Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why block hand knits? Here's why (and how)!

includes 2 illustrations, click any illustration to enlarge
As to the "why" of blocking: here is a "pocket hat" (made of wool) before it is blocked:

Here's the same hat after it is blocked:
I believe these pictures speak for themselves, and hope that you will consider blocking your newly-finished woolen knitwear to get a similar improvement in looks.

As to the how-to, blocking could make a little book in its own right. There are as many methods to block items as there are knitters--inevitably, there are some strong opinions out there on the "right" way. Here's my own little process to get from unblocked to blocked by the full immersion (a.k.a. "wet-block") method. (For steam blocking, click here.)

1. I swish the newly made item in a sinkful of tepid (barely warm) water, using enough water so that the item floats in the sink loosely. No kneading, scrunching, or manhandling: just swishing.

2. Once the item is completely wet, I drain the sink and press the item against the sides and bottom to gently squeeze out as much water as possible.

3. Supporting the item in my hands and against the sink sides and bottom, so that it NEVER sags under its own weight, I squeeze it snakewise--hand-over-hand.

4. Again supporting the item to prevent sagging, I lay it out in a thick and thirsty bath towel. This first lay-out is rather rough, but at the least, I make sure no parts of the garment overlap one another. I roll the item and the towel together, lay the roll on the bathroom or kitchen floor tile and step all over it, barefoot. Doing it in shoes would really dirty the towel, doing this in socks would get my socks wet, doing this on a carpet will make the carpet wet--a LOT of water gets pressed out in this step.

5. Next step is to unroll. Again supporting the item with my hands, I lay it out on a DIFFERENT, dry towel. What happens next depends on the size of the item.
  • For small items like hats, mittens, and kid's sweaters, I pat, tug and smooth the item into shape and let it dry. With the "pocket hat" of the intro photos (which was knitted relatively firmly) I actually grabbed it at the brim and at the top and gave several mighty tugs lengthwise before smoothing.
  • Larger garments such as sweaters are sometimes tugged, patted and smoothed, or sometimes they are pinned out. Lace and other openwork with edges which have to be "dressed" into points and scallops are also pinned. For pinning, I lay the garment, on its second towel, over a yielding surface--a bed, sofa, fridge box or thick carpet--if a carpet, maybe with a clean sheet spread out to avoid carpet dust and sheddings in the project.
6. Allow the item to dry. Waiting for it to dry completely is actually the hardest part of all--at least for me. That damp, newly knitted item sings such a siren song that I can hardly stand to leave it alone. If it is really drying absurdly slowly, I speed things along by switching in a new, dry towel, or putting the towel up on a flat-top laundry rack to improve air circulation. The hat of the illustration dried overnight on a towel placed on a laundry rack, cunningly positioned three feet above a hot air register. Knits dry even faster laid flat outdoors on a lawn chair when it is warm and windy, but do this in the SHADE. Knits dried in full sun will bleach and become coarse and odd.

7. Elapsed time? 5-10 minutes (well, except for the drying of course--which takes forEVER). And ... that's it--a beautiful new item, W-A-A-Y more professional looking than the same item in the "before" stage.

I'll end with a couple of FAQs (frequently asked questions).
Q: Do you have to go through all this every single time you wash a woolen hand-knit?
A: Sadly, yes. The good news? It becomes second nature after a few times. Also, if washing a soiled item, you start by swishing through soapy water, then plain water, then all the other steps. For washing (but not for a first blocking) I personally use a drop or two of concentrated hand dish soap (NOT dishwasher machine soap!), then rinse twice.

Q: Blocking or washing makes me nervous. What if I ruin my garment by felting it?
A: Felting requites a combination of wetting AND agitation. You can't avoid wetting wool when you wash it but you CAN avoid agitation. Number one precaution: DO NOT WRING OR KNEAD!! Instead, swish, then squeeze gently but firmly. Also, I attribute a good deal of felting-prevention to step number 4--the barefoot walk all over the jelly-roll of handknit and thick towel. This really removes water effectively and quickly, but does not cause any rubbing or wringing action. Oh--one more thing: temperature shocks encourage felting, so avoid them. Make sure your water is always at a mild, tepid temperature. For this same reason, even if you want to speed along the drying, don't overdo exposure to hot dry air--a dryer, for example would certainly result in felting.

--TECHknitter (You have been reading TECHknitting on "why you should (and how you can) block hand knitting")


DomesticShorthair said...

Nicely done!

Alicia said...

Thanks for a great series!

Tsarina of Tsocks said...

I feel ridiculously validated - that is exactly how I block. Love dancing on the towel roll.

That overexposure to hot dry air thing, though - that is a great and terrible temptation. During the winter months my guest room gets disproportionately warm, and it is a perfect place for blocking (big bed, door closed against animals)... and in the heat of the moment as it were I've often been guilty of placing an exciting new sock closer to that overactive radiator than is strictly good for it. Want! New! Dry! Blocked! Sock! So MUCH!!!!

Marseille said...

My confusion is the leaving-the-item-in-water-till-it's-fully-wet. I always feel like I have to squeeze the air out to get my woolens to absorb the water (granted, this is usually superwash sock yarn stuff, or heavy cabled sweater parts.....).

