Step By Step Tutorial: Wet Blocking
Almost every knitting and crochet pattern in existence ends with some variation on the instructions, "Weave in ends, block." This can seem like such a little step & we've all had projects that we bind-off and immediately throw on because we're either too excited to be finished or we just can't be bothered with such a boring thing as blocking. (Sometimes we can't be bothered to do either the weaving in of ends or the blocking, but that's our prerogative as creators.)
In this tutorial I'd like to try to change your mind on the process of blocking. Think of wet blocking as a sort of a spa treatment for your finished garments. If you think about it, your project (and yarn) has been through quite an ordeal in the time that you've been together. From the moment that it's been shorn from the sheep (or wherever your fiber is from), it takes quite a beating. It's combed and carded and twisted this way and that in the process of being made into yarn. It's then shipped off to a yarn shop where it's fondled and petted until it finds a home.
After being purchased it may get a brief rest on your shelf or in a storage bin while it's marinating in the stash. Once inspiration strikes, though, it's spun around at high-velocity as it's wound into a ball. Then it's shlepped around in a bag or bin of some sort for days, weeks, months (sometimes years) as it's knit or crocheted, ripped back, re-wound, re-worked, etc. Can you see now that your project really does deserve the short amount of time that it takes to do a proper blocking?
I prefer Wet Blocking to other sorts of blocking because it gives the truest representation of the nature of the yarn/fabric. Since the project is completely submerged and allowed to soak, the fibers have a chance to relax and a yarn's halo or drape will be revealed once laid out and dried. If you've made something lacy, this is also the best way to open up the holes and really showcase all the hard work that you've put into creating a beautiful pattern.
Ready to give it a try? Even if you don't have a freshly cast-off project, you can use this method at any time on a finished project to refresh it a bit and put some life back into it. So grab a hand-knit, a few supplies and clear off a chunk of the living room floor, we're giving the knits a spa day!
A Finished Project or Swatch (Yes! Block every swatch before you measure your gauge!)
An Empty Sink, Tub, Bucket or Basin
Old Towels (Sized Appropriately for Your Project)
An Empty Bit of Floor or Spare Bed
Blocking Pins/Wires (Optional)
Featured Yarn in this Tutorial:
Yumi Yarns' House Blend Handspun yarn in Fir (worsted-weight)
Featured Pattern in this Tutorial:
Snow Spell Scarf
Wet Blocking Tutorial:
Step 1. Pick a project that needs some help relaxing. A freshly bound off project or one that's been well worn all Winter will do nicely.
Step 2. Fill a sink, tub, bucket or basin (whatever is handy & large enough for your project to float freely in) with cool water and a small amount of wool wash. Cool water will help keep your colors bright while warm water will make them migrate so I always use cool to tepid water for my soaks. As far as wool wash goes, Soak and Eucalan are my favorites and a little goes a very long way. Turn off the water before proceeding. (Or you may unintentionally felt your project.)
Step 3. Submerge your project in the water and gently squeeze the air bubbles out of it. You want it to get completely saturated, but be very careful at this stage not to over-aggitate it or it may felt. Leave it to soak for at least 15 minutes (or until someone else needs to use the sink in an hour and reminds you about the knitting that you've left in it).
Step 4. When it's time to take your project out, gently gather it into a ball & lift it out. Using your hands, gently squeeze the excess water from it. It is very important to be careful with your project at this stage as it is very prone to felting while wet if it is a feltable fiber. Also, if you lift the project by one side rather than in a ball, the weight of the sodden project is likely to distort your fabric and it will be difficult to get it to behave without another soak for a bit.
Step 5. Now we're going to work on getting most of that moisture out of your project so that it dries in a reasonable amount of time. Keeping your project balled-up and starting at one of the narrow ends of an old towel, tightly roll it into the towel like it's the filling in a burrito. Depending on the size of project you may want to fold your towel in half or in thirds the long way prior to rolling.
Step 6. Here's the fun part: stand on top of your project/towel burrito and shuffle-walk from side to side to cover every inch and really get that moisture out. I know, you're all thinking that I'm a bit crazy at this point but this actually works. I've never had a project that didn't dry within 12 hours when I use this method. (And that includes brioche sweaters and double knitting projects.)
Step 7. Once you feel that you've sufficiently stomped out as much extra moisture as possible from your project, unroll your burrito.
Step 8. Lay either the same or a fresh towel on the floor, the back of a couch or a spare bed. Just make sure that it's somewhere that it won't be disturbed while it's drying & can lay flat. (Hanging it to dry will distort your fabric because of the weight of the water combined with gravity. I don't recommend hanging your knits for storage either, gravity is never kind to them.) There are also blocking mats available to buy, but I prefer my towels.
Carefully stretch & shape your project to your desired dimensions. You can use blocking pins and wires to aid you in this, but they're completely optional. I actually don't own either and don't care to use them myself. They can provide you with a more crisp finish (especially in lace), but I've found that the time it takes to place all the pins and wires doesn't seem worth the slight difference that it makes. I'm a bit ruthless with my stretching and blocking, though so keep that in mind as you proceed with your project.
Leave to air dry.
Step 9. Once your project is completely dry, throw it on and glory in the beauty of a freshly laundered and properly blocked hand knit!
Try It Out!
It's best to put a new technique into practice right away so that you can remember it in the future. Here are some of my patterns that would really benefit from a good blocking.