A Free Knitting Lesson from Liz @PurlsAndPixels
You’ve done it! Congratulations on your beautiful knit piece. You may notice one last instruction after knitting and tying up the loose ends of your project. Often, at the end of a knitting pattern the final step will read, “block if desired.” Blocking knits is a way of forming your project into a more perfect shape. There are several techniques you can use to block knitwear, including wet, dry, steam, and damp blocking. No matter what method you use, the blocking process will stretch and smooth your stitching.
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.
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 glove on the left has not been blocked. The glove 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
To block your knitting, you will need to prepare a blocking board. You will lay or pin your knits to the blocking board to ensure they keep their shape. If you do not have a blocking board, you can usually substitute an ironing board or a spare mattress covered in towels.
You can order a blocking board on Amazon.com with this affiliate link.
There are a few techniques you can use when blocking your knits. You will want to consider the type of yarn you have used for your piece when choosing a blocking method. Wool and natural fibers hold their shape better after wet or damp blocking, while acrylics seem to do well with damp and dry blocking. All these blocking methods involve stretching your knitting work a bit, in order to even out the stitching. Then you will lay your item out flat or pin it to a blocking board, while forming it into the correct shape and size.
Wet blocking knits
For wet blocking, you will completely submerge your newly knitted item in water. Let the piece soak until the yarn is fully saturated, then gently wring out any extra drippy water. I shake the item out a bit; this not only gets rid of excess water but also helps the 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.
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. 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 items like gloves and hats. Simply tug and pull on your completed work to even out the stitching. When you have focused on your tension while knitting and have a well-shaped knit from the start, a gentle stretch may be all your work needs.
Steam Blocking knits
Another option to block your knits is to use a stream iron to moisten the stitches. 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. Then, use your hands to gently smooth the stitching. 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, it is best to avoid steam blocking acrylics for this reason.
Damp blocking knits with the washing machine
Toss your knits in the washing machine on hand wash or gentle cycle with cold water. Once the wash cycle has finished, the machine will have 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, which helps the stitches to fall into an even pattern. 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. On the other hand, drying time is cut dramatically when using a washing machine to damp block.
Knit These Projects
Washcloth and Face Scrubby Knitting Pattern
In this post, I blocked a Beginner Face Scrubby and Beginner Washcloth. Both patterns are included in my Simple Washcloth Knitting Pattern Collection.
Fingerless Glove Knitting Pattern
Also pictured, are gloves made by following my Simple Fingerless Glove Knitting Pattern.
Find More Knitting Patterns
If you like this, check out the other knitting patterns I’ve written. They’re all gathered on one page, which you can find here.