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Your KnitIQ Guide to Blocking Knitting & Crochet Projects

Have you ever finished knitting a comfy jumper, then washed it as instructed, only to find that your comfort giver has turned into a clingy hugger which leaves you feel exposed and anything but comfortable?

Or did you attempt to make a beautiful lace shawl following the pattern to the letter, only to get disappointed with the end result which ended up looking nothing like the picture that enticed you to make it in the first place?

Don’t worry, you are not alone! Every knitter and hooker has been there at some point on their journey. Because the making process doesn’t end with the final stitches. And the piece you’ve put your heart and soul into making isn’t lost!

 

What many makers miss...

… is the fact that yarn has a life of its own, especially if it’s made from natural fibres. Feeling and working your yarn during the making process is one thing, washing and shaping it afterwards is a whole different story. Natural fibre yarns in particular can change dramatically in texture when put to water, which is why your carefully crafted linen, wool or silk pieces may take a funny shape once they come out of the wash. To remedy this you can use a method called blocking. It’s a finishing technique that helps you shape your finished project to fit the dimensions indicated in your pattern. It smoothens and aligns your stitches to a professional look, just like the picture that inspired you to get your hook or needles out in the first place.

TIP: Every yarn and fibre combination behaves differently after washing, even if you only use cold water. Especially when using substitute yarn as opposed to the one recommended in the pattern: Always wash and block your swatches first before starting your new project! This way you’ll quickly see how the yarn behaves after washing and the effect of blocking on the patterned fabric you’re creating. Blocking can spare you the anguish after spending many a night carefully crafting your dream jumper, only to fall out of love with it after the first wash. Blocking can work miracles, but it won’t change the natural behaviour of yarn, which is why washing and blocking your patterned swatches is essential to make sure your project turns out as you want it to be.

You’ll be surprised to see how the fibres plump up and stitches bloom after blocking. It’ll make the fabric look more even and professional, which you can see here in our friend's picture @hot.tub.crochet.machine on Instagram. It's particularly useful if you’re making a lace shawl like this or where individual pieces have to be sewn together. Most people who tried it never go back to not blocking! It’s that satisfying!

How to Block Your Knitting and Crochet Projects

If you’ve never blocked a piece in your life but keep hearing people wax lyrical about it, there will be a day you might be curious enough to actually try it for yourself. But where to begin?


Before you begin blocking you need some information:

                        • What yarn is your project made from:
                              •     -> Is it made from natural fibre yarn like merino wool, cotton or silk?
                              •     -> Is it made from man-made synthetic fibres like acrylic yarn?
                        • What are the washing instructions on the yarn label?
                        • Where in your house do you have enough space to lay your project out flat and leave it undisturbed?

3 Major Blocking Methods

Which method to use depends on the type of yarn your project is made from, your experience with blocking, and personal preference:

  1.  
  2. SPRAY BLOCKING
  3. The easiest and most gentle method is spray blocking, or misting. You only need a spray bottle filled with water, a blocking surface and pins. If you are new to blocking for knitting or crochet, or unsure about the fibres in your yarn, this is a good way to experiment and ‘get the idea’. For instructions click here.

WET BLOCKING

  1. Another more thorough way of blocking is a method called wet blocking. When wet blocking, the garment is left soaking in water to relax the fibres, gently squeezed to drain the water, and pinned onto a blocking surface to dry. For instructions click here.

STEAM BLOCKING

  1. Finally, a slightly faster method is steam blocking, where the knitted or crocheted project is either gently steamed with a steam iron that doesn’t touch the surface of the garment, or covered with a wet towel and pressed with a steam iron. How do you steam block? For instructions click here.  

Which Blocking Method to Use

 

Some fibres respond better to blocking than others. While natural fibres tend to maintain their blocked shape to varying degrees until next washed, synthetic fibres are generally more resistant to change and return to their unblocked state quite quickly. To maintain the blocked shape of an acrylic piece permanently, however, a method called ‘killing’ can be applied.

Blocking natural fibres

For natural fibres such as wool, merino, cotton or silk, wet blocking produces the most thorough and lasting results until next washed. Wool yarn and wool fabric generally respond best to blocking, while acrylic yarn fabrics respond least. One thing to keep in mind, however, is to hand wash wool very gently to not strain and damage the fibres, which can cause undesired results like felting or growing. Always read the care instructions on the ball band first before washing wool or other natural fibre yarns.

If your piece is particularly delicate in fabric and material, for example a delicate silk lace shawl or a very light kidsilk cardigan, use the spray method to avoid irritating the fibres and structure of the fabric so that it keeps its overall appearance.

Steam blocking is often applied to get faster results, for example to see how a project will likely turn out when blocked while it’s still in the making. The downside of this method is that it doesn’t tend to be as thorough and lasting as wet blocking, unless you are working with acrylic yarns. More on blocking acrylic yarns below. Also: DO NOT USE STEAM BLOCKING ON SILK! The delicate nature of the silk fibres doesn’t withstand the heat very well.

Blocking synthetic fibres

Now how do you block acrylic yarn? Admittedly, steam blocking yields the best results for acrylic fibres because the heat moulds the fabric into place, whereas with other blocking methods your acrylic fabric will quickly return to its pre-blocked shape unless you ‘kill’ the fabric by applying the hot iron directly onto it. This is why we generally advise to be very careful when steam blocking acrylic yarns to prevent accidental ‘killing’. Because it would change the look, texture and feel of the fabric permanently.

