All about Blocking

Blocking is a finishing process that helps your stitches plump up or ‘Bloom’ and set in their correct position. It won’t elongate a too short garment, or shrink a too big one on any permanent basis (unless you accidentally shrink a wool sweater by agitating it in hot water).

To get the best fit, always knit a gauge swatch, take accurate body measurements and adjust patterns accordingly.

Types of Blocking

Wet Blocking (aka Hand washing)

Wet blocking involves submerging your garment or knitted pieces completely under lukewarm water which contains a mild soap. 

  • Submerge your garment in lukewarm or cool water with a mild detergent specifically for knits
  • Gently squeeze the soap through your garment under the water to loosen and rid it of dirt and grime. Do not scrub garment
  • Gently lift your item out of the water (some fibers such as wool weaken in water so be sure not to wring or stretch) and rinse with cool water, squeezing to get rid of as much water as you can.
  • Without stretching, spread your knits on a clean towel and roll to let the towel absorb more water.
  • Gently squeeze the towel so it absorbs as much water as possible
  • Unroll and gently lay on a blocking board or dry towels
  • Shape, smooth in place using your pattern schematics or measurements as a reference
  • Gently coax the pieces into the correct dimensions without distorting the direction of the stitches. 
  • Pin on blocking board or towels
  • Let dry.

Steam Blocking

Steam blocking is a more gentle way to shape your garment. Steam blocking doesn't clean your project but it gently coaxes your garment or knit pieces into shape. This method is commonly used for lace shawls with blocking pins. 

  • Place your garment on a sheet, towel or blocking board wrong side up
  • Shape, smooth in place using your pattern schematics or measurements as a reference
  • Wet an old clean sheet or pillowcase, wring out the water until the sheet is damp and place on top of your pinned pieces 
  • Hover a med hot dry iron over the damp sheet and use the heat from the iron to force steam through the fabric until the sheet is dry. Do not use the steam setting on the iron
  • Let the steam from the iron penetrate the fibers without putting the iron directly on your knitting.
  • Remove the sheet and allow your garment to rest and dry

Spray Blocking

Spray blocking is the most gentle method and is best used on those mystery synthetic fibers and fine fibers such as cashmere or alpaca.

  • Using your pattern schematics, lay your smooth stitch garments wrong side up, textured knits right side up and pin on a blocking board
  • With a clean spray bottle filled with room temperature water, spray lightly on your pieces 
  • Press your knitting pieces gently into shape with your hands to even out the fabric.
  • Pin in place and let dry
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Stitches and Blocking

If you’ve knitted a lace or open crochet garment and want the patterns to show to its fullest, you’ll have to block your stitch patterns. Be sure to follow the care instructions on your yarn band. 

Wet blocking is the preferred method for blocking open stitches. Soaking relaxes the fibers and gets the fabric ready for stretching. When open stitches have been properly blocked, the garment is shown to its full beauty and intricacy.

Textured or dimensional stitch patterns such as Aran, cables, bobbles or other highly textured stitches can flatten if the fabric is stretched beyond its natural gauge during the blocking process. So careful consideration must be given. I like to use the steam or spray methods depending on how textured my knitting is. 

Tools for Blocking

Tools will vary according to which method you use. 

  • A flat, covered, padded surface large enough to hold your garment
  • Rustproof T-pins, lace blocking wires or glass headed pins. Don’t use plastic. They’ll melt when they come into contact with the heat from the iron.
  • Tape measure or yardstick. Used with schematics to block to pattern measurements. 
  • Spray bottle or Tub of water (can use a sink for wet blocking)
  • Colorfast towels (you don’t want color bleeding into your garment)
  • Steam iron or handheld steamer
  • Pressing cloth or clean sheet

Caring for your Knits

Never hang a knitted or crocheted garment. Hanging will stretch your garment and depending on the fiber content, your sweater may not bounce back after washing. 

For storage, fold or roll your garment and store in an airtight container. Make sure your garments are clean and dry before you store them to avoid mildew. I throw in a few lavender sachets I make myself to keep moths and bugs away.

When storing your knits, be aware that insects such as moths and Wooly Bears (carpet beetle larvae) love to feed on animal fibers such as wool, silk, cashmere, and Angora. Most bugs won’t feed on cotton but they will cocoon themselves in the folds of your knitting and feed if your cotton is mixed with an animal fiber. 

Any knits infested with carpet beetles should be destroyed. Read an article HERE about getting rid of a carpet beetle infestation. Another alternative is freezing your garment for at least 48 hours or exposing it to temperatures above 120 degrees for 4 hours since carpet beetles hate heat and cold.

Placing mothballs or cotton balls soaked with lavender oil with your stored knits will act as an insect repellent. I make my own sachets and store them with my knits and throughout my yarn stash. I hate bugs. Click HERE to learn how to make your own. They last a long time. I occasionally go around and squeeze and rough them up a bit to refresh them. 

Dry cleaning is safe and the preferred method of cleaning for most silks, rayon, and wool. Dry cleaning is a controlled method of cleaning textiles without water. When you take a hand knit garment to the cleaners, be very specific about the fiber content and identify any stains.

Steaming is an option that doesn’t clean your garment, but it will plump up your stitches and reshape them. Just follow the same instructions for steam blocking.

Hand knit garments are actually very durable and with proper care will last a lifetime. After investing all that time in knitting and money in yarn, take good care of your valuable work. 

I’ve put together a  Block that Knit! a downloadable workbook that helps you determine which blocking method is best to use according to the fiber content of your yarn. There is also a blocking method instruction sheet. 

To instantly download your Blocking Guidebook, click HERE. You've put a lot of work into your handcrafted garments, let’s keep them looking their very best.

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Sticks & String,