Blocking- a little sweater

All right, here we are. This post is going to be about blocking a wee sweater, not blocking all the things in the whole world. (If you’re truly in the weeds about blocking, can I recommend Kate Atherley’s crafty class about blocking? It’s solid. I’ve seen it.)

Four important things about blocking that are totally true

1. Blocking and stretching are not synonyms.  They do not mean the same thing. Blocking can sometimes involve stretching, like with lace, but most of the time it’s important to remember that blocking in knitting is like blocking in the theatre. The director will block the scene, choosing where the actors go, and putting things in their proper place – and that’s a good comparison for knitting. Blocking is finishing the piece, and that usually means a) getting it clean and b) putting all the elements in their proper place, whatever that place is.  I don’t know who started the idea that blocking and stretching are the same, but I think it screws a lot of knitters up, because they think that if something doesn’t need stretching, then it doesn’t need blocking – which is totally inaccurate.

2. Blocking will not fix essential problems with the construction of your knitting.  For example, if you’ve chosen a pattern or type of stitch that curls, unless you’re using a fibre that’s easy to convince and has little mind of its own (think of silk here, and the way it just lies where you put it) blocking will not fix the problem. Some knitted fabrics curl because stitches have a flat side and a curved side, and if you put all the curves on one side then that thing is going to curl up, and blocking can tame it a little, but cannot change that reality.  Similarly problems with rowing out can’t be fixed with blocking, and only very minor problems with fit can be truly fixed with blocking – if a sweater’s too small in the bust, then you can stretch it there, but the fabric is going to look different in that area if you take it too far.  (That’s because of #1. Stretching is not blocking. It’s stretching.)

3. Blocking involves cleaning. Yarn is dirty when you are done with it. Sometimes it has spinning oils or sizing in it, sometimes it sat on a shelf for a while, and it certainly picked up oils and dirt from your hands while you were working on it.  Yarn is effected by the spinning process, often compacted – and it doesn’t reveal  its true character until it’s been washed. Remember, blocking is finishing the work, and if it ain’t clean, it isn’t finished. For a lot of stuff, washing and laying things out nicely is all the blocking they need. Even if I am going to steam block something, I wash it and let it dry first – then go in with the steam. Think of blocking as an activity that is all the stuff that you do to a project after it’s done – not just something you do with pins and wires.

4. You know how some people’s work always looks beautiful, smooth and even, and you think they’re probably a much better knitter than you? If you’re not blocking, then the odds are that they’re not a much better knitter than you. They’re just doing the last step that you’re skipping.  (This is 100% always true when we’re talking about stranded colourwork. In that case, it’s not just tidiness. You can’t even tell if you’ve done it right until you block properly.)

So, here we have a wee sweater. I took it off the needles, wove in the ends, tidied things up and placed it on the table, letting it be what it wants to be.

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Clearly, it wants to be untidy. The fabric isn’t particularly smooth or even, the yarn has a lot of body and opinion, and the edges don’t want to lie down.  It’s also a lot smaller than my (washed and blocked) gauge swatch told me it would be. Nothing is wrong with this sweater though. It’s just not finished.

Step one: Bathtime. I filled the (clean) sink (I’d use the bathtub if my sweater was bigger) with tepid water and a little wool wash. (I like Soak and Eucalan equally – depending on what I’m washing.) I tossed the sweater on top and walked away.

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It’s important for knitted stuff to be fully wet to both get clean and be persuaded, and wool in particular takes a while to get really wet through. I wait for things to sink of their own accord, and that usually tells me that they’re good and wet. I let it soak for about 20 minutes, and sometimes a little longer.

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Step 2: I retrieve the wee sweater from the sink, and hold it all together, all its parts supported, and squeeze out the water gently.  Then I put it on a towel on the floor, roll it up inside, and press on the towel to dry it a bit. If it’s a sturdy thing I sometimes step on the towel. I think the fabric looks better already.

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Step 3: I lay a clean towel down somewhere flat and big enough, and start blocking.  This sweater has no elements that I want to stretch (like lace) and nothing that needs opening up. As a matter of fact, this sweater has that delicate ruching on the yoke, and if I stretch it, it won’t be as textured and pretty.  That means that for this, I won’t need any pins. The most important part of blocking has already happened for this sweater. The bath has smoothed and evened the stitches, helped the yarn settle in to its new shapes, and finished the wool.

Step 4: I spread out the back. I make it straight along the bottom hem, patting everything gently where I want it to be.

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Step 5: I close the front, lining up the necklines front to back, and making sure that I’ve closed it so that folds at the sides fall between the decreases that tell me where the sides are.  I fart with the sleeves to make sure they’re the same, folded truly along the midline of the sleeve.

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Step 6: I make sure it’s all lined up. Front edges to front edges, patting them into nice straight lines, sleeves extending at their natural angle, I pull a little horizontally, at the bottom edge and the cuffs of the sleeve, for this sweater I don’t want those parts to pull in, but flare a little, so I show the edges how I’d like them to be, fully releasing the cast off edges.

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Step 7: I get out the measuring tape. Are the sleeves the same length? No? I pat and push them until they are. Are the two fronts the same length? (You can usually tell that without the tape – but still.)

