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 ❤
15 thoughts on “Washing & Blocking Knits : Made Simple”
Excellent instructions, Julia! I follow pretty much the same except that I have never ironed my knits, even though I know that heat sets the fibers. I tried the iron for the first time this morning on my fingerless mitts that I knit with your pattern. I will send you a photo when they are dry and ready to wear. I have them drying by the wood stove since winter 🥶 temps have returned and we are burning the stove. If this chill continues I just might get a chance to wear them the next few days!
Also, I use Eucalan mainly because I am friends with the founder’s daughter. She and I worked together at the local Waldorf school a number of years ago. But I’m always open to supporting small business, so I might give Wild in the Woods a try too!
Thanks for the music 🎶- never heard of this artist, but I really like his acoustical sound. look forward to your posting on Maritime east coast folk mittens. I’ve always wanted to knit a pair.
Excellent, I love that you blocked the mittens! I can’t wait to see how they turned out! I find some wool/yarns are not as receptive to the blocking process but Icelandic Wool is definitely one that really benefits!
That’s so cool about working with the daughter of the founder of Eucalan. I normally use Eucalan pretty exclusively but Sirena sent me a sample of her no-rinse wool soap and it is pretty awesome. She is out in BC and I think Eucalan is from Ontario?
Happy Bealtaine/ May Day! Here.. despite the long days, it feels like winter with the biting North Winds. I think I’ll be lighting the wood stove later as well!
Wonderful piece and pics – thank you! This is the first time I’ve heard anyone mention turning a garment inside out for blocking and using an iron at the damp stage – will give it a try.
Thank you Edythe!
I’d love to know how it works out for you! I think I may need to clarify because I’ve had a few questions, but I only iron the garment after I complete it. If I am just washing a handknit, I never iron it again – only when I have just completed the item! Hope this helps!
Love reading about your blocking process, especially the story about your emergency trip to Dufferin mall for an iron.😂 You have some lovely new knits. Those rusty red mittens are gorgeous! What’s is the main colour of your sweater? Is it Rough Sea perhaps? It’s a great colour combination. Hope you get lots more sunshine there! xo
Valerie! Thank you for *stopping* by!
I’m glad you liked the story about the Dufferin mall! I remember walking home and passing people going out to the bars and thinking “this is our life on a Saturday night!” My sister now lives near the Dufferin Mall and the Walmart is actually her closest grocery store so I’ve been back to its glory!
Thank you so much! I made a collection of traditional East Coast Mittens over the winter. I really wanted to have some interesting and a little unusual colour combinations (all Briggs and little Heritage and MacAusland’s 2ply). I’ll hopefully have a post up about them this weekend!
And yes, it is Rough Seas! It’s my favourite Lett Lopi colour… I may have something exciting to share using the same colour relatively soon 😉
Happy May Day / Bealtaine! Hope it’s getting warmer in Toronto… Spring has been pretty non existent over here, but warmer days to come!
I am going to try this out! I my whole childhood and adulthood (the little I’ve lived) of knitting, I have been too scared to try blocking, thinking I would shrink the item. I definitely want to conquer my fear and try it with the next thing I make…
Also I love lavender so I think I’ll be following this down to a T lol
Hello *Project Rainbow*!
Best of luck!! I definitely suggest it if you’re using 2 colours! If you use tepid water, protect your knit with a towel and iron, you will definitely be okay and there will be no shrinking!! It actually often makes the knits a little wider if anything. Maybe you could try on something just small so that your fear is obliterated!
lavender is honestly a must!! I love it and grow a lot of it every year for this purpose. I find tying plants into craft is really exciting and just joyful.
Best of luck to you!!
Thank you very very much for sharing this post! It’s such a useful information for me (and I believe for others too)… it’s very well structured and it’s easy to follow these steps. I can’t wait to block my knitting after finishing it 🙂
Very nice pictures too! Your work it’s very inspiring 🙂
I hope you are having beautiful spring days!
Hello, I just found you via a pin on Pinterest, then followed you on Instagram and now found your blog! I too live on the east coast (Halifax, Nova Scotia). I’ve never blocked using an iron but I will try this. I’m not a fan of using pins because I find it distorts the fabric. Now to check out your etsy!
Thank you so much!!
Love hearing from other people on the East Coast! Halifax is such a fun and unique city 🙂
Happy Blocking to you!
I love this post! I’ve washed, but skipped the blocking part. Now I’ve gained the confidence to try. I won’t even have to walk two hours through pouring rain, as I already have an iron 😀 almost like I owe it a go.
I absolutely love the colourcombo of the sweater too. Do you remember which colours you’ve used? I guess the Mail colour is 1415, and the white is 0051, but I can’t guess the other two.
Spring has finally sprung in Norway, which is nice as I’m currently watching our newly seeded lawn grow. Very slowly though. Haha need a new sweater on my needles to keep me occupied in the meantime ❤
I’ve been knitting for years but most often don’t block, unless it’s lace. That could very well change after reading your excellent post! Thanks so much — by the way, is there a pattern for these mittens? They are totally stunning!
Beth in Western Oregon
I too block inside out but use a hand-held steamer – less chance of damaging fibres