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:
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.
The distinctive ‘points’ of the blocked shawlette are also not visible, only the curl.
So, on to the blocking:
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.