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Step 8: Finesse. Look for anything that isn’t quite right. I noticed this:

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The knitting was twisting a little, the sides weren’t even. See the little spiral? Fixed it by just patting the sweater front over a little. Now it’s a nice straight line.

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That’s it! Now I just leave it to dry – which in my house involves

Step 9: Keep the cat from lying on it until it’s dry.

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Wasn’t that easy?

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Convinced? I hope so. That’s a pretty big change for ten minutes of effort. Other kinds of garments will take more effort, or time, but really there’s not much that isn’t improved by this simple sort of blocking, if that’s all you have in you.

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There were a ton of blocking questions in the comments yesterday, so I thought I’d answer a few here:

Alison: But Steph, what happens as soon as you wash something? It needs blocking again. Right?

Yup, but usually the first time is the hardest, and after that it’s just lying it flat in a tidy way.  Lace would need a bit more, but well. That’s just the way lace is.

Josiphine: While you’re at it do you want to give me tips for blocking lace in the round?

Go here and have a look at how Judy Gibson did it.  It’s perfect. (I know that link is sort of old school, but it’s still pretty awesome. Judy’s on Ravelry as TiaJudy. You should look at her doilies.)

Robyn: i assume we’re speaking of wool here, not acrylic. which is what i use 95% of the time, with the hats i make and then give away. However, i do wash and dry every hat i make before i send it off to charity, so does that count?

Yes! That does count.  For acrylic, washing and drying is usually all the blocking it needs. It gets it clean, and helps the stitches smooth out. Acrylic totally looks better after blocking. Note: Acrylic (and nylon and polyester) yarn shouldn’t be routinely steam blocked – it’s heat sensitive, and can create permanent changes in the yarn.  There’s something called “killing” acrylic that you can do with steam/heat that makes it lie down forever, but it’s a one way trip, and you should experiment with a swatch first.

Jo-Anne: I have a cowl I just blocked, and the edges are still curling. I am thinking of blocking it again.

Sister, I have a little bad news.  Remember true thing #2 above? That blocking won’t change the essential character of your knitting? If it’s mostly stockinette (or any stitch that has most of the purls on one side and knits on the other) it’s probably always going to curl a bit.  Still, hope springs – it might be worth another shot if you didn’t fully block the first time. (Sometimes if things don’t get really wet because you were rushing you can have poor results.)

Several People: I don’t block because it often makes things worse, if by worse you understand that I turned a sweater into a dress with blocking or my hat turned into a hood.

I’m going to state an uncomfortable truth here. If you have a sweater or garment that gets way, way bigger after you blocked it (and it’s not superwash, which can be unpredictable)  then you had a sneaky gauge problem. Your garment was knit too loosely.  Sweaters that expand when they hit water are just revealing what’s been true about them all along – and if you didn’t block them, then gravity and movement would have just revealed that a little more slowly while you were wearing it.  Sometimes swatches lie because knitting is three dimensional. The roundness of the stitches makes it look like you’re getting gauge when you’re really not. When the work flattens out – through washing or wearing, then you discover that your gauge was way off.  This is the reason that you wash swatches. Make them reveal as many of their filthy lies as you can – before they sucker-punch you after the fact.

Again: Almost always -sweaters and garments that get sloppy and loose after washing/blocking aren’t a sign of a blocking problem.  They had a knitting problem you’ve just discovered super late.

All right, there you have it, and I have an almost finished sweater, so I’m off to root through the button bin until I find two perfect little ones. What colour do you think?

214 thoughts on “Blocking- a little sweater

  1. Light blue buttons to bring out that part of the colorway.

    And thank you! That helped a lot. It still leaves me wondering how you get those beautiful stockinette-based lace scarves and shawls that are not curling, but maybe you’ll deal with that in a future blog.

    • Usually with stockinette lace shawls the first two or three stitches on either side are garter stitch. That keeps them from curling. Also there may be a yarn over after the two stitches to make it look a little fancier. At least that is what I have seen.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial! I am going to print/save this for future projects. I am one of those who thought blocking/stretching were the same thing. You have helped me understand the difference!!

    • Classic white pearl buttons. Or possibly a greeny-blue if you have them.

      I have blocked many things, but often depends on the yarn. I don’t usually block socks – I sometimes manage to wash before giving, but they are often last minute. And when I wash mine, I soak and squeeze (in a towel) just as you do, but usually hang them over the edge of something to dry. I’ve been using my son’s empty bed while he’s away at college, but he’ll be home in a month and I’ll have to find another cat-proof place.

  3. This is such a spot-on, important post! Yes. I can never figure out whether people who say they don’t block, or they “only steam block”, just don’t ever wash their knitted things?! I’m not a clean freak (as my kitchen testifies) but like… I do wash my clothes, even the annoying to wash ones, when they need it. ANYWAY!

    Actual question – I have a lace cowl knit in the round, in a tube. I blocked it flat (ie. by folding in half, stretching out, pinning – after a soak of course), and thought I could have done a better job. Tips for blocking tube shaped lace?

  4. It’s amazing how many misconceptions there are about blocking. I’m slowly figuring it out, and definitely blocking more than I used to, but would love more awesomely helpful posts like this.