 

Your Blocking Tools for Knitting and Crochet

 

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information on your yarn and decided which blocking method to use, it’s time to get blocking. Here’s what you’ll need in your blocking kit for knitting and crochet:

1. Wash basin, bucket or sink
2. Wool wash or shampoo for delicates, or other liquid detergent
3. Blocking mats for knitting or crochet, or another appropriate blocking surface
4. Rustproof blocking pins or blocking combs, or both
5. Blocking wires
6. Measuring tape
7. Spray bottle

Washing basin, bucket or sink

If you’re using the wet blocking method, you will need to soak your finished project in cold to lukewarm water. Dunk it underwater and leave it be for at least 15 minutes so that the fibres can relax. To do that you can either use a washing basin, a big bucket or even your bath for larger item. Otherwise a sink will do, just make sure the sink is clean before using it.

Wool wash or shampoo for delicates

Adding wool wash or delicate detergent to the water isn’t a requirement for blocking, but definitely adds that extra bit of care to the project you so lovingly crafted into a beautiful garment. A specially designed wool detergent like KnitIQ’s No Rinse Delicate Wash not only removes the grime accumulated during the working process, but preserves your garment’s fibres so that they smell fresh and last longer while maintaining their softness.


Blocking mats

You will need a flat and dry surface big enough to hold your entire project, and thick enough for pins to push into it. For smaller items such as granny squares, baby clothing or yet-to-be-seamed pieces the surface of an ironing board may suffice. Pinning your projects onto couch cushions, or carpets and bed spreads for larger items, is another option. What’s important here is to be aware that the moisture and pinning may damage the surface underneath. Placing garbage bags or plastic covers on the surface and a big bathing towel can help as a protector.

The downside of improvised blocking surfaces is that it can be laboursome to set up and inaccurate for more complex shapes, because the surface doesn’t give you any indication with regard to size and alignment. Measuring tapes and rulers are in essential in this case.

In addition, the pins often don’t push in deep enough to hold firm with tension so that it may be difficult to maintain the desired shape of your project while drying. Finally, beds and carpets may be inconvenient with kids and pets around, because you can’t put them out of the way.

This is why we’ve designed our KnitIQ Blocking Mats for Knitting and KnitIQ Blocking Mats for Crochet. They are made from extra thick and sturdy foam with gridlines for an accurate measure without measuring tape. The thickness of our mats helps pins to hold firm and projects in place, while their sturdiness keeps the interlocking tiles together even when put upright against a wall. What’s more, the mats’ gridlines align in all directions so that you can create any layout you like. We’ve spent a long time exchanging thoughts around this with fellow knitters and crocheters to get it right. This is why our blocking mats make the blocking process so much easier and give you professionally looking results every time!


Rustproof blocking pins or combs

There’s a variety of pins out there that you can use for blocking, but no matter what pins you choose: They MUST be rustproof! Because remember: Blocking requires moisture, and moisture causes regular steel to rust which leaves unsightly marks on your precious garments. This is why you want to make sure that you use stainless steel or other rustproof pins!

You can use regular pin needles for blocking, however, the bigger the project the more pins you will have to use which can become tedious and painful on your fingertips. Also, thickness and length play are important to look at for blocking. You want your pins to be long enough so they can push deep into the blocking surface, and sharp and slender enough to not damage your project, yet strong enough to not bend with tension.

Overwhelmed? Don’t worry, we’ve sorted it for you.

True to our philosophy of product development, we investigated this with our community of makers and created a smart solution for you that works. As a result, our KnitIQ T-Pins have a smooth T-bar which is easy on your fingertips when pinning and pulling while their sharp, yet slender construction is gentle on your garments, yet strong enough to hold tension. They are made from rustproof stainless steel so that you always end up with clean results. Finally, an increasingly popular alternative to pins are blocking combs, also known as blockers. They hold up to 8 pins in a comb so that instead of pinning each pin individually you can pin 4 or 8 pins at the same time in a straight line. Naturally, this speeds up the blocking process and is often used in combination with pins for corners, special shapes, or simply to stay within budget.


Blocking wires

Blocking wires for knitting or crochet projects are particularly useful for larger and curved projects. You can choose from firm to flexible wires and use them by threading through the edges of your project to create a long, straight line which is then fixed to the blocking surface with pins. Firmer wires work better for long, straight lines because they require less pins to keep straight.

For curved and scalloped edges, we recommend using more flexible wires. Insert your wires at shorter or longer intervals, depending on how densely you wish your edge to be scalloped. Then fix the curve you wish to create by pinning the wire from the inside out. Unlike using blocking combs, blocking wires require more time to weave through your finished project. Why do we still use them? Because they create nice and even curves and scalloped edges which look particularly neat on intricately worked lace shawls.


Measuring tape

You always want a measuring tape at hand to block to the dimensions indicated in your pattern, especially if your blocking surface doesn’t have gridlines to help you pin in a straight line and ensure symmetry. Unless you’re using KnitIQ Blocking Mats for Knitting or Crochet which include 1-inch measuring gridlines, you will also need a measuring band to measure your 4-inch tension swatch for blocking to get your gauge right.  


Spray bottle

Last but not least, you will need a simple spray bottle for spray blocking. Simply fill the bottle with cold water and gently spray the piece you wish to block until as damp as desired. There is no rule how damp the piece must be for blocking. Spray blocking is about experimenting and trying what works best for you and the fabric you’re blocking.