Benefits Of Blocking Knitting

If you have been afraid of the process of blocking knitting, you are not alone.

Many people knit for years without blocking their work (guilty) out of fear that they might damage the fabric.

Some are so happy with the results of their hard work when they bind off that last stitch and weave in the yarn tails, they simply don't see the need for blocking.

Once you understand the benefits of how blocking enhances the knitted fabric, you are sure to learn to love blocking knitting!

Here are just a few of examples of how you might appreciate the effects of blocking knitting:

  • shrink it a little
  • Stretch it a little
  • Even out stitches
  • Smooth edges before seaming

The most dramatic effect of blocking knitting can be seen with knitting lace. It really is magical.

So, Why Block?

Blocking knitting is an integral step in finishing a knitted piece.

Blocking knitting evens out stitches and allows the fibers to bloom. Minor adjustments to length or width are possible depending on the unique characteristics of the yarn and the stitch pattern.

When a fabric is damp (either washed or steamed), it will relax and can be stretched to maximize the appearance and special qualities of the stitch pattern.

If not done properly, however, it can be the demise of a lot of hard work.

Always take into account the stitch patterns on the fabric. You would not want to stretch ribbing during the blocking process as it is intended to pull in.

Similarly, a cable pattern should be accentuated by allowing the cables to stand out from the stitches along side of them. Over blocking can cause the cable to flatten if it is stretched beyond the natural gauge.

Blocking knitting is the process of applying moisture to a knitted fabric. Depending on the type of fiber, the method of applying moisture will vary.

The basic methods are wet block by spraying, wet block by soaking, and steam blocking.

The following are general guidelines for several different fibers:

  • Angora, Mohair, Synthetics, Wool blends – Wet block by spraying
  • Wool and all wool-like fibers (alpaca, camel hair, cashmere) – wet block by soaking or steam press.
  • Novelty yarns (highly textured) – Do Not Block

Always check the labels on the yarn for information on care.

To be certain how the fabric will respond to blocking, consider blocking the swatch before the knitted piece. This will also help check the colorfastness of yarn and validate your gauge!.

Preparation Considerations

Having the right tools for the job contributes to a successful project. Here are the basics to consider:

  • Flat, Padded Surface of a size that will support the entire knitted fabric. Always block knitted fabric on a flat surface to avoid unintended stretching. A padded surface is needed to accommodate pins. Padded blocking boards are ideal as they also have even squares imprinted to help with measurements. Many use towels on top of carpet or bedding – a moisture barrier is recommended. Small pieces can be blocked on a padded ironing board.
  • Pins that will not rust and are long enough to not be buried in the fabric. Begin pinning at key areas of piece. Insert pins at a slight angle. Keep pieces straight and even, smoothing them from the center outward. When measurements are met, set pins at closer intervals so that you don’t leave marks or create uneven edges when dry. Do not pin ribbed areas that are intended to pull in.
  • Tape measure or ruler. A ruler is best for accurate measurement. A tape measure can lose its integrity over time and heavy usage.
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean Basin
  • Steam iron or hand-held steamer
  • Press cloth
  • Towels
  • Mild soap or soaking solution will remove soil accumulated during the knitting process. It evens up and smooths the knitted fabric, softening it and restoring the natural “loft” of the yarn. Another benefit is that pattern stitches are not flattened. Using soap will require several rinse cycles to remove the soap residue. Special soaking solutions do not require rinsing.
  • Blocking Wires are the best tools for blocking lace knitting.

Wet Blocking

Fill basin with cool water (enough to thoroughly cover piece).

Never use hot water as it will cause some fibers to felt. Add soap or soaking solution and slosh gently to avoid making suds.

Immerse knitted piece and soak for approximately 15-20 minutes (instructions may suggest differing times).

Drain the water out of the basin and press garment along sides of the basin to extract as much water as possible.

Never wring a knitted garment.

If using mild soap, re-fill the basin and repeat the process until all soap residue is gone.

Remove garment from basin in a bundle (do not let it hang and stretch).

Place garment on a towel flat and cover it with another towel.

Roll the towels up and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

Repeat this process until most of the moisture is removed. This will help reduce the drying time.

Lay piece out on the blocking surface, pin and measure until all specifications are met.

Allow to dry completely before moving.

Wet Blocking with the spraying method is easier in that you first pin pieces down and then use a spray bottle (with cool water) to wet them thoroughly.

This method shortens the drying time, however, soil will not be removed with this method. Since simply working with the yarn during the knitting process will produce some soil into the fabric, easier is not always better.

The following video is about 10 minutes in length and shows you how to block a sleeve to specific measurements.

Blocking knitting with Steam

The process of blocking knitting with steam can be used with some fibers.

Some yarns however, cannot tolerate hot steam. Fluffy yarns will felt, mat and harden. Man-made fibers will expand in all directions.

Steam blocking will permanently set in soil, dirt, and oil.

So, proceed with caution.

You can steam block with an iron or a hand-held steamer.

The heat and moisture are the elements that are important, not the pressure of the iron. Never place an iron directly on a knitted fabric. Rather, hold it above the fabric and let the steam dampen the piece completely.

To further protect the knitted piece, a pressing cloth is used between the iron and the knitted piece to protect it and keep it clean.

Be sure to check the iron settings carefully.

Cottons can stand warmer temperatures than wools. Synthetic may need a very cool iron setting.

Here is a great video demonstrating steam blocking:

Care Of Knits

To extend the life and beauty of a knitted garment, take the time to care for them properly.

If it can’t be washed, send it to the cleaners.

If the yarn label says it is washable, wash it. If it says it is machine washable, you may choose to hand wash it if you want to extend the years of beauty. Agitating a knitted garment is abrasive and you may find that the garment will pill and fade more than one washed by hand.

Hand washing wool is not difficult and stains and soil come out quite easily. Most knitted fabrics should be washed in warm water. Cotton, linen, and rayon all can be safely washed in hot water.

For best results, fill a basin to be able to immerse the garment with warm water. Add about a teaspoon of mild liquid detergent (or soaking solution). Place the fabric into the water until it is fully immersed and allow it to soak twenty or thirty minutes.

Most soil will be released from the fabric without any activity. Slosh the garment up and down the water gently to help disperse the cleaning solution through all fibers.

Most soil will be released from the fabric without any activity. Slosh the garment up and down the water gently to help disperse the cleaning solution through all fibers.

From this point, follow the wet blocking recommendations above for rinsing, removal from basin, removing moisture, and laying on a flat surface until completely dry.

In between washing, store flat. Never hang knitted garments for storage as they will lose their shape with the weight of the garment and leave folds and dents where the hanger supported the weight.

Hope this helps you learn to love blocking knitting and...

Keep On Knitting!

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