Guest Author - Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Blocking is one of the final steps in many kitting projects. Blocking generally consists of dampening your knitted piece and then shaping it to dry in the correct shape you need. There are several different methods of blocking, with different methods being more suitable to some projects then others.
A good blocking job will enhance your knitted piece, perhaps allowing it to fit better for clothing or to show off the excellent stitch work you have done. The actual process of blocking sets the knitted stitches into their proper shape and the overall piece into the actual shape you would like it to be. Before seaming a garment you can block the pieces to match your pattern schematic, so that the knitted pieces fit together properly. Poor blocking can hide nice stitch work. flatten desired texture, lead to poor fit and possibly even ruin the fibers of the yarn you worked with.
Before you get started blocking, you need to make sure you know a few things about the item you intend to block
What fiber type is the yarn? Is the yarn made from a natural fiber such as cotton or wool, or a synthetic such as acrylic? If the yarn is made from a natural fiber such as cotton or wool, too much heat can scorch the fibers. Too much heat will melt synthetic fibers such as acrylic. You will never want to press acrylic knitting as the heat and pressing will flatten and melt the stitches into that flattened state forever.
Did the yarn manufacturer give any information about how the yarn should be blocked? Check the ball band or the manufacturers website for recommendations. These recommendations are not set in stone, but will provide you with important guidance.
What types of stitches does the piece contain? Knitted lace will open up beautifully and show its patterns much better with proper blocking. Extra care must be taken with Aran, cabled, bobbled or deeply textured patterns. Blocking can flatten out the three dimensional quality in these knitted patterns.
A General guideline for cotton is to dampen the piece and use a careful application of heat. If you would like to stiffen a piece of knitted cotton lace, add some starch to your water. In general, for wool, you need to thoroughly dampen in cool water, gently remove the excess water, and lay, pin, or use wire blockers to put the piece in the shape you want the piece to be. You can also steam your wool piece into shape using a garment steamer or the steam function on your iron, but don’t actually iron your wool knitting!
For delicate natural fibers like cashmere or merino, pin the item into the shape you want, carefully spray lightly with a cold-water spray bottle, and allow to dry.
Blends are tricky as they are made up of a combination of fibers. You want to make sure you block carefully without ruining part or all of the fibers. Shaping the piece and lightly dampening is your best bet.
Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook, Montse Stanley, Reader’s Digest, Pleasantville, NY 1993.
Fenlon-thomas, J. (2002). To block or not to block?. Knitty, Retrieved from http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter02/FEATdiyknitter.html
“The Basics of Blocking Part One” Sandi Wiseheart, July 25, 2007, www.knittingdaily.com.
The Basics of Blocking Part Two” Sandi Wiseheart, July 27, 2007, www.knittingdaily.com.
“To Block or Not to Block ...” Jessica Fenton Thomas, 2002, www. knitty.com/ISSUEwinter02.