Q for You: How do you block your finished knits?

How to block knitting

The web is full of articles and blog posts about how to block finished knits. I don’t feel like it’s that deep of a subject, but it’s one that everyone has their own idiosyncratic little twist on. Which is what I love about these Q for You discussions — you just never know what ingenious things might be said!

I know that virtually everything should be “blocked” when the knitting or crocheting is finished, as it not only allows you to shape your finished piece into its finest glory, but it also causes the individual stitches to stop resisting and relax into their new poses. It’s absolutely critical for all kinds of things I don’t actually knit, like intricate lace shawls with scalloped edges. Some will find this scandalous or naive, but I personally think it’s less critical for the kinds of things I knit. I do block my sweaters. I block a shawl even if it’s just a triangle, because it will be a much, much nicer triangle after blocking. But I don’t always block the little stuff — mitts and hats and such — especially if they’re just ribbing and/or stockinette. I figure it won’t be long before they need a soak for cleaning purposes anyway, am I right?

My blocking method is totally 101: I fill a plastic tub or large bowl with barely lukewarm water and some rinseless wool wash. (Like Eucalan or Soak.) I drop in the knitted item, squeeze it a little bit, very gently, to get it good and waterlogged. Then I leave it for at least half an hour. When it’s had a good soak, I hold it against the side of the bowl and tip out all of the water. Then I press it against the side of the bowl, pour out that water; repeat. When I’ve gotten out as much as I can, I gently squeeze it (never wring it) in my hands. Then I lay the object flat on a dry towel (or two, depending), roll up the towel, and stand on it, walking back and forth across the towel roll if it contains a sweater, before laying the knit flat on a dry towel on my kitchen table, shaping it as necessary. To speed up the drying process and, more important, keep the cats away, I point a fan at it while it dries. The only time I have ever felt the need to use blocking wires and pins was my Textured Shawl, and in that case it was well worth the extra effort.

I know other people use shampoo, salad spinners, spin cycles on top-loading washers, and also have VERY strong opinions about blocking … so let’s hear it. What’s your blocking process or best tips?


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51 thoughts on “Q for You: How do you block your finished knits?

    • I’ve never blocked a swatch…not that I make them as often as I should! I’ve also never heard anyone say they love blocking! :)

  1. I basically do what you do except that I use the washer so I can spin out the water. Warning: if you leave too long of a yarn tail, it can get wrapped around the agitator and is not fun to get untangled. I thought I had lost a sweater once. I block each piece before sewing together. I drive myself nuts pinning the edges to lay flat and measure all like pieces (sleeves, cardigan fronts, etc.) to be sure they are equal in width and length. Probably over thinking the whole process.

  2. Sweaters: I bought one of those old Lillian Vernon Tub Racks (the frame and mesh knit) that lay over the top of the tub to dry a sweater. Point a fan (same reasons lol) and can also use this for small items.
    Shawls: Go on a terry cloth sheet, pinned to the sheet itself (shaped items) then hung over my line in my laundry room (over dryer) to promote air flow. I bought terry cloth at the fabric store doubled it stitched and use that for large items. I flip every 20mins or so to keep air going. Here in the south laying wet things on anything with out rotating them results in musty yuck.

  3. Same way as you do. I block hats over a bowl if I need to stretch them a little, and I blocked the State Street Cowl on an upturned 5-gallon bucket covered with a towel.

    (Funny, I just posted on my blog for the first time in months about blocking a swatch. The green dye bled out like a Martian hemophiliac.)

  4. I pretty much follow the same approach as you, with shampoo rather than wool soak, but that’s only because I’m so disorganised I never get round to buying any! I do tend to find blocking a bit like knitting up a gauge swatch – I try my hardest to get out of it, so only ever block/swatch if I feel it is absolutely critical based on the yarn/design/end result, bad knitter that I am!

