Blocking is an essential but often overlooked step in knitting. Once a project is off the needles, blocking is like waving a magic wand over your knitting to bring it from good to great – yarn blooms to incredible softness, stitches smooth out to a uniform look, and lace stitches transform to a delicate beauty.
Today we’re going to talk about the two main ways to block knitting projects, as well as offer tips for specialized knits.
Recommended for wool and animal fibers in general, wet blocking involves fully wetting your finished pieces.
Optional (but nice to have!) tools:
- Wool wash
- Blocking mats or a blocking board
- A set of stainless steel blocking wires for perfect, straight edges
First, fill a clean sink or basin with water. For water temperature and soaking time, follow the yarn label’s recommendations for the yarn used. Generally, we recommend using lukewarm water (hot water may cause felting in wool!). If using, add wool wash to the bath and swish to distribute evenly.
To soak, gently submerge your project, gently squeezing out any air bubbles so that the piece is fully saturated. Never place animal fiber items under running water as this agitation may felt your fabric.
Allow the piece to rest in the bath for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. To remove your project, gently lift it out of the water, making sure to support its weight evenly so that the fabric doesn’t stretch and distort under the extra water weight. Gently squeeze (never wring!) to remove excess water.
Next, lay your project flat on a clean, dry towel. Roll your project up in a single layer or fold into thirds to make the rolling size more manageable. Press gently and evenly on the rolled towel to remove excess moisture before unrolling and laying your garment flat to completely dry.
To block a garment or project to specific dimensions, lay your project on blocking mats or another pinneable surface. Gently adjust your garment until the piece matches the pattern’s finished measurements or schematic dimensions. Use T-pins when necessary to maintain precise dimensions during the drying process.
This method is recommended for delicate lace projects, cottons, and for gently refreshing garments between wears. It allows you to block without the danger of stretching under water weight, as in wet blocking. Spray blocking is also a much faster method if you’re dealing with a thin, single layered piece as with lace shawls or light accessories.
To spray block, lay your piece flat on your blocking surface. Lightly spray with a rinse-free spray like Soak or a spray bottle of water. Pin or adjust your piece to the desired measurements and follow with a second round of spraying until your piece is lightly, evenly damp.
Some projects have a couple of extra steps to get them looking their best.
Blocking is incredibly important for lace projects – when it first comes off the needles, a shawl will likely resemble a bit of jumbled mess. But by blocking and pulling it into the finished dimensions, the lace opens up and you’ll have a beautiful heirloom piece in no time.
You will need all of the same items above but blocking pins and mats are a must (and blocking wires are a useful bonus). First, you will need to find a space big enough to fit your piece where it won’t be disturbed while it dries – while lace projects dry more quickly than other heavier projects, it will still take at least a couple of hours to completely dry.
Follow the same instructions for either wet blocking or spray blocking. Once it’s on the mat, you’ll want to start pining it out to the final dimensions. A useful tool is lace blocking wires for straight edges and perfect points on a shawl. Carefully thread your blocking wires through selvage stitches at regular intervals.
Once you have inserted your blocking wires, place pins along the inside of each wire at periodic, even intervals while stretching your item to the desired dimensions. Inserting pins at an angle will keep the wires more stable as the fabric dries, especially if you are blocking under pressure to get a larger size.
Once your piece is dry, unpin and wear!
While many people choose not to block socks, it’s extremely helpful to open up stitch patterns and even out knitting for photography or gift giving.
Like lace projects, you’ll follow the basic instructions for wet or spray blocking. However, for socks, we recommend using a sock blocker to get them in that perfect sock shape.
Find the correct sock blocker for your intended recipient’s size – too small of a blocker and you won’t get any of the benefits of blocking; too large and your hard work will become too big!
Then it is simply a matter of sliding the sock on as you would if putting it on your foot! Make sure the heel and the toe are lined up in the proper places, then let dry. These blockers can be left to dry flat (flip them after a couple of hours to dry evenly) or hung up on a hook.
Getting in the habit of blocking your knits as a finishing touch will transform your hard work to swoon worthy projects! Have a question about blocking? Leave it in the comments!