Friday 24 April 2015

Blocking: What is it and Should I be Doing it?

Knitting Blocking for Beginners

Whilst I've been knitting and crocheting for far longer than I've been sewing, I'll freely admit that I'm a little more gung-ho when it comes to abandoning or ignoring traditional techniques when it comes to picking up my knitting needles. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when I started knitting and crocheting, I didn't really read many blogs at all, let alone craft blogs. If I knew the stitches, I'd simply whizz along until the end of a project, sew it up, and call it a day. Therefore, the idea of blocking a piece of knitting is an entirely new one to me, but seeing as how at the moment I am all about improving my approach to making things, I've been looking into it, and the advantages of doing it.

What is blocking?
Blocking is a technique used to finish your knitting, done after the knitting has been cast off needles, but before sewing up. The main aims of blocking are to smooth out any imperfections in stitches, and to shape your knitting before it is sewn together. So, if you're having problems with inconsistent stitch sizing, curling sides, or your knitting being too stiff, than blocking could be the answer to your problems. I always believed it to be an unnecessary step, thinking that when I sewed up my knitting all of my problems would be solved, however, some of my finished projects are key evidence to the case that this is not true. There are a few different methods to choose from, and choosing between them depends on your wool type, stitches used, and personal preference.

Stretch it Out!
The most basic form of blocking is simply stretching out your piece of knitting with your hands after casting off. I was actually doing this before I knew it was a form of blocking, as it's a quick and easy way to stretch out the stitches and make them an even size. If your finished knitting doesn't have any obvious structural problems, and is not intended to be worn/used as a three dimensional shape e.g a blanket or a shawl, then this can sometimes be all the blocking that needs to be done.

Wet Blocking
Wet blocking is the next step up, yet is still gentle enough to be used on natural yarns and delicate stitches - think ribbing, garter stitch, cabling, and lacy stitches. There are a couple of ways you can go about wet blocking - the gentlest way being to pin your knitting into shape onto a spare towel or sheet, and spray with water until damp all over. Leave to dry naturally before unpinning and sewing into shape. If your knitting needs a little more attention, then instead of doing this, completely submerge your knitting into a tub of lukewarm water before gently squeezing out any excess (don't be too rigorous here, or your knitting may felt). As before, pin your knitting into the desired shape and leave to dry out.

Steam Blocking
Steam blocking is pretty extreme, so shouldn't be used on delicate stitches or natural fibres (stick to acrylic here!). Again there are a couple of ways to go about this, the first being to pin out your knitting into shape, before laying out a damp sheet over it. Then, use an iron on a low to medium setting to run over the sheet, and steaming the knitting below. The other way to steam block knitting is to dampen your knitting first, by using one of the methods for wet blocking, before placing a dry sheet over it, and again ironing on a low to medium heat. When thoroughly dry, unpin it, and sew up as required.

I'd be lying if I said that blocking didn't extend the time it takes to finish a project - in fact, I've had a project hanging around* for a long time that hasn't been finished because I've put off blocking for so long. However, after doing it for the first time this week, I'm astounded at the difference it has made to my finished piece of knitting; it seems softer, more pliable, and my stitches are noticeably more even. Consider me a blocking convert.

*Said project may or may not be last winter's turban beanie that I am only just finishing in an April heatwave. I guess it'll be more suited to those in the southern hemisphere entering winter than to me right now!

What are your experiences with blocking? Have you got any other methods of blocking that you use?


  1. I have never heard of this but it sounds super useful, especially as I am knitting myself a throw at the moment and really want to to turn out nice and beautifully! Deffo coming back to this post when it is done ;)

    1. Glad you found it useful, Anna! I have to admit that I was sceptical to the difference that blocking could really make, but I've been really impressed by the results so far. Good luck with your knitted throw! :)