How to Block Knitting: Wet Blocking and Steam Blocking Knitting Techniques
There are several ways to block your knitting; choose one that’s appropriate to your project. You’ll be amazed at what your knitwear looks like before and after blocking!
Blocking takes your knitting from good to great; read on to learn how to block knitting your projects like a pro.
Wet-Blocking the Simple Way
By definition, wet-blocking uses more moisture than steam-blocking knitting, and can be used to stretch and enlarge a knitted piece (although loosely knitted pieces stretch more easily than tightly knitted ones, and any extra inches you gain in width, you may lose in length). There are three degrees of wet-blocking, depending on the amount of moisture added to the knitted fabric.
This the mildest form of wet-blocking. It works equally well for all fibers, although silks and synthetics require more wetness than wool. It allows for total control over temperature, dampness, and finished texture because you are not restricted to the temperature and amount of steam that comes out of your iron, and you can gently pat and shape the piece with your hands while you work. Right side up, pin the handknit to shape on a padded surface placed away from direct sun or heat. Fill a spray bottle with cool tap water and spritz a fine, even mist over the piece. Use your hands to gently pat the moisture into the handknit, if desired, but be careful not to flatten any textured stitches.
This how to block knitting method imparts moisture deeper into the fibers and is appropriate for all types of yarn, especially cotton and acrylic, which are less resilient than wool and require more moisture penetration to reshape stitches. To wet-wrap, thoroughly soak a large bath towel in water and then put it through the spin cycle of a washing machine to remove excess moisture. Place the handknit on top of the towel, then roll the two together jelly-roll fashion. Let the bundle sit until the handknit is completely damp, overnight if necessary. Unroll the towel, remove the handknit, and pin it out to measurements on a padded surface away from direct sun or heat.
The immersion method imparts moisture thoroughly through the fibers and allows complete reshaping. It is appropriate for all fiber types, and particularly ideal for heavily ribbed or cabled fabrics, or fabrics that have taken on a biased slant during knitting. It is also the method to use after washing a handknit. To immerse a handknit, turn it inside out and soak it in a basin of lukewarm water for about 20 minutes, or until thoroughly wet, gently squeezing water through the piece if necessary. Drain the water, carry the wet handknit in a bundle to the washing machine, and put it through the spin cycle (or roll it in dry towels) to remove excess moisture. Do not twist or wring the handknit. Shape the piece right side up on a padded surface, using pins or blocking wires for knitting as necessary.
You can use steam from an iron or a steamer to block any handknit. Place the dry garment on a blocking board (or the floor, a spare bed, a stack of towels, an ironing board—you get the message!). Pin it to the desired measurements using rust-resistant pins and blocking wires for knitting if desired. Use the iron or steamer to apply steam to the garment (but be careful not to apply steam while you’re working with the piece!). Return Pass: Work the return pass as for the Tunisian simple stitch.
Hold the iron or steamer about an inch above the handknit, moving slowly to make sure the steam penetrates the fabric. If you’re using an iron, do not apply it directly to the garment! It will crush the fabric, and it may harm acrylic blends and silk or bamboo fibers. If you’re using a steamer, you can place it on the fabric, but don’t press down hard or you’ll get the same undesirable results as mentioned with an iron.
I usually use the immersion method or a steamer to block my handknits. When I’m using a steamer, I hold it above the fabric except on the selvage edge, which I want to lay flat.
Expert Tips on How to Block Knitting:
- Experiment with blocking your gauge swatch before you block an actual knitted piece.
- Do not rub, twist, or wring a handknit. Doing so may distort the stitches beyond correction.
- Before blocking knitting, weave in all loose ends; the blocking process will help secure the ends in place.
- It is preferable to block individual pieces before sewing them together. Blocking makes the sewing process easier and the results of blocking are more consistent when you work with a single layer of fabric. You can block a garment that has been sewed together, but the results may not be as good.
- Many experts warn against blocking ribbing, which will lose its natural elasticity if blocked while stretched open. However, ribbing can be successfully blocked if you squeeze it into its most contracted state (so that all the purl stitches recede behind the knit stitches) before you apply moisture.
- Steam-block cables wrong side up. This may seem obvious, but just in case: If you are using a steamer or a steam-iron to block your cable knitting, do it with the wrong side of the cables facing upwards, or you will flatten the cables. Don’t press down; keep the iron or the steamer just a little bit above the fabric.
- Allow the blocked handknit to air-dry completely before moving it.
Now you are ready to add the finishing touches to your handknits using these how to block knitting techniques.
Now that you know a few tried-and-true methods for how to block knitting, you can start experimenting with blocking techniques to find the ones that work best for your needs. We also have many great knitting patterns you can knit up and put your new blocking skills to use—check them all out.