  5. It all depends on the project and the yarn and whether the shape I want is or is not happening.

    With hardy yarns (mad tosh sport) and sweaters, I soak it and then use the spin cycle. I will then let it dry on a rack for a while before blocking with wires. Less hardy, like Pashmina and Staccato, I will soak and then use the towel roll, let dry a bit and then block, usually with wires. Most of my shawls and some scarves, I also use wires. Smaller projects, like hats and mitts, I don’t do much of anything except give a good wash.

    Most of my Habu projects (several Tsumugi tops, in particular) and linen type yarns, I use the same initial method that I continue for their general care. I soak, roll in a towel and put on a rack until almost dry and then I throw them in the dryer for just a few minutes. The dryer takes out the wrinkles and “crisp” texture and beautifully releases the drape. It also tightens up whatever sag happens with wear. But I make sure not to walk away from the dryer….just a few minutes is all it needs.

    I have been known to steam press when in a hurry or when the shape already seems right.

    • Yeah, I throw very slightly damp things in the dryer now and then. Only if I’m somehow sure the effects will be positive or I’m willing to risk the garment.

  6. I’m new to this blocking lark… How do you know how much you should stretch it when pinning an item out? This also goes for blocking a swatch. If my gauge is tight would you stretch it out more? How much is too much? And can you not stretch a swatch enough and find the finished article grows too much as a result of under blocking the swatch – how do you know? Sorry if this is the wrong place to ask xx

    • Sometimes the pattern will tell you what the dimensions of the finished garment will be, so you can measure out the stretched pieces and pin them in place. If your gauge is tight your garment will also be tighter – a looser gauge means a bigger knit, generally.

      I’m not sure what you’re asking regrding stretching a swatch, but I’m sure someone else can help you with that. :)

    • I wouldn’t do a lot of stretching, generally — you want to know what the fabric is going to do naturally. If you’re trying to match pattern gauge, you want to get there without contorting the swatch. Or else you’re going to have to contort the garment every time you wash it. Lots of people advise what Delia describes below — hanging a swatch if it’s for a sweater or anything heavy, so you can see what effect gravity will have on the garment. Mostly a concern with synthetics and plant fibers or really heavy yarns of whatever variety.

      • Thank you. That’s really helpful. I now realise I’ve been thinking along the wrong lines. Hopefully I can now block a swatch for my first ever sweater and judge which needles to use to obtain the correct gauge!

  7. My process is the same as yours, and in fact now that I have read your process I’m wondering why I always bother so much with pins for sweaters when they don’t add that much value!

    I don’t block hats or small items either, unless I feel that it needs it for some reason.

    I’ve also noticed that garments I leave folded up on a tabletop for several days tend to relax quite a bit and looks as if they have been blocked. These days if I can’t block something right away, I carefully fold it up and leave it on my drawers. If I don’t get to it in a few days I find it doesn’t always need to be blocked.

  8. I pretty much block the same was as you do but without any added detergent/wool wash.

    I don’t have much to add to this conversation, I just wanted to say I’ve recently discovered your blog and I love it!!!

  9. I will sometimes wear items like a wrap or cowl until it needs washed and then do a good job of blocking. If I have several items, I will let them soak in the washer, then spin them dry. After filling the washer with warm water and adding the Eucalan, I turn the knob to spin before putting in my sweaters to prevent any accidental agitation tragedies.

    I bought a used cosmetology mannikin off Ebay so I could block and dry my hats on a head. I had tried using a bowl, but ended up with stretched out brims and unblocked crowns. I do wash my swatches if I am knitting anything where I want a good fit. For cellulose fibers that grow with wear, I wash the swatch, lay flat to dry, then pin the swatch to a hanger, hang several clips on the bottom and give it a couple of days to see how much longer it becomes. I measure before washing, after its dry, and again when it comes off the hanger. I’ve been surprised at some cotton blends that got wider and shorter when washed.

