Blocking is the final step in knitting before you can enjoy your newly made item.

Like knitting a swatch to check your gauge before you start a project, blocking is something that is easily and often skipped at the end of a project. Blocking relaxes the yarn so you’re able to manipulate and shape it into the desired shape. For example, if you’re knitting a sweater and it’s a little short, you can block it and shape it into the correct dimensions so it will fit you properly.

So how do you know when you should block your project?

First let’s talk about when you don’t need to block. If it’s a small project, say a pet toy or something similar, then it doesn’t really matter. You can start using it right away. Another time you might not need to block is if you’re using yarn made from synthetic materials. A lot of times blocking with synthetic yarn does not work because the synthetic materials don’t allow the yarn to fully relax – but some people swear by throwing their synthetic yarn creation in the washing machine to block it so you could try that as an alternative.*

Okay, so now let’s talk about blocking. Blocking can be great for a number of things. If you want to smooth out any weird puckerings, if you want to stretch or shrink your knitwear, and especially if you are making lace, blocking gives your knit piece a nice, professional finish.

Look at the difference:

Here’s another example:

Via KnitKnot Adventures Via KnitKnot Adventures

Blocking, while time consuming, is clearly necessary for a really nice finish.

In the first example, you can see how blocking may not be necessary. If you’re wrapping that around a coffee mug, do you really need to take the extra time and effort to make sure the stitches are straight and even? Probably not. But it does look a lot nicer.

In the second example, if you want to see the eyelets in the lace you’re creating, you absolutely need to block.

Hopefully you’re convinced. Let’s get to it!

As always in knitting, there are a few different ways to block.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Cold water and some sort of basin or bucket
1-2 clean towels
Knitting pins (similar to these: Gem 1.5-Inch T-Pins)
Optional: Foam mat or mesh board

Let’s start!
Essentially, you need to wet your knitted item. Some people like to use a spray bottle or steamer, but that’s too time consuming for me. I like to take my piece and dunk it in water. Cold water only, please! (Hot water felts and can also shrink – avoid it!) Soak it for a few minutes.

While the knit piece is soaking, lay a clean towel out on the counter or floor.

Carefully and slowly wring the knitted piece out. Don’t be too vigorous because you may accidentally felt parts of it. Your object will probably still have tons of water in it, but go ahead and lay it carefully on the towel on the counter/ground. Fold the towel and then roll the it up so you can step on it to get rid of the excess water.

Unroll the towel and retrieve your knitted piece.

Lay the knitted item out on the second towel. Use a mesh mat or foam board if you have those.

This is the part where you get to shape it. Look at your suggested finished measurements (if you have any) because chances are the knitted piece has shrunk up quite a bit by this point. Pull gently until the dimensions/measurements are correct and then pin into place.

Here you can see that just by stretching all the stitches out gently, it adds an extra inch to my cozy. I could stretch it even more (in either direction) if I wanted to.

Now wait until it dries, and don’t touch it a moment before!

Once it’s fully finished drying, carefully unpin your creation and show it off! Woohoo!

*As I have no washing machine and I don’t make any items for myself with synthetic yarn, I have no experience on the subject. Anyone recommend it?

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2 thoughts on “Yes, you should care about blocking!

  1. Sarah

    I was going to ask about synthetic yarn…but you kind of answered that at the end of your post.

    Since I’m still such a beginner, I use mostly synthetic as I don’t want to spend too much on something that I’m still not that good at! Some synths are better than others for blocking. They don’t seem to respond well to wet blocking–where you soak it and then just let it air dry. If you try to steam them with an iron…well, LOOK OUT…you may actually melt the yarn! The 100% synthetic yarns will certainly melt. Sadly, I know this from experience.

    Things that are a blend, like something with cotton, might actually be ok with trying the wet blocking method. A yarn that has cotton in it, more cotton than not, might respond well to the steam method since cotton tends to shrink. I guess the real answer here is, try a sample with the yarn you have and see what happens.

    And, this shows me, again, why I am still stuck on scarves and hats! Generally speaking, they don’t need much blocking. sigh. More practice for me…soon…or eventually…or someday! I WILL be good enough to use good yarn that requires blocking!!!

    Reply

    1. kmjones3 Post author

      You’re right, it’s always a good idea to block your gauge swatch! I’m working on a series right now talking about what types of yarn work best for each blocking method so that should help in the future.

      I actually love wet blocking cotton. I find that it retains its shape fairly well.

      I’ve done some experiments with synthetic blends, and I find that they also respond pretty well to wet blocking – which is probably why I wet block almost everything!

      When you’re wet blocking, are you pinning it out to the correct measurements and still finding that it’s shrinking?

      You will DEFINITELY be great enough to knit with nice yarn – and I promise that blocking will get much easier. 🙂

      Reply

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