Blocking is a method to finish a piece and to give it a refined look. It will straighten and align your stitches, “open up” your lace work or cables and help your finished product ‘lay’ or ‘drape’ with perfection. You will see better stitch definition and the pattern will really shine through when you take the time to block your work. There are different methods to block your items. Some items just need to be laid down, sprayed lightly with a touch of water and smoothed out. Some items need to be soaked, pinned and stretched. Others need to be hung and steamed, this truly depends on the content of your yarn. We do not recommend steaming acrylic or 100% wool as the acrylic can melt and the wool can felt.
Blocking becomes crucial in situations when a sweater has measurements that are off by a fraction. If we are making a sweater with the length of 40 inches, and I am only getting 39 or 39.5 inches, we can wet and stretch until it measures. We let it air dry after stretching, once it is dry it should still measure 40 inches in length. (please note that the 40 inches is a generalization, no specific pattern is being referenced here) After you wash your sweater it may need to be re-stretched or blocked again directly after washing.
Blocking is also vital when making pieces to a blanket. If we are making squares or pieces, blocking the pieces individually before assembly will make the process of assembly easier and a cleaner process. Usually, once the blanket is assembled, you should not have to block again after washing. It should stay as is, the weight of the afghan should hold its structure.
Blocking is not something that can just be done on handmade items. Doesn’t everyone have that one shirt that mysteriously shrank in the dryer? Apply the same method, wet the shirt or wash it, stretch it back to the way it was originally and lay flat to dry.
In our example pieces, you can see that the we made swatches are curling and don’t seem very ‘square’ as they should be. Using blocking mats and push pins, start in the corner and pin, this will make the corner defined. We do this to all the corners, slowly and lightly pulling the swatch tight. This can also alter your gauge. Be sure not to exceed your gauge when stretching and pulling. Once you are done with all the pinning make sure the edges are straight and do not curve. If they curve, be sure to pin those down in line with the corners. As you can see in the example, the first square swatch was slightly bowed along the edge of the top and bottom. We had to pin those out evenly with the corners. As you can see this makes your finished product look better. Once everything is pinned, spray lightly with a water bottle; let dry. After they have dried, remove pins and the squares should stay square. If they do not repeat the process.