Two months ago (or was it 3 months?), I compiled some photographs with the intention of sharing with you how I block my knitting (inspired by Ana, thank you Ana!). After I complete every single project, whether it’s mittens, socks or a sweater, I both wash and block the garment. This is a very therapeutic process that is the ultimate step in transforming the raw material of wool or yarn into a beautiful piece of handmade goodness.
What is blocking and why do it?
Blocking a knit, is the process of smoothing and binding the wool stitches using water and heat (i.e. an iron!). It is especially useful with stranded colour-work because of the possibility of uneven tension while switching between colours. While you are knitting, you may be dissatisfied with the tension of your colourwork. One colour may appear to protrude or be tighter than the other (this is something that just takes time but even someone who has been knitting for many years can’t always have perfect tension!). Never fear this because blocking will simply even out and make your garment have a finished look. That being said, I never block cable work because it flattens out the cables and I just don’t like it as much! But I always, always, always block anything and everything that contain 2 or more colours.
There are two ways of blocking. You can first wash your knit and then block or you can just spritz with water and iron like you would iron anything else. I always wash my knits prior to blocking. This way, the garment has been cleaned before I send it off (we live with 3 cats and a dog so it really is necessary). I also find that it simply creates a more neater and polished appearance, evening and smoothing out the knit stitches.
The steps I take
- Once all of my ends have been woven in, I first turn my garment inside out. You want to block and wash knits on the reverse side. This simply protects the facing knit side from possible felting or any damage that could occur from using an iron.
2. Get out your no-rinse wool soap to first wash your garment! No-Rinse wool soap is a great product that allows you to wash your handknits without having to rinse. All hand knitting should be hand washed (unless you are using a wool with synthetic fiber, in which case, it’s okay to put in a cold wash). Agitating wool in water may damage or felt the finished garment, so using a no-rinse wool soap is the perfect option to allow your knit to sit in a bath and remove, clean and smelling often like lavender or eucalyptus! I use Sirena’s “Natural Wool Wash” from Wild in the Woods shop. She is based in BC and a super lovely person who makes pretty awesome product :). Another good option is the Canadian company Eucalan. I have also seen recipes online to make your own (Always fueling that DIY spirit!).
3. Fill a basin with TEPID water (hot water will cause the fiber to shrink and felt! This is why a lopi sweater in the dryer will now be for a doll) and add a tablespoon or so of No-Rinse Wool Soap (If you would like to soften your garment, add a tiny bit of your hair conditioner). Swish the soap around (especially if you add conditioner because it doesn’t disintegrate) and you’re ready to add your garment! Let your garment sit, inside out, in the water for around 10-15 minutes. I usually leave it for around 15 minutes.
5. Drain the basin of water with the garment in before removing the sopping wet knit from the water. Draining the water first allows for the handknit to release some of the water before you physically remove it. Wool is an amazing material that holds onto water like nothing else!
6. Prepare a clean towel and gently place your garment on the towel (try to fully support the garment with your hands – arms and anything you can so that it doesn’t stretch down from the weight of the water – this could potentially stretch the garment.) This is very easy for smaller articles but more of a challenge for sweaters, etc.
7. Roll the knit in the towel in order to remove the excess water.
8. Now, it’s time to get your iron out! When I moved to Toronto in 2012 for school, I didn’t bring an iron (i.e. I didn’t have an iron). I remember bringing clothes to my sister in law so that she could iron them! One night, I finished a pine green lopi sweater and since my brother and his wife moved to the States, I had no other option – I had to buy my own iron (i’m a big girl now :D). I remember it was a rainy Saturday night at 9 pm. I was determined to block the sweater that night. Jamie and I did a search of places that were open that might sell irons and settled on 24 hour Walmart at the Dufferin Mall. We lived an hour walk away, but set out in the rain to walk to the Dufferin Mall just to buy an iron. I remember getting home past 11 pm to block my pine green lopi! I felt exhilarated after the 2 hour walk and seeing the magic of a blocked Icelandic sweater! Well worth it, and I still have the same iron. Anyway! Set your iron to a wool setting (Or the appropriate setting, I normally knit with 100% wool and set my iron to 5). Your knit should be both protected from the iron by a towel (I often just use the towel that I rolled them in) and inside out! Iron away!
9. Once I have completed ironing, I remove the towel, turn the iron off (crucial… lol). The knits will be steaming and by this time there is usually a cat hanging around curious as to what I’m up to. I will leave the knits, inside out, on my tiny ironing board, left on a table to dry. It usually takes a couple of days to dry (depending on the wool and house conditions – for instance, if it’s warmer and the windows are open letting in a breeze, it will take less time than in the winter).
10. Once your knit is dry, turn it outside in and you are all ready with a transformed knit! I then fold up whatever it is I’ve made and put it in a bin filled with little lavender sachets. Lavender is a natural pest deterrent for moths and it just makes everything smell lovely.
These are the simple steps that I take! It follows for every single knit item – safe for like a blanket or cable knit sweater! I hope that they perhaps may be helpful to you. Perhaps you do things completely differently? I’d be so curious to know! My steps kind of unfolded organically over time. When I first started, I remember just doing the spritzing! Let me know how you do things differently 🙂
There you have it! In more recent days, we have been inundated with rain. I can not believe how much rain we have received. It seems like the sun has just decided to go away on vacation. Each and every day has been pouring from morning until evening. I have so much outdoor work to do that, as long as it’s not torrential rain, I’ve been out there! We got our pond running again and the garden work seems endless. I’m trying to cut back this year so I can actually properly tend to the earth. I plan to have a blog post about the moss gardening that I’ve been working on – our fairy garden – but will wait until things begin to grow a little more!
Today, I’m meeting a friend to walk our dogs in the woods and then will come home to likely work outside because, the sun is actually out!!
Have a lovely day! Here is some beautiful José González for you <3