  5. Um in Part 5 what do you mean you fart with the sleeves to make sure they’re the same? Is that a typo or a just a phrase I’m unfamiliar with.

  6. I liked the “yarn with opinion”. That’s one that’s slightly less troublesome than an assertive yarn.

    Did you know that you block quilt tops (flimsies) before layering and quilting? Same reason, to square everything up and make it easier to work with.

  7. I definitely think either a teal or a light blue button would be good. Maybe a mossy green?

    Awesome post, and very informative. I do know when I first started learning to knit, it seemed as though people were equating blocking and stretching, and it was extremely confusing for me at first, but eventually, I got the hang of it. I will definitely have to try some of the Soak, though.

  8. I missed seeing your initial blocking post, so I’m asking my question now. I have two scarves with the same basic knit pattern of k2tog, yo, repeat and it makes a very mesh-like fabric. One scarf is make w/100% bamboo and the other is a hand spun angora with a little merino thrown in. I didn’t block either one because I wasn’t sure they would keep the blocked shape. Would you agree or have I been an idiot? Thanks!

    • Just thought I would mention that an acquaintance of mine has knit several scarves with that stitch combination, using wool & angora, & the scarves are much improved with blocking since the design is more transparent.

    • I would definitely block and not too gently. Lace needs to be stretched in order to see the open work and details. I remember from one pattern to block aggressively. It really paid off. Good luck!

  9. Ok, you’ve convinced me. I’ve now got a moss stitch cowl I knit for my Mum soaking in the sink. It looked great already and I wasn’t going to bother but point 3 has changed my mind. Here’s hoping it dries in time to post tomorrow (it’s her Mothers’ Day present).

  10. Sage green buttons.

    Thanks for the tutorial. I am going to try soaking longer and see if that helps me out a bit. 🙂

  11. Have you read anything about Catherine Lowe’s opinions about blocking? That you should basically knit your swatches and garments tighter than called for by the yarn or label and stretch the dickens out of them to get them to the right size? Her explanation is a little more finessed than that, but as her thoughts come from a background relating to haute couture and, I think, commercial knit fabrics which are often treated this way I’m not sure I agree that her methods are necessary for handknitters looking to get the neatest finish on a piece of knitting.

  12. Steph, thank you on behalf of all knitters!
    When everyone starts blocking their knits, the derogatory “home made” label (applied to hand knits by the muggles) might slowly disappear.
    Mother of pearl buttons would look really good!

  13. Great reference tutorial; thanks! I’ve always rinsed after Eucalan, but happy to learn to save a step. Beautiful sweater – such a bright, cheery bit of spring. Buttons – perhaps a cooling bit of sage green for accent?

  14. Lace. I have made lace shawls with blocked points for charity auctions and gifts. What should I tell the recipients. I worry if they wash and dry flat the points will disappear and I can’t ask them to return it to me. And they won’t know how to block. I just donated a gorgeous wool lace shawl with many points to Go Red heart health auction. Someone paid $$$$ for it. Will they be mad if they ever wash it?

    • Well, the cynic in me says if they know wool they won’t be surprised, and if they don’t know wool they either won’t wash it or they’ll felt it, which is a different problem altogether.

  15. I’m all about matchy buttons. I think a different color would detract from the dye variegation and adorable rucheing at the top. So I’d use buttons that reflect one of the dye colors in the yarn.

  16. I was super excited to see you knitting this sweater, and then tickled pink to find out how you blocked it.

    I made the same sweater for my daughter (her first knit sweater from me) and now I’ll know how to appropriately care for it!

    Thank you so SO much!

    Oh, and for hers I used little blingy buttons… But I also knit hers a beautiful crimson red. I’m sure any buttons you choose will look just perfect!

  17. I really love it when you do these tutorials with pictures. I am a blocker but still enjoyed every minute of this and learned a couple things. Thank you!

  18. I block the pieces of a sweater before I sew it up – easier to rip back if it grows/ isn’t right – it flattens out the edges and opens out the stitches a bit making mattress stitching it together easier. Also if you block as you knit, you see the growing issue early, and at least you only have to reknit one piece, if it didn’t show up in the swatch. And it’s ready to finish faster if you don’t have to wait for all the bits to dry, and have enough pins.

    Hard learned lesson, huuuge coat, grew on the body with wear.

    • I block the pieces before I seam too, but never thought to block as I go to check for size – good tip. I am cursed with v loose tension so often have to go down a few needle sizes and even when I wash my swatches, they don’t always tell the truth.

      Stephanie, great post as always, and even though I’ve been blocking for ages I learnt something – essentially, don’t touch the fabric when it’s wet other than to lift it out (I have been swishing and rinsing to properly ‘wash’ it, which may be part of my getting-a-larger-garment problem).

  19. What a great tutorial! Any chance you’d consider doing another on weaving in ends? Especially on socks with contrast heels and toes? I’m always afraid I’ll feel them or that I didn’t do enough and they’re going to unravel. Some tips from the sock goddess would really be helpful!!!

  20. Bright yellow buttons are what that sweater is crying out for. 🙂 It came out beautiful, and thanks for talking through blocking things that aren’t lace, the sweater bug has bitten me lately, and I’m a bit scared about how to wash things! (I had a sleeve… accident… when I washed a pullover last week, and they were significantly shorter on the seam side than the top!)