I have a friend who uses the rinse and spin cycle on her washing machine--any pros/cons? For superwash?

I'm working a large-ish shawl in superwash sock yarn at the moment, thinking that a gentle block will work. But that it likely won't fit in the bathroom sink I usually use. :)

Alan said...

Lately I've heard so many people say "I never block" as in "Blocking isn't necessary". In fact, I went in my LYS a few years ago to buy blocking wires (they didn't carry them) and the owner flippantly said "Oh, blocking is almost never necessary." I thought, it might never be NECESSARY, but it sure makes a difference!

@marseille: give the water time to soak in. You can even gently lay the dry piece on the surface of the water and let its own weight pull it under as it absorbs water. It is important to allow the water to fully soak in so that the fibers relax and the piece will keep its shape once dry.

Anonymous said...


I need your entire blog on CD/DVD how can we do that???

My gawd you are smart. They were asking a question on Ravelry...I started to tell them they needed to "see" you...You were already speaking on the was about row gauge.

Thank you for all the work that you do.


--TECHknitter said...

Hi Everyone--thanks for your nice comments! They mean a lot.

Hi Tsarina--your radiator apparently calls you as my hot air register calls me--the temptation to put the damp, blocked knitting too close to the hot air register is ALMOST OVERWHELMING.

Hi Marseille: You may very well have to squeeze the air out of woolens to get it wet--I would squeeze hand-over hand, along the garment, snakewise to avoid inadvertent rubbing or kneading.

Superwash wool is a different creature, and is designed to be washed and even dried without felting. In other words, if all three ingredients for felting are present (temperature shocks, agitation and moisture) superwash will still not felt. This means that you can wash your shawl in the washing machine if you like, or if by hand, you can get it as crowded in the sink as you desire. However DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER with superwash wool, because that somehow makes the superwash wool want to revert to regular wool--and shrink up, after all.

As far as using the rinse and spin cycle (or even the whole wash/rinse/spin cycle): For superwash, this is no problem. On regular wool, however, you are far safer with the stepping-on-the-towel, jelly-roll approach, and save the washing machine for all the wet towels you will generate!


manic knitter said...

I'm so sorry but you do realize you said there at the last part that the hardest part was waiting for the "dying" since it takes so long, instead of the "drying". I'm still giggling.
This is exactly how I finish my knits, too, and now I won't feel so alone when the rest of the knitting group is laughing at me for being so "obsessive". Though I haven't confessed to them I'm a towel dancer, too.

--TECHknitter said...

Ooops! Off to fix... (and thanks, Manic Knitter, for the heads up!)

|chee-uh| said...

Stepping on a small or narrow project in the tub (Be sure to hold onto something secure!!!) will help catch the run-off. You can even roll up the portion not be stomped while stomping on one part of the project at a time for larger items. Just stomp the water away from the rest of the project.

P.S. I never knew typing the word "stomp" could be so fun.

Neighbor Jane said...

Hi TechKnitter!

Well, you've convinced me - I've never blocked a thing in my life, and now I see I will have to begin. To tell you the truth, I was kind of afraid of it - even have a shawl I finished ages ago that clearly needs it, and never could bring myself to getting it wet. Like I say, you've convinced me!

cheryl said...

OK!! Here's the information I've been looking for for a long, long time!! So many knitters I know talk about blocking their work, but I've never had the courage to ask why. I know that it does wonders for lace work, especially those magic,pointy tips,and that it can help smooth out the curl in stockinette roll, but I was never sure of the other reasons it might be necessary. I had no idea blocking could help cure uneven stitches! Woot!
This is an amazing site!

Anonymous said...

this has been awesome! i love the new hat i knit for my son and he loves it too.

any chance once all is said and done you can copy/paste all the hate directions into one post? more pattern format.

i would love a handy way to keep it so that i remember how without all the extra pages i printed out

thanks again for your amazing work and sharing

Marjorie said...

Do you ever block hats by letting them dry on an inverted bowl? I did this on one, but for ribbed hats, I just lay them out flat.

Also, when you "block" after washing, do you pin out the garment? I generally lay it flat on a drying rack, outdoors (when possible), away from the sun. Sometimes I'll steam block the seams after that, just to give the garment its shape back.

rohit said...

gud or nice work

Debbie said...

Thanks for all your great tips and help. I have knit several large lace shawls (Victorian Knitting Today). When blocking with wires I use a large piece of gingham material (on the floor)which is great for keeping the wires straight without having to keep measuring. Am all for anything that makes life easier!

bernicecrafter said...

Hi, A foam camping mat makes a great blocking mat. You can also borrow the kids foam jigsaws!

lispet said...

But how does one keep cats off the finished, but still drying, project???

Debbie said...

I did a lot of scarf blocking for Christmas gifts recently and helped the drying process along by placing a fan near the items -- not exactly blowing on them, but close enough to keep the air around them moving vigorously. This changes the drying time from sometimes days to overnight. I never hear of anybody using a fan to do this, is there some particular reason not to? It isn't heated air.

