Block around the clock!

One of the things I often get asked about when working at Stash Fine Yarns in Chester is blocking.  Blocking isn’t difficult, and really is worth the effort, as it can significantly improve the look of your finished projects, especially lace shawls, as you will see…..

So, I think some demystifying is in order.  I’ll try to answer some of the most asked question in this post and give you a little photo tutorial using the Ishbel that I made recently:

What is blocking? 

Blocking is a way of opening up knitted fabric to better show off lace (curing that ‘crumpled’ look that lace has when it comes off the needles) and to stop the edges of your project curling.  It also makes knitted fabric drape better. 

What do I need to block my knitting? 

You don’t need any special equipment.  Just a couple of clean old towels (old towels are best as new towels can have lots of loose fluff on them, which you don’t want to have to pick off your knitting, and also in case your yarn loses any colour when it is wet) or foam play mats, and plenty of long rust free pins (ones with nice bright pin heads are great – you can’t miss one and leave it in your knitting).  It is possible to buy blocking wires (which you can thread through the edges of your knitting for a nice straight edge without needing lots of pins), but while these are nice and certainly make blocking quicker they are not essential. 

How do you block something? 

Basically blocking involves soaking the knitting in/spraying it with water, and then pinning it out to the measurements on your pattern schematic/blocking diagram if it has one, or if not until the lace is opened up, but not distorted. 

Here is my Ishbel shawlette before blocking:

Ishbel pre-blocking

Ishbel pre-blocking
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

As you can see, the lace needs opening out, and the shawl is curling at the edges.  It could also be with being a little bigger.

Ishbel - curling at the edges!

Ishbel – curling at the edges!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

The distinctive ‘points’ of the blocked shawlette are also not visible, only the curl.

So, on to the blocking:

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water – you could use some detergent as well if you like.  A ‘no rinse’ wash like Eucalan or Soak is ideal.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels, roughly to the dimensions you are after.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)


Now reach for those pins – you’ll need plenty.  These pins were free with a magazine and I use them all the time.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning corners

Step 3: Pin your shawl at the 3 corners and the centre of the top edge first.  Don’t worry too much about the position of the pins, you can always adjust them later.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning points

Step 4: Pin the points of the shawl, making sure that you open out the lace, but don’t distort it.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinned vs not pinned

At this point I’ve pinned one half of the lace so you can see the difference.  Continue like this until you have pinned all the points, then add extra pins to the top edge if required.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Leave it to dry

Step 5: Step back and check that you have pinned the shawl evenly and adjust as needed.  Leave it to dry overnight (or longer).  Don’t be tempted to fiddle about with it until it is completely dry!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Blocked lace

Step 6: Un-pin your knitting and marvel at the improvement! Doesn’t it look amazing? Don’t you wish you’d done this before?
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

What if I do it wrong?

Don’t worry!  Unlike pressing your knitting with an iron (don’t press acrylic!) wet blocking (as described above) is reversible as long as you don’t over stretch your knitting to a ridiculous degree.  Just start again, blocking more or less aggressively depending on whether you wanted the knitting bigger or smaller respectively.  If you’re blocking a garment, make sure that you block to the measurements in your pattern, rather than by eye to avoid making it too big.  Also, try pinning out garments to the schematic measurements first and then misting them with water from a garden spray.  This method of pinning first, then misting with water is also good for fibres that are inclined to stretch, such as bamboo and other forms of viscose.   

I hope you feel more confident to try blocking now if you haven’t tried it before.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to answer them for you.

Lottie x