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Blocking Knitting: Benefits & Easy Tutorial – Why Blocking Is Essential

With the effort you put into knitting, you want your finished item to look fabulous. That’s where blocking knitting comes in. Learning to block your knits is an essential skill.

Blocking Feat Img

With the transformation of blocking knitting, you’ll experience a wow factor!

What Is Blocking In Knitting Terms?

In knitting, crochet and textile crafts, blocking is the process of wetting/soaking or steaming your finished garments.

This sets their shape and stitches by being stretched out, and lay flat on a surface to dry.

My Branta Dishcloth after blocking. See how the stitch definition really pops!
My Branta Dishcloth after blocking. See how the stitch definition really pops!

The blocking process evens the stitches and increases the level of drape. It can be used on lacework, sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens and socks.

I highly recommend blocking finished projects. It gives the knitted item a professional look.

Swatch of stockinette knitting in red yarn unblocked with curling edges

It also showcases the stitches and pattern repeats particularly in lace and cable designs.

Wondering how to block arm weaving? See my guide.

Blocking can only be applied to natural fibers. There’s a technique for synthetic fibers called ‘Killing’.

Doing this adds more drape to a knitted acrylic fabric.

Blocking is used before sewing knitted pieces together.

When you’ve finished sewing everything together, you can steam block the side seams for a lovely finish.

Some knitters prefer to block after they’ve finished their garment. For example when knitting a sweater in the round.

Stockinette stitch square swatch in red yarn after being immersed in water then squeezed out and laid on a towel and pinned.

Wet Blocking

This blocking method is washing the knitted item by immersing it in water and letting it soak to relax the fibers.

Also known as Immersion Blocking.

Reasons Why Wet Blocking Is The Preferred Method Of Many Knitters

  • Giving yarn a wash rinses away any residue.
  • If using a dyed yarn, sometimes there’s excess dye. Soaking your knitting helps the fiber release the extra dye.
  • Blocking’s main purpose is to relax the fiber content and stitches. The settling process evens out flaws and defines the stitch pattern.
  • A garment hangs nicely on the body.
  • Get the right fit! In most patterns, particularly sweaters, the intended fit happens after you block. That’s why gauge swatches are meant to be blocked as well. It shows you how the garment behaves after you’ve blocked it.

Check the yarn label for care instructions before beginning.

Step 1

Colourful Mohair cowl immersed in luke warm water in a stainless steel sink
  • Fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water.
  • Squirt some Wool Wash or baby shampoo into a sink/bucket.
  • Give it a good mix.
  • Place your knit in the sink/bucket, making sure it’s nice and wet.
  • Leave it while it soaks, don’t dunk it.
  • Let it soak for 10-30 mins depending on the fiber you’ve used.

Step 2

  • While your knit is soaking, start setting up.
  • Grab a older towel from your cupboard.
  • Lay it out on a chosen surface.
  • If you’re using a blocking mat, you may want to interlock more than one, depending on the size of your garment.

Step 3

  • Return to the sink/bucket
  • Drain away the water
  • Gently squeeze your knit (don’t wring!)
  • Place in a soft dry towel
  • Roll the towel to get any extra moisture out of your work.
  • Stomping on the rolled up towel removes extra water
Colorful mohair cowl pinned to a towel after being immersed in water and then the water squeezed out. Part of the wet blocking process.

Step 4

  • Lay your knitted pieces on the blocking mat/towel
  • Stretch out to the desired length and width.
  • Grab t-pins (or rust proof sewing pins)
  • Pin every few inches around the perimeter.
  • Ensure your knitted pieces are pinned or placed in the desired way.
  • Leave your knit to dry. This can take up to 1-2 days.

Reasons to Block

  • Blocking straightens stitches and evens the tension in your knitting. It defines intricate knitting patterns and relaxes the stitches. For example, a complicated cable pattern. Purling is often looser on one side than the knit stitches on the other. By blocking your pieces and pinning them down to dry, you relax the yarn and dry it evenly.
  • When working a lace pattern it’s important to block to open up the design. The stitches look better.
  • A good soaking washes excess dye from the yarn.
  • Blocking improves your knitting by creating a smooth, flat look. Knitting projects get crumpled or wrinkled when we’re working on them!
  • If you have pets a good soak will remove unwanted hair. Be aware pets seemed are very attracted to knitting when it’s being blocked.

Like yarn used for arm knitting? See my review of the best.

T pins in use to block at gauge swatch by designer Andi Butler. A lovely sweater to follow. Photo credit: @AndiButler on Instagram (Used with permission)
T pins in use to block at gauge swatch by designer Andi Butler. A lovely sweater to follow. Photo credit: @AndiButler on Instagram (Used with permission)

Do I have To Block My Knitting?

