|Click to enlarge|
The basic idea is simple, you wash your item and then stretch it out - a little or a lot depending on the desired effect - to accentuate the shape or pattern. For a little effort, blocking can completely transform a hand knit (or crocheted) item's appearance and make your Finished Objects look much more 'finished' and professional, even if you're a beginner. Not all yarns react the same and the higher the natural fibre content, the better your results are likely to be, so do bear that in mind.
This simple one skein 'feather and fan' scarfette was made some time ago and in it's natural state I named it The Poodle - it has been sitting in my knitting bag since then waiting to be blocked. I thought it would be a good one to show you as it looks quite different before and after.
- No-rinse wool wash (I like Eucalan)
- A large flat surface which you can stick pins into (I use the kids' interlocking foam play mats similar to these.... but this type look better)
- Blocking wires and T pins (such as this Basic Kit or this Deluxe Kit). Before investing in wires I made do with bazillions of pins and it was better than not blocking at all but didn't get the same results.
- Tape measure
STEP 1: Put your item to soak according to the instructions on your wool wash, taking care not to agitate it - Wool + agitation = felt. This will usually involve soaking for a little while in tepid or lukewarm water.
STEP 2: After removing your knitting from the water, gently squeeze out the excess water but NO wringing, you don't want it to shrink or felt! A good way to do this is to place it between clean dry towels and roll it all up, pressing as you roll so that the towels absorb as much of the water as possible.
|Original "Poodle", soaking, and being dried|
STEP 3: You should be left with a damp item which you can then lay on your surface and start to spread out into the correct shape. N.B. It's worth thinking about the location of your mats before you start this as a thick/large item that takes a day or more to dry may be in the way if it's right across your sitting room floor and is too big to be easily moved (don't ask how I know about that one!) When you have done this, start threading the wires through the stitches along each edge, as evenly as possible. If you are making something with points, it's important to thread the centre of each point to get them even and as sharp as you want them. For long/wide projects such shawls and blankets, it will be necessary to use more than one wire along each edge - I do this by overlapping the wires by a few inches which you can see in the second picture below.
STEP 4: Using the T pins to secure the wires in place, stretch the item out as little or as much as you need in order to achieve the desired size/result. Where necessary, use the tape measure to check the blocking is even and symmetrical. Depending on your yarn and it's composition, you may need to exercise caution - I use a lot of Noro and the weak points can split if pulled too hard, so I am always careful to block it gently. On the other hand, hardy sock yarns with some nylon content can withstand more rigorous blocking. If in doubt, test a swatch!
STEP 5: Leave the item to COMPLETELY dry before removing the wires and pins. This is harder than you might think, especially if it's a large item and you really really want to try it on/see how it looks. Don't give in to the temptation! It WILL be worth waiting, so cast on something else and try to forget about it until it's dry.
Before: 123 cm x 20.5 cm
After: 152 cm x 30 cm
So that's how I do it. Do you use another method? If so, or you have any tips, please leave a comment.