I stomp on the towel, too, but my dog barks at me when I do it.

@lispet -- Put either the cat or the knitted item in a separate room? Most (but not all) cats can't open doors.

Cookie said...

Debbie, I also place a fan near my blocked items. I set my blocking up on my dining table. I use foam jigsaw mats (from Target) and a wire blocking kit. The blocking pins don't damage the mat. Once blocked, I place a fan at the end of the table and let the breeze skim over the knitted item. I really does speed up the process.

I have been guilty of letting the item stretch while removing from sink after pressing out extra water. What a mistake! Thank goodness it's only been with shawls and afghans. I'm finishing my first cardigan and will be VERY careful not to stretch it while it's wet!

Aaron said...

All of the above is fine for modern, fragile yarns when loosely knit. However, mostly I knit outdoor wear. I knit coarser natural wools, very firmly (mostly for myself and ski buddies.)

I full and block these items by running them through the warm cotton cycle (rapid)of our Meile washer with laundry detergent, running them through the spin cycle, then I put them on and wear until dry. (Note, the Meile does allow any abrupt temperature changes.)

I think fulling outdoor wear is important, and that fulling is a lost art.

Later, I machine wash this gear as needed on the woolen cycle with shampoo.

On the other hand to block something delicate for my wife, I would run it throught the woolen cycle on the washer, roll it in towel, and carefully stitch it to a large fiberglass window screen (supported on a PVC pipe frame) so it can dry perfectly flat and secure. After the item is dry the stitching can be untied - and the object is perfect. Then, the window screening can be stored by rolling around the PVC pipe.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Aaron: fulling (aka felting) is certainly a desirable process for outdoor wear, as it makes knitted items far more wind-proof, and even somewhat waterproof. For example, my kids wear fulled (felted) mittens all winter long here in Wisconsin, and their hands never get cold, even when they're sledding, snowball-fighting or snowman-building. However, most fulled garments would be overkill indoors. Also, fulling changes the size of the garment (shrinks it) which is unfortunate unless the knitter planned for that to happen in the original sizing. Therefore, blocking is done gently and carefully to avoid fulling. The method you describe of sewing a non-fulled item to be blocked to a fiberglass window screen sounds very meticulous (and impressive--I would NEVER have that kind of patience!!) Thanks for writing

fionag77 said...

I had never heard of blocking until I joined Ravelry last month and I have been knitting for years! Thanks for the instructions, I will try this out tomorrow on my newly knitted headband!

Tina said...

OK, I didn't look at this site till AFTER I washed my new knits in the washing machine - on "hand wash" and cold water. Some are fine but the baby sweater and a hat really stretched out! Any ideas other than just try to scrunch it back together as it dries?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Tina--it depends on whether the item is superwash or not. If the baby sweater IS superwash, then it would be best to dry it in a drier--on delicate, and keeping a sharp eye on it all the time. If superwash is not dried in a drier, it tends to stretch out and stay stretched.

Scrunching will make items LOOK smaller, but as soon as they are put on, they will stretch out again.


Anonymous said...

I over stretched a hat while blocking it. It is not superwash. Can I get it smaller again by rewetting it?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anonymous: In my experience, you cannot shrink a garment by re-blocking. However, if it is a hat, you may be able to re-size it by lining it.



Another possibility is to felt it smaller, but this is perilous--felting is a wild and rather uncontrolled process which may very well land you with a way-too-small hat. If you'd nevertheless like to try, it might be best to first try dryer-felting. Wet the hat thoroughly, then turn it inside out and run it through the dryer with a load of SMOOTH garments (not rough, like towels or corduroys, but smooth, like sheets). Stop the dryer every few minutes, and see what is happening to the hat. As the hat gets drier and drier, stop the dryer every minute or two. You do not want to get the hat crispy-dry, it should remain damp. I find that drier-felting is far gentler than actual wet-felting or washer felting.

Best of luck! TK

Doreen said...

I liked your article about blocking, just wondering if blocking a scarf that was knit in a stockinette type pattern will lay flat after blocking, or will at least flatten out somewhat, when I put it on it looks like a boa. I used sock yarn

TECHknitter said...

Hi Doreen: Sadly, stockinette is a stitch which curls and will keep on curling, no matter how you block it. For the reasons this is so, and which stitch to use next time instead of stockinette, here is a link:

For this scarf, you can get the curl out by lining it with Polar fleece.

For more about Polar fleece, here is a link:

For more about sewing in lining, here is a link:

For before and after photos of a formerly curling but now-lined scarf, and Ravelry discussion about lining curling scarves with fleece, here is a link:

katydid said...

Do you have thoughts or advice on blocking fibers other than wool? I am thinking about doing some summer knitting in cotton blends, linen, hemp, tencel, bamboo -- I guess I'm thinking mostly plant fibers.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom!


TECHknitter said...

Hi Kathleen: Sorry to be so delayed in answering--somehow 5 comments got mysteriously delayed in delivery, and yours was one of them.

