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Blocking Hints & Tips
By: Barbara Breiter
 

Blocking is the process of using water or steam  to help you shape your knit or crochet project to its final size and shape; it also can help even up stitch tension and edges. For some projects, blocking will make a big difference. For instance, lace patterns almost always need blocking as it opens up the pattern. Don't think of blocking as a miracle-tool--it won't make your too small sweater 3 sizes larger--but it can work wonders in making your project more finished looking.

First, blocking involves a few "don'ts." Check your yarn label for care instructions. Don't block yarns labeled "dry clean only." Don't ever iron your project in an attempt to block; you will wind up with a flat, limp, lifeless mess. An iron should only be used to steam a project (more on that below). Acrylic yarn, or yarn that has a high acrylic content, does not usually block well. The best way to block acrylic is to throw your project in the washer and dryer, following label directions, which will help even out tension.

If you are blocking a sweater or other garment that needs to be sewn, whether to block it before or after you have seamed it together is entirely up to you. Some people find that the pieces will lay flatter and be easier to sew if blocked before seaming, but others may find that it's only after seaming it that they decide it needs a little extra help.

Spray blocking
For spray blocking (a method that's good for items that only need a light blocking), you'll need a spray bottle with water, rust-proof pins (T-pins available at craft or fabric stores are good for this job, and a surface on which to block. If the piece is small, you can fold one or two towels in half and lay them on top of one another so it's thick enough to hold the pins. Blocking boards are also sold for this purpose; these are handy as they come with measurements and straight lines printed on the board. Some people make their own blocking boards by wrapping fabric around foam boards to create a smooth surface to pin into.

To spray block, lay out the item, spray with water, and get out your measuring tape. Follow the measurements of the pattern's schematic using your tape. Or if it's a scarf, be sure it measures the same width throughout. Gently pull the piece so that the measurements are what they should be. Even up the seams. Push ribbing in with your fingers. Work one area at a time, spraying and pinning and making sure things are straight. Pin in place using rust proof pins. The piece should be completely dry before removing the pins.

Wet blocking
To block a project that needs a little extra help, wet block the item. Wash the item according to the care instructions (or simply submerge fullly in water and gently ring out) and then follow the above procedure.

Steam blocking
If your project needs severe blocking, you can try steaming. But be gentle. Steaming means just that…it doesn’t mean ironing! Lay out and pin your project to the correct measurements. If you're using a steam iron, hold the iron about 10 inches above the piece until it's damp. You can also lay a wet cloth over the piece and hold the iron above the cloth, but again, do not press down or iron it. If you have a steamer, you can hang the piece (or lay it out) and steam it until damp and then lay it out, measure it, and pin it. Leave it in place until completely dry.

Note that with steam blocking, it's always a good idea to test this first on a swatch. Practice makes perfect! Do not steam ribbing, garter stitch, cables or other very textured stitches, as you will end up flattening them. Steam may also damage your acrylics, as they are sensitive to heat.

Finally, keep in mind that while blocking is not always necessary--especially if you are more experienced and knit with an even tension throughout--washing your project according to the yarn's care instructions should always be part of your finishing. You'll be surprised at the amount of dirt and oil the yarn has picked up from your hands.

For photos of a piece before and after blocking, click here for a blog post from the Lion Brand Notebook.



Authored by Barbara Breiter

Barbara Breiter is the author of THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO KNITTING & CROCHETING. Find her online at http://www.knittingonthenet.com/
 
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