  21. Silver buttons.
    Thanks for the tutorial! I understood the importance of blocking from your mitten blocking tutorial a while back but this helped with more details. The side seam picture was very helpful.
    Adorable sweater – I think I need to give that one a whirl.

  22. Little green buttons shaped like leaves!

    Also, I block on the top bunk of my kids’ bunkbeds and make the kid who is taking that bunk (they like to mix it up) visit Sofa City.

  23. Swatches are a lot like my ex-husbands. They look great but are made up of nothing but lies. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

    Seriously, I’ve yet to get a swatch to tell me the truth about my gauge, blocked or unblocked. Good thing I’ve recognized that I like bad boys, and naughty yarns, or I’d have ended up with worse in the husband arena and given up knitting!

  24. The fact that you compared blocking your knitting to blocking in theatre makes my heart sing! Two of my favorite things making so much sense together!

  25. This step-by-step guide is terrific, and I know it works. I have discovered more than once that until it is blocked, a sweater is merely a collection of knitted pieces I’ve sewn together. Blocking turns a project into a garment. It brings it to life. Thanks!!

  26. Buttons – depends what is likely to be worn on the other half? Am I the only person who thinks of this. If they are going to be worn with darker leggings, then a moderate inbetween colour of leggings and cardigan. Great job and beautiful.

    The ‘pat’ is the thing. It moves wonders with a wet malleable knitted object.

    My first sweater I washed and then ‘steam stretched’ – think heat, and heaps of water/steam applied to the garment – absolutely horrible! All that work, for me ruining it by zealous ironwork. I wore the sweater anyway, but it taught me a lesson. e.g. when you have no experience, and you want help from your mother, don’t pick a time when the household is in full swing with other things.

  27. I am firm believer in blocking everything. I don’t block my socks, but I do wash them and lay them flat to dry. I also wash and block a large gauge swatch for anything that is going to be sweater like. I learned that the hard way when my first sweater out of super wash grew three sizes when I wet it. Blocking makes items go from home made to hand made!

  28. I previously thought I didn’t block my sweaters because I didn’t pin them or use blocking wires and I felt like it must be that everybody else was doing it right but me, or something, but I did make them come out looking right. I just washed them and set them to dry just so and it seemed to do the job just fine. I love how you’re showing exactly how it is and how simple it is and not to let the terminology get in the way. Thank you!

  29. Light blue buttons, to bring out the beautiful little bits of light blue in the sweater. Thank you for your tutorial. Last week I just finished my first project in real wool – and blocked it, on your previous advice – and was so thrilled to see how it transformed!

  30. You said superwash is unpredictable… Any tips for working with it? That’s my go to yarn with five boys who fight over the last thing off the needles that’s kid sized.

    • The suggestion i see most often is to soak as usual, but toss in the dryer until just damp & lay out as usual. Something about dyer-drying most of the way fights the superwash-grow issue.

  31. Thanks for the post, I block almost everything, sometimes I skip socks if there is little patterning and they’re for me 🙂 For the buttons I have this picture of that sweater with bright red buttons in my head. It’s not my usual style at all, but I love that kids can pull off fun, funky looks like that. Maybe also because it snowed again yesterday, that could have something to do with my desire for color too!

  32. I vote for bright pink buttons! Like flowers in a meadow. 🙂

    Great post, btw – I am a blocking believer (especially of the swatch) but nice to see the change.

  33. greeeeen, or blue, or whatever the streaks are colored in the yellow (it’s hard to tell for sure on the screen). Also, because I am apparently 10 in my head (or just really in need of a laugh since I’m currently parenting a 9-mo-old and 2 dogs on my own in a city without the benefit of a yard), I wish I too could fart with the sleeves. 😉 Sometimes typos rock.

    great post on blocking. my only question is: so then you don’t have to rinse out soak or eucalan? When I block I usually use a handwash wool detergent that I always do need to rinse out and it would be swell to get to skip that step.

  34. I’d vote for pale yellow buttons, flower shaped if you can find them.
    Also, I assume that step 9 is the hardest part of blocking this sweater. They always know where you DON”T want them to lay! LOL

  35. I think a pair of vintage silver/grey/metal buttons would look amazing on that gorgeous little thing. Great information, as always.

  36. I would be interested to read a tiny bit more….namely, blocking hats. Do you have a round shape you use upon which to block? It has been suggested to me to use a blown up balloon, but that seems rather fragile.

    • Ballon blocking is great for hats. Just be careful about how far you infalte the balloon so as to be sure not to stretch the rib / edge. You put the garment over the balloon and blow in up gently till you have the right sizeand fsten off. Balloons are much less fragile than they look. And use a dinner plate to block berets.

  37. Really well-done, Steph…convincing, (side-by-side photo at the end helps a lot!) and love the reference to the filthy lies an unwashed swatch can tell (and of course, even the best-cared for swatch in the world is still a potential lier, but let’s pretend this isn’t so for this afternoon so we can knit in peace.)

