Knitting 101: Blocking!

Cast-Off Piece

Pre-blocking (above), the stitches are uneven. Blocking evens this out!

Now we’re at the final step for a project: Blocking. This is when you take all that hard work and make it beautiful!

Blocking is when you give your knitting a nice, relaxing bath and then shape it. Your yarn has been through a lot lately, being wound into a ball and then shaped into knit stitches. I don’t know about you, but I drag my knitting with me everywhere. Kittens crawl on it and bite it. It’s shoved into and out of my purse on a regular basis. My yarn gets its fair share of abuse, which is why it deserves a spa day.

Blocking helps you even out your stitches, especially important in the beginning when tension isn’t all that even yet. This is when you get to shape it into the final product, and it can almost be like magic. Consider lace knitting. After you cast off lace, it looks like a jumble of yarn. It’s not pretty. Then you wash it and stretch it into shape. Suddenly all that hard work is visible. You have a beautiful shawl!

Even though our sampler is just that, a sampler, we’re going to practice blocking with it. The method you use will depend on the yarn you’ve been knitting with. Different yarns have different needs. Acrylic can be the toughest to block at times. The only method I’ve found that works is steam blocking. For wool and other animal fibers, I prefer wet blocking. Cotton yarn is very delicate when wet, so you need to be fairly gentle as you block.

Wet Blocking

This is good for most kinds of wool. Plus, the wool wash makes things smell nice!

What You’ll Need:

  • Pins
  • Cheap Shampoo or Wool Wash
  • A towel or blocking boards
  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and a dab of wool wash/shampoo.
  2. Put in your knitting. Let it soak for 20-3o minutes.
  3. If using shampoo, rinse your knitting. Some wool washes don’t require rinsing, so check the bottle.
  4. Gently press the water out of your knitting. Don’t squeeze or squish the knitting. Too much agitation plus warm/hot water causes felting.
  5. On towels or blocking boards, pin out your knitting into the shape you want it or to the pattern’s specifications.

Steam Blocking

This method is good for cotton and acrylic yarn. Cotton is fragile when wet, so this lets you keep control over the knitting. For acrylic, I’ve had mixed results. I think I just need to practice a bit more.

What You’ll Need:

  • Pins
  • Steam iron
  • A towel or blocking boards
  1. On towels or blocking boards, pin out your knitting into the shape you want it or to the pattern’s specifications.
  2. With the steam iron, hover over your piece. Do NOT touch the iron to the yarn. Just kind of float just above it. 

Spray Bottle Blocking

For finer yarns, it may be easier and at least feel safer blocking with a spray bottle. I know with large lace pieces, I get a little nervous with the weight of it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Pins
  • Spritz bottle
  • A towel or blocking boards
  1. On towels or blocking boards, pin out your knitting into the shape you want it or to the pattern’s specifications.
  2. Spritz the knitting to dampen it. Adjust as needed.

Like with everything in knitting, these are only a handful of methods. Be sure that you pick your blocking technique to match the fiber you’re working with. Blocking is a magical process and the last step in your knitting. Enjoy it! Next week we’ll go over the different weights of yarn. Happy Thursday!

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29 thoughts on “Knitting 101: Blocking!

  1. Very helpful info on blocking! Blocking seems to be a mystery to many and it’s really not hard. I never use an iron under any circumstances. I know others do and are okay with it. If you use an iron, never touch the iron to a yarn containing acrylic. It will actually melt the yarn and damage your work. I only damp block my work, usually just spritzing it with a spray bottle.

  2. Great post, I almost always wet block my items but I’ve had a lot of success with steam blocking. I’ve never tried the spray bottle method but, now I have your info, I might give it a try on my next more fragile piece. Thanks!

  3. Really appreciate this. I’m new to knitting and blocked my first pattern a few months back. I’m struggling with how to block a cowl I just did up. It was done with 100% merino wool. Do you think I could wet block it in cold? Or should I just spray block it? Would love your thoughts!

    • Definitely warm water if you go with wet blocking. I haven’t found out if temperature matters for the spritz method. With merino, probably wet blocking will be best, depending on the weight of the yarn and density of the fabric. Hope that helps!

  4. I love this knitting 101 series you’ve done. I’m knitting “Unleaving” now from Knitty’s archives and I can’t wait to finish it. It has some simple lace sections that tend to curl up on themselves. I’m hoping blocking will work its magic and tame this tendency.

  5. I end up with so many WIP’s that even though my knitting is even, there’s always a ridge where I stopped and left it in my work basket. I’ve been really lazy about blocking lately, thanks for inspiring me to get back to it and spelling out your techniques so clearly!

  6. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I had project I finished a while ago, and I’ve been meaning to read up on blocking, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thanks for making it easy for me!

  7. Thanks for the post! I’m a self-taught knitter and just pick up bits and pieces from friends who also knit. It’s nice to learn some of these proper finishing techniques that help show off all my hard work!

  8. I love the idea of blocking as giving your knitting a ‘spa day’. Unfortunately I’m really lazy when it comes to blocking, so this might actually make me feel more sympathy with my FOs and give them the attention they deserve!

  9. What would you suggest for a 100% merino lace scarf? Wet or spray bottle? The yarn is so delicate … I am really not too happy with the outcome of my knitting so far and to be able to even out stitches definitly brightens my mood! Thank you for any suggestion you might have.

  10. thanks for the different ideas on how to, I just used a steamer and did not have the best results

  11. The funny thing is, I learned knitting about 20 years ago and all the blocking that was ever done in my family was sewing the pieces together, than getting them wet and then drawing them a bit in shape. Nothing about pins or anything. And I hardly ever did that. Since I entered the blogging knit scene I started blocking my knitting (well not everything, only things that I think could do with blocking) and it does work wonders especially size wise because for some reasons e.g. left and right arms, also they have the same amount of rows, don’t have the same length and so on. I prefer wet blocking. I have tried spray blocking but it was such a long procedure and I could have wet blocked it anyways. But that is maybe because I hardly ever work with really delicate yarns.

  12. Excellent article, I must admit I’ve never had the courage to block. but your post has seriously made me think I should. It would give my work a more professional look

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  16. These advice posts are really helpful, thank you. This might be a stupid question but should you (can you) block all knitting, even if the pattern doesn’t mention it?

    • I lean more toward yes on this. Hats are more challenging, so I skip blocking for them. Definitely with lace and sweaters (so everything lines up). The great thing about blocking is that it evens up the stitches. Because of that, I always block stockinette. Hope that helps!

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