Now, as to blocking linens and cottons and hemp. These fibers swell when wet and become quite stiff and difficult to manage. They are actually difficult to even pin out. I am coming to be of the opinion that the best way of blocking a cotton or linen or hemp sweater is by using a frame--you can find a blocking frame on the lacis website, or you can put in this link to your browser:

The blocking frames are also called "wooly boards," so you can google that, too. As to tencel and bamboo, I don't use these much, and when I do, I dab at them with a steam iron. I believe your better bet for advice on blocking these is going to be to go to the website and ask for information on the technique OR yarn forums.

Best, TK

Mary said...

Hello! Could you pleaseeee help me?! I just finished knitting my first sweater (and I loved it pre-blocking!) and I totally overlooked the fact that by stretching it out so much during wet blocking to see the nice leaf motif on it, it would grow to be ENORMOUS!

I've never drier felted before, and I don't really like the look of felted pieces (that rigidity, lack of stitch definition, etc.), but I'll do whatever it takes to shrink this sweater and get it to fit!

I saw that you described how to shrink a hat, but what about this sweater? By the way, the yarn is DROPS Eskimo.

Please help!!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Mary--I wish I did have an answer for you. Unfortunately, you have just discovered firsthand why it is important to wash and block a swatch before you start knitting, then knit your garment to the stitch gauge of the stretched (blocked) swatch.

As far as felting goes, I went to the drops site and sure enough, the eskimo yarn is stated to be "perfect for felting." However, in your situation the trouble is that it sounds like you have a leaf pattern which you want to show off. That pattern will probably become a LOT less prominent (may even vanish entirely!) through the felting process.

The only other trick that I know of is to use dressmaker's techniques. You can serge the garments along the seams to literally cut away the excess. Here is a link (you have to copy and paste it into your browser window) for a sweater which was successfully serged.

Best of luck --TK

Anonymous said...

I just followed the instructions with teh exception of the stomping because I didn't see the bathtub part until after. The problem is it looks HUGE, even though I tried to "push" it to "smallnerize" it. It still looks like it would fit a large orangutan, although I knit the smallest size for me and I am not small.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon-- a couple of questions. First, what fiber did you knit your garment from? Some fibers, such as acrylic were never meant to be blocked--they were meant to be washed and dried in the washing machine and dryer. This is also true of some (but not all) superwash wools. Second, did you wash and block a swatch before you started? This is important because, as you may just have learned the hard way, some fibers such as alpaca for example, stretch enormously when wetted and blocked, then remain at the new, larger size. Therefore, in these fibers, the garment must be knit to the size it will BECOME, not the size it is on the needles.

If the garment is truly too big after knitting and blocking, there are a few options but pushing the fabric together to try to make it smaller will not work. Write again or e-mail me, stating the fiber used, and we will take it from there, OK?


TECHknitter said...

Note to the commenter who asked about blocking elastic yarn: This cannot be and is not designed to be blocked.

Jess said...

I have a similar problem to the anonymous poster above--I knitted a wool circle scarf, and having worn it all last winter I washed it (woolite only, just soaked it for 15 minutes) and then (stupid me!) HUNG it to dry on a bannister knob. needless to say, the scarf is pretty well stretched out now and doesn't hug my neck as nicely as it did before! I, too, tried to "smallnerize" it and of course nothing worked. I would love to know how to shrink it back, if you have any advice! The scarf was knit out of cascade eco wool.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Jess--sadly, the only thing I can think of is to re-block it LARGER--at least that way, it'll be even all the way around. and not all mis-shapen.

Jess said...

Hey thanks for responding! I think I mislead you by mentioning the knob--it's not misshapen from the knob; it's just all together too big now because the weight from the water stretched it out lengthwise while it was hanging. It's stretched out evenly, but stretched out nonetheless. Do you think it would be possible to try to get it to felt a tiny bit to shrink it without losing too much stitch definition? In the washer, or by hand maybe?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Jess--I do not think that felting is going to work if you want this to remain recognizably what it is. Felting is a fairly uncontrollable process--once it starts, it's pretty hard to stop, and it often does not come out even across a large area--one part might be all shrunken and tight before another part even STARTS felting, especially with a heavy, easy-to-felt yarn like eco-wool.

Sadly, I don't know any tricks for "smaller-izing" an item like a woolen scarf, (other than obvious--if it is a circle knit, maybe take out a few rounds around the edge of the circle?)

Anonymous said...

I have knitted squares to put together for a blanket. Some turned out huge and others turned out tiny. Like 3 inches difference in length/width! They are about 12 X 12 inches, but some are as big as 14 inches and some are 11 inches. Will blocking help me to better match up the size of the squares?

TECHknitter said...

Hi anon--Blocking is going to help, but it is unlikely to bridge the big gap you are talking about. You might want to consider making the blanket asymmetrical and knitting strips to fill in the gaps.. This could be very pretty, and it would look like what you meant to do all along. At any rate, it would look a lot better than some squares bulging and some s-t-r-t-e-c-c-c-h-h-e-d out.

Knitella said...

Great tips! :) I am going to try it today :) Thank you for sharing xx

Anonymous said...

