Blocking is a super important step in knitting that helps take your knits from great to flipping awesome! Enhance the quality and appearance of your knitted project by following a few simple tips and ensure that your knits look their best, every time. Learn more about how to block knits and get the most out of your knitting projects.
Blocking Knits: Why Do We Do it?
Knitters learn how to block knits to even out irregularities in their stitches and add smoothness to their fabric. Blocking can also be used to flatten rolled or irregular edges in preparation for seaming.
Some types of blocking can be used to bring certain fibers to their full bloom. Knitters may also use the process to alter the feel, drape, or texture of the fabric, such as softening linen.
In most cases a gentle blocking is used, but aggressive blocking may be used to stretch shawls and lacy knitted pieces to its final size and open up the lacework.
- Blocking Knits: Why Do We Do it?
- 3 Types of Blocking for Knits
- Decide Which Tools You Need to Block a Knitted Project
- Wet Blocking Knits
- How to Block Knits: Spray Style
- How to Block Knits: Steam Style
- Prepare Blocking Tools and Materials in Advance
- How to Block a Knitted Sweater & Other Garments
- How to Block Lace
- How to Block Knit Shawls: aka Aggressive Blocking
- How to Correct Over-Blocking For Ribbing & Cables
- How to Block Knits to Infinity and Beyond!
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3 Types of Blocking for Knits
- Wet blocking
- Steam blocking
- Spray blocking
We’ll dive in to exactly how to block knits and which type of blocking method you should use for you knit! But first, let’s look at the tools you’ll need.
Decide Which Tools You Need to Block a Knitted Project
The tools used in blocking are as varied as the knitters and projects which they are shaping.
At minimum, you’ll need:
- For wet blocking, you’ll need a bowl or basin in which to soak the garment, lukewarm or cool water, and wool wash. You’ll also need towels in which to roll the garment to absorb excess water after squeezing.
- For steaming, you’ll need an iron with steam capabilities or a steamer.
- For spraying, you’ll need a spray bottle.
- For pressing, the least used method on hand knits, you’ll need an iron.
- A surface upon which to dry your garment.
Here’s where all the fun knitting goodies begin. But don’t worry, you don’t have to break the bank! when learning how to block knits, you get can get as low- or high-tech as you want.
You’re drying surface can also be as low-tech as a countertop, a rug and sheet, or the top of your guest bed and a couple towels. Or it can be as high tech as blocking mats, which provide a grippy, self-healing, padded surface in which to pin your garments and a lining with a 1” grid to easily manipulate your item to the correct dimensions, or mesh pop up driers, which are softly bowed to allow airflow above and beneath the knitted item.
Some knitters may also choose to block their garments on a dressmaker’s form or a sturdy wooden hanger to use gravity to help determine the garment’s final shape. (Note: This should NEVER be used for wet blocking.
Other Blocking Tools You May Need:
- Rust-proof T-pins
- Blocking combs
- Blocking wire
- Sock or mitten blocking forms
- A wooden spoon
What’s the wooden spoon for?!?
I’m so glad you asked. It’s for beating your precious knit.
I know, I know. It sounds horrifying. But it’s specifically for helping woolen-spun yarns, like Brooklyn Tweed Shelter and Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok, full and bloom.
This is not recommended for worsted spun yarns.
Wet Blocking Knits
Immersion, or wet blocking, is the most time- and space-consuming process. But it’s also the most rewarding. So let’s dive in on how to block knits: wet blocking style!
First you’ll start with full immersion of the garment in lukewarm water mixed with a wool wash in a basin or tub for about 20-30 minutes. Gently press the garment into the water and do not stir or agitate it.
Once the time is up, you need to remove the knit from the water. The most important thing to remember is that you CANNOT let the yarn stretch out or hang off the sides of your hands. Doing so can distort the knit. For smaller projects, I pull it out of the water. But for bigger projects like sweaters and shawls, I carefully dump the whole pot into a clean sink.
Next you need to remove as much water as you can from the knit. Lightly squeeze and press your knit to remove water—never wringing. When you’ve removed as much water as you can this way, lay a towel (or two for bigger projects) out on the floor. Lay the knit out on the towel, starting in the upper corner. For smaller projects, fold the towel in half longways. Then roll the towel, starting at the end containing the knit. Then stand on the rolled towel, rotate it, and stand on it again.
Unroll the towel and carefully transfer the knit to your blocking surface. Take care to pat or pin the piece into place, straightening out any crooked lines or irregularities—because the garment will be set into this position.
Then you leave the knit alone until it’s fully dry. A fan can be used to speed up the process.
What is Wet Blocking Best For?
Wet blocking is my favorite blocking method and I use it for pretty much everything. It’s produces the prettiest finish in my opinion.
Immersion is a good method for fluffing wool, softening linen, or simply washing cotton.
