Sweater Blocking

Knitters ask me all the time about blocking. How do I block my sweaters? What’s my secret?

Here’s a little overview of my favorite blocking process — it’s pretty simple!

The Tools:

  1. Flat, linking rubber mats like this one from Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. Mine are solid grey, but they are the same style as in the link.
  2. Bath Fiber Wash or another variety of no-rinse wool wash. Why? Not only does a wool wash help remove any lingering excess dye (especially for hand dyed yarns) but it also adds softness. (Plus, I’m a sucker for how great some of them smell, but there’s unscented, too, if you prefer.)
  3. Knitter’s Pride Blocking Pins – These pins completely changed my relationship with blocking, and they’ll change yours, too!

The Steps:

  1. Fill your sink with cool water and an appropriate amount of wool wash, if you’re using it. Wait until the sink is properly filled before you place the sweater into the water (so as not to agitate it more than necessary by the running water). Place the sweater in the water gently and press it under the water so it’s properly submerged. Allow the sweater to soak for ten minutes or so (some suggest longer, but I’ve found that 10 minutes is plenty as long as the sweater is fully submerged). Handle it only minimally and resist the urge to agitate it. soaking
  2.  Drain the sink and press the water from the sweater, gently squeezing, but being careful not to distort it too greatly as you wring out the water.
  3. Roll the sweater in a bath towel (one that is preferably a darker color — not white! — just in case excess dye is still present). Gently press it through the towel to absorb as much water as possible.
  4. Lay out your blocking mats in an appropriate shape to fit your sweater. Lay the sweater on the mat so that, when possible, arms can be extended and body can be stretched to it’s intended size.
  5. The trick with blocking is to ensure that you are not over-stretching the fibers (unless the pattern asks you to), and that you are enhancing details with appropriate placement of blocking pins.
  6. When laying out your sweater, stretch it only to its natural shape, ensuring that the fabric is smooth but not straining. In cases of ribbing, I like to create a little more tension in those spots to pull them vertically just a tad (I would always rather pull the ribbing vertically rather than horizontally — meaning that I block WITH the ribbing so that it maintains its integrity). With a cardigan, I generally concentrate my blocking pins strategically around the button band and any cables or lace so that they dry flat and open and stitch detail is enhanced, and as mentioned with the ribbing. With a pullover I usually pin along the sides, rather than in the center, and along the top/neck edge and bottom/ribbing edge. Blocking
  7. Remember that the goal of blocking is to help the sweater reach its intended size, to smooth and even the stitches, and to enhance stitch detail.
  8. Allow the sweater to dry for at least 12-15 hours on one side. The sweater will dry more quickly in a warm, dry location. When the sweater is noticeably drier on the front, I flip the sweater over and leave it flat to dry for another 8-10 hours — without blocking pins. Usually after the initial drying period, the pins are not as crucial.
  9. After the second blocking period, gently turn the sweater back to the front side and allow it to finish drying, using blocking pins only where needed to maintain the shape. Usually by this point in the drying period, pins are not necessary (or only necessary right around the button band area). Use your discretion and utilize pins wherever it seems that the fiber is not yet staying in its intended shape.
  10. Once dry, your sweater is ready for buttons and wearing!  Blocking is a great way to even-out the stitches and refine stitch details like those in my Southwell CardiganSouthwell final 1

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