Hi... I am currently knitting a large wrap (160cm x 60cm) & I have never blocked anything before. The things it its made from 100% pure new wool & to immerse it all in water to block could be a nightmare as it will be very heavy & it is winter where I am so it will take forever to dry. Will steaming it be enough? I am making it for a friend so it has to look great!

TECHknitter said...

hi anon--I would certainly try blocking it via steam blocking first. If that does not work, then you can go on to full-immersion blocking. If you DO need to go to full-immersion, then wrap the item up in a big thirsty bath towel and stomp all over it, you will be amazed at how much drier the item becomes. If necessary, do it again with another clean, dry towel. After the stomping, take yet ANOTHER clean dry thirsty towel, and do your blocking on that. Even in a damp winter, it really shouldn't take all that long, IF you have religiously stomped the water out as described above.

Good luck! TK

tarotchick said...

Thanks so much. I appreciate your encouragement.


tarotchick said...

YAY! I have overcome my fear of blocking. Many thanks for your help TK. I followed your instructions & stomped on the wrap with 2 towels & it is now drying nicley on the 3rd one. It has turned out just as I'd hoped.

Happpy Days :)


The Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga said...

Thank you so much-- super-helpful!

Bufferine said...

Thanks for this illustration - I've not blocked before, but seeing those two pictures totally shows why I should - the waiting will be agony (thank god I enjoy knitting in 4-ply so at least it should dry quite quickly!)

I'm intrigued by the fabric conditioner/felting comment though - I think felting is magic (although slightly sad to knit something and then turn it into something 1/3 of the size), but finding cheap non-superwash wool is more difficult than you would imagine for me.. or perhaps it's my rebellious nature :P

Anonymous said...

Love your blocking instructions and great pics! Confused by the comment to a knitter NOT to use fabric softener on washable wool items. I've just finished a cabled baby blanket that is knit in wool ease (80% acrylic, 20% wool). I had planned to wash it in washer using Downy in the rinse cycle, then blocking it so the the cables show nicely. I've used this yarn before and it washes and dries (low heat dryer) beautifully, but, not sure if future washing/ drying will eliminate the effects of the blocking. Any ideas for me?! Thanks!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--you're right that wool-ease washes and machine dries beautifully (although it can pill if it is dried too hot, or too often). As far as downy in the rinse cycle and then blocking (so, NOT machine drying), this is something that you can try on a swatch--I don't know why it wouldn't work, but try it on a swatch to be sure. Some acrylic (and even some colors of otherwise well-behaved acrylic) react to NOT being machine dried by becoming stringy, so this is another thing to see about with your swatch. Sorry not to have a more definitive answer. TK

Anonymous said...

I knit a baby sweater - stockenette with garter stich ribbing. After I was done, I knew it needed blocking. I tried blocking it with a damp towell and iron. It doesn't look good. I think I should have stayed away from the ribbing and design around neck and bottom. Help, what do I do?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon. You don't say what fiber your baby sweater was knit from. Write back with that info, and we'll take it from there, OK? --TK

Anonymous said...

Idon't know if you got my response to your question regarding my first blog about the baby sweater I blocked and goofed up. You asked what type of material I used. I responded that I used acrylic 100%-

TECHknitter said...

Blocking acrylic is problematic because, if you've blocked it enough to "goof it up," as you say, then the chances are likely high that you've actually changed the fabric via heat, in a process known as "killing" the yarn. Specifically, when acrylic yarn is subjected to concentrated heat, it changes from "bouncy" to "drape-y" meaning that it becomes limper and flatter.

However, on the off chance that you didn't go all the way to "killing" the fabric with the iron, the first thing I would try is machine washing and machine drying the garment--acrylic is generally meant to be machine washed-and-dried. Try not to use fabric softener--it'll be static-y when it comes out of the dryer, but spray it with static guard or rub a dryer sheet on it AFTER it comes out of the dryer. Machine washing and drying MIGHT restore the bounce.

If, after a trip through the washer and the dryer, the garment edges still look limp and sad, then you HAVE killed the fiber. But, all is not lost. You can snip a single stitch, unpick the yarn in both directions, catching the live loops as they come free, thus removing the offending band. Then knit a new band, working "down" instead of up. This is called "length reassignment surgery for knitwear" and the link (cut and paste into your browser window) is:

Best of luck! TK

ChrisMcCracken said...

I'm knitting a hat in patons wool. It is coming out too big for my intended purpose, to fit my 3yo daughter. It's double knit, so 2 layers, stockinette inside and cables outside. Is there a way to get this down from 20" to 17-18"?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Chris--there is NOT a way to block things smaller, no. However, there ARE several ways to rescue a too-large hat, and one of them will surely work for you.

You could choose to LINE the hat with polar fleece, either

fully lined style---


headband style---

or, you could choose to work thread elastic into the hat--the post below addresses thread elastic in socks (scroll) but it is done exactly the same in hats---

ChrisMcCracken said...

Thank you! I had thought of the elastic option and am reserving it for a last ditch hope. It might end up being a great adult hat, which would be ok. Lining it isn't an option, as I've double knitted it with a pattern on the inside as well as outside. I'd hate to do all that work and then give up on the inside.

Tahlia said...

