How to Block Your Knits: A Tutorial + Helpful Tips

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.

Whether you’re well-versed in knitting techniques or just finishing your first project, this tutorial will offer a step-by-step guide for how to block in knitting that will be useful to everyone.

Blocking in Knitting Tutorial

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What’s blocking?

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.

There’s a more thorough tutorial later on in this post, but the gist of blocking knits is this: To block any item, get it wet, wash the fibers and then lay it out on a flat surface. You could use an ironing board, a bed, blocking mats or something else. Then gently shape your project to be the dimensions you want. Let it dry, and the item will hold the shape you set.

Why block your knits?

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 the 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.

What types of knits should be blocked?

For some casual garments, like a one-piece sweater that is meant to be a wear-around-the-house type of item, perhaps blocking isn’t essential. But most knits will benefit from the shaping that blocking provides.

To finish a knitting project you want to be relatively square, measure your dimensions as you lay out your project. If you aren’t having success, the likeliest problem is that your project isn’t wet enough.

A lot of knitters block their individual pieces before seaming them together, especially for garments like sweaters. 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.

Blocking tips for different fibers

  • Only natural fibers like wool, alpaca, etc., generally benefit from blocking.
  • For more delicate items like cashmere and acrylic, spritz blocking is recommended. For this, simply spray the item rather than soaking it and shape as desired.
  • Acrylic yarn can be “killed” to create a softer, more limp fabric. By applying heat to the garment though steam blocking or ironing the fabric directly, the plastic fibers in the acrylic yarn essentially melt together. Once you’ve “killed” a garment, it cannot go back to its original shape, so make sure you decide wisely which acrylic pieces to use this technique on.
  • Never try to block silk, as the fibers are far too delicate to withstand the heat. If you need a certain size or shape with silk, always create a gauge swatch first instead of relying on water and steam to help.

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

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.

Tpins for blocking knits

T-pins

T-pins work well with foam blocking mats. You can push the pins in so they hold down whatever item you’re blocking and make sure it stays put.

Green Sock on Sock Blockers

Sock blockers

I don’t knit socks often, but if I did, I’d probably buy sock blocks like these. They come in a range of sizes, so you don’t have to do much adjusting after you slip your sock on it.

Soak Wash

Wool wash

Part of blocking involves washing your knit. Make sure you use a mild shampoo. Baby shampoo works well, or you can buy special wool wash to use. 

How to block your knitting

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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

Directions:

1. Fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water. Never use hot water when soaking or rinsing natural fibers. 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.

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.

Dipping Sweater in Bucket with Wool Wash

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 dry towel.

Rolling Sweater in 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 damp item, making sure it is laying flat and that all the measurements match those from the pattern.

Sweater Drying on Towel

9. Now’s the time to perfect the sweater. Adjust every angle, and then leave the sweater on the towel to dry. If the item doesn’t want to hold the shape, use straight pins to hold it in place. Once you’re happy with it, let it sit and dry. Drying time will vary depending on how large the item is, so just check back in a couple of hours.

How to steam block

Steam blocking is a gentle way to shape knit garments, blankets and scarves. Instead of soaking the garment in water and pinning it to air dry, you steam it, most commonly with a typical household iron. There are many benefits to steam blocking, including that you can shape your garment, fix or cover up small mistakes and set stitches to appear more evenly.

The good news is that blocking is so easy, and there are two ways to do it:

Method 1:

1. Pin your garment out to the desired dimensions, making sure the wrong side is facing up.

2. Wet an old pillowcase or thin towel and wring out the excess water so that it’s damp. Place it on top of the garment.

3. Use a household iron at its hottest setting and press down lightly, forcing the steam through the garment. Repeat this all over the garment until the pillowcase is dry. Then let the garment dry for approximately 30 minutes.

Method 2:

Another way to steam block is to take the iron, put it on the steam setting, and hover it about an inch away from the garment. The goal is for the steam to go through the garment without ever touching the iron to the piece. Keep the iron moving along the length of the garment and then let it dry for 30 minutes or so.

21 Comments

Carmen Iglesias

Very clear explanation. Thank you to help knitters to do good jobs.

Reply
leah

What pattern is the sweater top you’ve put in the photo’s? It’s gorgeous and i’d love to make it. Thanks for the tutorial!

