Monday, 5 August 2013

Knitters Block

In the past, I have never bothered to block anything.  Once the item was finished it was worn - or not depending on the end result and fit.  I knitted a lot of sweaters so by the time the marathon effort had been completed I was well and truly over it and ready to move on to something else.  However, I always used to lament that my knitting never looked finished or professional.  I would see pictures of other peoples knitting and it looked lovely - but mine didn't.  I tried my hand at fairisle but it looked like a lumpy blob of knitting and not at all what I had hoped for.

I didn't make the connection about finishing an item and blocking it until I knitted my first shawl.  It was a very necessary part of the process that the shawl is blocked.  It is the only way to bring out the intricate design and stitches.  Once I saw the shawl transformed I was hooked, and from then on I have blocked everything I have knitted and I couldn't be more pleased with the results.

The purpose of blocking is to smooth out any imperfections (or lumpy bits), enhance stitch definition, ease a garment into shape or add some length.  It can also help to disguise minor imperfections - a bit of easing here and there can be very forgiving.

There are a number of ways to block.  My favourite method is the 'pin and spray' method.  This involves pinning the garment/item into shape and then spraying it with water, giving it a 'gentle massage' and leaving it to dry.  This method is especially important with items that need to be a specific size or shape.

There is also steaming.  This involves using the steam from an iron to gently glide across the item to steam it into smoothness and shape.  I use this method for larger items.  I knit my sweaters in the round so I prefer to steam rather than pin them.

The other method is wet blocking whereby the item is washed so that it is completely wet, then shaping it and leaving it to dry.  I used this method for the first time for blocking my shawl but I have also heard it is a good way to add length to an undersized sleeve or a jumper that is a bit short.  It is nice to know that there is a method that can stop a project from ending up in a 'never to be worn' drawer.  I wish I had known of this before though.  It might have saved me a lot of anguish when trying on a finished garment to discover the fit wasn't quite right.

The stages of blocking.  Just off the needles,
after a soak and then pinned into place.
The difference in blocking can be seen here where the 'fluffy' shawl has a soak and is then stretched out to dry.

The finished, blocked shawl

Materials Required to Block a Project

4 interlocking childs play/yoga mats.

I can use one of the mats for a small project or lock all 4 of them together for larger projects. There are a number of  different types of blocking mats.  A few towels folded up and placed over a carpet is one although not advisable if you have small children or pets but very simple and portable.  If you do have children/pets, then the towels on an ironing board can do the trick.  There are also some specially made beautiful blocking boards available for purchase as well.  I just find the yoga mats suit me as they are cheap, portable and take up next to no room - I keep them down the side of my wool cupboard, out of the way.

A one metre long wooden rule with inches and centimetres.

A long rule is a good way of not only measuring but keeping everything in line.  A measurement of 6 inches at the top and 6 inches at the bottom of a square doesn't mean much if it has moved an inch to the side when you are pinning.

Lace Blocking Wires

I did not even know that such things existed until I knitted my first lace shawl.  They are wonderful for weaving through an edge to keep it straight and pulling it tight and pinning. I can't even begin to tell you how much time they save.

Shawl blocking pins

These are rather robust pins used for pinning the blocking wires in place.  Once the wires are pulled into place, there is a lot of pressure on them so the pins that hold them in place need to be strong.

Normal Sewing Pins

I use ordinary sewing pins for the majority of my blocking.  They are cheap and plentiful.

Designated Spray Bottle

I keep this bottle filled with water and hide it in my craft room so it cannot be used by anyone else.  I have nightmares of someone using it for say ..  bleaching.  

Method for 'Pin & Spray' blocking

1.  With the right side down, pin the top corners to the desired width - in this case 6.5 inches.

2 & 3.   As this square needs to be square (obviously), measure the same distance on each of the other sides and pin into place.

4. Following the line of the ruler or the markings on the blocking mat, place a number (lots) of pins in place so that the edges are straight.

5.  Spray the square until it is quite wet but not soaking.

6.  Time for a gentle massage.  Ease the wool into place by placing your fingers on the wool and opening them up for a little bit of ease and stretch.

Then you leave it overnight to dry.  I love the feeling of waking up in the morning to freshly blocked knitting.

Here is an example of the difference between a blocked and an unblocked piece of fairisle knitting.  When it comes time to ask the question - to block or not to block, I think the answer is obvious.
Blocked Fairisle Knitting
Unblocked Fairisle Knitting
Blocking Process

Happy knitting and blocking,

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  1. Thanks for posting. I have just begun to block things, and it does make a huge difference. Good tutorial.

  2. Thank you so much for this info... I have several projects ready to block. Can't wait to see the difference!

  3. Hi I have a question. After an item is blocked does the item have to be blocked every times its washed? Thank you

  4. I Never blocked. I didn't even know what it was until I joined online knitting group. I have several project I've completed. I will block to see the different

  5. This is very helpful. But the thought of trying to block an entire finished sweater is daunting. Could you could add info and photos of how you do that?


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