I just finished a scarf using this yarn: (Paton lace--80% acrylic, 10% mohair and 10% wool). Until reading this, I haas necercheardcof blocking but am curious as to what benefit it could have for this scarf. I used a pattern of row 1: knit, row 2: k3 p until last 3 k, row 3: k3, *k2tog 3x, yo x6, k2tog x3 and repeat from *, Row 4: knit. Any help would be appreciated, thank you so much!

TECHknitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TECHknitter said...

Dear Tahlia--I was thinking about what I wrote you earlier, and I actually removed that post, and am substituting this one. I think your pattern must be rather lacy. Lacy fabric is an exception to the idea of machine washing and drying acrylic. In other words, for lace, it is best NOT to machine wash or dry lace, regardless of the yarn it is made of. So, wash and pat dry, and maybe even try pinning out. Acrylic won't hold the blocking like wool will, but it will even out the stitches.

Anonymous said...

I have a slouchy hat that I knit but I haven't blocked it yet. Right now, it's not very "slouchy" and a friend suggested I somehow stretch out the rest of the hat while trying to not stretch the brim. How would you block something like this to get a god result?

Thanks for this tutorial - easiest way I've seen so far!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--the classic way of blocking a hat which needs the top slouchy (or beret) part blocked, but NOT the bottom (or brim) part is to stick a large dinner plate INSIDE the hat, wet the hat, stretch the top part over the plate and let the whole business dry over a heat-vent overnight, propped on a canning jar or other sturdy riser. The brim just hangs down off the plate, never touching the canning jar--which rises up inside of the hat to meet the dinner plate.

When the hat is completely dry, pop the dinner plate out--the top part will be blocked flat and large, and the bottom part, the brim, will not have been stretched out at all. Again: wait until the hat is completely dry to remove the dinner plate, and keep the animals and kids away from this somewhat tippy construction while the hat is drying.

Best regards, TK said...

This is a wonderful blog! I've just finished a heavily cabled Babyull Lanett Superwash sweater. In this second knitting phase of my life I've been knitting wool/nylon socks. In the first , child-rearing, phase I only knitted with acrylic. I had no idea about the stretchiness of superwash. Here I was worrying that my carefully measured pieces might be a bit snug on me. Now I'm afraid to block it at all for fear it will grow huge. And I should plan to use a friend's drier when I launder it.

But, then maybe I'm looking for an excuse to seam it up, knit the neck ribbing and sew on the buttons so I can wear it tonight to my fibre group's Christmas pot luck.

tiffwatson7 said...

Do you not need to use some sort of woolwash-soap to block? Water does the job on its own?


TECHknitter said...

Hi TW7: If your project is dirty, wash it with a few drops of dishwashing liquid, then rinse. Or, you can use a wool soak if you prefer. However, if the project is not dirty, then simply wetting it is all the prep work you need for blocking. Of course, you have to make sure it actually gets wet all the way through, but this really isn't too difficult--wool, even wool with lanolin, will readily take up water if fully immersed. Thanks for writing. TK

Kenzie said...

Does this work for projects that are not knit with wool yarn? I made a hat that got stretched out when I wore it and I would like to be able to get it back to how it originally looked... and I'm hoping this will still work?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Kenzie--blocking cannot make projects smaller. For your problem, may I suggest lining the hat? Here's a how to:

Best regards, TK

Cindy said...

My grandmother, mother and I all use the spin cycle of the washing machine to extract water out of hand washed knits. I gets out a LOT of water, with very little effort, and does not agitate the knits. When washing sweaters, I usually wash 2 or 3 sweaters and then even place them in the (top loading) washing machine tub, to keep the load balanced during the spin cycle. When occasionally washing a single largish item, I use plastic bottle with some water in it as a counter weight - place it opposite the knitted item in the washing machine tub.

I am always surprised that this technique is never mentioned in knitting advice books and blogs. I hope this helps somebody.

TECHknitter said...

Hi CIndy--I have tried this trick, but I have a problem: when the knitwear comes out of the washer after being spun, there are fold lines in it that I find hard to get rid of. What's your trick to avoid those fold lines? --TK

Celestia said...

I've just finished knitting a sweater vest that is all cables: "Reticulated Pullover" by Mathew Gnagy. I'm not sure whether to block the front & back pieces R-side up or R-side down. I'll be pinning it out with damp towels on top. I'm inclined to R-side up, as I don't want the cables to get squashed. The yarn is Wool-Ease, 80% acrylic & 20% lambs wool. What do you think? Thanks!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Celestia--you have to be very careful in blocking anything with cables, because the tendency in blocking is to reduce the 3-D aspect of the fabric. Unless the garment does not fit correctly as it is, you might like to consider NOT blocking at all. My advice would be to tack (sew with large, sloppy stitches) the garment together and try it on, before doing any blocking at all. If you do find you have to block, consider LIGHTLY steam blocking (steam blocking with a steam iron held pretty far above the fabric) because this gives the best control of all blocking methods.

Anonymous said...

I think I read most of the comments on this thread- great instructions!

