How to Block Hand Knitting and Crochet: Wet, Steam, and Spray Blocking
If you’ve been knitting or crocheting for a while, you’ve probably heard about “blocking your work”. But what exactly is blocking and how do you do it?
In this post we’ll tell you how to go about blocking your work as well as which blocking method to use on which type of fiber.
What is blocking?
Blocking — which can be done on knitting and crochet — is a method of wetting your finished project and then pinning it into the shape and size that it should be. Once dry, the knitted or crocheted item will retain that shape.
Blocking is used to not only make it easier to work pieces of knitted or crocheted garments together, for example, but also to open up knitted lace or crocheted lace patterns, as well as other patterns, to better show the details of the pattern.
What are the different types of blocking?
There are three different types of blocking:
- Wet blocking
- Steam blocking
- Spray blocking.
The type of blocking you use will mostly depend on the fiber that is used in the project, not whether it is knitted or crocheted. The table below shows which type of blocking method is best for which type of fiber.
Which blocking method to use on different fibers
When in doubt, rather use the spray blocking method to avoid damaging (or even ruining!) the fibers.
How to Block Different Fibers by Jayda InStitches
The materials you need to block your knitting or crochet
You only need a few materials to be able to block your knitting or crochet:
- Blocking mats or sock blockers for socks
- Stainless steel pins
- Towels (for wet blocking)
- A spray bottle with water (for spray blocking)
- A steam iron or clothes steamer (for steam blocking)
- A measuring tape, ruler or yardstick
- Wool wash or baby shampoo (for wet blocking)
You’ll see that there is a wide variety of blocking mats available. These mats are interlocking foam mats that usually have a grid printed on them. This makes it easier when you need to pin-straight or rounded seams.
These blocking mats can be quite expensive (depending on the brand that you choose to use), but if you’re just trying your hand out at knitting or crochet or don’t have that kind of money, don’t worry!
In fact, the only difference between the mats is that one has a grid printed on it and the other doesn’t. This just means that you will need to be a bit more diligent in measuring, but definitely won’t spoil your project.
Stainless steel pins
Pins are also necessary when blocking knitting or crochet, as you need to pin the item in place while it dries. Make sure that you only use stainless steel pins; as these won’t rust and stain your finished item.
As with the blocking mats, there are various pins to choose from. The most popular type of blocking pin is a “t-pin” that is shaped like an upper case letter T and is easy to move and remove from the foam mat. They are also great for blocking shawls or other projects, and using with blocking wires.
However, you can use normal sewing pins that you have in your stash as well. We have also used these quilter’s pins with success for lace knitting. These are especially good for pinning very fine work. Plus, they’re very pretty!
Lastly, you can also use these knit blockers, that look like little combs, to block straight edges. Very handy!
Wool wash or baby shampoo
If you’re going to wet block the knitted or crocheted item, you will need to use either a special wool wash or baby shampoo. The reason for using a product like Woolite or The Laundress’ Wool and Cashmere Shampoo, is that you don’t want to damage the fibers by using a normal laundry detergent.
Now, before you start blocking the finished item, first try the blocking method on the swatch that you have made. If something goes wrong, you’ll be able to pick up on it immediately before starting to block the piece you spend so much time on!
How to wet block
Wet blocking can be done in a few steps and the amount of time that it takes will depend on the size of the item and the weather (i.e. how long it will take to dry on its own).
- First, fill a sink (or container large enough to hold the item submerge in water) with enough lukewarm water to submerge the item, adding the Woolite or other shampoo. Make sure that the water isn’t hot as this can lead to felting!
- Next, place the knitted or crocheted item in the lukewarm water, submerging it and just moving it enough to wet it completely. Then remove it from the water — don’t wring or the fibers will clump together! — and let it sit in the sink for about five minutes. This will let extra moisture drain away without agitating the fibers.
- Rinse the item two or three times with cool water, until the water is clear and suds-free. Then let it sit a few minutes again. If you haven’t put down your blocking mats yet, now is the perfect time.
- Next, take a towel and place the wet knitted or crocheted item on the towel. Slowly roll the item up with the towel. Press just enough to squeeze water out of the knitted item into the towel. If you find that the item is still very wet, you can repeat this process with another, dry towel.
- Arrange the moist item on the blocking mats, measuring out straight sides, etc. as you go and pinning the edges in place. For fine lace work like shawls or doilies you’ll probably have to do a lot of pinning to make sure the pattern opens up completely. Also, rather use too many pins than too few. Remember that the item will dry exactly how you leave it.
- Leave the item to dry like that flat on the floor (or table if it’s a small item). Once it’s dry, you can unpin it and it’ll be in the perfect shape; ready to sew together or to humble brag with!
Basic Wet Blocking by Interweave Craft
Blocking Your Knitting: Tools, Techniques, and Tricks by Kristine Kelly (start at 13:00 minutes)
How to Block Crochet (Wet, Spray, and Steam) by Hooked by Robin
How to spray block
Spray blocking is a very easy and not as labor-intensive as wet blocking. It is also the best way to go if you’re working with the yarns specified in the table above or if you’re not sure what fiber the yarn contains.
- First, lay out your blocking mats and fill a spray bottle with some lukewarm water (a trigger spray bottle works really well for this - just make sure that it sprays a very fine mist. For very find lace work or silk, we’ve found that you can even use an orchid mister).
- Next, lay out your finished item or pattern piece, pinning it in place according to the pattern specifications. Take your time with this step as this will dictate what the end product will look like.
- Finally, spray the whole knitted or crocheted piece with the water, making sure that it’s only damp and not completely soaking wet. Leave the item to dry before unpinning it. And there you go! A perfectly blocked item, ready for sewing together or wearing!
Spray Blocking a Shawl Live by Experiments in Crafting
How to Block Knitted and Crocheted Motifs
How to steam block
Finally, steam blocking is great to use on those fibers that can withstand heat — or even need heat to be shaped.
Be sure not to use this method on acrylic or man-made yarns as this will “kill” the fibers, making them limp. Acrylic fibers also won’t “bounce back” once they’ve cooled down so, unless you want to kill the fibers, be sure not to use this method on acrylics.
- First, lay out your blocking mats of a flat surface and then lay out your finished item or pattern piece, pinning it in place according to the pattern’s specification. Take your time to get it looking just the way you want to before moving on to the next step.
- Take a steam iron or clothing steamer and slowly steam the item by holding the iron just above the knitted or crocheted fabric. This will give the fiber a chance to absorb the moisture.
- Leave the item to dry before unpinning it. You’ll see that it stays exactly the way that you pinned it!
How to Steam Block Crochet by The Crochet Crowd
How to Give Your Knitted Garments the Perfect Finish by Arne and Carlos (steam blocking knits)
How to Block a Straight Edge Using Blocking Wires by Knit and Crochet Ever After
And there you have it; you’ll see that as soon as you know how to block your crochet and knitting that your finished items are not only finished perfectly, but that you also gain a lot more confidence in working with different fibers as you learn more about their properties!