People often ask me what blocking means. In the “olden days”, before there were washable yarns, woolen garments had to be soaked and pinned into shape to get them to look good, and possibly stretch them out a bit to fit the growing child. With newer superwash wool and other fibers, the strict blocking of most garments has gone by the wayside.
Simply laundering the finished knitted item according to the instructions on the ball band is my tried and true method. For a list of explanations about all of the funny looking laundry symbols and their meanings, click here.
I can’t explain some knitters’ fear of taking care of a garment. Have you ever washed a baby or child? Maybe the first bath for a newborn is traumatic for a new parent, but after that first one, it gets easy! Think about it: mild temperature, mild soap, do not twist or wring the baby (sweater), wrap in a towel to dry. Ok, maybe with a garment you might have to wrap it in dry towels a few times to get the extra water out. And perhaps you won’t lay the baby flat to dry, but you get the idea, right?
Most superwash wool can be laundered in the machine on gentle, low temperature and put in the dryer on a low heat setting. I KNOW! Who knew? Actually, superwash wool is a wool fiber that has been specially treated to make it washable. Again, the band on the yarn will let you know what to do about laundering. If you don’t know what fiber the fabric is, it is always acceptable to hand wash the item like a baby. You can always place a damp item on a towel to dry, changing the towel every once in awhile as it soaks up moisture.
Since I live in Southern California, I have a lot of cotton sweaters. I wash them with Eucalan in the machine on a gentle cycle. If they seem really wet when I remove them from the washer, I place them in the dryer for about 5-10 minutes.
Occasionally, knitters come across a yarn label that says dry clean only. Well, that’s up to you. Sometimes I believe that the manufacturer is covering their (bases) so that they don’t get in trouble when you accidentally wash the item in hot water and place it in a hot dryer, and you get a sweater for your dog. I have never sent any hand knit item to the dry cleaner.
The only time that I really “block” something is when it is lace.
You will need:
A sink or basin to soak the item. I have a top loading washing machine, so for larger items, I use that as my sink.
A few old bath towels.
Plenty of rust proof pins. If you don’t know if they are rust proof, buy new ones. Ask me how I know.
Optional: Non rinse wool wash.
Optional: Get yourself a pack of four large foam floor tiles at your local big box store, or online. These are exceedingly cheap, easy to store and wipe clean.
Soak the piece in room temperature water for at least 20 minutes. This allows the knitting to absorb the water fully and relax in the water. You can squish it with your hands if you like. (I personally love squishing my knitting!) Unless the item needs a cleaning, plain water is fine. You may add some non-rinse wool wash such as Eucalan. I do not recommend the grocery store wool wash.
Drain the water, roll the item in clean, old towels to get all of the excess moisture out. Why old towels? If they have had plenty of use then the color of the towel will not get on the garment. If the yarn has excess dye in it, you won’t have to worry if it gets on the old towel.
Now comes the fun part! Using your foam mats or clean carpet, pin out the lace starting at the middle top and bottom and work your way out to the edges and sides. Use lots of pins and push the garment gently with your hands to open the lace work and straighten the edges. Pay special attention to any points or curves, stretching the points gently and using more pins around curves. You will have to go back over the work several times to get everything lined up and satisfactory. Make sure you don’t have dimple marks where the pins are holding the knitting. Don’t pull the knitting out too far to stretch the item bigger, as this puts excess strain on the fiber.
Let the piece dry completely. And by completely, I mean ALL THE WAY! You can’t be in a hurry for this step. Place a fan on the item if you live in a humid area. This sets the stitches into position, and they should hold until you wear the garment a lot or need to launder it again.
So there it is. Difficult? No. You can’t hurt the knitting. It doesn’t say “owie” when you put the pins in it. Like a baby, it likes a bath to keep it fresh.
Now you know how! Try it! -Martha