Blocking your handknits (and crochets!) is that finishing touch that can really take your work to the next level. And. . . it’s easy! Today I’m going to cover wet blocking, the most intense/extreme version there is. You can also steam or spray block your items, but wet blocking is the most effective way to clean, soften, and shape a wool sweater like my Aidez cardigan.
First you’ll need to get your blocking area ready. You’ll want a few things:
- non-absorbing surface like interlocking foam mats, vinyl tablecloth, or opened garbage bag. If you’re using a table cloth or garbage bag, place these over a rug or spare bed you can pin into.
- rustproof pins, such as t-pins, sewing pins, or quilting pins
- tape measure
- pattern schematic
Now it’s time to soak. A large sink basin, clean bucket, or top-loading washing machine all work well. Fill with tepid water, enough to fully cover your item. Add a no-rinse wool wash, like Soak or Eucalan. (For extremely scratchy or greasy yarns, I use hot water. Just be careful not to agitate and accidentally full your item! Adding a little bit of hair conditioner can also smooth things out.) If you’re using your washing machine, turn it off and then move the dial to “spin” just in case a helpful family member turns it back on. Insurance!
Walk away for a while. I mean it — wool takes time to get saturated, and for the best results, let it soak for at least 30 minutes. We want those stitches to bloom and settle into their ideal locations! Don’t worry if you get caught up with chores, errands, or a Law & Order marathon — you can’t really oversoak it. Drain out the water and press the excess out of your item, being careful not to rough it up. No wringing! Instead, set it on a towel, roll up the towel and walk on it to press out remaining water. If you’re using your washer, turn on the spin cycle to drain out the water in the tub and spin some of the water out of your item. I let mine go for 30 seconds and my knits are still very damp, which I need to get the most pliability for blocking. Lift your handknit carefully, supporting its weight, and move to your blocking station.
It’s time for me to arrange and smooth my sweater. Don’t worry about measurements yet — we’ll get to that in a minute. This part is about moving sleeves, fronts, and any other pieces towards their final location. No stretching or shaping yet! I knit Aidez in one piece, so I’ll be blocking it with the fronts lying atop the back. The first thing I have to do is smooth the back out, then arrange the fronts on top of it.
Now we can begin measuring, stretching, and pinning where needed. This sweater laid out pretty easily, but I pinned the center bottom corners of the fronts to keep them from curling up. If you need to stretch a sleeve or edge, pin every 1-2 inches and keep away from the very edge. As your piece dries, it may shrink ever so slightly and pinning on the very edge will cause it to scallop. Remember to consult your schematic — and get into the habit of noting any changes you made to the pattern right there on the schematic, so you’ll have them handy when you’re blocking. I always have to add a few inches for my long arms, and make a point of noting my schematics so I’ll remember exactly what I did! When you’re satisfied with your blocking job, take one last measurement of key areas like sleeves, bust, waist, bottom hem, neck width, and shoulder width. Set a fan on your piece and allow to dry for a full 24 hours. Unpin, and wear with pride! And tell your admiring friends you’d be glad to teach them to knit and block their own sweaters 😉
Pattern: Aidez, by Cirilia Rose for Berroco (free download!)
Yarn: Calls for Berroco Peruvia Quick; I used Cascade Ecological Wool (Eco+) for a lighter weight cardigan. Check them both out at the upcoming Sage Yarn Tasting!
Needles: Size 10.5 for sweater body and yoke; size 11 for sleeves (I pull tightly when I magic loop, so I went up to compensate for it.)
Size: 36″ bust
Special Notes: Modified to be knit in one piece from the bottom up