Question #1: Do you have any specific advice concerning blocking an infinity scarf? (malabrigo silky merino, approx. 40" loop) Should I spray it (not wet it completely since it has some silk) and lay it flat, pin it (to open up the stitch work on the Indian cross stitch pattern) and let it dry? will the side underneath be blocked as effectively as the side on top? Would gently steam blocking be better for this fabric?

Any general advice when it comes to pinning and blocking loop scarves or cowls in general that have some lace design?

Question #2: My mom just finished a beautiful scarf knitted from Cascade Eco Duo (70% angora)- she mentioned she might block it. If I understand correctly, I need to immediately call her and tell her not to block it?

thanks much for any advice!

Katie said...

Hello, I am a beginner knitter. I have knit a few adult sweaters and scarves over the years, but I have never blocked a garment before. I have used mostly acrylic yarns (ie Red Heart comfort yarn)and the sweaters have always been machine washed and dried continuously. I am currently working on a cabled cardigan in the Red Heart yarn and I know this sweater will be worn and washed frequently, so my question is does this item need to be blocked? Is blocking normally done with natural fibres as opposed to acrylic, or does it make no difference and all items should be blocked. Also, does machine washing these garments after they have been blocked nullify the blocking?
Thank you so very much for your help!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Katie--you are doing it right, and have been, all along. Machine-washable acrylics are actually blocked by washing and drying them! Just don't overdry--pull the garment out when it remains ever so slightly a teeny bit damp and let it dry the rest of the way laying flat. At this point, you can pat and tug a bit if anything has become distorted in the dryer. Best, TK

Anonymous said...

I just knit a baby blanket on the bias with acrylic yarn. It's supposed to be a square but it looks more like a diamond and even then won't fold neatly. I think instead of purling I should have knit the whole thing. Anyway, it's done and am wondering if blocking will help and if so, which method - fully wet in sink or washing machine OR steam OR spritz. I appreciate your help.


TECHknitter said...

I don't think your knitting technique is what caused the bias in the blanket. It is far more likely to have happened because of some quality of the yarn itself--overtwisting is the most common cause.

Biasing is unlikely to be corrected by blocking. You could try "killing" your acrylic, which sounds deadly, but actually means steam-blocking it until it is drapey. However, try this on a swatch first. what seems like lovely and elegant drape to one person may seem limp and lifeless to another. One ting to watch for--don't touch the steam iron to the fabric or the fabric might melt and become crusty and hard.

Another option would be to line the blanket. This would not affect the bounce of the fabric like "killing" might, and is likely to be a long-term solution. I think Polar fleece is the best fabric for lining knits, here is a post about that:

Also, here is a post about the best way (imho, anyway) to attach lining to knitted fabric.

Good luck with this project--you have amny options, and one will surely work.


Anonymous said...

I have just finished a shetland lace baby shawl and will follow your instructions for washing and blocking - also recommended in the pattern I followed. It also recommends pressing after washing. Do you agree?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--sorry it has taken me so long to respond, your comments were shunted to the "spam" folder. I do know that some folks literally iron their knitting. If you are tempted to do this, a couple of notes:
--First, lay a damp (and very clean) kitchen towel (the "flour-sack kind of towel is the very best) over the top of the work. These are thin enough where you can pretty much tell what you are doing right through them, especially when they are rather damp and translucent.The towel will prevent the transfer of any icky build-up from the iron to the shawl, and will help prevent scorching.
--Second, dab at the shawl, rather than flat-out ironing it. Dabbing rather than flat-out pressing will maintain at least a little bounce in the finished item--flat-out pressing is more likely to leave the item limp.

Best, TK

Ruth said...

I knit a shawl made with rayon and linen yarn but it was too small. So when I blocked it I mega stretched it to desired size. Will it revert to smaller size if it gets wet or when washed and will it have to be reblocked?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Ruth--that fiber combo should stay well and truly stretched out for once and for all, although you may wish to block it to make it lie flat and even. (I would plan to block it on each washing if it were mine.)

Best, TK

margaret walker said...

margey here..can i ask you have you ever tried..rolling up your knitting garment,placing it in a pillow slip,tieing a knot in the end of the pillow slip.and putting it in the washer on a slow spin to get excess water out..i have done this with woollen bought jumpers in the past and found them to be ok,but have always read the label 1st,even if it says can be spun,i always place them in a pillow slip,was wondering if soaked knitted items would benefit from this ..

TECHknitter said...

Hi Margey--Many fine knitters do use this trick, but I do not. The reason is that sweaters fold at random when spun dry in a dryer, and, in my experience, at least, these random lines get "set," and not even steaming can get them out. Further, in my experience, this tends to happen even more in a pillow case or lingerie bag, because the sweater is constrained in a small space, and simply must fold.

I prefer to work as indicated in the post--carefully roll the item up in a heavy towel and walk all over it, then reposition the item on a second, dry towel, to finish drying, patting the item into shape between the first and second towel.

Mrs. Herman said...

I am knitting a hat out of two homespun yarns. One is 100% merino wool and one is 80/20 merino alpaca. It is double knit, with a design pattern inside and out. I notice there is a large variation in some of the size of the stitches, and hunk it would benefit from wet blocking. Is there any special trick to blocking double knit fabric, and would the alpaca perhaps block differently from the merino causing an issue? Thank you so much. I love your blog.

