One of the questions I get asked a lot is “But, do you really block your pieces?” Yes, I really do. “But is it really necessary?” I believe so, if you want your pieces to shine and look professional. “But do you block acrylic?” Yes, I even block acrylic. “Even if it is for a baby!” Yes. “But I have so many other things to do!” Well, to me, blocking is more fun than those other obligations, not to mention a great way to procrastinate!
Blocking is relegated by some to that hellish dimension where things like making gauge swatches and weaving in ends live. All of these things are just part of the process to me, and I love to knit and crochet so I don’t quite understand why I would put all of my time into making something fantastic and then skip the last hour or so of work. But some of you may be unsure what blocking is or how to do it, so I thought I’d show you.
No one taught me to block, it’s something I started researching when I wrote Crochet Adorned (true confession; I’d never blocked anything until I began writing that book! And I was so converted, I have blocked everything since!). I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks from our customers at Yarnivore and from blogs and knitting books, too. It’s not hard, and I actually kind of love it! My latest piece on the slate was the Sumire’s Shawl I made for myself. I was trying not to be distracted by it but it was calling me, so I went ahead and finished it this weekend. I took before and after pics so I could show you the difference that blocking makes, so keep reading.
1. Fill a sink (or bowl, if your sink is not pristine, or larger container, if your piece is large) with cool water and wool wash, gently place your piece inside, and let it soak for at least 15-30 minutes–or perhaps for a few hours, or until you wander back to the bathroom and suddenly remember you were blocking something.
I use Eucalan, because I like the gentle fragrance, but Soak Wash is also lovely if you like stronger scents or don’t want lanolin in your wash. You should be able to find these products locally at your LYS or any fine lingerie store. The great thing about these washes is that you do not need to rinse them. In fact you’ll want to agitate your piece as little as possible, especially if it is wool.
2. When the piece is done soaking, place it atop a clean towel. Roll the towel up, and press it so that it gently absorbs most of the water in your piece. You can step on it if need be, I often do. Then, lay out your piece on a blocking surface. I use foam tiles that I found at Lowes (they are in the athletic flooring section, and are $20 for four 2×2 foot tiles, they are endlessly modular to block scarves, shawls, sweaters, etc. If you don’t have a Lowe’s, here is something similar on Amazon.
If you are using blocking wires (also available at your LYS), thread them through the outer edges of your piece. Blocking wires produce nice straight edges because if you thread them at regular, frequent intervals, you’ll be able to evenly pull your piece into a straight line. Otherwise, plan on using lots of T-pins. Even with wires, you’ll need T-pins to hold the blocking wires in place. You can see here that I’ve laid out the left side roughly, and the right side is yet to be pinned. This alone illustrates the amazing difference that blocking makes. Click any of the pictures in this post to go to flickr, where you can zoom in.
3. Go back with your T-pins and pin out anything that needs extra shaping. I wanted to spread the edging half-circles out a bit on mine, so I pinned each one. Twice. 52 T-pins right there–so make sure you buy a couple packages of them. You can be as particular as you want when pinning things out, so go wild. Note that I used two wires per decorative edge, one to iron out the shawl and one to evenly space the edging.
Now, all that is left to do is let the project dry completely. If you’re in a hurry, aim a fan at your piece.
Here are some before and after shots of my Sumire’s Shawl:
By now you should be sold on blocking, but some of you are probably saying, “But, do I really need to do that every time I wash it?” Sure, but how often do you wash a shawl? Hmm? Yeah. Not that big of a deal. I also find that of all of my chores, blocking is probably the one I like best. It sure beats washing the dishes. I mean, they get dirty again EVERY TIME. So frustrating.
If you want more in-depth details on blocking, why how and when, sign up for my Beyond Rectangles class on Craftsy. I devote an entire lesson to blocking, and I bet you’ll pick up a lot of other tricks as you peruse the course. There’s also a great thread on Ravelry that shows people’s projects pre and post- blocking: Blocking– Before and After. It’s kind of amazing! Oh, and I love my new shawl! Now to wait for cooler weather…