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Blocking

Blocking is a handy technique for stretching, easing, and redistributing stitches in a finished piece of hand knitting.  Whether you are preparing to sew pieces of a sweater together or simply finishing a scarf like the one shown here, blocking creates a beautifully even fabric, which makes it easy to work with and lovely to wear.

You can block any type of natural fiber for any type of garment, as long as you are gentle.  The goal is to get the knitting into a desired shape without stretching it out or damaging the fibers.  These directions work best (in our experience) for all types of natural fibers from mohair to cashmere, cotton, silk, and blends.

Materials for Blocking

blocking4.jpg 

Here's what you'll need: 

blocking pins - We recommend Clover's flower head pins because they are sturdy, rust-proof, and cute

spray bottle -  Any spray bottle will do as long as it is clean.  We love this old copper gardener's sprayer.

towel - Choose a towel that is big enough to fit your knitted pieces, and not too linty.

soft surface - You can use your ironing board for small projects, or your bedspread, the carpet, or a fabric covered couch cushion for larger projects.  You'll be sticking pins into the towel on top of this surface, so choose something that won't mind getting a few stray pin pricks.

To make a portable blocking board, cover a 18 x 24-inch piece of 1/2-inch plywood or MDF with cotton batting. Staple it to the back using an upholstery stapler.  Cover the batting with cotton fabric, attached with velcro so you can remove it for washing after a while. 

Step 1: Hand Blocking

blocking2.jpg

Stretch the knitting horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, several times in each direction.  You will be able to see progress after a few rounds; the stitches should appear more evenly spaced.  Different fibers call for different amounts of elbow grease, so don't yank on lacey cashmere as you would ropey linen!  The key is to simply watch the knitting and adjust your strength accordingly. 

blocking3.jpg

Step 2: Pin + Spray

Lay your knitting out on the towel.  If it is a shaped piece, a sweater back, for example, you may want to stretch it slightly into the shape you desire.  If it is a scarf or other simple rectangle, lay it down so that it is flat, but not stretching unnaturally.

Begin to pin around the edges of your knitting, being careful to maintain the shape you want.  Once you have pinned around all sides, spray the piece with water and leave it to dry.  Be patient!  It may take a few hours, or even overnight.

blocking1.jpg

Heavy Duty Blocking

If you have a hat that's a hair too small, or a sweater a few rows too short, you may want to try a more aggressive blocking technique:

Rather than pinning and spraying the piece, submerge it in a bath of room temperature water. 

Remove to a clean towel and roll it to get out excess water.  Don't wring or twist the knitting while it is weak and wet!  Be gentle!  

Hand block the damp knitting to the desired size and pin it into place.  Let it dry thoroughly.   

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16 Responses to Blocking


  1. Punky says:

    Hello, my cousin is making a bedspread, not in blocks, and is having trouble with keeping the stiches the same when she starts the next day. The stitches are looser than the day before. She is using a size 10 hook and the yarn is the thickness like jute string. Is there any way that she might be able to correct this? Even a sugestion on how to “block” a large bedspread would help.
    You can email me back answers and I will also watch here.
    Thank you very much.

  2. purl bee says:

    Hi Punky,
    This often happens with large projects. It should mostly resolve itself when she blocks it unless the difference is wildly different. You can block just as it says here, but lay the blanket on a large sheet or similar. You can skip the pins or sometimes its possible to pin into a rug (just be sure your colors won’t run once the project is wet!).
    Hope this helps!

  3. Fonda says:

    Is there more to blocking than understanding that it is a good idea? Not sure how to access the rest of the article if there is more.

  4. purl bee says:

    HI Fonda-

    Sorry for the confusion, this is an older post so the links are a little funky. The whole tutorial can be found here: http://purlbee.squarespace.com/blocking-tutorial/

    Thanks for writing in!

    Molly

  5. Jasmine says:

    Hey, I'm making your bandana Cowl and I was wondering in what shape I should block it? And how do I get both sides if it's pinned down?

    Thank-you!

  6. Vicki D. says:

    If my “easy peasy” knit hat is a little too big will blocking help it?

  7. Vicki D. says:

    If my "easy peasy" knit hat is a little too big will blocking help it?

  8. purl bee says:

    Hi Vicki D,

    It might! It depends on the yarn and fiber, but it would certainly be worth a try!

    Thanks for asking and good luck!

    Whitney

  9. Esther says:

    I've appreciated your finishing techniques. Some time ago I had knitted a turtlenect sweater. Now, my dilemma is what is the best way to seam the sleeves, upper and lower seams, as both edges are bind-off or cast-on rows. Sweater was worked all in garter stitch. Those being horizontal I'm not sure how to finish. I have recently started knitting again so pretty much a beginner. Thanks.

  10. Nan says:

    If the yarn I am using is 75% nylon & 25% wool– should that be blocked? I have made scarves that grow very long as they are worn and I am trying to stop that from happening again. Thank you.

  11. purl bee says:

    Hi Nan-

    You can block any type of fiber but blocking won't stop a scarf (or any garment) from stretching. Blocking is just used to make the fabric and stitches more even and smooth. It's kind of like ironing!

    Thanks for your question!

    Molly

  12. David Bahr says:

    I've been teaching myself Tunisian crochet, some of my work curls in on itself. Will blocking help?

  13. purl bee says:

    Hi David,

    From my experience and from what I've read online, Tunisian crochet does have a tendency to curl, but if you have worked at a loose enough tension, your piece will easily block out nice and flat.

    Thanks for asking. Let us know how it goes and good luck!

    Whitney

  14. Andie says:

    Excellent instructions! Thank you for this simple tutorial.

  15. Nina says:

    Thanks for the tips. I love the pattern of the scarf you used to demonstrate blocking. Would you be so kind as to share it? :)

  16. purl bee says:

    Hi Nina-

    This pattern is no longer available on our site but you can access it by clicking at the bottom link on its Ravelry page here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/basketweave-scarf-5

    Thank you!

    Molly

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