You don’t have to block your knitting.

If there’s no adjustment or finishing that needs to be done with blocking you can not bother.

Don’t block yarns like lurex (a metallic yarn) or novelty yarns.

Knitting tools like a yarn baller make life easier.

Things To Be Aware Of

Most yarns spring back when you pull them.

Think of when you put a sweater on. The garment stretches over your shoulders but bounces back to hug your body.

Over-blocking makes the yarn lose it’s bounce. This causes too much drape and flattens out textured stitches like cables.

Go gently and carefully.

My Plum Lotus Dishcloth after blocking
My Plum Lotus Dishcloth after blocking

Material & Equipment

Here are blocking tools and what they’re for.

Necessary

  • Sink or clean bucket
  • Rust proof T-Pins
  • Towels

Don’t use white fluffy bath towels (due to dye transfer while blocking). Use older clean towels instead.

I blocked my knitted pieces using sewing pins on old towels.

Some suggest using a large garbage bag instead, as it doesn’t absorb water, leaving the surface beneath dry.

Want good-quality yarn bowls for knitting? Read my guide.

Nice To Have Blocking Tools

Look how blocking makes Agnes' stitch definition and pattern stand out. Photo credit: @Woolly Hooligan on Instagram (used with permission)
Look how blocking makes Agnes’ stitch definition and pattern stand out. Photo credit: @Woolly Hooligan on Instagram (used with permission)

Blocking Mats / Blocking Boards

A blocking mat is great. Some have grid markings to help you measure. Blocking mats are foamy material, easy to pin into.

Most are made from foam tiles that fit together to make a complete board.

Blocking boards are usually wood and are great for knitted squares and hexagonal pieces.

No Blocking Mat? No Problem!

If you don’t have a blocking mat stored somewhere in your secret yarn stash, don’t panic.

You can use almost any flat surface!

Here are some tips.

Tip 1 – Use The Right Surface For The Right Garment

A table laid with towels or a kitchen bench is great for garments that can be put into place by hand, no pins necessary.

If you’re trying to block a lace knitting project, such as a lace shawl, you’ll need to pin it out on a foam or cork bulletin board, cushioned with towels.

Tip 2 – Don’t Use A Surface You Use In Everyday Life.

Your knitting has to dry for a while.

Put your knitting somewhere out of the way. The surface gets damp, don’t use a surface that will mark with moisture.

Tools for knitting that make your life easier.

Stainless Steel Blocking Wires

These wires straighten out edges of shawls.

There are also flexible ones for knitting, great for curves on shawls. These aren’t essential but useful.

An alternative for straight edges is the String Method.

A long length of smooth scrap yarn threaded through a darning needle and the yarn is threaded along the edges.

TIP- The first time you use them, wipe them with a soft cloth to remove manufacturing residue.

Here are ideas for gifts for knitters who have everything.

Sock Blockers

Sock blockers are handy tools! They leave your socks stretched out, no pins needed!

Talented crafters make beautiful sock blockers. DIY sock blockers using a coat hanger, although they aren’t as beautiful.

My first attempt at 2 at a time socks Top Down after blocking,
My first attempt at 2 at a time socks Top Down after blocking,

T-Pins

If you’re trying to block a garment, the best pins for blocking knitting are T-pins. Sewing pins work, ensure they’re rust-free.

Wool Wash

Wool Wash keeps your knit squeaky clean, and smelling great!

If you don’t have wool wash, use mild baby shampoo or delicate dish soap. Rinse with clean water once or twice.

Pinning Basics

On a flat surface, a blocking mat is ideal.

Pin the knitted item around the edges, placing the pins at an angle, with the top of the pin pointing away from the garment.

Place the first in the top center, moving to the bottom center as you pin the knitted piece to the correct length.

Pin your work to the correct width (if blocking a sweater, start with the bust width).

Fill in around the edges, always referring to your finished measurements.

Blocking Tips For Different Fibers

  • Natural fibers like wool & alpaca benefit most from full wash blocking
  • For delicate items like angora, cashmere, mohair and wool blends and acrylic and synthetics, knitters recommend spritz/spray blocking. (This is like the washing method, but you spritz the fabric with a spray bottle than soaking completely.)
  • Steam blocking is an alternative method using heat and moisture. Never use a heat method on silk, too delicate. This method is good for cotton and linen.

How Do I Block Acrylic Yarn?

Spray block acrylic yarn. If you want to change the drap of your acrylic garment the method of “Killing” can be applied.

