5 Tips For Blocking Your Hand-Knits
The simplest definition of "blocking" is the application of moisture to your hand knits to effect some kind of change. The process might also include heat, steaming, and stretching, but at the core, it's just wetting then drying. The most important thing to know is that blocking will often result in a change of gauge and a smoother fabric texture.
Below are 5 tips that might not be obvious if you're new to the block (pun absolutely intended)
1. Block your swatches the same way you block your finished thing. Write down the gauge measurements before and after to establish a working gauge. This lets you know if you're on track as you knit your garment. I also like to use small swatches to try out different blocking techniques. If you're knitting with a superwash yarn, and you intend to wash and dry your finished thing in a machine, no blocking is necessary, but you should absolutely wash and dry your swatch to determine the correct gauge for your pattern.
2. Wait until its totally, completely, bone dry. If you try on a garment before its dry, you might accidentally stretch it out or deform all the shaping you did in the blocking process. Blocking sort of locks the stitches into place, but not until all the moisture evaporates.
3. Use a fan. Some fibers are very absorbent, and can take forever to dry. It's absolutely legal to speed the process by placing the piece you're blocking in front of a fan.
4. Block to your own measurements. Your knits become very malleable when they are wet. Use this as an opportunity to further tailor your garment. Use pins to shape and stretch areas that could use a little more room.
5. Use different blocking methods for different purposes. I use wet blocking for most everything, but sometimes all you need is a little bit of steam from your iron to get your stitches to lay flat. It's also possible to combine the two methods if you really want to stretch out your stitches, like maybe for a lacy shawl. Applying a little extra steam to something that you are wet-blocking seams to lock the stitches into place better. It should be noted that applying steam or heat to your fabric will drastically reduce it's elasticity, and shouldn't be used on areas like ribbing. If you never intend to wash your finished thing, a light spritzing of water from a spray-bottle and a few pins might be just the ticket.
Do you have any little tricks you've picked up along the way? I'd love to hear them in the comments below.
This is part of my ongoing "5 tips" series. Future topics will be weaving-in ends, swatches, and substituting yarn. I would love to know if there is another topic you would like to see me write about.