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Blocking 101

Posted by Allison Barnes on
Blocking 101

You’ve finished the last row of stitches on your project so it’s finished, right? Not quite - even once the last end is woven in, you should take the time to block your knitting.

Blocking can’t fix everything but it’s a pretty magical step:

  1. Blocking lace knits opens up the yarnovers and stitches to show off the beautiful airy pattern; blocking is essential to making lace knits.
  2. Blocking helps stitches settle and evens out the overall tension, giving the project a polished and smooth appearance.
  3. Blocking can help create a little bit of extra stretch in a garment; however, it does not make up for sizing issues! If your project is too snug or your sleeves are too short, frog the garment and start over or add extra rows. Trying to fix sizing through blocking at best means having to do this every time you wash the garment or could strain the beautiful yarns you’ve selected to the breaking point and ruin your project.
  4. Blocking can help smooth out your stitches but it won’t fix tension problems. If you’re having issues with tension, make it a habit to swatch your projects before knitting and be extra mindful of your tension during the knitting process.

Here’s how to do a basic wet block!

You’ll need:
Your finished project, a clean sink or basin, clean absorbent towels, rust-resistant pins, blocking mats.

  1. Fill your basin or sink with tepid (barely warm) water, enough that the item can float in the sink loosely. Do not run water over your garment; place it in gently and swish - no kneading or scrunching!
  2. Once the garment has evenly absorbed water throughout, empty the excess water from the basin. Squeeze the water from your garment by pressing the item against the sides and bottom of the basin. Gently squeeze and press, be mindful that the weight of the item is supported at all times and never hangs or pulls under its weight as this could stretch out some of the stitches.
  3. Once as much of the water is expressed as possible, lay the item on a dry, clean towel, ensuring no parts of the garment overlap. Roll the towel and item and then press the towel. This should help absorb most of the remaining water; ideally do this on a tile floor as the water can seep out.
  4. Now that most of the water has been removed, it’s time to block!
    1. To soft block, gently pat and tug the item into the correct shape and allow to dry while lying flat on a towel. Let dry completely and then enjoy your finished project!
    2. To hard block, use your blocking mats and pins (and ideally your pattern for measurement references) and lay out your project, stretching and pinning the edges to hold them. If you have blocking wires, they can be threaded through straight edges to add additional support or you can just add additional pins along the edges to maintain a smooth edge.

      Lace and open work, or scalloped/pointed edges are an excellent time to block with pins as it will help set the details and points in your pattern.
  5. Now it’s time to wait for your project to dry! If you’re impatient, you can leave the blocking on a flat top laundry rack to improve air circulation or in warmer weather, leave it out in the shade. Never let knits dry in full sun - it can bleach your yarns and turn them coarse and uneven.

Don’t worry about felting - it requires a combination of wetting and agitation/friction. As long as you’re careful about how you’re handling your project and only swishing/pressing, you should have no issues.

Blocking socks or a hat? Socks are easy to block with a set of sock blockers - they come in different sizes and just need to be slipped inside the socks and left to dry. With hats, a trick you can try is to use a bowl approximately the size of the hat and block the hat over the underside and then balance the upturned bowl+hat on something like a paper towel roll.

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