‘Killing’ is when you steam block acrylic yarn.

Grab your acrylic work, and lay it on the ironing board.

Once you’ve ‘killed’ a garment, you can’t restore it to it’s original shape.

How To Block Knitting: Blocking Methods

Three main blocking techniques you can use.

  • Wet Blocking
  • Steam Blocking
  • Spray Blocking

How Do You Block A Knitted Sweater?

Follow the wet blocking steps above. The only difference is you block the whole sweater, not individual pieces.

For those blocking seamless sweaters, this is how to block knitting in the round.

TIP: It’s best to sew in your ends after you block a sweater. You don’t want the ends to wriggle out when the fabric changes after blocking.

You’ll need more than 1 towel to remove leftover water.

Pin out on the mats to the desired length and width.

Sometimes your knitted sweater may need ‘aggressive’ blocking.

This is when you want to open up a lace/cable design.

In addition to pinning, wires are placed on either side of the sleeves and on either side of the body.

If your garment is too ‘skinny’ width wise or short length wise, blocking helps.

Stretch the piece more aggressively in one or the other dimension, you can coax it into a better fit!

It won’t work miracles but knit fabric (especially wool) is quite flexible. Definitely worth trying.

How To Block A Knitted Shawl

Spray blocking a shawl. Photo credit: Knit Picks
Spray blocking a shawl. Photo credit: Knit Picks

A knitted shawl takes many hours to knit.

When you’ve finished, it often looks all crumpled and the design isn’t defined. The beautiful stitch designs are enhanced by blocking.

It opens up patterns, smooths out and relaxes the yarn.

Letting stitches shine in all their glory! Set aside an hour or so to block a shawl. Well worth it!

Mats are helpful for pinning your shawl as they can be made into different shapes.

Depending on how big your shawl is, 2 sets may be required.

Wet blocking method is best for blocking a knitted shawl.

Step 1

  • After binding off, sew in your ends.
  • Soak your shawl in lukewarm water in a bucket or laundry sink for 15-20 mins. Adding a no rinse detergent like Soak is a good idea.

Step 2

  • Once soaked, remove from water and press out as much water as you can with your hands. Pressing it against the side of the bucket or sink will get a good lot of water out.
  • Place on a dry towel and gently roll up. Don’t wring it out. Rather stomp on the towel with clean feet to remove excess water. You many need more than 1 dry towel.

Step 3

  • Lay your shawl out on your blocking surface. Mats are great but if you don’t have these a dry towel, clean carpet or a bed will do.

Step 4

  • Block with pins and/or wires. Blocking wires are fabulous for the straight edges and spine of your shawl.
  • If using a triangular shawl, pin the spine first and carefully place around the edges.
  • Once the corners are pinned, assess whether the shawl is stretched enough. If not, pull it a bit further in each direction for a better look.
  • Pin out the scalloped edges if your design has these. It’ll be obvious from your shawl design which points need to be pulled out and pinned.
  • If unsure look back to the image of the finished pattern.
  • If you want to spray block, use a spray bottle to slowly wet it once pinned into place.

Step 5

  • Leave your shawl to fully dry. If you remove pins too early and the shawl is not 100% dry, all your hard work won’t turn out well.
  • Remember during the drying process, fibers shrink and pull together, more and more tension will be put on the pins. As your shawl drys, continue to check it to see if any pins have popped out and need to be reinserted.

Step 6

  • When completely dry, remove all the pins and celebrate all your amazing hard work.
  • Relish the moment of draping your beautifully blocked shawl over your shoulders for the first time. Be sure to take a picture!

How To Block A Large Knitted Blanket

First of all congratulations, you’ve completed a lot of knitting! Perhaps it has taken a whole year or more. Well done!

Set aside at least a couple of hours to block it.

Weather is a factor.

If you live in a place with dry sunny days, these are perfect for blocking a large blanket outside on a big sheet.

If outside drying is is not possible you’ll need a big space, like a carpeted floor or a spare bed and some fans to help it dry.

You follow the same method of wet blocking.

After soaking, squeezing out excess water with (many towels) use flexible wires and start threading them through the edges.

Layout your blanket on your desired surface and start pinning the corners. Use a tape measure to check all sides are smoothed to the right dimensions.

Stick a pin the blanket’s center. Measure until you find the longest distance from pin to side.

Make sure all distances have the same measurement and the corners are 90 degrees.

Keep smoothing and stretching out gently, pinning the edges until everything looks and measures out correctly.

Leave until absolutely dry. Remove the pins and celebrate!

Grab a cup of something and snuggle underneath your blanket.

