The importance of blocking your knitting projects

I know how it is. You finish up knitting, you’re excited to wear whatever it is, weaving in ends seems like the biggest hassle in the world and the last thing you want to do after all that is to purposefully give yourself another boring task. Blocking is only for lace anyway, right? WRONG.

This is my new cowl. It is squishy and big and red and has triangles on and I loves it. Unfortunately immediately after knitting it looked a bit of a clip (that’s commoner talk for “a mess”).

Big Red Cowl - before blocking

Weirdly, in real life that wall is yellow

The benefits of blocking

Tension / evenness

Maybe you’re lucky and have the most even tension in the world, giving you the most gorgeously tidy stockinette. I, and many others, do not. A quick wash and block tends to sort this out to an almost alarming degree and immediately makes your stitches look much more even, reducing the “handmade” look and increasing the “ooh, where did you get that?” factor.

Stitch definition

Everyone knows blocking is important to open up lace patterns. You’ll get no argment from me.

lace-comparison

What a lot of people don’t realise is how important it can be for other stitches too. Let’s take this cowl as an example.

Big Red Cowl - before blocking closeup

Bit wonky :\

The pattern involves a lot of straight lines, but the combination of stockinette and reverse stockinette is conspiring to pull and pucker and generally make the whole thing look a bit wonky. Can blocking help that? Yup.

Big Red Cowl - after blocking closeup

Much tidier!

Note: some textures, like cables for example, will tend to flatten if they’re blocked too harshly. It’s best to be gentle with your stretching if you want cables or other textured stitches to “pop”. In this case I wanted it quite flat for a subtler texture, so stretched the cowl a lot while pinning out, but in reality the pattern is still much more obvious than in that photo. (Note to self, lrn2camera).

Size and shape

Big Red Cowl size before blocking

First it’s short and wonky

Blocking gives you a choice; should you be gentle or harsh? Do you need it to just be a little tidier, or do you actually need to change the dimensions? Knitted a wool cardigan but it’s just slightly too tight on the hips? There’s a good chance you could block it bigger.

Big Red Cowl size after blocking

Then it’s not short and also slightly less wonky!

This would be the appropriate place for a reminder to ALWAYS BLOCK YOUR GAUGE SWATCH too.

Drape

Most fabrics in my experience, even boring old stockinette, will respond well to a nice blocking in terms of drape. Compare this to the first photo for proof.

Big Red Cowl - after blocking

I lurve it!

The most basic tutorial on blocking every written

  • Soak your finished item (or run it through the washer if it’s that sort of yarn).
  • Roll it up in a towel and stand on it to squish out excess water.
  • Pin it or stretch it over something, generally get it into the right shape and size.
  • Wait for it to dry, try not to keep poking it.
  • Hurrah!

General blocking tips and things to remember

  • Don’t use a nice white towel to dry off a bright red cowl. Ahem.
  • You can use just about anything of the appropriate shape as a blocking aid. I’ve seen people using paint cans, balloons, I recently got extra slouch out of a slouchy beanie by filling it with heavy things and hanging it upside down from the brim.
  • For flat items, a lot of knitters (including me) swear by using children’s foam play mats. They can be put together in a ton of different shapes and they avoid you having to pin things to the spare bed.
  • It’s absolutely worth taking your time to get a straight edge. There’s nothing worse than a project ruined or at least delayed by an unintentionally scalloped edge. If you don’t have the patience to use eleventy million pins, perhaps a set of blocking wires would be a good investment.
  • If you’re blocking a beret and using the oft-referenced blocking over a plate method, remember your brim! It’s easy to end up with a too-loose brim this way and unless your beret was knitted top down there’s not much you can do about it post-blocking. Instead of getting into this situation, weave a bit of scrap yarn around the top of the brim and pull this tight after placing over the plate, to make sure it stays snug.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. How about you? Leave your tips in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

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1 Response

  1. What an absolutely wonderful post on blocking. I have to admit that blocking is my least favorite part of knitting. Followed closely by gauge swatches. It’s very nice to see the projects before and after blocking side by side to reiterate just how much of a difference it makes.

    She Knits in Pearls

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