  10. My blocking method sounds a lot like yours, but I typically block everything simply because my knitting needs a wash after I’m done with it! I drag my knitting to cafes, parks, bars, and movie theaters. The idea of wearing it without washing it first just grosses me out. I can’t get into steam blocking or spray blocking for that reason.

    • Good point. I’ve seen lots of people drag WIPs all over the place, get dog hair all over them, etc. And I realize it kind of doesn’t matter as long as they plan to soak it before wearing it. My WIPs rarely leave the vicinity of my couch.

  11. OMG, I have been knitting since I was 8 (now 43) and I always thought blocking was just stream pressing/ironing pinned parts on a padded board before you assemble a garment… and it’s worked for me so far…!

  12. Can’t wait to read all the info here! I’m mostly knitting hats, mitts, scarves. Rarely do I wash them. Just mist them, shape and iron them and they’re good. Once in a while I feel like a hat would shape up better with a soak. I use one of our natural shampoos and go through Karen’s process of squeezing water out, rolling in a towel, etc. My first shawlette I did wash as above and blocked it by pinning it down across a large towel, then draping that across the shower curtain rail. I had to keep tugging at it as it dried so that it would hold the triangle shape (it was a gift.) Worked just fine. I’d prefer to be a minimalist about this part, as long as the fabric is happy.

  13. I’m just moving beyond knitting the hats, scarves, mitts, etc and the blocking issue intimidates me. I’m happy to see the range in approaches. It does seem to matter on the fiber? And not all patterns indicate finished dimensions, boo. This was a downer when I pinned down and and overstretched a stole recently. I wouldn’t have thought of the dryer either! I love these discussions!

  14. I pretty much block things the same way you do, although sometimes I do use the top-loading washer and spin out the water after everything’s good an soaked. It just depends on how large the item is or if I’m doing a big group of stuff! The only thing I have to add to the conversation is that I use a mason jar (filled with lukewarm water and a few drops of Eucalan) to block all of my swatches.

  15. I don’t block everything, either. I made the serafina cowl and didn’t block it because I thought it would lose its shape. Turns out a lot people complained about exactly that. I sometimes stretch hats over bowls. I steam block baby sweaters and such. I pin and spray more delicate knits with a water bottle. If I soak something and lay it flat/pin it, I usually do it on folded over towel to soak up the water. I’ll turn in over to avoid the musty thing. I’ll sometimes use a blow dryer to speed up a process, and I also will throw a slightly damp something in the dryer for a brief time, if I am sure that it won’t get ruined by doing so. Might follow up with some steam blocking to shape it.

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  17. ルイヴィトン 財布 レディース とき私はルイ ・ ヴィトン モノグラム Multicolore マリリン –
    を見た彼女はされているでより豪華なユーザー。最もよい取り引きとのホットなトレンドを見つける最高の絶対的な目を引くアクセサリー。何であれ、だ古典的な財布。 tory burch バッグ 店舗

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  19. Hi. I just finished the Acer…I haven’t pieced it together yet. It is made of Brooklyn tweed wool. Do you recommend blocking the pieces or the finished cardigan? Do i need to worry about it felting when it gets wet?

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  23. I must be a renegade. I’ve been knitting since I was 6 and am now 71 and I have never (and I mean never) blocked a piece if knitting in my life, my husband is still wearing the cardigan I made for him when our no 39 yr old son was born.

      • Bu think about it. When you make a sweater and give it away to someone as a gift or if you ever bought a sweater from the store, do you block it after each wash? Most people in the world do not own blocking pins and a board or foam surface to stick it too so yeah, I can see how she never blocked anything and doesn’t after a wash.

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  25. Hi i am a new knitter and i was told by my cousin to block every thing that i knit. Well i am going to try what you have suggested as i have just finished a baby sweater and blanket. Thank you so much and i am happy i came across you page.

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  29. I used to use the “roll in a towel and walk on it” method. But now arthritis is moving in and with all the dyeing I do as well, I bought a Nina soft spin. I love it! It really gets the excess water out and is very gentle.

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