  38. A great little tutorial. What an adorable little sweater, I need more little girls in my life… As for buttons, I often find myself going for wood or shell (depending on the character of the person receiving it). These days I’m looking for any excuse to use Laura Sheppard’s handmade pottery ones (they’re available on Etsy under sheppardhandmade) I think a couple of these might be perfect on your Tiny Tea Leaves. (And she’s canadian, too.)

    • I love Laura’s buttons! Plus, she’s a spinner and knitter, and is from Newfoundland as well. So superior all round, really. 🙂

  39. What a lovely little sweater. She’ll look darling in it.

    If I’m out of wool wash, I use shampoo to wash. If it’s good for my wool, it’s good for the sheep’s. With lace I use a bit of conditioner in the final rinse. It makes it slippery so it blocks like there’s a bit of silk in there, slips right out into an open position with less tugging.

    I vote for daffodil yellow buttons, maybe ones with flowers painted on them. Let’s get this spring thing going!
    Julie in San Diego (with flowers)

  40. Wooden buttons! Or blue or green. The tutorial was a good read! Glad to see my basic blocking process is pretty similar to yours.

  41. I love blocking work – it feels very therapeutic to have it all nice and shiny looking when you put it on. Also makes zippers easier to install.

    I think that you should use a bright spring green! 😀

    Katie =^..^=

  42. I sew up other knitters work for a living so I really understand the need to block a finished project. My house permanently smells of damp wool and wool wash, which I find rather lovely. I’m also lucky because I have a workroom that my cat can’t access.

    Your post has push me into blocking my Egeblad doily today. darn it!

    (My button vote is for teeny little wooden button, to make the cardigan look like a springtime woodland.)

  43. Great post! I am a fan of blocking for the same reasons you stated. Many times I hate the yarn texture when I’m knitting it but after blocking? It’s fantastic! I’ve heard the phrase “the yarn blooms”. That fits what happens perfectly.

  44. I love patting everything back into place, so therapeutic.

    I’m almost done with a sweater that is “rowing out” which has never happened to me before. Think it must be the yarn which, come to think of it, was on sale. Hmmm. I am not going to re-do it, but will wear it anyway because I love the pattern and the color. And if other people see weird patterns, oh well.

  45. Thanks so much for the blocking instructions. I don’t always block, but now I realize I really should do it. I just received an autographed copy of your book from my daughter. She attended your Boston booksigning and mailed the book to me in Illinois. She was the tall redhead in the pink raincoat. I love your new book!

  46. Query: When I have a garment that needs seaming, I block before sewing it up, to make sure that the front and the back are the same length and such. Should I be blocking again after seaming? Does it matter whether I also had to add something like a button band?

    • Not a reply, but a “me too!” I’d love to know the answer to that question, as I am at the point of a cardigan where I have to add the button band. It seems like blocking it first would make it easier to pick up the stitches, right?

  47. thank you Stephanie…. I am a believer in blocking but wasn’t aware of the value of soaking the finished product vs steam blocking, which is all I ever knew about until quite recently. Sweet blue buttons would be nice.

  48. Ah, blocking…my nemesis. This is the one thing I dislike to the point that I have a pile of FOs that need to be washed and blocked…because I dislike doing it. And I’m also reminded that I need to swatch…the other thing I strongly dislike. ::sigh::

  49. Bravo, Stephanie! I loved your tutorial. I used to think that my stitches were soooo uneven until I started washing my just-finished knits. Luckily I had some educated “blocker” friends. I know some of those blocking=stretching knitters. Hopefully they’ll see the light.

  50. Do you block socks and if so do you use the sock forms? I sometimes feel that my sock fits perfectly and when I block them they seem to loose a bit of their elasticity.

  51. Don’t you still have several sets of buttons left from the layette set you made a while back. I seem to remember some very pretty yellow and lime green ones that should be perfect…or are you really just looking for an excuse to visit the button shop again???

  52. The sweater looks fantastic! I think I’ll be blocking things more often now, especially since I had been misinformed about blocking.

    Do you always have to use some type of wash in with it, then, and not just water? Does the temperature of the water affect blocking – does it matter if the water is cold, warm, or hot?

  53. I’m in favor of any color that is not white, grey, brown, or dead yellow-green, so…sun-yellow for the buttons? Or, for a real statement, the color of the tulips in the foreground? The sweater is beautiful.

  54. I notice you blocked after sewing together, I’ve always done before. Is there a difference? What about toys, do you block them?

    Thanks for the great post. As always.

  55. What a great demonstration of blocking. For many years I didn’t block. I learned how to knit in high school a million years ago and from then on just shlumped along on my own so I’d never heard of it. But now that I’ve taken a few classes and have done some reading I’ve seen the light. I learned from your post that I should be a bit fussier when I lay out the garment. I do have a question — do you ever block before you sew pieces together or do you always wait until the very end? I’ve found it makes it much easier to sew the seams.

  56. Thanks for a great post! I think white buttons. But would you speak sometimes about choosing buttons for baby clothes (no choking). I finished a BSJ once with ribbons for fear of getting the wrong buttons. The joke was on me because the tot in question was very petite and grew into my jacket by about age three – wasn’t putting things in her mouth by then except her thumb now and then. 😉

  57. Lovely, just lovely.
    You are always so kind and so informative, and hilarious on top of those. Blocking is a hot-button topic, and you make it so friendly and accessible.
    Pardon my adoration, I know I sound like those weird spammy messages.
    I actually wish I had something freshly completed so I could just go block it right now!

