for yarn that canít withstand immersion or heat. Pin the piece onto the blocking board, taking the time to shape it properly. Mist it until the entire piece is wet, flattening out lumps and rearranging the edges if necessary. Leave the piece undisturbed until it dries completely. You can use a fan to speed up the process.
What About The Blocking Board?
If you plan to pin your project to a surface while it dries because it wonít hold its shape or you want it to look precise, youíll need a blocking board. This can be any waterproof backing that wonít warp and can be punctured with pins. If youíre steam blocking, your board should be able to withstand heat. The board should also be large enough to block your entire project at once.
You can purchase a blocking board or make your own. You should be able to insert rust-proof pins into the blocking board of your choice. When blocking large pieces, such as afghans, you can pin the project to a mattress covered in towels or a clean carpet.
We know that you get excited to finalize, wear or give away your project once youíve cast off. However, you put so much time and effort into knitting your piece. A few more hours of blocking will give it the quality that it deserves.