ETA 5/26/2009: Congrats to Joyce, our contest winner! Thank you all for participating. The comments at now closed and we will be posting a follow-up blocking Q&A soon.
One of many epithets hurled at long-suffering Charlie Brown, but if you called Norah and me blockheads…we’d grin from ear to ear and say “Yup!” You can be a happy blockhead too! This week’s free KnitBits pattern is the Jubilee scarf, knit in Ultra Alpaca Fine and it provides the perfect opportunity to show off why we are in love with blocking!
Blocking has a magical ability to transform your knitting. This power has even become an office joke. The way Norah says “a little steam….!” in a chirpy infomercial lady way (heard at the end of our Shoulder Seam video tutorial) is her version of “Make it work!!”
There are so many ways to block a garment, and trying to sort out the all the opinions and “rules” can be daunting. I’ve used practically every method imaginable and I have some tips:
Choose the sort of blocking that is appropriate for your garment or item. If it looks pretty good and you haven’t been carrying the work around with you much you might be able to get away with a light steaming or spritzing. Fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of a wool wash like Soak and spritz your sweater until it is damp. Pat it into shape and allow it to dry flat. I also use this to freshen up knitting that I don’t feel like laundering, or wet blocking, a more labor intensive process which I’ve shown here (note that the iron and steamer aren’t used in wet blocking, if you’re steaming you should pin first, then apply steam by hovering the iron or steamer ABOVE the fabric, not ON the fabric):
Clockwise from top left: 1. Jubilee lace, unblocked on left and blocked on right, 2. Trusty upright steamer!, 3. Trusty heavy iron with steam function, 4. Blocking helpers: colander, blocking wires (the wires ensure that you get a nice straight edge and they only require a few pins versus a meeellion), Soak wash, rust proof T-pins, 5. Warm water bath, 6. Soaking, 7. Gently press water out of item (sometimes I use a salad spinner for this!), 9. A towel can help squeeze out excess water. 10. Blocking board inspection, 10. Blocking board declared up to code!, 11. Thread wires through edges of knitting, 12. Stretch, pin and allow to dry!
Blocked to perfection:
Wet blocking and laundering are essentially the same in my mind and they’re absolutely crucial for lace projects like Jubilee. It offers the most dramatic transformation for your knitting; while wet, knitted fabric is a lot like clay and can be shaped to your specifications. This can come in handy when a piece didn’t come out to the exact measurements you intended it to. Even if your knitting is the right size, a wet blocking will smooth your stitches. I like to hold it at the corners and stretch it in all directions like pizza dough. I shake it a lot and then pin it. This makes my knitting look so much more even than it does fresh off the needles.
I’m working on a project in Ultra Alpaca Fine right now and Norah’s scarf has totally inspired me to keep plugging along so I can BLOCK it an reveal it’s beauty. Besides all the benefits, blocking is just plain fun! Seeing your crumple of knitting turn into something polished and beautiful is extremely surprising and always rewarding.
Thanks for reading! I’m excited to offer a blocking starter kit to one lucky blog reader–the blocking kit will contain a set of blocking wires and an excellent prize pack from Soak with labels for your handknits, sample sizes of all their scents and a full size bottle of my favorite scent, Celebration. Soak Washes have been in my arsenal since they debuted in 2005. It is gentle, which is perfect for fine fibers, concentrated which makes it budget friendly and the best part–it is so pretty!! The packaging is worthy of bureau display and the scents are so incredibly delicate. I sent a Soakified sweater to friend and he commented that it smelled “so good!”
Good luck and happy blocking, Blockheads!
Contest Rules: Contest open to readers in the US and Canada only. Berroco employees not eligible. Contest closes 5/21/2009 12:00 a.m. EST. Duplicate entries will be deleted.