TECHknitter said...

Dear Mrs. H--Alpaca and Merino would normally block differently, yes. Alpaca sags and stretches far more than merino under ordinary circumstances. In the case of handspun, there are additional variables, such as the thick and thin nature of handspun, and whether the two yarns are of the same weight to begin with. Plus, you say that the merino is spun with alpaca. In short, there are too many variables to diagnose the outcome from a distance.

If these were maufactured yarns, the danger would be that the alpaca fabric face will balloon away from the merino one. Dare I ask whether you have knit and blocked a swatch first, before committing to the hat?

If the hat IS the swatch, and IF you like the fabric you are now knitting, consider steam blocking rather than wet blocking--steam blocking is a far less violent procedure, whereas wet blocking might very well have a completely different effect on each of the two different fabric faces.
Steam blocking link:

(cut and past linky into your browser window)

Mrs. Herman said...

Thank you. I didn't knit and block a swatch. I'd like to say it's because I hate to "waste" any of my homespun, but in reality, I never swatch hats -- they all seem to fit one way or another. I will try steam blocking. That used to be the only blocking I did, lacking the patience for wet blocking.

Anonymous said...

I too am impatient to wear my newly completed and wet-blocked garments. I do a couple of rounds of rolling it in towels and stomping, then I arrange it neatly on the stationary rack that fits in my dryer. I carefully put the rack in the dryer and push the drum around by hand just to make sure no parts of the garment are accidentally hanging over the edge of the rack. Then I use a timed setting.

I have even used the two highest heat settings to get the job done faster. Since the garment isn't tossing around, there seems to be no chance of felting.

I've used the dryer for 100% wool and for Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool wool-silk blend.

Your blog is great, and book format would be highly appreciated!


EMCEE said...


TECHknitter said...

Hi EMCEE: You could try to block it very long and narrow (tug on the garment when wet) which will narrow it substantially, but also make it longer (longer sleeves, longer body). The problem is, when you wear it, it will grow back to the original size again. So, as I see it, you really have three choices.

One: give it to someone whom it does fit.

Two: consider saving the garment via serger-surgery. Here is a post about saving too-big garments with a serger:

Or, the third choice: rework the sweater. That option, too, is discussed in the above post (cut and paste the URL into your web browser window)

Good luck, TK

Julia said...

Hi TK - I am not a knitter but came across this post while researching a question I have about acrylic yarn. I'm betting you can help me. I purchased a fairly expensive acrylic afghan/throw. I believe it is woven as opposed to knitted or crocheted, and the weave is fairly loose. It is soft and warm and I adore it! However, the mfr's instructions say dry clean only. Given the way I'm using this afghan on my couch, I feel like it's getting food or drink on it a few times a week and dry cleaning just isn't practical. Do I need to remove the throw from everyday use, or do you think it would be OK to wash it? Thanks for any guidance you can give me!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Julia--the fact is, I do not know the answer to your question. While acrylic is typically spun into sturdy fiber--one well up for machine washing--it does tend to get stringy over multiple wash cycles. In addition, there are various fiber-finishing techniques, designed to make acrylic yarn softer/fuzzier/fluffier which might not come through even one wash cycle very well. And, if the item is loosely woven, all these factors are even more important. These details are why I do not know the answer to your question.

Regretfully, TK

Anonymous said...

Hello. I recently completed a sweater made with 100% merino wool that has a lovely lace pattern across the entire back and two fronts. I am a tight knitter and often have to go up one to two needle sizes to get gauge. For this sweater, I went up two needle sizes. It fit me perfectly before I blocked it, but afterwards, it had grown to such an extent that it no longer fits. I have two questions that I was hoping you could answer. Would reblocking the sweater shrink it back to its original size? Does the fact that I have to use larger needles than recommended contribute to the stretching of the finished object? Thank you so much for any light you can shed on this issue for me.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--let's take the questions in reverse order.
Q--Does the fact that I have to use larger needles than recommended contribute to the stretching of the finished object?
A--Almost certainly the answer is "no." The only thing that might possibly be happening is that you're physically stretching the yarn to force if over the needles. However, this would take a tremendous amount of strength, so this is probably not what is going on.

Q--Would reblocking the sweater shrink it back to its original size?
A--Regretfully, it is not possible to block things smaller. You might THINK it is smaller, but when the garment dries and is put on, it stretches out again.

Now, let me ask you a question: Could the garment possibly be made with superwash wool? If it IS superwash, that kind of yarn is notorious for stretching when blocked, and the reason is, it is made to be machine dried, which does return the garment to size. So, have a look at the band and see if the yarn is superwash. Otherwise, write back, OK?


Anonymous said...

Hi, TK,

Yes, it is superwash wool. It's Malabrigo Rios. I was talking to my LYS guru about what happened and she confirmed it. She also said she knows of people who put a finished object in the dryer and it felted. I don't want to risk that. I've decided to give the sweater to my daughter, because it fits her perfectly and she loves it. Thanks for your help. It's much appreciated. On another topic, I admire your writing.