Blocking is a simple but vital step which will greatly improve the look of even the most beginning knitting. If you have gone to the effort to hand-knit something, it deserves to be blocked.
What Is Blocking?
Blocking is the process of wetting or steaming your final pieces of knitting to set the finished size and even out the stitches.
You could use any flat surface to block your garments (I’m partial to the Knitter’s Block), just be sure that your knitted piece lies flat and fully dries so that its shape sets. Don’t forget to check that moisture doesn’t soak through and damage anything underneath it. (This has happened to me, which is why I developed the Knitter’s Block — the blocks are backed with waterproof EVA so you can safely block on a bed, table or floor.)
Always block your finished pieces before seaming. By flattening and setting the shape of your pieces, you will be able to more easily line up your stitches to seam them together.
The fiber content of the yarn and the stitch pattern of your knitting will often determine how you block your finished pieces. Below you’ll find instructions on wet blocking, which is my preferred method.
Instructions for How To Block Your Knitting
Step 1: Wetting
Soak your knitted item in gentle wash per the yarn label’s instructions. If you have a Sweater Care Kit, you might choose to use the Eucalan Fabric Wash that comes with the kit.
While your item is soaking, set up the surface that you will using for blocking. If you’re using the Knitter’s Block, configure the tiles to accommodate your knitted item.
Drain the water, then gently squeeze (don’t wring) your knitting and roll it in a towel to extract as much moisture as possible.
Step 2: Blocking
With T-pins: for Shawls, Scarves and Seamed Sweater Pieces
Lay your damp knitting right-side up on the your blocking surface and gently nudge the piece to your finished measurements.
If you’re using the Knitter’s Block, place the gingham cloth onto the assembled tiles so it will be under your knitting. Each check measures approximately 1″ square. Lay your damp knitting RS up onto the checked cloth and use the checks as a guide to get your correct finished measurements.
Pin the knitted item around the edges, placing the pins at an angle. Place the first pin in the top center, moving to the bottom center as you pin the piece to the correct length. Next, pin your work to the correct width (if blocking a sweater, start with the bust width). Fill in around the edges, always referring to your finished measurements.
Allow to air dry.
Without T-pins: for Seamless Sweaters
Arrange your damp knitting on your blocking surface and gently nudge and smooth the piece to your finished measurements.
If you’re using the Knitter’s Block, the tiles will gently grip your knitting so that the sweater stays in place. Place the checked cloth over the knitted item to check sizing if necessary.
To help hold rolling edges down either use a few T-pins or dampen a cloth and use its weight to hold down your knitting.
Allow to air dry.
Step 3: Steaming (optional)
- Set the temperature of your iron to the lowest setting that allows steam.
- While the iron is heating, saturate a cloth with water and squeeze out the excess so that it is no longer dripping but still very wet (not just damp).
- For very heavy blocking (thick, coarse wool that you are trying to soften up, for instance) you can spray the whole piece with water from a clean spray bottle. This step is not necessary for medium/light blocking.
- Lay the wet blocking cloth over the top of your pinned piece.
- Gently use the iron to steam the entire piece in an up and down motion (never side to side) without any pressure. Using pressure may ruin your knitting.
- Just barely touch the pressing cloth with the iron and hold it there a few seconds. Move on to the next spot until the whole piece has been steamed. The moisture of the steam is what does the blocking.
For light blocking, you can now lift the cloth and allow the knitting to dry.
For medium/heavy blocking, leave the cloth in place until it has dried. If your knitting is still damp, allow it to dry before removing.
Regardless of whether you block with or without steam, make sure your pieces are dry before moving them.
After you have sewn your garment together you may wish to steam the seams, especially if they are bulky or stiff. For shoulder and armhole seams, use a terrycloth hand towel folded and then rolled to the size and shape of your upper arm. Turn the garment inside out and fit the rolled towel into the shoulder and armhole openings. Steam the seams gently by using the wet pressing cloth and steam iron, and just barely touching the pressing cloth with the iron.