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How to Wet-Block Knitting

Blocking your knitting, whilst not essential, will really transform your hard work from something that is merely home made, to something that is beautifully hand made. It's also really easy to do.

In terms of equipment, you will need the following:

  • Your knitting project

  • Blocking T-pins

  • Foam mats

  • Basin of tepid water

  • Towel

  • Blocking wires (optional)

  • No rinse washing liquid (optional)

As you can see in the picture, my pieces of knitting are curly around the edges, and are a bit shapeless and creased from being stashed. Blocking rectifies all these woes!

The first step is to soak your pieces in the basin of tepid water. It's really important not to use hot water as this may shrink your hard work. I used a teaspoon of Eucalin in my water. For those who want a vegan option, Eucalin is not suitable as it has lanolin in it, but finding a vegan alternative will have to be the subject of another post. Once your pieces are soaked, you must be very gentle with them to avoid felting.

Gently, but firmly, press the water out of the pieces, and then roll them in a towel to remove as much water as possible. I like to kneel on the roll to really press down hard on it, but I'm a bit pathetic when it comes to upper body strength. Once this is complete, you can prepare the pieces for blocking with blocking wires, if you choose to use them. I personally prefer to use them to help with getting perfectly straight lines and smooth curves. Without them, I find that the edges can sometimes get a scalloped look, which can be attractive as a design feature in its own way, but if it's not the look you're going for, then wires are the easiest way to avoid them.

I bought my wires on Amazon, and the pack came with a selection of lengths, some curved wires, T-pins and a 1 metre rule. Whilst the number of wires has worked for me, I've always needed many more than the 25 T-Pins included. So, I'd recommend getting more of those. The T-pins can be bought online or in knitting shops, and are so called because they look like little Ts, they're like miniature tent pegs, and we use these to pin the pieces into the desired shape and size. This is where the foam mats come in. They're absolutely perfect for this job as the pins go in easily, and they're easy to store when not in use. Plus, if you use the interlocking mats, you can shape these to the best configuration to fit your project.

If using the wires, you want to thread them through the very edge of your knitting as though you were creating a running stitch. I would recommend roughly a 1/2 inch distance between each insertion. It's also important to choose a wire that is wider than the desired width to allow for the piece to stretch along the wire. For this particular project, the top and bottom of each piece are both straight, so I needed to feed wires across both the top and bottom. It's important at this stage to refer back to your original knitting pattern, or the measurements to which you've created your piece.

Here are the measurements for the project I'm blocking here, but I know that I did not knit the full 28 inches, and shortened the piece to 20 inches because of my being quite petite, and also wanting the garment to sit lower on the cleavage than designed.

Once you have one edge of your piece laid down, you can begin to pin that in place to the desired width. With this in position, you can then stretch your piece to the desired length and repeat for the bottom edge.

With all straight edges in position, the curvy edges can then be either wired and pinned (usually this is a single curve such as a neckline, or armscye), or as in the case of this pieces where the edge created the hourglass shape of the overall piece, pins can be used to shape the piece accordingly. I prefer to use lots of pins when free-pinning in order to avoid that scalloping effect I mentioned earlier. As you can see from the image below, sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get the pieces into the right shape, and I had a fair bit of fiddling to get these two pieces in the same shape.

When your pieces are fully blocked, they must be left until they are completely dry before being unpinned. Having blocked the pieces, sewing up the garment will be much easier, the stitches and pattern will be more defined, and the overall result will have a far more professional finish and sharper look. For those curious, the project blocked in this post was the Winter Woolies pattern from A Stitch in Time by Waller & Crawford.

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