Love it or hate it, blocking IS magic.
Okay, that's a little dramatic.
But I know there are some of you who definitely don't tend to block your crocheting!
Sometimes, though, it is exactly the thing you need to really make your finished piece shine.
Take the Slice of Life Wrap/Scarf/Shawl whatever-you-want-to-call-it from the Sweet Shop issue of Moorit magazine.
With all those single crochet stitches and all those stair-stepped edges, it can get pretty curly! But a little wet blocking? It does wonders! Especially in wool yarns. Acrylic yarns may not block out quite so crisply, but if you find that it's still curling up along the edges, try pinning it back out and steam blocking it. Gently, though! Steam blocking actually melts the acrylic (plastic) fibers a skosh, so you want to apply that heat with care.
Let's take a look at how I like to wet block my crocheting.
First, you'll need some supplies:
No rinse wool wash (I've used Eucalan as well as Soak wash with no ill effects so far) or a small amount (think pea sized to start with) of Dawn dishsoap.
Cool to lukewarm water - hot water may make your colors bleed! It can also cause unwanted felting.
A sink, tub, or other recepticle to soak your project in for at least 20 minutes
A nice, absorbant towel to press out excess water.
A blocking surface, such as interlocking foam mats. You can buy these from craft stores OR kids stores! I do like the ones with the one inch squares printed on them, but they're not really necessary for more organically shaped pieces like the one I'm showing you today.
A ruler or tape measure if you want to ensure precision in your blocking.
Blocking wires and/or rust resistant pins. I like to use T-pins and I also sometimes use blockers (a tool with several pins in a row over an inch or three).
A relatively undisturbed location in which you can leave your project to dry for 24-48 hours, sometimes longer if it is a double layered project like a cowl or if you live in a humid environment.
Oh, and your finished project, of course! Ends woven in optional - some people prefer to sew in their ends after blocking, especially if you intend to block it agressively with a lot of stretching as this can pull ends loose or cause puckering if the ends were woven in too tightly.
I think that covers everything we'll need. Here are a few of my current favorites:
So. Let's get started!
First step is the bath.
I like to use lukwarm water in either the sink or the tub, depending on the size of the project I'm blocking, and I put my wool wash in (a quarter size amount will usually do, unless it's a blanket or another large piece) as the sink/tub is filling up so that it dissolves and disperses into the water evenly.
Let it soak a good long time. At least 20 minutes. I really prefer to leave it soaking for at least 30 minutes and for something really big, like an afghan, I'll let it soak for even longer. Usually not more than an hour, though.
The point of the long soak is to really allow that water to penetrate fully into the yarn, even in your denser stitches. Sure, you can squoosh and squeeze it in a bit, but a good, long soak is the easiest way to make sure it all gets wet through and through.
Using a rinse free wool wash makes it go a little faster because you don't have to spend extra time and water rinsing, but you still need to make sure there's plenty of water for it to soak in so that the water can easily move and flow through everything.
And just because it's labeled no rinse doesn't mean you can't rinse it if you want to! I like to give an extra rinse to any long-term projects like big blankets or items that have been toted around while I'm traveling. We want to make sure we wash all those oils from our hands out as well as any lingering crud like dust and dirt or crumbs that may or may not fall into our stitches as we work!
Here's how my latest version of Slice of Life looked before blocking:
Do you see how curly the edges are? That's totally normal! We've got a ton of single crochets in there and they do just love to curl up on themselves.
Once you've let your project relax in its bath for a while, it's time to drain out the water. The bigger the project, the more difficult this can be, but regardless you always want to be gentle!
Always support the weight of your project as evenly as possible while it's wet. Yarn gets heavier when it gets wet! This can make your stitches stretch out when you may not want them to if you allow the weight of the water to pull and stretch out your fabric.
Never wring out your crocheted fabric. Always gently press out the water, either against your hands, one to another, or against the side of your sink/tub.
It can be tempting to wring all that water out, I know!
But you must resist. Once you have expressed as much water as you can reasonably manage without wringing, it's time to press out some more water with a towel. I like to lay out my fabric on top of a towel (it doesn't have to be perfect but you do want to minimize folds) and then roll it up.
Press on your rolled up towel with your hands or knees or even stand and walk back and forth on it! So long as you're gentle, you shouldn't cause any damage to the fibers. You're simply pressing out excess water to be absorbed by the towel.
If you weren't able to remove much water before taking it to the towel, you may want to do it again with a second dry towel. I rarely need to do this, though. After you've removed most of the water, it's time to get creative!
Blocking and pinning is next.
Lay out your fabric on your blocking surface and gently shape it into a rough approximation of what you're aiming for.
Determine how much and where you want to stretch out the fabric. You may want to widen a scarf or lengthen it. You may want to exaggerate points, curves, or ends. You may want to square everything up nicely.
Whatever you decide, begin with small movements, pinning corners or pivotal locations first, working outwards as much as possible as you go. Sometimes, all you really need are a couple pins at the corners of a piece!
Other times, like with Slice of Life, you may want to break out the blocking wires or pin out all of your points (such as picots).
Here she is all pinned out:
Blocking wires can help you establish an overall shape and work really beautifully for curved pieces. I also like to use them when I have several points along an edge that I want blocked out evenly. It's just so much easier to do that with a blocking wire running through each point instead of trying to block each point out evenly individually!
Try it both ways, though, and do whatever you are most comfortable with. I've definitely gotten faster with blocking wires over the years than I started out being. It takes a little practice, but use the tools you have available to make your blocking time more effecient and effective.
For this one I ran the blocking wires through each point of that stair-stepped edge on both sides of the crescent shape, using 2 or 3 wires as needed so that I had at least 3-4 inches on each side after stretching the fabric out. If you're going to be close, go ahead and add an extra wire in, even if it's only for a few inches.
Ask me how frustrating it is to have to rethread stitches onto a blocking wire because I tried to put too many on one wire and then pulled them right off the end of it by accident...
Once you have your points/edges run through with the wire(s), then you can start finessing the shaping, using your pins to hold the wires in the shape that you want. You may have to go back and forth a bit as you stretch the fabric more here or less there and block out points.
And don't be afraid of organic lines! It really doesn't have to be perfect. And sometimes, it's more interesting when it isn't!
But blocking it out neatly can make a huge difference in the way your finished piece looks, from nice clean and crisp edges, to perfectly pointy picots, to that beautiful drape that happens after the final bath and blocking occurs.
Have a look at exactly how I wet blocked this unusually shaped shawl using blocking wires:
Ah, she's such a beauty!
No, not every project is going to block out as dramatically as this one did. Some projects you may not even really be able to tell a difference in. But in my experience, this final attention to detail is what takes a project from merely okay to wow, look at that I just want to touch it!
What are your experiences with blocking?
Do you do it every time or only when you absolutely have to? I'd love to hear about your stories, either way! Oh and if you haven't already ordered your copy, you can get the Sweet Shop issue of Moorit, which includes the pattern for Slice of Life, along with ten other fun designs, over at https://mooritmag.com/.
Happy blocking, y'all!
P.S. The fabulous yarn in this, my third sample of this pattern, is the Silky Merino Singles base from Serenity Fibers in a colorway called Don't Be Afraid.