Tag Archives: blocking knitting

Blocking: The Basics

OK, so if you’ve blocked before, this’ll be a refresher for you.  If you haven’t tried wet blocking before, you’re in for some excitement (but maybe it’s just me that’s excited about blocking…).

I’m using a little bitty swatch for this example, but you can use this technique for just about any shape for basic blocking.  This swatch is a little piece of stockinette.  Stockinette is super curly when it’s unblocked, so I definitely need to block it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a tiny little project, so I’m just using a little cereal bowl to soak my knitting.  I’ve filled it with warm (think bathwater) water, and I let the swatch hang out for a bit (about 20 minutes) or until its completely soaked through.  If I’m in a hurry, I’ll squeeze the knitting gently to get all the air out and really soak the fibers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, I’ll get out a clean towel and roll up my wet knitting, squeezing it to get out the extra water.  You want your knitting to be damp, but not dripping.  Sometimes, I’ll even step on the rolled-up knitting (like squishing grapes for wine), especially if it’s a really big project.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce most of the water is squeezed out, I’ll break out my foam blocks (or your carpet, if you have carpet) and lay a new, dry, clean towel on top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I’ll take the damp knitting and pin out the corners to the dimensions I want.  I want this square to be nice and, well, square.  So I’ll start here.  The sides will pull in at first, but that’s OK.  We’ll fix that in the next steps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, I’ll grab more pins and tack down the center points of each side. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then I’ll add another pin in-between each existing pin.  Since this swatch is so small, I’ll stop here.  If I was blocking something larger (like a scarf), I’d keep adding pins until I had surrounded the whole item and gotten rid of the little swoopy edges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ve finished the hard part! (If you can even call it hard.)  Let your knitting dry completely (if you’re in a hurry, point a fan at it or put it in a sunny window), and remove the pins.

And, voilà la! A perfectly finished project! (Or at least an almost perfectly finished project.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext time, we’ll talk about blocking something a little more complicated- sweaters!

Blocking: Gear

A lot of people love shopping.  To them, there’s nothing more exciting than starting a new project and collecting all the gear they’ll need.  They enjoy dropping a couple hundred bucks on top-of-of-the line tools and professional-grade materials.

I am not one of those people.

It’s probably because I was raised in the Midwest, that most pragmatic portion of the country.

I like to get the bare minimum, and, if I can use stuff I already have around the house, all the better.  (After all, the money I save can go to buying more yarn!)

Sure, you can go buy fancy blocking wires, specialty blocking pins and expensive, nice-smelling blocking detergents.  I’m sure they’re all nice to have, but when you’re just beginning to block your knitting, do you really need these things?  No.  (And, frankly, even now, I use these materials for 90% of my projects.)

Here’s what you really need:

(And, FYI, these are all materials for wet-blocking projects.  It’s what I do for almost all my projects, and so far it’s served me well.)

1. Something to put water in.  Do you have a sink, a bowl, a bathtub?  Is it clean?  That’s all you need.  If it can hold warm water, and isn’t gross, you’re good to go.stainless-steel-bowls[1]2.  Pins.  I just use regular sewing pins.  They’re dead cheap, and you probably already have a little box of them squirreled away.  If you don’t, you can get a pack of a couple hundred for a few bucks at your local fabric store.  Some people will tell you that sewing pins will rust and discolor your knitting.  But, I haven’t seen that happen; the amount of time a pin is in contact with moisture is too short for rust to develop.  Of course, I wouldn’t use a rusty pin to block my knitting, but that’s just common sense.sewing-pins-new[1]3.  Something squishy to stick pins in.  For years, I actually used a clean towel, spread out over the Berber carpet in our attic.  The carpet held pins in place nicely, and was free.  But, our new house is unfortunately all wood and tile.  I know some folks block on a spare bed, or the back of a couch, but that’s a pain.  Instead, I went to the kids’ section of Target and got a $20 pack of foam tiles (the kind you’re supposed to put out on the floor so kids don’t crack their head when they fall).  They lock together into whatever shape you need, and work great.  You can get foam tiles that are specifically made for blocking, but they cost a bunch more.

81xrtGJjGNL._SL1500_[1]4. Your knitting.  Obviously.  FYI, wet blocking works best with animal fibers (wool, alpaca, etc.).  I have blocked some cotton things, which works a little, but blocking plant and man-made fibers never has the same amazing results.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow that we’ve gathered the things you need from around your house (or maybe a quick trip to the store), next week we’ll start with blocking something simple!

Blocking!

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about blocking.  And it is kind of mysterious, so I understand the confusion.  It actually took me several years of serious knitting before I started regularly blocking my projects.  And let me tell you, it was amazing how much nicer my projects looked once I started blocking them.

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Think of blocking like adding a squeeze of lemon or a dusting of powdered sugar to your project.  It’s a flourishing touch that turns a good project into a great one.  Sure, your sweater will fit, even unblocked, but it will be so much better if you do.  Blocking makes your stitches more even, straightens out any little pulls and makes your knitting look more professional.  And (and this is a huge bonus), it lets you cheat a little bit on the size of your finished project.  Did the scarf turn out a little too small?  Are your sweater’s sleeves a little too long? Blocking can fix (or at least kind of fix) it.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll talk about how I block (of course there are as many ways to block projects as there are knitters),  what you need to block a project, and what blocking can do for you.

Stay tuned!