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Blocking for a professional finish.

Most knitters have heard of the term "blocking" but don't have an understanding of what is actually required. Many patterns end with the simple little word, "block." As a result of this lack of understanding, many knitters simply skip this final step. Unfortunately, skipping this step can have big ramifications. If you've ever wondered why your finished piece doesn't look quite like the photo in the magazine, or if your gauge is off a bit, lack of blocking may be the reason.

BLOCKING BASICS

Blocking is the final step of making your project that smooths and evens your stitches, sets the final dimensions and gives that professional, finished look. Don't be intimidated by blocking. The process is not complicated and the results are well worth the effort. With a little care and attention, you can transform a rumpled piece of knitting into a beautiful showpiece.

Even though blocking is considered the final step, you should block your swatches before casting on for your project. The gauge stated in a pattern is measured after the piece is blocked, so you need to know your blocked gauge in order to make the correct choice of needle size. Additionally, using your gauge swatches, you can try several blocking methods to determine which method you will use on your finished project.

FIBER AND PATTERN

The type of fiber and the stitch pattern used factor into the best method for blocking your work. Often the pattern instructions will suggest a method. However, if you used a different yarn or the directions simply say "block," you need to determine which blocking method to use.

Keep in mind, some fibers block better than others. If you have difficulties opening your lace patterns, it could be the fiber used. While all fibers can be blocked and stretched, not all fibers stay in their "blocked" shape. Natural fibers are some of the easiest fibers to block and they will generally retain the shape and size they have been blocked to until they are re-blocked or they get wet. Acrylic and man-made fibers generally return to their pre-blocked shape fairly quickly after the pins are removed and may not be the best choice for an intricate and heavily patterned lace shawl. Additionally, many natural fibers "bloom" when blocked. When knit, stitches worked in some fibers appear smaller and the fabric more open and loose. However, once blocked, these same stitches will "bloom," filling in the gaps and creating a more solid and substantial fabric. To ensure that you will get the best possible finish for your hand-knits, be sure to block your swatch to see how the final fabric of your knitting will appear.

Start by reading the yarn label. Care instructions are usually written out or indicated by symbols (See sidebar). If the label gives instructions for machine washing and drying, follow these simple directions for easy blocking. If the label indicates hand washing and no machine drying, any of the methods listed here could be utilized.

The first decision is to determine where you will block your knits and what surface to use. The surface should be large enough to allow the piece to be spread out, resistant to water and located in an out-of-the-way place so that the piece can be undisturbed until it is completely dry. If there are pets in the house, the best place for blocking may be behind a closed door. Special SpaceBoards and interlocking blocking mats are sold in most craft stores and are very convenient to use, but you can make an acceptable facsimile by placing a large garbage bag or plastic tablecloth over a guest bed or on the floor and placing a heavy bath towel on top of the plastic.

Two easily acquired tools should be on hand before beginning to block your project. Strong, rust-proof pins, such as T-pins or U-pins, will be used to hold your knitted piece in place. Depending on the size of your project, you may need quite a few. A mist bottle, like the kind used for plants, is available at hardware and grocery stores. Steel blocking wires and a steam iron can also be used for extensive blocking but are not usually required.

FABRIC CARE SYMBOLS

Acrylic

Difference after blocking is minor, and swatch will return to preblocked shape fairly quickly.

Cotton

After blocking, eyelets are more open, and shape is more uniform. Additionally, yarn blooms so that stitches fill in open spaces.

Wool

After blocking, stitches are smoother, eyelets are more open, and shape is more uniform.

BLOCKING METHODS

The blocking methods are listed from gentlest to most effective. Misting is a good method to try if you are new to blocking or unsure of the fiber you're dealing with. If the final result is not what you were hoping for, move on to the pin and mist method.

Mist

Lay the piece on the prepared surface and shape to specified dimensions. Fill a clean mist bottle with water and mist the piece lightly. Allow piece to dry completely before moving.

Pin and Mist

Lay the piece on the prepared surface and pin, using T-pins or U-pins, to finished measurements. Use enough pins so that the edges are straight; using too few pins may result in points or scalloped edges. Fill a clean mist bottle with water and mist the piece heavily with the water. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.

Immersion

Misting is a wonderful place to start when blocking your first piece, but sometimes a light mist of water is not enough encouragement to keep your lacework open once it is dry. If you have mist blocked your project and do not like the finished fabric, the next blocking method to try is immersion.

Dip piece in cool water. Let soak for several minutes so that the piece is completely saturated. Gently squeeze out the water. Do not wring or twist the piece. Roll the piece in an absorbent bath towel to blot out the excess water. Spread the piece on the prepared surface and pin to finished measurements. Blocking wires can be inserted along the edges and then pinned in place. This will keep the edges straight and use fewer pins. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.

Steaming

Immersion blocking can cause some fabrics to stretch out of shape and grow in size. If you are worried about how immersion will affect your knitted fabric, try steam blocking.

Lay the piece on the prepared surface and pin in place. Hold a steam iron or steamer above the piece, allowing the steam to penetrate the fibers. NEVER allow the iron to touch the fabric. Doing so will flatten the stitches and may actually damage (melt) the fibers. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.

Use these straightforward blocking methods and make blocking an essential part of your finishing process. Your efforts will be noticed.
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Title Annotation:BEGINNER'S GUIDE: SUMMER MESH
Author:Thies, Sheryl
Publication:Love of Knitting
Article Type:Instructions
Date:Jun 22, 2015
Words:1147
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