Incidentally this is not 'How to block' or even 'How to wash' as you will have read those in our earlier tuition blog articles. Oh, you haven't. Not to worry we can wait whilst you frantically pop back a post or two here.
Now here at KnitIQ we are quite fond of the Bard, aka William Shakespeare. Although he has not been around since 1616 his works live on in both his traditional format and contemporary versions.
Something we ponder over a nice cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge cake is if his famous Hamlet quote "To be or not to be - that is the question?" was, in fact, borrowed and amended from his wife's lament "To block or not to block - that is the question?"
Knowing well the cottage in Stratford Upon Avon that she called home, it is not difficult to imagine her sitting by the fireside, weaving in her ends thinking "Can I really be bothered, it's only for William and he'll never notice with his head stuck in his latest writing".
Well we will never know if she did or didn't, however, if she did she would have really liked our extra thick blocking mats for knitting. Just think how much easier they would have made it for her!
Our answer to the title question however is a resounding YES!
- Does it add to the time before you can wear your finished gorgeous item? Yes.
- Does it mean you have to find space, as the minute you pin it in place in the garden it will rain?Remember, this is England! - Yes.
- Does it mean that whilst it is blocking and drying you will be like the proverbial cat on hot bricks protecting it from spillages, pets, toddlers and such like? Yes.
- Will it make all the difference? Yes.
- Will you be pleased you bothered? Absolutely yes!
Now obviously there are other views on this, so, even though we may not agree, in the interests of fairness we have popped in a few answers given to us on our totally scientific survey conducted in our local village pub during a break in quiz night proceedings. We asked 'Do you think it is necessary to block crochet or knitting'?
Answers in no particular order consisted of:
Is that to do with ploughing?
I don't do the decorating.
We stopped at this point and realised the groups attending said quiz night did not appreciate our love for all things yarny. Instead we co-opted a few knitty pals with proper stores to ask some of their regular woolly folk. Their answers were thankfully a little different:
Depends what it is.
I don't have space.
I don’t have time.
I'm not sure how.
Reasons you may avoid blocking your knitting or crochet
I don't have space - For a lot of folk is a real problem, especially if trying to block out on a yoga mat instead of blocking boards for knitting. This is one of the reasons we made our blocking mats in a jigsaw style and exceptionally sturdy. This means you can make up the panels to suit your item and space.
Once pinned and at least 60% dry you can usually stand your garment up against a door or wall to completely dry. Just remember to check after the first 30 minutes for any 'sag'. If there is any it is still too wet so lay them down for a while longer.
I don't have time - Unless you are literally weaving in your ends as you run out of the door wearing your garment try and find time. After all you took the time to craft it!
I'm not sure how - It can seem confusing both to new knitters and crocheters alike. Corcheters we haven't forgotten you, you even have your own special blocking mats for crochet. Have a read through our 'How To' blog posts, ask friendly folk for their tips, chat with us on social media. The fear will soon leave you.
When blocking is a good idea
If you are knitting in the round, especially top down, you will usually block the completed garment.
Incidentally can anyone tell us why top down knitting seems to grow so much faster? You are knitting pretty much the same number of stitches as when you knit your jumper flat, however, it never seems to take as long. One of the great mysteries we keep pondering about.
These two pictures show Caitlin Hunter's Ghost Horses sweater being blocked and how the pattern definition improves with blocking:
If you are knitting flat it makes sense to block each section in turn, having first marked out your pattern with pins and yarn. This means that your first sections are drying while you are working on the following ones. We love multitasking.
Sewing up will also be a breeze after having blocked each section to exact measurement. Using this method your finished garment should require nothing more than a light spray and seam setting when it’s finished.
Here is an example of the Eastwind Jacket by Emily Foden which was first blocked section by section before the back seam was completed and a second damp block took place. The way to damp block is by spraying with dilute wool wash. And once the side seams were sewn all that was needed was for them to be lightly pressed on the wrong side.
When blocking is invaluable
Some things really do require blocking to look their best. Any lacework, cables, colourwork, linen, silk yarns will look a hundred times better if you block them.
Not convinced? Knit two identical double sized swatches 20cm × 20cm. Wash both, block and press one and leave the other to just air dry as it will. Then see the difference:
- Lacework will open up to show your stitch definition and design edges. Cables will lift so the front twist is clearly defined.
- Linen & Silk – don’t even contemplate leaving them to their own devices.
- Colourwork - be it stranded or Intarsia - will develop a whole new pattern clarity once blocked.
Knit IQ: If any of you are new to stranded colourwork a tip to show your contrast colour to its best advantage is to ensure you always run it below your primary so it is lifted as you knit the stitch. A really easy way to do this if you knit English style is to hold you contrast in your non dominant hand and knit each contrast stitch continental style, it also stops the dreaded tangling. If you knit continental keep your contrast below your primary for the same effect.
These pictures of the Ingalls sweater - pattern from Caitlin Hunter, yarn from John Arbon's Knit by Numbers collection - displays all of the above. It is a top down pattern, a slightly smocked yoke with a little lacework then a single contrast colour, finished off with a little more lace. The remainder is simple stocking stitch with a dipped back hem.
This first picture shows it almost complete, and whilst the contrast and lace is visible, it is not crisp. Also stocking stitch will always have a little variation - unless you are a total machine - because handknitting results in tiny tension changes throughout the project. Some of us after a spate of 'Just one more row' late into the evening have been known to look at it the next morning and unravel the last rows of noticeable change due to being half asleep.
The second picture shows it having just started to be pinned out. You can see although the pattern is visible, it is not crisp and uniform. Only when blocked fully and pressed out - as shown in picture #3 - do you find the stitch definition and contrast more pronounced. I just looks 'finished'.
One of our knitting obsessed friends told us this tale of her nana Nell who taught her to knit and mused whether this classed as blocking:
"As nana completed each flat piece of knitting she soaked it, lay it between two towels and then ran it through her old wooden mangle which she had kept purely for that reason, even after the arrival of her first washing machine. I think it probably could be classed as blocking."
So, in answer to our deeply philosophical question 'Do you have to block your knitting'. No of course you don't have to. Perhaps what we should ask is:
Why wouldn't you want to block your knitting or crochet?
Here at KnitIQ we can't think of any reason. This is why we have toiled to make our blocking products the best they can be to help you be your best crafty self! Happy blocking, and don't forget to tag us in your progress pics on social media: