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I block, you block, we block, everybody blocks

Blocking is the last step in creating a beautiful hand knit item, but it is often overlooked. This post will give you details on why and how to block your knits for success.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to block let me tell you about why it is good to block. Blocking is an important final step when creating beautiful hand knit items. Having just spent so much time creating your knit object the best way to have it look as good as it can is to block it. Blocking allows the stitches to settle, even out, and find their final shape. There are certain stitch patterns that really blossom once they are blocked; lace, stockinette, ribbing and cables for example.

Below I detail out five tips on how to block a hat that is 100% wool, but what if you've got a linen sweater or silk lace shawl? First of all, fibers that respond well to blocking are those natural ones who have not been altered dramatically by chemicals. For example blocking a hat that is knit with merino wool will be different from blocking a superwash wool hat or acrylic hat. The natural merino wool will respond well to being soaked in water or misted even. Whereas the superwash has been trained to not felt or change shape when it touches water so although it will even out your stitches you won't get as much as with the merino. Then acrylic will hardly shift.

In general the best way to approach the blocking of natural fibers is with caution and care. Be kind with the beautiful knits you have created. I’m a believer in energy and that your knits can absorb what you give off. So be kind and the fibers will relax and be the shape you want them to be.

A natural fiber that is trickier to block is silk. Wool you can soak in water, but silk needs gentler care. Misting it with water and laying flat to dry is an option, without manhandling it.

Some yarns can be steamed to block, but to be honest I have never tried this route. If done incorrectly you may end up with just a ball of felted yarn. So, for this short blog I won't go into detail on using steam to block your knits.

Another way to block is by spritzing the item with water. I recently finished a shawl that was knit with a fluffy yarn that was a blend of alpaca, wool and nylon. The yarn was chunky and would take forever to dry. So I sprayed it with water and a dash of Euclean and rolled it up. This worked beautifully. The stitches set and it didn’t take a week to dry.

Linen yarn is a different process altogether because rather than blocking it is actually best to run it through the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Then place it in the dryer, but do not dry it all the way. Pull it out when it is still slightly wet and then lay it flat with care.

Blocking doesn't fix everything, but it can make your stitches more defined and your finished item more hand knit than home made.

Throughout this post you will see some photos of a new hat that I knit with a lot of yarn overs. Before blocking the design element of the yarn overs is hardly visible, but after blocking you can really see the stitch pattern. So with this in mind let's get to it.

5 simple steps to blocking success:

1. What fiber is your knit item?

You've finished knitting your project - yay! Just a few more steps and you can rock your knits in public and receive lots of compliments. What is the fiber content of your knit? Wool, cotton, silk, acrylic, linen? Is it super wash? For the purposes of this blog I will be giving blocking advice for wool items. Once you have identified the fiber content you can move forward.

Below is an image of a completed hat before blocking it. See how the yarn overs are hidden?

The completed hat before blocking it.

2. Gather your supplies

So what do you need for blocking success? When blocking something like a hat that doesn't need to be pinned down you can get away with using household items that are on hand. I recently moved cross country from Boston to California and all of my fun knitting tools were on a truck somewhere in Texas when I wanted to block this hat so I went around the house I was staying in to find blocking tools I could use.

Optional blocking supplies:

- pot, bucket, bowl, collapsible tub

- conditioner, Euclean, soak

- towel, blocking mat (this is the mat I usually use when it's not packed away with all my other things!)

- t-pins (these are great rust-proof pins to keep your knit item in the shape you desire)

- flat surface

Since my goodies like the collapsible tub, Euclean, and blocking mat were all traveling cross country I went with a kitchen pot, hair conditioner, and hand towel to do the trick.

3. Now the fun begins

Fill your pot/bucket with room temperature water and a drop or two of your conditioner (or Euclean or soak). If the conditioner doesn't mix with the water right away use your hand to stir it lightly. Then take your knit item and gently submerge it completely in the water. Try to not agitate it at all, just make sure it is fully soaking in the water. If your yarn is 100% wool and not super wash it can felt together so you want to be careful to no give it a chance to by just placing the item in the water. Let your item sit for 20-30 minutes in the water.

4. Let it dry

After about 20-30 minutes of hanging out in water your knit item will have blossomed and just needs a little time to air dry. Have your towel or mat on a flat surface. Carefully lift your knits out of the water. If you want you can squeeze very gently to let some of the water out before laying it out. Or sometimes I like to roll the item in the towel first to get excess water out then lay it down. Be sure to not distort the shape of your item by pulling at it too much as you place it on the towel. Depending on the climate where you live you may want a fan on it to help it dry. Luckily I happened to have moved to the dry climate of Los Angeles and this baby dried pretty fast!

5. Wear it with a smile

Once it is all dry you are good to go! Unless you are like me and want to add a pom pom to the hat. Then once you've got the pom pom attached you're done and can wear your handmade knits with a smile. You can see in the photo below how much clearer the yarn overs are now that the hat has been blocked.

Happy knitting and blocking!


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