A Free Knitting Lesson from Liz @PurlsAndPixels
Find out what it means to block knits and learn a few different ways to do the task in this quick knitting lesson.
Whew! You’ve done it! Congratulations on your beautiful knit piece. By now you’ve cast on stitches, knit (or purled) an entirely new item out of simple string. I bet it looks really nice. And to make it look even nicer, you can “block” your knits.
What is blocking knitwear?
Blocking in knitting is a finishing touch for your knit work. It allows you to stretch and manipulate your knitting into a more consistent even stitch pattern and into the perfect shape for the piece.
Below, you will see two fingerless mittens I have made. These mittens were made two at a time on the same pair of needles in the same knitting session. The mitten on the left has not been blocked. The mitten on the right has been blocked. As you can see, the right mitten has a much better shape and the stitching seems much more even.
How to block knits
Let’s take a look at how to block your knitting. First, you’ll need to prepare either a blocking board (which can be found at craft stores or online @Amazon), an ironing board (for smaller knits), or a spare mattress covered in towels. You’ll lay or pin your knits to the blocking board to ensure they keep their shape.
There are a few techniques you can use when blocking your knits, and you’ll want to consider the type of yarn you have used for your piece. Wool and natural fibers hold their shape better after wet or damp blocking, while acrylics seem to do well with damp to dry blocking. All of these blocking methods involve stretching your knitting work a bit to even out all your stitching.
Wet blocking knits
For wet blocking, you’ll completely submerge your newly knitted item in water. You’ll want to get it completely wet and gently wring out any extra drippy water. I shake the item out a bit. This gets rid of excess water and also helps my stitches to pull themselves into a more even pattern. Next, lay your item on your mattress or blocking board. Gently pull your work into the desired shape, and smooth your knit material into an even surface.
Your pattern may ask you to block your knit to a certain measurement. This happens often when you are making patchwork blankets or other knit pieces that should line up perfectly to be sewn together. In this case, stretch the piece to match the given measurements and pin your knit to the board or mattress in the shape you’d like it to remain. Pinning it down keeps your piece from shrinking back out of shape while it dries. Once your knit is completely dry, you are ready to continue with your pattern or use you item.
Dry blocking knits
While wet blocking is the most effective way to make sure your knits are in perfect shape, dry blocking sometimes does the trick for me for items like gloves and socks. I simply tug and pull on my completed work to even out the stitching. Sometimes this is enough when you’ve focused on your tension while knitting and you’ve got a well shaped knit from the start.
Steam Blocking knits
Another option to block your knits is to use a stream iron to moisten the stitches. This gentle ironing can allow you to block your knit into shape. First, stretch your knit into shape and pin it to your blocking board. Wave a steam iron a half inch or so above the knitting to moisten the fabric. Allow your knit to fully dry before unpinning. Be very careful if you try this with acrylics; acrylic yarn is made of plastic, and too much heat could make it melt. In most cases, I would avoid steam blocking acrylics for this reason.
Damp blocking knits with the washing machine
This is my favorite method of blocking, especially for machine washable yarns. I toss my knits in the washing machine on hand wash or gentle cycle and let the machine do its thing. Once the wash cycle is done, I find the machine has wrung out just enough water to leave the knits damp, but not wet. This allows for a bit more malleability than just stretching out your dry knits and allows the stitches to fall into an even pattern a bit more easily. The stitches wont shift around as much as wet blocking, so it doesn’t allow the knit to change its shape as dramatically as a wet blocking would. But drying time is cut way down, so I use this method when I’d like to really perfect the stitches on a piece that was already knitted with fairly even tension.
Congrats on learning to knit!
Now that you’ve reached this point in your knitting, you are practically a pro! Now you can take your basic knitting skills and apply them to so many fun patterns. Get creative with fiber and color and you’ll be astonished at all the happy little accessories you can create.