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Finish with flair — The joys of blocking.

Finish with flair — The joys of blocking.

As a knitter, blocking and gauge swatches are the awkward cousins that everyone feels guilty about avoiding at a party. You know you *should* talk to them, but there are lots of other people to see who are sooooo much more interesting. 

We’re proud to report that we’ve had a lot of converts to gauge swatching in the Ramona KAL — and hallelujah for that! When you take time to swatch, your knit or crocheted projects will reliably fit you, and no more gorilla arms or hats that would fit a grapefruit.

“Oh, I don’t do blocking. I’m too eager to wear it!” Yep, we’ve been there and we’ve heard it.

We’re here to share the gospel of blocking. Let’s start with what it is, then we’ll get to how to do it.

Soak your project, remove the water, and let it dry. (It’s that simple.)

Blocking gives your yarn a chance to relax, like a visit to the spa. 

Knitters and crocheters often talk about how a yarn will “bloom” after blocking. What they mean is that after an item is blocked, some yarns (depending on the fiber content) will fluff up a little, get a bit softer, or develop a little halo of fibers.

This is why it’s essential to block your gauge swatch, so you can have an accurate sense of what your finished fabric will look and feel like.

A perfect example is the Santa Cruz and La Pampa yarns (Juniper Moon Farm) that some folks are using for their Ramona sweaters. Before washing, these two yarns can feel a bit sturdy or stiff, particularly La Pampa. After blocking a swatch, it feels surprisingly different and so much softer and lighter. 

Phase one — Take your project to the spa.

Fill a clean sink or small basin with cool water. 

Next, submerge your sweater gently. (We’ll use a  sweater as our example item, but this method of blocking applies to all knit or crocheted projects). Use your hands to submerge it, and you’ll notice little air bubbles as the water fills all the fluffy spaces between the fibers. 

Then walk away and do something else for at least 15 minutes. 

It’s the perfect amount of time to brew a cup of tea and grab your other project, because let’s be honest, we know you’ve got something else on your needles or hook! If you forget your sweater in the sink for a while, no worries.

Phase two — Drain it. 

Find a large kitchen colander (the one you use for a big pot of pasta is perfect), and bring it to the sink. 

Carefully scoop up your sweater and let it drain over the sink for a moment. You’re not squeezing or wringing it, just holding it in your hands.

Then plop the wet sweater into your colander, drain the water from the sink, and put the colander and project back into the sink. The gravity of your sweater’s own weight will remove some of the excess water. You can leave it in the colander to rest, maybe turning it once if you think of it.

Phase three — Grab your supplies.

For certain types of items, especially lace, you need fancy equipment for blocking like pins and wires. 

Blocking kits are really cool interlocking mats to facilitate even drying of your projects, and because they are modular they’re great for projects of all sizes. We sell the Cocoknits blocking kit, which is excellent quality. 

Grab two large towels to remove the excess water. And if you don’t have a blocking kit, grab four towels in total.

If your pattern includes a schematic of dimensions for the finished item, like the Ramona patterns do, have your pattern and a tape measure handy.

A fan is helpful, but if you have a sunny flat surface near a window that will work too. Some resourceful knitters have been known to use a fireplace screen — just lay a towel right on top and you’ll have all sorts of air circulation underneath.

Phase four — Time for blocking!

Find some floor space and lay down one of your towels. 

Next, take your sweater and lay it on a towel — your sweater will be awkward, floppy, and wet. (If it’s wool, it will smell of wet sheep.) As you lay it out, do your best not to have any wrinkles in the sweater, and shape it generally into form — we’ll get to more precise shaping in a bit. 

Lay the other towel on top of the sweater, and roll up the towel-sweater-towel sandwich into a log shape. In your bare feet, stand on it, slowly moving down the log. Your weight will squeeze out some of the excess water from your sweater.  

Now take your damp sweater to your blocking mats or second pair of towels on a flat surface — that could be your floor, a table, desk or spare bed. Lay it out, nudging it or patting it gently into shape with your hands. 

If you have a schematic, take out your measuring tape and measure the dimensions of your sweater, checking it against the pattern schematic. If your sweater needs to be stretched a bit or narrowed in places, you can “scoonch it” out or in with your hands (“scoonching” is a non-technical term, made-up by Kristin).

Drying time!

Depending on the weight of your yarn, it may take up to a day to dry your sweater. Use a fan to hasten the process along.

After a few hours, gently turn your sweater over to air dry the other side. 

Thanks to blocking, your sweater will have a finished look after it dries, and is now ready to wear.

Oh — and if you’re knitting a cardigan, after blocking is the right time to add your buttons.

Blocking your project will do wonders for your knit or crocheted projects… and do we hope we’ve converted you!

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Linda - December 12, 2023

Thanks for all that great advice around blocking! I will put it to great use.
And I love the beige cardigan pictured at the end. Perhaps I can find the pattern on Ravelry? I can’t wait for my next project.

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