How To Block a Hat

A neat trick for blocking hats!

Block over the underside of a bowl.

Balance the upturned bowl over a cylindrical object that will support the bowl. Stand on a flat surface.

Misting or Spray Blocking

Misting is an excellent option if you’re a beginner or unsure how it will turn out.

  • Step 1 – Lay your newly finished knitted piece onto a soft towel. Put the towel on a surface suggested above.
  • Step 2 – Grab a clean mist bottle, and lightly mist your work.
  • Step 3 – When slightly damp, gently pull your knit into the finished/desired measurements.

If your knit is not staying, pin it out on a blocking board.

Steam Blocking

This blocking technique is a gentle method that doesn’t require you to soak your knit. You only need a steam iron.

Materials

  • Steam Iron
  • T-Pins
  • Mats

Step 1 – Place your knitted piece on the blocking mat and pin it using T-Pins.

Step 2 – Use the hottest setting for the steam function on your iron, go over the knitted piece WITHOUT pressing down. That’s really important!

Step 3. After steaming, flatten out any wonky stitches.

If you used stockinette stitch, flip your knitting and pin it to the board so your purl rows are facing up. Steam, this will help with the ends curling in.

Step 5. Let the pieces cool down and you’re ready to sew.

How To Block A Scarf

Steam blocking works beautifully for scarves if the stitch definition is not complicated.

Pin out your scarf or use wires so the edges are straight and the overall fabric is smoothed out.

Follow the instructions to steam block.

If your scarf design has intricate lace or cables, wet blocking is a better method to show off the amazing stitch definition and open up the lace design.

Follow the wet blocking instructions.

Now you’re more familiar with how to block knitting, it’s worth seeing which technique works best for you.

Good luck blocking, and hope you have a wonderful finished piece at the end. Happy blocking!

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Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

Jodie Morgan Profile Pic

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

12 thoughts on “Blocking Knitting: Benefits & Easy Tutorial – Why Blocking Is Essential”

  1. I have an infinity scarf to block….it’s ribbed and I’m supposed to open it up an inch or two…am I going to regret it if I don’t use wires, I’ve never blocked anything this big before. I do have the interlocking mats to get the size correct.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy. Most knitters recommend blocking wires for beautiful straight edges. I imagine you have put a great deal of time and effort into your infinity scarf. I think you’ve really already answered your own question, blocking it with wires will give it that extra special finish. Great that you already have the mats. Blocking is a time consuming process to be sure but so worth it. If you would be happy to share a pic with my readers, we’d all love to see your scarf before and after you’ve finished blocking. Get in touch with me here.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for responding. I haven’t quite finished the scarf, so can get some wires ordered, will look at your recommendations. I’m the person that always pays someone at a LYS to finish a big project for me, but that’s not an option for me now, and I’m telling myself it will be good for me, LOL.

    Reply
    • What a wonderful service you’ve got on to at your LYS! In these times I know that’s not possible. Keep thinking to yourself how good you will feel at the completion of all your hard work 🙂

      Reply
    • Hi Tippy. Unfortunately blocking does not help make something smaller. Perhaps you could try using threading elastic in the band of the hat.

      Reply
  3. What a great comprehensive article. Thanks. I notice you mention using rust proof pins. But the featured product is rust resistant. In time, the surface of rust resistant pins will deteriorate. You should buy new pins before blocking light or white knitting. I know this from sad experience. I am also trying out some very thin enamelled pins that are used for pinning butterflies. Of course it will take some time to discover how well these last. ANd I’m working with lightweight objects so that may also be a fcactor in pin choice. In any event I threw away the old pins and ordered a different product that claims rust proof rather than rust resistant.

    Reply
    • Hi Mary. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with blocking pins. Your information is very helpful. I hope the enamelled pins last for a while. Would you mind sharing the product name of the pins you purchased that claim to be rust proof? I would appreciate it. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  4. I have been researching blocking methods for a couple of days now…want to say yours is the most informative I have come across. Thank you!!

    Reply
  5. I have finished knitting a wool shawl which took me forever. It came out huge!!! I’m so disappointed and considering unraveling it and using the yarn for other projects. But is there hope to shrink it if I block it?

    Reply
    • Oh no Mary! I’m sorry to hear that you are disappointed with how your wool shawl turned out. It’s so hard to experience this after knitting a project for such a long time. I’m reluctant to advise shrinking it by putting it in hot water and then blocking it. Only because I’d be upset for you if you didn’t like the overall result. If you have left over wool from this project, knit up a swatch and then test the shrinking using hot water. Then see what sort of results you get. Cheers Jodie

      Reply

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