  58. Blue for the sweater and YES you MUST block. If you are afraid of the blocking it is because….well…come on now…Prof. Steph is right you know…bad gauge! If we knitters were more honest..a great many more projects would be finished and proudly displayed on Ravelry.

    As it is..I am currently taking the Craft Yarn Council instructors certification and the gauge portion of the assignment was the most important part in my mind. I am glad I stopped avoiding this issue and just faced it square on. Gauge matters!


  59. I’m so glad you wrote this. I have a friend who does really nice work, but she refuses to block. I have begged her to let me take home her cowl (or other piece) and block it, but she just laughs. I’ve been tempted to wrestle it off of her, but I think I’ll just show her this instead.

  60. Perfect timing for me, thank you. I have a nearly-finished sweater to block, and since it is always going to be winter in Boston, I will take care of business tomorrow.

  61. Excellent lesson! Thanks for this. I learned especially about the need to really soak the wool. Thanks!

    for the buttons – I’d vote for a soft greeny/blue

  62. Milky green buttons – matching the yellow/green in the sweater. Thank you for the clarification. I will also print this and add to the tech binder.

  63. Thank you so much for the explanation with pictures. I have never blocked – not that I have knit a lot – but have been very afraid of the whole process. You have taken all the scariness. Tomorrow I will block the little sweater I have waiting for a baby to give it to.

  64. My entire world has been turned upside down. The only thing I’ve blocked in my whole life is a very fancy and finicky lace shawl, which I far and away consider the best piece I’ve ever made. I am in shock and awe. I can’t even believe this. I thought I was just an untidy knitter. Now I know the truth: I’m just a clueless and lazy knitter.

  65. Thanks for the wonderful comments about my website and my Rav presence! Yes, it’s old school–my knitting site has been online since before some current knitters were born (1994). Notice the warning about the huge file size of the high res photo, 150K, yes K, which was huge in the dial-up modem era!

  66. Thank you thank you. I was pretty much with the program (blocking) but am now a full disciple. Nothing like a good show and tell to make a point. I appreciate your time and effort spent to educate, inform, and of course, amuse us, your devoted readers. You’re a gem.
    p.s. I vote for celadon green buttons.

  67. I’ll admit I was riding the “If it’s a small project or it fits perfectly now it won’t need blocking” bandwagon. I’m hopping off now though! Thanks 🙂 Gorgeous cardigan!!

  68. I have a sweater dress! It’s still in pieces because, since it was my first sweater with sleeves, I haven’t the heart to tear it out. I need to do that and reclaim the yarn. It’s cashsoft (or something similar) after all…

    I have blocked for years, but this helped me realize some things I could do better. I’ve always rushed the bath part, for one (dunk, dunk, squeeze). I’m knitting a sweater now and am about to do a kerchief so I’ll see what difference that makes.

    Thank you for taking the time to share.

    I say a light pearl blue. Unless, wee M has green eyes, and then I might go with a pearl green to make her eyes pop when she’s wearing it. I hope we get some in action shots, if the parents are amenable.

  69. Pingback: A Shepherd in progress | Knit Oxford

  70. Thank you! This finally clarifies (and demystifies) blocking for me. I never thought of measuring sleeves/pieces, great advice. One tiny thought about wool fibers vs others: most commercial wool still retains some of its lanolin, which make it resist grease and dirt – that’s one of the many reasons why wool is such a fantastic fiber. Still, it does need to be washed, and then … blocked – I’m a convert! 🙂

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    • Considering we have never met – and I have no idea who you are – I do have to wonder who named you the Babywear Police. Seriously, why are you yelling at people? It just turns them off and they don’t hear your message, no matter how important it is.

  72. You’ve convinced me. I just dropped an alpaca sweater into my newly cleaned sink. It’s been done for years but I rarely wear it because it’s just kinda meh. Thanks for the inspiration!

  73. Excellent tutorial for blocking – it will make believers out of the those non-believers for sure! I’m a believer, having seen the huge difference it makes. It makes a huge difference in gauge swatches too – I just tend to be lazy in that respect and often will throw caution to the wind and not wash my swatch because I’m too impatient to get started.

  74. My swatches almost always lie because they’re so much smaller than the actual garment I’m knitting. I’m theorizing that there’s a tiny of bit of slack in each knit and (especially) each purl stitch that really multiplies over the course of an entire garment. However, I don’t think the problem is solely sloppy purling because items I knit in the round grow as much or more as those knit flat.
    I also firmly believe in blocking so my only weapon is to keep in mind how much my knitting usually grows and knit everything proportionally smaller. When swatching, I typically look for the needle size that gets me to between 3 1/4 and 3 1/2 inches (wet) instead of 4. This works about 98% of the time.

  75. I always block my shawls, but not always my hats and scarves. And when I do, I always wonder why I don’t since everything looks and feels so much nicer after a good soak!

  76. This brings up a question I’ve pondered for a while. Everyone says that top-down sweaters are the best, because “you can try it on as you go!” But if you don’t really achieve the proper gauge until after it’s washed, then how exactly is trying it on as you go supposed to be enlightening? I feel like I’m missing something obvious. I also feel like I can’t really try making a grown-ass-woman-sized sweater until I figure it out.

