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Blocking your Knitting or Crochet: An Overview

Blocking knitting or crochet is a subject that rarely gets yarn-lovers’ pulses racing, but arguably, it should do. Just in case you’re new to the idea, ‘blocking’ is a set of techniques used to even out the stitches in finished knitting or crochet, and to ensure that the work is the perfect size and shape. Whether you’ve made a lace shawl or a pair of socks, and regardless of whether you’ve used cashmere, cotton, wool, or acrylic, there are very few projects that can’t be enhanced by blocking. As long as you pick the right technique, your stitches will become more even, your cables or lace will look more pronounced, and the overall shape of your work will be visibly improved. And if you’re making a garment with separate pieces seamed together, the process of joining will be much easier if you block the individual pieces beforehand. What’s not to like!

Wet Blocking Knitting or Crochet

Part of the reason why people don’t always block their work is uncertainty about which method to use. Also there are myths around, such as the idea that blocking is of no benefit for acrylic garments. Let’s talk through the main types of blocking knitting or crochet, and perhaps bust a couple of myths along the way, so that you can feel confident in choosing the right approach. After all, having spent so many hours knitting, surely you want the result to look perfect?

The best-known method is to wash-and-block your work, and this technique is suitable for most projects and most types of yarn. Sounds simple? That’s because it is. I do recommend using a specialist wool wash, ideally a no-rinse formula.  Not only does this save you the effort of rinsing, but it reduces the amount that you need to agitate the fibres whilst they are wet, and for animal fibres this reduces the risk of felting and shrinkage. (Few things are more disappointing than realizing you’ve accidentally felted your best hand-knit socks through overenthusiastic washing. This is, unfortunately, a lesson that I learned the hard way.)

So let’s begin. First, pour a half to one teaspoon of wool wash into a sink, and add plenty of lukewarm water (definitely not hot!) Gently place your knitting or crochet in the water and ensure that it is almost completely submerged. If you’re washing several items at once, they should be similar in colour, to prevent colour-transference. Now, resist any urge to scrub or knead your garments, and instead leave the whole thing alone for fifteen to thirty minutes. Why? Because this is adequate time for the water and the detergent to fully penetrate and ‘relax’ the fibres. If you’re using a detergent that requires rinsing, then use several changes of very cool water to do so, and try not to pull or twist your knitting. Once the water is clear and free from bubbles, the rinse is complete. It is important to take care when removing your work from the sink. Being soaking wet, it will be at its heaviest and most vulnerable to distortion. As you lift each item, briefly squeeze it (without twisting) to remove some of the water. Then spread it out on a large, thick, towel. Roll up the towel with the item inside, and press on it to squeeze out more of the moisture. It’s perfectly all right to put weight on the rolled-up item: I often place it on the floor and kneel on it. But 
neverwring it out. Unroll the towel. You now need to pin your knitting or crochet out to dry in its desired shape

By far the easiest means of doing this is to use KnitIQ Blocking Mats, which can be connected into any shape configuration, and which have grid-lines to help you line up your work. Knitting and crochet patterns usually specify the dimensions of the finished item, and this is your opportunity to ensure that your work will be the correct size. Spread your knitting out evenly, and insert T-pins along its edges to apply a slight stretch. How much stretch is needed is determined by the type of project. If your work has a lot of texture (such as cabled knitting) then you don’t want to reduce the impact of this by over-stretching. Conversely, the details in lacework can really come alive if the fabric is quite robustly stretched. And then? Well then, you wait until your work is thoroughly dry before unpinning it. How long this takes will depend on the type and weight of yarn and the type of knitting or crochet, but many items need 24 hours or more to dry completely. If you’re really in a hurry, then placing a fan nearby can speed up the process, or you could use a hairdryer on its ‘cool’ setting.

Admire your Finished Creation!

The final stage is the most important and enjoyable, and that is to unpin and admire your finished creation in all its beauty. Look! See how even your stitches are? How perfectly shaped your lacework looks? How balanced the colours have become in your Fair Isle?

Steam Blocking for Acrylic Yarns

I mentioned earlier that there are several techniques for blocking knitting or crochet, and whilst the method described above will suit most yarns and projects, you might not always have the time to wash your project and wait for it to dry. In other instances, you may want to block your work while it is still in progress, just to make sure it'll come out as planned. If any of this is the case, you may wish to consider blocking by using a steam iron or hand-held steamer. You can use KnitIQ Blocking Mats to pin your knitting or crochet out, inserting each pin at an angle so that it won’t prevent the iron from getting close to your work. (If using an alternative brand of blocking boards, check beforehand whether they are suitable for steaming, and if in doubt use an ironing board instead.) Hold your iron slightly above the fabric and apply steam, never letting the iron touch your work (because that would melt and singe the fibre, which is never a good look!) Move slowly over the work, until you are confident that all of it has been exposed to the steam. Then leave it pinned in place to cool and dry completely before removing it.

Finally, you may have heard people refer to ‘killing’ acrylic yarn. This is not quite as murderous as it sounds, but is a way to remove all elasticity from acrylic fibre and fix the knitting or crochet permanently into shape. The resulting fabric will feel soft, with a pleasant drape, which is ideal for some types of garments. But it does take a little bit of bravery because at worst, you risk melting and ruining your work! On the plus side, ‘killing’ is a technique that you will only need to use once, unlike other blocking techniques which should ideally be repeated each time you wash the garment. To ‘kill’ an acrylic-based item, lay it out on KnitIQ Blocking Mats and cover it with a cloth. Then, move your iron slowly across your work, pressing very gently, and raising the iron frequently to check that you’re not applying too much heat or pressure. ‘Killing’ cannot be reversed, so if you’re unsure how to proceed, try the technique on a small test swatch before risking your lovely hand-knit. And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Now, you can block your creations with confidence and enjoy the beautiful results.

Get the #1 Best Selling Blocking Mat Solution

  1. KnitIQ boards are twice as thick as the leading brand which means your project will be held tightly in place giving you a more accurate, professional finish
  2. 100 T-pins are included as part of the set so you’re ready to go right out of the box
  3. The storage pack saves you space, keeps mats in good condition and provides you with a neat packing solution
  4. Grid lines allow you to precisely block your work so you end up with an expert finish every time
  5. KnitIQ mats are made from durable dense foam that means your mats will last
  6. Step by step instructions are included in each pack to guide through the blocking process for perfect results