Well, I’m still working on the ebook and hope to have it completed by the weekend, but in the meantime I thought I’d tell you about something that is very important in knitting – blocking! The topic came up twice in the last 2 days, so I thought I would do a posting about it. In the past I have recommended blocking at two different time in your project – and with good reason. The first time you should block is after you have completed your swatch. Most patterns don’t tell you to do this, but take it from me, it’s well worth the time. It is far better to block a swatch and find out that the drape is wrong, or your fiber choice doesn’t work, than to complete all the pieces for a garment and then find out it doesn’t work. Also, by blocking your swatch, you may be able to get the right gauge where you may not just from changing your needles. Blocking saves time – period. I know this sounds crazy because it takes time to block a piece, but if it saves you having to do the entire piece over, well, you can see how much time it’s going to save. The last thing I want to say about blocking is that it will show you how the fiber will behave. I found out recently that a superwash wool that I used relaxes considerably when washed. Had I blocked it beforehand, I would have known this already and would have compensated for it in the knitting. Lesson learned. Now I block everything – swatches and pieces alike.
So you might ask – “How do I block something”? Well, like most things in knitting, there are a few ways to block a piece. This is the method I prefer to use to block most fibers. I take the piece to be blocked and place it on my blocking board. This can be almost anything (I have a large piece of foam) that is large enough to hold the piece and take pins as well. If you don’t have a blocking board you can purchase a piece of foam from a bedding shop or somewhere that specializes in that. The good thing about going to a foam shop is that it is usually sold by the foot or meter in a fixed width. This way you can buy several pieces for different things. I have a small piece for swatches and a large piece for sweaters and shawls and such. Yo also need a large quantity of T-pins. They’re pins that look like a “T” – just like the name sounds. You can get these at craft stores or stationery stores. Get a pack of at least 100 as you can never have too many. So you have your pins, your board, and the piece to be blocked – you’re all set!
If you are able to draw a grid on the board this will help you but it is not necessary. You want to gently spread the piece to be blocked on the board to the desired size and shape. Start pinning the piece onto the board with the t-pins. You can use the head of the pins to hold down the yarn, keeping the piece in place. I like to work across the work so there isn’t too much stretching across the work. As I go, I pin and then slightly stretch the next few inches or so. This prevents overstretching in any one area. A general guideline I use is to have at least 1 pin every 3 inches, but if I have enough I’ll double that. The more pins you have the more even the stretch will be and the better your overall results. Once the piece has been pinned down, I take a water bottle with a sprayer nozzle on it and lightly dampen the fabric with the water. It should be damp to the touch but not soaked. I then take a dry white towel and place it over the piece. I leave it overnight to dry – longer if necessary. Remove the pins and your blocking is done. If i am using delicate fibers, I will test this with the swatch first and use a hand steamer if necessary. The important thing is to use the method you are comfortable with. Here is a picture of the sample from my last post once it has been blocked. right away you will notice that the blocking allows the work to lie flatter and shows the cable flare more prominently. This is another advantage of blocking – it shows mistakes that need to be tended to in the final design – in this case the cable flares. I’ll account for those in my final pattern, but I don’t mind them here as I wanted to knit the piece and show the pattern.
So I’d like to leave you with a funny commercial that a friend of mine brought to my attention. You gotta love those folks at Budweiser!