  77. Okay, I have to admit, my brain is going to socks. All the socks we’ve seen you knit, I can’t remember you mentioning blocking them. Some you mention finishing and wearing when you’re on the road. You really always wash them first?

  78. Okay, this explanation is the first thing that’s ever convinced me that I should actually block a swatch. I thought I understood blocking before- but I think I really get it, now. Now, I’m off to re-knit a swatch for a shirt that I’m halfway through- and I’ll block it this time! (Fingers crossed that my gauge comes out the same after blocking!)

  79. If a I knit a sweater in pieces so it requires stitching together, I block the pieces first before assembly (usually with mattress stitch). This makes it much easier to match up the rows perfectly and avoid dealing with the curling edge of stockinette. I re-block the assembled garment as you describe.

    Thank you for the link to the informative post on rowing out.

  80. Thank you so much for clearing that up! I have (my first) sweater I’ve been working on for a year, and even though I’ve followed the directions to a T I just can’t get the button band not to be alls scrunchy. Now i know I need to re-knit it ( for the third or fourth time) with more picked up stitches because blocking won’t stretch it out to its proper size!! Thanks again!!

  81. One thing I noticed is that you weave in the ends before you do the wash. I’ve had issues with puckering when I do that so I put off weaving in the ends until later. Or does it make a difference?

  82. I just finished a sweater last night, tried it on, took a picture and put it away in my sweater drawer. Thought I was done. You’ve inspired me to go back and block it. Can’t wait to see how much more I like it….

  83. no flipping the sweater over to let it dry completely on both sides? I always think it is going to stay too damp on the other side.

    As for blocking pieces, I assume it’s an “arrange and measure” strategy to make sure they are all the right size?

  84. Oh no! I failed the human verification test the first time I tried to post and this time it wanted me to identify a robot. Thanks for this post. I learned that I have been instinctually “blocking” my work for years for all the right reasons.

  85. Pingback: I love my new sweater Mommy! | Rakish Looking Craft

  86. You converted me! I never blocked anything, except the occasional bit with the steam from an iron. I took baby sweaters out of the bag of stuff I have knit for a non-profit and blocked them. Amazing! They look so much better. So then I blocked the slouchy beanies I made for my daughter. Knitted things drying all over the bedroom. Thanks.

  87. A lot of times I hesitate to block something like a hazy scarf because in my experience a mohair or other hazy yarn will lose that wonderful bounce and haze and end up looking stringy and flat. I had a terrible experience washing and blocking a sari silk scarf that had been joyously fluffy, then looked comparatively like straight hair after a day out in the humidity once I’d blocked it. Stephanie or anybody, do you have a solution for this? Thanks for the tutorial!

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  89. I’d been hung up about the style of blocking I used to do, ie in separate pieces before sewing together as a whole garment. I’d struggled to understand how blocking as a whole garment could work – Voila you have shown the light and I am happy. More than happy … but happy sounds less creepy than I’ve made you my new best friend.
    xx Thank you xx

  90. A thousand thanks. Now I see why I need to block my garter stitch cardigan soonest! And my step 9 involves 2 cats, both of whom love knitting. Horizontal knitting. In the sunshine–if I were silly enough to leave a wool garment in direct sunlight. This is such a helpful post!

  91. Pingback: Blocking And Gauge Issues | The Knitting Theologian

  92. Thanks so much for the blocking information. Everything I make looks so much better after blocking, even if it is only a simple rectangular scarf.

  93. Pingback: Blocking- a little sweater | Yarn Harlot | Knit It Up

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  95. Science. Just because I can’t leave well enough alone. Blocking works for lots of reasons, but including: part of what holds a fiber together (not the yarn, but the actual individual hair fiber) are molecular bonds that are broken by water. Not all the bonds holding the molecules together are broken by water, but some of them are. So. When you get the fibers wet, some of the molecules are slipping and sliding around. And then, as it dries and the water leaves, those bonds are restored – but those molecules bond up to whatever’s closest to them now. So, even with a yarn that doesn’t bloom or stretch or anything after a wash, and even when it isn’t lace or anything that needs to be helped in opening up – that’s why blocking with a good soak and dry helps the knitted fabric to get much more orderly.

    But at any rate, clearly a lovely post and one that will make many knitters’ work much lovelier.

    Also, seriously? People don’t wash their knitting when they’re done? I mean, I know not everybody is knitting on the NYC subway like I am, but who would wear, for example, a t-shirt you’ve touched every inch of and had on your lap on and off for weeks before putting it back on?

  96. Excellent post. I could not agree more with every single word. Thank you for writing this. I have bookmarked it, and will direct my friends (who don’t like to block their knitting) to this post. For some reason, they don’t always believe me, but they always believe the Yarn Harlot!!!!!

  97. Pingback: Seven days, seven links | Knitted Art

  98. Blocking is not Stretching. Washing acrylic counts.
    2 very important clarifications that I had no idea.
    I always wash acrylic & dry in the dryer – had no idea that was ‘blocking’.
    Socks get washed and hung to dry (is that blocking if I don’t use sock stretchers ?)
    My very first wool sweater is not quite done. I was planning to wash and lay flat to dry – expecting to have to stretch it to size as I thought that was what blocking was all about. Nice to know how to do it properly. Thanks !

