You might have heard knitters talk about blocking or read the instructions “block to measurements given” in a knitting pattern, but what does it actually mean?
Blocking is the process of washing or soaking your finished knitting and then laying it out to dry. It can involve stretching the piece out with pins, as with lace knitting, but it’s really a way of helping the stitches and yarn to relax, and even out. I often hear knitters saying, in a reassuring way to each other, “That’ll block out”, meaning that the little glitch or wonky stitch will sort itself out in the washing process (it usually does!).
In shawl knitting, blocking is a really important stage: it helps open up any lace patterning, relaxes the stitches and helps to create drape, which will help your shawl look even more beautiful when you’re wearing it. Just look at these before and after photos:
How to do it?
You will need: wool wash/shampoo/conditioner, a towel, big bags or foam mats, pins (ideally blocking T-pins)
- Weave in the ends, leaving a wee tail (I prefer to cut them off after blocking, as I find the ends can move around and pop out if I cut them before blocking).
- Fill a sink or bath with tepid water, add wool wash if you like or a wee drop of shampoo or conditioner. Add your shawl and submerge it in the water. Leave it for about 15 mins.
- Pull the plug and squeeze out the excess water. Ley the shawl onto the spread-out towel and roll them up together. To get the excess water out, stand on the towel (it seems brutal, I know, but it gets a lot more water out than squeezing with your hands).
- Lay out your bin-bags or foam mats, and unroll your shawl from the towel and lay it on the mats/bags. Most knitting patterns will give you a schematic drawing, which gives you an idea of the shape of the shawl and the measurements . This will give you an idea of how to pin the knitting out. If it’s a triangle or traditional crescent or semi-circle then I would suggest starting with the straight ‘top’ edge and pin along that first. You can pull the knitting about quite a lot – check the measurements on the schematic if you’re not sure of the finished size. .
- Once you have the top edge pinned you can start on the bottom edge. Usually the knitting will want to move into a certain shape. Maybe there are picot edges to pull out or a scalloped edge to pin?
- Leave your shawl pinned out until it’s absolutely dry, otherwise it will not keep it’s shape. If you find you’re not happy with the shape, you can always repeat the blocking process again.
Want to know more? Get my Free Top Five Blocking Tips PDF by signing up for my mailing list here The PDF contains further blocking tips for shawls, including using blocking wires, ideas for blocking picot edging and bobbles, and how to block when you’re in a hurry.
The beautiful shawl featured in the photos is Snow Blossom, now available in my Ravelry store. Click here for further details, photos and to purchase (Ravelry link)