The Knit Cowl: Blocking for a Perfect Finish
Working with different stitch patterns is one of the joys of knitting. There are probably thousands to choose from, but most of us only experiment with a few.
The welted stitch pattern is what originally drew me to Daniela Nii’s Bingham Hill Cowl, and the explosion of color kept me there. The yarn, Confetti from Pigeonroof Studios, was made exclusively for us, so it’s extra special. Paired with the welted stitch, you can see that this knit cowl pattern is fab. And I love a colorful winter accessory; it’s so nice to add some brightness to my usual black, white, and gray.
Stitch patterns like this one benefit from good blocking; it brings out the best in them. The Bingham Cowl premiered in knitscene handmade, where there was also a great blocking tutorial by Sheryl Thies that I thought you’d enjoy it. If you already block your projects, this is a good refresher.
Block Knitting for a Perfect Finish
Most knitters have heard of the term “blocking” but don’t have an understanding of what the process actually requires. Many patterns end with the simple little word, “block.” As a result of this lack of understanding, many knitters simply skip this final step. Unfortunately, skipping this step can have big ramifications. If you’ve ever wondered why your finished piece doesn’t look quite like the photo in the magazine, or if your gauge is off a bit, lack of blocking may be the reason.
Blocking smooths and evens your stitches, sets the final dimensions, and gives your project that professional, finished look. Don’t be intimidated by blocking. The process is not complicated, and the results are well worth the effort. With a little care and attention, you can transform a rumpled piece of knitting into a beautiful showpiece.
Mist: Lay the piece on the prepared surface and shape to specified dimensions. Fill a clean mist bottle with water and mist the piece lightly. Allow piece to dry completely before moving. Misting is a good method to try if you are new to blocking or unsure of the fiber you’re dealing with. If the final result is not what you were hoping for, move on to the pin-and-mist method.
Pin and Mist: Lay the piece on the prepared surface and pin, using T-pins or U-pins, to finished measurements. Use enough pins so that the edges are straight; using too few pins may result in points or scalloped edges. Fill a clean mist bottle with water and mist the piece heavily. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.
Immersion: Misting is a wonderful place to start when blocking your first piece, but sometimes a light mist is not enough encouragement to keep your lacework open once it is dry. If you have mist-blocked your project and do not like the finished fabric, the next blocking method to try is immersion. Dip the piece in cool water. Let it soak for several minutes so that the piece is completely saturated. Gently squeeze out the water; do not wring or twist the piece. Roll the piece in an absorbent bath towel to blot out the excess water. Spread the piece on the prepared surface and pin to the finished measurements. Blocking wires can be inserted along the edges and then pinned in place; this will keep the edges straight and use fewer pins. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.
Steaming: Immersion blocking can cause some fabrics to stretch out of shape and grow in size. If you are worried about how immersion will affect your knitted fabric, try steam blocking. Lay the piece on the prepared surface and pin in place. Hold a steam iron or steamer above the piece, allowing the steam to penetrate the fibers. NEVER allow the iron to touch the fabric. Doing so will flatten the stitches and may actually damage (melt) the fibers. Allow to dry completely before removing pins.
Use these straightforward blocking methods and make blocking an essential part of your finishing process. Your efforts will be noticed.
—Sheryl Thies, from knitscene handmade
Get the Bingham Cowl Kit (it’s $10 off!) and cast on a new stitch pattern, and then use your blocking know-how to beautifully finish your knit cowl.