Monday, December 5, 2011

The (un)Importance of Blocking

 *pokes head out cautiosly*

Hi all!

Did you miss me? Sorry for the break, but between the holidays and a nasty cold that left me unwilling to do anything but sleep for about 16 hours a day, blogging was sadly low on my list of priorities. Yet never fear, I have kicked this cold to the curb and am back into the general swing of things - including knitting and blogging.

Today I'm going to wax somewhat poetically (ok - probably not that poetically) about something that I meant to post a few weeks ago - the importance of blocking, or unimportance as the case may be.

For those unfamiliar with the process, blocking involves taking your finished knitting project, wetting and stretching it. This can help to set stitches, bring out lace patterns or stretch a project to the correct dimensions. There are a number of different ways to do this, usually depending on what you're knitting, what kind of yarn was used and the general preference of the knitter. And sometimes it's just not needed at all.

Last point first - when to and when not to block. While this should generally be left up to the discretion of the knitter, there are a few common guidelines that you can go by. First, fitted garments, such as sweaters, should almost always be blocked. Blocking will stretch the sweater (or whatever) to the correct size and will help to even out the stitches to a uniformity. Second - Lace. Always, always, always block your lace. This will stretch the pattern and make your lace 100 times more appealing - and easier to see. This rule can some times also apply to cables - especially if the piece is small.  Beyond these two points, it's pretty much up to the knitter and the project.

Take scarves, my specialty, for example. I only block about half of my scarves, based upon if the pattern will show better if stretched. To better illustrate this point, here are a few before and after pics I took on my last Blocking day.

Lace Neckwarmer before blocking
And After

Men's Scarf Before

And After

Lace before

Lace before - but stretched out with fingers

Lace After

And more after

 See the difference? But like I said, it all depends on the scarf and the pattern.

Now, how to go about blocking is another issue. When I block I try to kill two birds with one stone. I handwash my scarves with a mild detergent (like Wool-Lite) before I lay them out and then pin them to where I want. You can also pin your item and then use a steam iron (but check and make sure your yarn can take the heat) or you can pin and then spritz it with a squirt bottle of water. Though I find this last technique doesn't get me the desired amount of stretch I want.

Pin them on what? you might ask. Well, Knit Picks sells a pack of Blocking Mats for 19.99, but I've found that a set of garage floor mats from Home Depot will do the job just a well for half the price.

Do you block your knitting projects? How?

Casting off,


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