Reply
Ashley at The Feisty Redhead

Oooh, yes, it is a lovely sweater! It’s called Dogwood Donna, and I put a link in the text. It’s right above the steps for blocking, under the heading How to Block Your Knitting. Enjoy!

Reply
MaryQEP

I found blocking essential for lace shawls or scarves. It transforms something that looks like an old rag into something spectacular.

Reply
Leslie

Found this article in a search, lots of good info, but, lately I’ve been knitting scarves with sock yarn, that have some simple lace in them and I can’t seem to get them to block right. I soak them for hours to make sure they’re evenly wet. I pin them down until they are completely dry. I usually have a fan going on them while they block. They still bunch back up when I unpin them! Am I missing something? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Reply
Ashley

What fiber(s) is the sock yarn made from? If it’s not mainly animal fibers, it will spring right back to its original shape. Sometimes even a little hint of nylon or acrylic will stop it from blocking successfully.

Reply
Nara Fuchs

I see that you mentioned blocking mats but I don’t see one under the sweater. I am knitting a new sweater and I’d like to know how the girds would be of assistance when a towel is blocking the view?

Reply
Dee

My comment/question is the same as Nara’s.
So is there such a blocking board that would absorb the water,
but where you can still see the grid for pinning it?

Reply
Nara Fuchs

I see that you mentioned blocking mats but I don’t see one under the sweater. I am knitting a new sweater and I’d like to know how the girds would be of assistance when a towel is blocking the view?

Reply
Nara Fuchs

I see that you mentioned blocking mats but I don’t see one under the sweater. I am knitting a new sweater and I’d like to know how the girds would be of assistance when a towel is blocking the view?

Reply
tightening Cream

I have read so many articles regarding the blogger lovers but this piece of writing iss truly
a good paragraph, keep it up.

Reply
PAT MAGLIOCCHINO

I JUST FINISHED KNITTING STRIPS FOR AN AFGHAN. NOW I HAVE TO PUT THEM TOGETHER. DO I BLOCK EACH STRIP OR PUT IT TOGETHER & THEN BLOCK. I DO NOT NEED TO WASH THE STRIPS. I THOUGHT I COULD JUST PRESS THEM WITH A STEAM IRON. WHAT DO YOU THING?

Reply
Putting panels together

I am a new knitter and am making a king sized Afghan and would love to see and hear what solution you came up with Pat. I am teaching myself as I do not know anyone who knits . thank you in advance for your reply

Reply
Kaitlin

Good article with good tips – however the part about only being able to block natural fibers is 100% false. You can block acrylic, you SHOULD block acrylic. Stockinette typically only responds to steam blocking, however for thicker items like cabled scarves respond very well to being fully soaked & laid out to dry.

Reply
Sue White

This is a very informative article. My only problem is space. I have nowhere to leave items to dry, either inside or outside as I live in a one bed roomed flat with my husband. I have the time as we are both retired. I knit with machine washable fibers and the first wash I treat as my blocking, which usually works perfectly with the items on the bed on towels to dry with fans. Please tell me something, my mother used to knit everything for us. As far as I know she only used fingering wool and washed everything by hand. I wonder if this is how she blocked her garments as well, using the first wash or not blocking?

Reply
Barbara Keller

If your using 75% acrylic,25%wool how would you block?Wet or steam? thank You.

Reply
Dr Carla

Good morning, excellent article. Am presently creating a cabled Fisherman’s wife neck cowl. Would you recommend blocking before or after attaching the buttons? I am thinking before but am a beginner (amazing the things you can learn on howtodo on youtube). This is my 2nd item knitted and previously I did not block the other baby blanket at all ( it was never mentioned on the youtube video). Thank you for contributing the wonderful article.

Reply
Vicki

I just finished my first baby sweater. I gently soaked it in Eucalon, I have now rolled
it in a towel twice to get the water out. The problem is that it has grown since washing and
is very long. The neck also looks huge. Any tips will be appreciated. Thank you.

Reply
Cecilia

When I use the pins to secure the item… how can I do this when it is on a towel? The towel will just be pulled. An example of using the pins would help. A view of a blocking board in use would help.

Reply
Shirley A Cassel

The questions are very interesting but I would love to see the answers to them!

Reply

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