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How To Wash And Block Knitting: Blocking Secrets Revealed!

Updated on January 26, 2011
Blogging Erika profile image

E. L. Danvers is a full-time professional writer and investigative journalist based in Southern California.

Photo credit: Flickr/LollyKnit
Photo credit: Flickr/LollyKnit

Blocking is an important final step, to get your knitting looking its best!  Depending on the project and the fiber you may want to do anything from a full soak to a light spritz-and-tug.  Don’t short-change yourself by skipping the blocking!

Natural fibers like wool, silk, alpaca, and mohair will do well with a full soak blocking.  As a rule, the first time you wash wool it relaxes and loosens up, becoming much more soft, with a lovelier drape.  Try washing your swatch to see the effects! 

Artificial fibers like acrylic and nylon can be “killed” by steam blocking.  A full soak blocking can help order the stitches into place, although it is not strictly necessary.  A damp blocking is usually enough.

Lace should always be given a full soak, followed by a serious pinning.

Full Soak Blocking - How To Wash Your Knitting

Fill a sink with warm to lukewarm water, the same temperature you would use to wash a baby.  Add a small splash of soap, ideally a wool soak like Eucalan.  Shampoo works well in a pinch.  (Wool is just hair, after all!)  If the yarn has a lot of lanolin, you may want to use a detergent like Dawn dishwashing liquid.

Drop your knitting into the water and let it sink in on its own.  Be careful not to scrunch, wring, or otherwise agitate the fibers.  This can cause felting!  If your knitting bobs on the surface, gently push it into the water and hold it down until the bubbles stop. 

Let it soak for at least 10 minutes.  I usually wait 30 minutes or so, until the water has cooled down to room temperature.  Drain and refill the sink with warm water again.  Let it soak to rinse.  You may need to do a second rinse.

Gently lift your knitting out of the sink, being careful not to let it hang.  Support it like you would a baby!  Lay it out on a towel, roll it up, and step on it to squeeze out the excess water.

Now for the blocking proper.  Lay it out on a towel, and gently pat and tug it into place.  If you are blocking to measurements (as in pieces of a sweater), use your measuring tape. 

With the exception of lace projects, I advocate “gentle blocking.”  If you pin out your knitting or use other methods to crank it into place, it will snap back as soon as it gets worn for a little while. 

How To Steam Block Knitting

I usually start with a full soak, then go to steam blocking if it seems necessary.  Steam does wonders for fixing your knitting in place, whether it’s a button band that wants to flip, a collar that doesn’t want to lie properly flat, or a garter stitch border that should be wavy, but wants to rumple instead.

Steaming is also the only way to tame stockinette that wants to roll.  But please be aware that the effects are temporary.  As soon as it’s been worn for a little while, the steam effects will wear off and the stockinette will start to roll.  It’s just how it works.

When using a steam iron to block your knitting, NEVER PRESS.  The iron should never come into contact with the knitting.  If you really feel that you must apply pressure, use a cotton dish towel as an ironing cloth.

The steam does all the work.  Simply tug your knitting into shape, then pass the steam iron over it, hovering the iron at least half an inch above your knitting.  Let the knitting cool in place before moving it. 

How To Pin Out Knitting

In severe cases, as with lace, or stockinette sweater pieces that don’t want to lie flat, you may need to resort to pinning it out. 

Be sure to use only rust-free pins, which you can buy from a knitting or fabric store.  Blocking wires can be a lifesaver – instead of repositioning 50 pins along the side of a shawl, you need only move the three pins holding the blocking wire in place.

You will need to lay your knitting on a surface that will take pins.  Many knitters use their beds, or the carpet.  Just be sure you pick up ALL the pins!  If you end up doing a lot of this sort of blocking, it’s worth it to buy some of those puzzle piece foam squares that are used as flooring. 

Lay your knitting out, either after a full soak, or just lightly spritzed and dampened with water.  If you are using a blocking wire on lace, thread the wire through the edge stitches and pin it into place.  Otherwise, use the pins to fix the knitting into place.  Let it lay undisturbed until it dries.


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    • love2dogs profile image

      love2dogs 6 years ago from NH

      Very informative - Thanks :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good advice offered for those who might be tackling these projects.