How to Block Your Handknits Like A Pro

We have received quite a few questions about how best to block those gorgeous knitted (and crocheted!) projects once you are finished creating them. Today’s post explores your options for putting the finishing touch on your Zen Yarn Garden project.

Steam Blocking

We highly recommend steam blocking over wet blocking. Steam blocking sets the stitches just as well as wet blocking and also increases the longevity of both the colour and the wool. You can use an iron or purchase a dedicated hand-held steamer for this process; simply lay your piece on a prepared surface such as an ironing board or a clean table. Pin in place, then hold your iron or steamer directly above the piece so that the steam can penetrate the fibres. Allow your piece to dry completely before you remove the pins. 

IMPORTANT: Do not let the iron touch your fabric - this will damage the fibres! 

 

Steam blocking a shawl on the Zen Yarn Garden Blog

Hand Washing

Handdyed yarn is not unlike clothing in that the more it gets washed with soap the more it will fade, so please wash sparingly and only when needed. For the purposes of this post, we opted to hand wash a shawl knit from our Vocal Gradient Quartet. This shawl has sections of textured stitches, eyelets, and an eyelet lace and picot border.

Materials:

  • A project or garment you wish to block
  • Mild soap
  • Vinegar
  • T-pins 
  • Tape Measure
  • Towel(s)

Optional, but very helpful to have: 

Step 1: Washing

Some of our yarns say "machine wash" which you can do if you prefer but please bear in mind that hand washing always increases the longevity of your project. Be Keep in mind that some products like Soak or Eucalan can draw the dyes out of your project, especially if you let them sit in the soap for a long period of time. If you like using these products, please be sure to remove your project within 5 minutes, as soap can pull on the dye molecules and if left too long, the colour may be pulled from your project.

How to block a knitted shawl on the Zen Yarn Garden Blog

  • Fill a clean sink, bucket, or basin with lukewarm water. We like to add just a smidge of heat to the water to loosen any oils or dirt that might be lurking in a knit, but prefer not to go too much beyond lukewarm.   
  • Next, add some of your favorite mild soap and a dash of vinegar to help alleviate fading from happening too quickly.
  • Gently add your project to the water. We like to press the project into the water softly and make sure it is entirely submerged. Don’t add too much agitation - just enough to get your project good and wet. Let your project soak for 5 minutes or less.
  • Remove your project from the water and squeeze gently to remove excess water. The key here is being gentle; don’t wring or twist your knit. If you have a clean towel nearby, you can roll your project into the towel and squeeze gently again to remove more excess water.
  • Lay flat to air dry using the instruction in Step 2: Blocking below.

Step 2: Blocking

Now that your project or garment is clean, let’s talk about blocking it! Essentially, all you are going to do here is determine how best to arrange your knitting so that it will dry in the shape you wish. Different projects will require different methods;  we’ll do our best to cover all of them below.

How to block a knitted shawl on the Zen Yarn Garden Blog

  • First, find a good place where you can block your project. You will want an open, flat surface that curious pets and/or children are unlikely to discover. We find that the floor in a non-trafficked area is usually a good place to block; if you don’t have a good floor space to block, you can also use counter or table tops, or any flat surface (the bed in the guest bedroom, the dining room table, etc.).
  • If you are using pins to block your project (and in most cases you will want to use pins to hold the project in place!), you will need a porous surface underneath your project that you don’t mind sticking pins into. If you’re blocking on carpet or on top of a bed, you may not need to put anything additional down to hold your pins in place. If you don’t want to block directly on your flat surface, you may choose to purchase blocking mats, which are foam tiles that you can arrange to different widths and lengths depending on the space you need. If you have trouble finding a porous surface and you need a quick, cheap solution you can make your own blocking mats with a piece of regular cardboard underneath a bath towel or two.
  • Once you have decided where you would like to block your project, lay it out gently in the shape you wish to block it into. At this point you’ll decide how aggressively you want to block your project: some patterns will provide a schematic with finished dimensions which you can refer back to as you lay out your piece, using a tape measure to ensure correct dimensions have been achieved. You may have some personal preferences that inform your blocking approach as well. 
  • For projects with lots of lace, blocking wires are a good investment. Blocking wires are thin, flexible wires that can be threaded through the edges of your knitting and then pinned taut. This will open up your lace and enable you to create straight (or curved) edges in your finished garment.  
  • If your project doesn’t have a large amount of lace, or you don’t wish for super defined edges, you can use pins or the Knit Blockers to pin your project into place as you arrange it.  Generally, we lay the project out in the shape we want it to be, and then pin every 4-6 inches to arrange the project in a general shape.
  • If your project has a lace edging, or ends with a picot or crocheted bind off, you may wish to accentuate the edges by pinning them into place. For instance, in the picot edging of this shawl, we might want to pin out each picot to create a pretty, open border.
How to block a knitted shawl on the Zen Yarn Garden Blog

Now that you know the basics of blocking, let’s talk about a few other ways you might wish to block.

  • Sweaters and other garments. Sweaters and other garments may be blocked in a variety of ways including those mentioned above. However, some sweater or garment patterns may simply suggest that you arrange the wet project gently into shape. Unless there are details that you wish to accentuate, you may find it easier to skip pinning and just press your project into shape.
  • Pieces for seaming. Often, when knitting garments or larger pieces, you will be instructed to knit pieces and then block them prior to seaming them together. In this case, we recommend blocking your pieces using pins and a ruler to ensure that each piece is blocked to the size dictated by the schematic in your pattern.  
  • Socks. Not everyone wishes to block their socks, but if you do, you may wish to invest in a set of sock blockers. These wire or wood forms are shaped like socks and available in a variety of sizes, make blocking your socks a snap without pins!
  • Hats. Blocking hats can be a challenge, but with a little ingenuity you can come up with a solution that works for you. Head forms are available and can be used much like the sock blockers we mentioned above. Otherwise, search your home for objects that might be repurposed temporarily: Blocking a beret? Check out your stash of dinner plates. Blocking a beanie? Try blowing up a balloon to approximately the right size.

We hope that these tips and tricks above have helped you navigate blocking your projects. We can’t wait to see what you create! Please share your projects with us using the #zenyarngarden hashtag on Instagram.

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how to block your hand knits like a pro - tutorial on the Zen Yarn Garden blog


6 comments


  • Zen Yarn Garden

    Celeste: Some soaps are designed to be non rinsable. It really depends what soap it is.

    LR: The shawl is Purl Break Shawl and available on Ravelry.

    Lynda: If you look on Amazon for a steamer they have many different options.


  • Celeste Wilson

    Don’t you have to rinse out the soap with clear water after soaking?


  • Sharon

    Very helpful!! Thank you. PS— I have used Zen yarn and it’s beautiful and creates a fabulous project!!


  • LR

    Is the pattern for the shawl used in the photo for steam blocking in your “How to block…” post available? Please share the pattern name/source.


  • Lynda In Oregon

    What kind of steamer do you recommend? All the hand-held steamers I’ve seen are designed to be used on a garment that is hanging up. If you turn them to steam “down” instead of “out”, they dribble water and/or don’t work as efficiently.


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