How To: Blocking
Getting the perfect finish, especially on your gorgeous lacy knits, is really important, so we asked Debbie Tomkies to guide us through the blocking process.
At the end of a pattern, you’ll often read the sentence, ‘weave in ends and block to measurements’ – but blocking still remains a mystery to many. Blocking is simply a means of finishing your knitting to give it a professional appearance and to maximise the look of the project. Blocking (or ‘dressing’) isn’t needed for all knits but lacework, stocking stitch fabrics and any knitted fabric that has distorted in shape during knitting is likely to benefit from being blocked as it evens out and enhances the stitches, and restores a knitted fabric to its intended shape and size. We like to think of it as a little like doing your hair – sometimes you just wash it and let it dry naturally, but sometimes you might want to put it in rollers or style it into shape. I’m going to guide you through my favourite method of blocking – steam blocking.
To block a knitted fabric you will need:
- A flat, clean surface to pin the item onto. It needs to be a surface you can stick pins into and which won’t be damaged by water or steam. You can buy special mats for blocking but yoga mats or children’s foam playmats are a great alternative. Your bed can also be used, or a piece of clean fibreboard, a table top or your carpet.
- Sharp, rustproof pins. Specialist rustproof ‘T’ pins are available for blocking, but good-quality dressmaking pins will be fine. If you can get the pins with coloured glass heads, these are easier to see. Make sure you have plenty.
- Towels, for padding surfaces and blotting excess moisture.
- A clean, colourfast sheet, for laying over beds, carpets and other surfaces to give a smooth surface.
- An iron, steamer or clean plant sprayer to dampen the knitted fabric.
- Tape measure, to check your finished measurements after blocking.
1 Most items can be wet-blocked or steamed. For wet-blocking, gently wash the piece and roll in a towel to remove excess water. For all items, lay out towels and cover with a clean sheet, then lay your item over the top.
2 Carefully pin the edges of the fabric to the desired size and shape. Start with pins at the corners. With a lace shawl, you’ll want to pull the item out quite tight, but for something like a cabled jumper, just pin it out to the measurements given in the schematic.
3 Next, place pins halfway along each edge. Make sure that you place pins opposite each other at the same time, stopping occasionally to measure your piece to ensure that it is symmetrical.
4 Continue adding pins at regular intervals along each edge. Use plenty of pins to avoid distorting the fabric. If the edge of your knitting has points, pin out each one. The aim should be for the stitches to be clearly visible and the fabric evenly, but not too tightly, stretched.
5 Once all the pins have been placed, check the shape and measurements, adjusting as necessary. For wet-blocking, the item can now simply be left to dry. Fabrics that aren’t suitable for steaming can be spritzed with lukewarm tap water from a clean plant sprayer and left to dry.
6 For steam blocking, hold a steam iron or wallpaper steamer over the shawl. Do not touch the fabric and be careful to avoid scalding yourself. Keep the steamer moving over the fabric until it’s damp, then leave to dry.