A Short Guide To Blocking
What's blocking and why should I do it?
Blocking – dampening knitted fabric and pinning it out to specific measurements – is a step often skipped by knitters and crocheters eager to finish up a project and move on to the next. But blocking can make a great deal of difference in the fit of a garment or the appearance of the fabric. Seams are much easier to sew when knitted or crocheted pieces have been blocked and sweater dimensions can be tweaked for a better fit. Blocking also evens out stitches, opens up lace patterns and makes textured patterns “pop”. Moisture plumps and softens the yarn fibres, and gentle washing removes residual oils and excess dye.
To block a piece of knitting or crochet, you will need a flat surface large enough to lay the piece out flat, and that can be pinned into. Blue Styrofoam insulation (available at building centres), old sofa cushions, a spare bed or broadloom in a low-traffic make good blocking surfaces. You will also need lots of rustproof pins or blocking wires and fewer pins, and a rigid ruler or meterstick. T-pins are a good choice because they are rigid, sharp and easily repositioned. Stainless-steel blocking wires are an excellent way to block straight edges, they save time and reduce the chance of scalloped edges. Both stainless steel t-pins ($3.40 for 35) and wires (which come in kits that include detailed instructions, wires of various length and a wood meterstick for $34.95) are available at The Loop.
To prepare pieces for blocking, either wash them in a manner appropriate to the fibre (remove excess water by laying the piece flat on a towel, then rolling the towel up and squeezing it gently), or spray them lightly with a plant mister, lightly patting the water into the fabric. With the help of your meterstick, gently draw the piece out to the desired dimensions, pinning as you go. If using blocking wires, simply feed the wires through the selvedge stitches and secure them to the blocking surface with pins. Allow the blocked pieces to dry completely before unpinning them and continuing with any further finishing. On damp days (of which we have so many!), you may want to use a fan speed up the drying process.