Ever had a sweater — store-bought or handmade — that just loses its shape? The sleeves are hanging at different lengths, and hems that used to hit at the hips now hang like a crop top. What can you do? You have to reshape it. That’s what blocking is for.
While many of you who are well-versed in knitting techniques may be more familiar with how to block in knitting, this tutorial will offer a step-by-step guide for those who might be newer to the process.
Knitted projects won’t come out perfect as soon as you bind off. You have to tell the stitches where to sit. That’s all blocking is.
Chances are, you have a couple of lumps and bubbles, in addition to uneven lengths. Blocking can take care of that, too.
Before you go crazy, don’t think that blocking will make up for those stitches you forgot to decrease or that little section where you went off pattern. It’s hard to hide those mistakes. Blocking will simply reshape an item.
A lot of knitters block their individual pieces before seaming them together. I’m going to admit it: I don’t do that. I sew the whole piece together, then I block it. I prefer this because it just makes life easier. I can do all the blocking at once and have a better idea of what it looks like as a finished piece. If this makes you nervous, you should go ahead and block them separately.
Quick blocking tips
- Only natural fibers like wool, alpaca, etc. will benefit from blocking
- Never use hot water when soaking or rinsing natural fibers. Remember that hot water and agitation are used to felt wool, so if you use either of those when you block, your stitches will start to stick together to form a solid piece of fabric.
- You probably don’t want your sweater smelling like your hair — or maybe you do. Make sure you’re blocking with a mild shampoo. Baby shampoo works well, or you can buy special wool wash to use.
Fancy blocking tools
Like most techniques, there are a ton of tools you can use to block. I don’t own many of these tools. For the most part, I substitute in other things I have around the house. When deciding whether to buy these tools below, just purchase what you think is best for your skill level. Will you be blocking a lot? Can you substitute the tools? It all depends on your personal preferences.
Blocking mats are awesome because they have grids on them that can help when you’re measuring and tugging at your blocked item. You can also get a special blocking board or foam mat that serves the same purpose.
T-pins work well with foam blocking mats. You can push the pins in to hold down whatever item you’re blocking and make sure it stays put.
I don’t knit socks often, but if I did, I’d probably buy these sock blocks. They come in a range of sizes, so you don’t have to do much adjusting after you slip your sock on it.
You can use a mild shampoo to wash your sweater, but there are also wool washes and other special fabric washes. This soak came from Purl Soho.
How to block your knitting
I knitted my first sweater a few years ago. After every few wears, the rib at the bottom of the sweater starts to stretch out to the sides, making the sweater shorter and making my body look horrific in it. Here’s how I solved the shaping problem.
What you’ll need:
- Sink or bucket large enough to hold your item
- Mild shampoo or wool wash
- 2 towels, one for rolling and another for blocking
- Measurements of your finished item, usually provided in the pattern
1. Fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water. (Remember that hot water will cause wool to felt. We don’t want that!)
2. Toss a little bit of the shampoo or wool wash in there and mix it all up.
3. Dip your knitted item (in my case, a sweater) into the water. Move it around just enough to make sure the entire item is wet, but don’t go nuts and dunk it in and out. Just like the hot water, agitation will make the natural fibers come together. Let the item hang out in the sink or bucket for about 5 minutes.
4. Begin the rinsing process: Drain the sink or bucket and refill it with cool water. Keep rinsing the item until the water is clear and without suds.
5. Grab one of the bath towels. Lay your item on the towel. No need to check exact measurements right now, but lay it out roughly the way you want it to look. You’ll get one more chance later to really adjust it.
6. Roll the item up in the towel. Squeeze the water out as you roll. If the item still feels drenched, you can repeat this step with another clean towel.
7. Grab one more bath towel. Lay the towel on a flat surface.
8. Check out the measurements from your pattern. If you’re making a garment like a sweater, you’ll want to be more exact than if you’re blocking, say, a blanket. Start to pull on your sort of wet item, making sure the item is laying flat and that all the measurements match those from the pattern.
9. Now’s the time to perfect the sweater. Adjust every angle, and then leave the sweater on the towel to dry. (Drying time will vary depending on how large the item is, so just check back in a couple of hours.)
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