What is Wet Blocking Not Good For?
Synthetic fibers, like acrylic, with a label that states they are machine washable can be wet blocked, but due to the structure of the synthetic fiber, blocking may not produce much of a result.
When learning how to block knits, you’ll also want to be careful with ribbing because wet blocking has the tendency to relax and stretch the ribbing. To combat this, pinch the ribbing together before leaving it to dry.
How to Block Knits: Spray Style
The spritz or spray method is a less robust version of the immersion method, and involves laying out your pieces to measurement and then spraying them with a spray bottle, which can contain only water or water mixed with a teenie amount of no-rinse wool wash. The item is then left to dry, a process which takes considerably less drying time than the immersion method.
A similar effect can be achieved by laying a wet towel over a dry knitted piece and leaving both the towel and the knitted garment in place until the towel is dry. This method can be used on the same fibers as the immersion method.
I’ve only used this method when on an absolute time crunch.
How to Block Knits: Steam Style
To steam a knitted piece, lay out the garment on a fabric-covered surface and shape it to size. Then you have two options on how to block knits steam style. You can use what Deborah Newton calls “a shot ‘o steam,” which entails holding the iron or steaming wand an inch or so above the piece and hitting it with a light to moderate amount of steam.
Or you can use what Newton calls a “mega-steam” in which you lay a damp cotton or linen cloth over the knitted piece and gently touch the hot iron to the cloth and release a large burst of steam to effectively soak the area.
After either type of steaming method, tease open eyelets or pinch cables with your fingers to achieve emphasis while the fabric is still damp.
What Types of Knits is Steam Blocking Good For?
Steaming can be used on wool, cotton, silk, and linen. It may be able to be used on other types of animal fiber such as cashmere and alpaca, but as these fibers have less springiness than wool, it should be tested thoroughly first.
When Should Steam Blocking be Avoided?
Steam should not be used on synthetics/acrylics, as it will “kill” the synthetic fibers.
Prepare Blocking Tools and Materials in Advance
No matter how you decide to block your knits, before you start blocking, it’s best to make sure that you have all the materials and tools you need close at hand.
You will want a flat surface such as a carpet to lay the knitted piece out over. Make sure you have enough space available to block your garment correctly and safely—as in, don’t stab yourself with the blocking pins. It hurts like the dickens!
“But when do I use the pins?!?” Great question. Read on!
How to Block a Knitted Sweater & Other Garments
Sweaters, hats, socks, gloves, and basically anything where fit matters, should be blocked gently! You want them to still fit after blocking is over!
Learning how to block a knitted sweater is super easy! Most of the time, this type of blocking does not require pins, wires, etc. You simply lay out the piece on your blocking surface and pat it into place to fit the measurements.
With one exception.
How to Block Lace
Lace requires some stretching to fully open up and bring out it’s true beauty. This is where you’ll want to get out those pins and wires.
When a fitted garment contains lace, you’ll want to pin the piece into place, taking care to use the schematic measurements so you’re not over-or-under stretching.
Then you’ll used your fingers to tease open any eyelets. This pinning and tease allows the lace to fully open up and show off its true glory.
Then there are the shawls…
How to Block Knit Shawls: aka Aggressive Blocking
One note. If you love the size of your shawl the moment you bind off, use a spray or steam block to set it and move on.
However, if you want a big shawl with a LOT of drape, you’re looking at a true aggressive blocking. And it’s quite frankly a lot of fun.
You start by laying out your wet blocked shawl and then gently stretch and pin the shawl into place. Then I usually stretch and pin it a little bit more.
Shawl blocking is where I have grown to LOVE my blocking combs and wires because then instead of having to move hundreds (literally) of pins each time I want to adjust a line of the shawl, I simply move the wires and the handful of pins holding it in place!
Once it’s dried in this open position it will remain open and loose, with a wonderful drape—totally lovely in a shawl!
How to Correct Over-Blocking For Ribbing & Cables
Have you over-blocked your ribbing or cables so that now they’re loose or flat? Not to worry! Hit your dried knit with a shot of steam and then pinch ribbing or cables back together.
It’s so interesting to watch the ribbing shrink up and pull in even after wet blocking.
This will work best on wool and wool blends, where the natural elasticity in the wool will help you along.
How to Block Knits to Infinity and Beyond!
Knowing how to block knits is a small but powerful technique that can make a big impact on the outcome of your knitting projects.
It’s an invaluable tool for any knitter. Blocking knits not only helps with the finished size, shape, and drape of a piece, but also reinforces the overall structure and enhances the beauty of the stitches. And all it requires is a bit of technique, patience, and a few supplies.
Ultimately, wet blocking knitting is a simple process that yields big results. It may take a few tries to get it just right, but it’s an essential part of the knitting process for any knitter who wants their project to look its best. Go forth and block your knitting with confidence!