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Pattern Reading

Blocking

Like making a gauge swatch, blocking is one of those essential steps that knitters tend to roll their eyes at. It may not be as much fun as choosing colors and textures, and it certainly does not have the meditative rhythm of stitching, but without blocking, your perfectly knit garment will look sloppy. So, please, pull out that blocking equipment and follow along as we teach you the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of molding your knitted pieces into shape.

There are two main categories of blocking: wet and steam. To know which one to use with your particular yarn, consult the pressing guide below. Before beginning either method, gather up any schematics or measurements from the pattern, and use them like architect’s plans to know exactly how far the pieces should stretch and where they should dip and swell.

BLOCKING SUPPLIES

1. Flat, covered, padded surface large enough to hold one piece of knitting (e.g. carpet or bed covered with plastic and a towel)

2. Rust-proof T-pins (NOT pins with little plastic colored heads—these will melt during steam blocking, creating a huge mess)

3. Tape measure

4. Spray bottle with cool water (or basin full of cool water) or steam iron (or handheld steamer)

5. Towels (be sure they’re colorfast)

6. Pressing cloth

Wet Blocking

With wet blocking, you can either immerse the knitted pieces in cool water, squeeze them out and stretch them to their exact measurements on a flat board, or you can pin the pieces first and then wet them down with a water-filled spray bottle. Which method you choose is largely a matter of personal preference, though you may find the spraying method to be a bit less cumbersome. Once the pieces are wet, walk away and don’t fuss with them again until they are completely dry. This may take 24 hours or more, so be patient.

Steam Blocking

To block with steam, first pin the pieces on a flat surface according to the schematics. Fire up your steam iron or handheld steamer, and when it’s nice and steamy, hold the iron close to the fabric until the fabric is convincingly damp. DO NOT touch the iron to the stitches; if you must lightly press, protect your knitted project by sandwiching a colorfast towel or pressing cloth between the fabric and the hot metal. As with wet blocking, leave the pieces to dry. Drying after steaming probably won’t take as long as after wet blocking, but you may still need to be patient for hours on end. In the meantime you can be dreaming up the particulars of your next sweater!

pinning and blocking
blocking blocking

1. Pin the key areas as shown.

2. Pin the piece evenly, omitting the ribbing.
pressing guide

Because fibers react differently to heat, it is best to know what to expect before you press or steam them. Just remember that there are many combinations of fibers, and you should choose a process that is compatible with all the components of your yarn. If you are unsure about the fiber content of your yarn, test your gauge swatch before blocking your sweater pieces.

Angora Wet block by spraying.
Cotton Wet block or warm/hot steam press.
Linen Wet block or warm/hot steam press.
Lurex Do not block.
Mohair Wet block by spraying.
Novelties Do not block.
Synthetics Carefully follow instructions on ball band—usually wet block by spraying; do not press.
Wool and all wool-like fibers (alpaca, camel hair, cashmere) Wet block by spraying or warm steam press.
Wool blends Wet block by spraying; do not press unless tested.