  99. Pingback: Kool-Aid Does What? (Dyeing Yarn With Drink Powder) | Casey Kay B

  100. Pingback: Block Party | katie's photo project

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  103. Can you please tell me what pattern you used to knit the beautiful baby sweater you used in your tutorial – Blocking – a little sweater. I would love to knit it for my new grandson. Thank you for the tutorial. I will certainly be doing this with future projects.

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  105. GREAT article! I learned so much! I am wondering how to block an afghan that will be approx 48″x58″using Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn (a worsted weight 80% acrylic and 20% wool). This afghan has a deep, detailed pattern ( ) that will definitely need special attention with blocking, I’m thinking. My biggest challenges are 1) WHERE to do this? My table is not big enough and I don’t have carpeting! And 2) Should I use pins, steam, both, or what?! Thanks for any advice you can give me on this!

  106. Pingback: These are my confessions… | hardknitlife

  107. Excellent instructions. I just finished a baby sweater, it came out well, but it was a bit wonky, especially the sleeves. It’s an acrylic yarn, I followed your directions, and it blocked out beautifully. I could not be happier. Also, I had not thought about the dirt from the yarn and the processes that occurr in knitting that make blocking so important. Thanks !!

  108. So based on the comments, I’m assuming that the answer to my question “When so I add buttons to the baby cardigan I just finished?” (my first sweater!) is “AFTER blocking.”

  109. Pingback: Delusional knitting… |

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  112. This was one of the most helpful posts on blocking! Thank you for clarifying the difference between stretching and blocking. I just completed a small sweater for my daughter and thought, “I don’t want to block this. It’s perfect as is.” Now I will block just to make sure it stays that way and looks more smooth. Thank you again!

  113. Just blocked a Sasha doll sweater for my sister, this is really an excellent tutorial. To properly age myself, the dolls we have are the originals, I like seeing the dolls in photos in EZ books. Hey, I have that doll!

  114. I still consult this post every time I block something. It’s so empowering! I’ve been knitting steadily for 10+ years and was blocking before, but this post changes everything. Thank you!!

  115. Hi,
    This was very helpful and i’m planning on blocking a cardigan i finished knitting for the first time. Just a few questions:
    1) If i don’t have special wool wash, then can i use regular shampoo and rinse it out afterwords?
    2) I knit my sweater in three pieces: two sleeves and the body (i knit the back and fronts in one piece). Should I seam the sweater together and then block it, or should I block each piece separately?

    Thank you!

  116. Blocking and yes I use that term about stretching out knitting and pinning it, not finishing or shaping your knitting which is entirely different, was not used by regular knitters of yesteryear. Stretching out is a form of blocking, you obfuscate the issue, and are disengenous to those you state don’t know the difference. We do and they are not the same thing but are all called blocking. People tend to be asking about the one where the fabric is pinned out and stretched.

    In fact I put it to an elderly relative and her words? “Oh, no if you need to do that then there is something wrong with it. It shouldn’t need that.” So many people talk of blocking sorting out their stitches. They shouldn’t need sorting out. My mother’s knitting was (is) really beautiful as was my mother in law’s and my neighbour’s. No blocking at all and yes, pure wool.

    The whole concept is bizarre. Distorting and pulling at a fabric is an anathema. I see so much over blocked, stretched and distorted fabric. It really should not require it. Blocking a small swatch also cannot possibly be replicated over a wide area. The force applied to a small area can be relatively even, however trying to re-apply this over a wide area like a cardigan this is bound to be irregular and inexact. This is why swatching lies. It is also not possible to measure consistently and accurately. Knitting is far more of an art than the science people have tried to make it become.

    My mother says knitting fabric stretches because it is done on too big needles for the yarn. Knitting done these days is often pretty ugly. People should learn to make a beautiful fabric before going off and doing clever things but basically ruining them. So many clever knitters (in the feats they understand and perform with the stitches) but very many of them do not make nice fabric and hope to block all those imperfections out. Well it just makes a further mess. I do not admire the look of pinned out blocking.

    My knitting looks pretty good. My lace looks like pretty lace on the needles. My stitches are even textured and neat. That is what people need to concentrate on. Be more like me 🙂

  117. I just wanted to leave a marker here to let you know that I used this excellent post as my how-to manual for my first major project, and it worked like a charm! Hope you know how much your archives come in handy for everyone. 🙂

  118. I am very late coming to this blog post but have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read throughout. Is there any way you can share a link to this adorable sweater pattern? I just became a grandmother to a little girl. Thanks!

  119. Pingback: Summer School – Blocking | Pantsville Press

  120. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you really understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also talk over with my web site =). We may have a link change arrangement between us!

  121. I want to express my appreciation to the writer just for bailing me out of this type of setting. After looking through the world wide web and getting views that were not beneficial, I assumed my entire life was well over. Existing without the presence of solutions to the difficulties you have solved all through your entire write-up is a crucial case, and ones that might have negatively damaged my entire career if I hadn’t come across your blog

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