Blocking. It remains a subject of discussion! Some find it superfluous. Others see the benefits but are afraid to ruin their yarns in the process. Don’t worry, each yarn can be blocked by using one of various methods. I always block religiously, as it feels like the final step of finishing a crochet piece.
It makes the difference between a piece that is done, and a piece that is finished.
Just look at the drape of this Feather and Fan shawl. Believe me, it didn’t look like this when I finished crocheting. But I didn’t worry, because I knew how much blocking can do for the appearance and drape of crochet.
Advantages of blocking
Blocking usually involves wetting your stitches with water (more on that later). By doing so, you will see a couple of changes:
- If you are blocking your work you are redistributing the tension in your piece, in a good way. Some stitches will hold a bit more or less tension compared to other stitches, as that just happens when we crochet (we’re all human after all!). By soaking your piece in water or wetting it, the tension in the stitches is divided more equally making for a more even looking piece with an increased stitch definition.
- Blocking also makes your piece much, much softer! When you crochet, you agitate your yarn slightly (by pulling loops through loops, which rubs some of the yarn the wrong way). When you are relaxing your fibers, your item immediately becomes more supple and softer.
- If you’re working with lace patterns or motifs that have spaces in between, blocking and stretching it ever-so-slightly will make the motifs in your piece much more visible and neater, as your item will not be ‘crumpled up’ as much.
- You can work away small size inconsistencies and straighten out borders. We’ve all been there: an edging that doesn’t want to sit straight, or is a bit wavy even though you follow the pattern. By blocking you can work around these annoyances to a certain degree.
- Blocking helps you prevent bleeding. Sometimes, if you have a bright or dark colour next to a lighter colour your colour might bleed into the lighter shade, due to excess dye in the yarn. This is such a waste of hard work! Thankfully the risk of colour bleeding can be reduced by wet blocking your items.
Misconceptions surrounding blocking
As I’ve been a crocheter for a while now I’ve heard and seen a couple of misconceptions about blocking that don’t seem to go away.
‘I don’t block, because after washing my hard work will be undone anyway.’
Nope. not true! Blocking relaxes the stitches, but it also ‘sets’ them in the way you want. Of course, when you wash your item and leave it as a crumpled mess to dry, your hard work will not show. But basically when you wash you’re giving your item a small blocking treatment. When you leave it in shape to dry, you remain most of the benefits such as relaxed fibers and softer yarn. What I recommend is ‘ironing’ your item with your hands. So gently stretch your piece a bit in shape, smoothing out any creases before leaving it to dry naturally. It only takes a minute of your time!
‘I use acrylic fibers and they can’t be blocked’
That’s only half true. Acrylic consists of 100% manmade fibers and do not respond to blocking as well as natural fibers do. But, acrylic yarns can certainly benefit from a proper blocking treatment! Although the piece won’t really get softer, blocking still helps you get an increased stitch definition and helps you get your edges straight. In the end, it just helps you to give your piece an extra bit of ‘pow’!
‘I don’t block my items because they will felt.’
First of all: this can only happen with natural fibers. Acrylic fibers simply can’t felt. If there’s an indication of ‘superwash’ on your label, you also don’t have to be afraid of felting as your yarn has been made washable (usually by adding a small amount of acrylic to the yarn). The felting of natural fibers only occurs when you have the combination of (warm) water, soap and agitation. During blocking you don’t agitate the yarn, so no felting will occur if you’re gentle with your pieces.
If you’re looking for blocking supplies, I’ve listed them here. You don’t need all blocking tools to start, but I’m sure you won’t regret having the ‘nice to haves’ such as sock blockers and blocking wires.
- Blocking mats (available on Woolwarehouse and on Loveknitting (US)). Boye also has very nice pre-gridded blocking mats, great for motifs!.
- T-pins. I’d definitely choose T-pins over regular pins. They’re more sturdy, and easier to place. Whatever you choose, make sure they’re made out of stainless steel (available on Woolwarehouse and on Loveknitting (US))
- Eucalan, a leave-in yarn detergent. Technically it’s not necessary but I would heavily recommend it! (on Woolwarehouse and on Loveknitting (US))
Nice to have:
- Blocking wires (available on Amazon)
- Blocking boards (available on Woolwarehouse)
- Sock blockers, the name says it all. They’re to easily block your socks in shape. They are available in multiple sizes. (on Woolwarehouse and on Loveknitting (US))
Blocking comes in a variety of shapes, each one with its own pro’s and con’s. You have wet, spray, and steam blocking. To prevent this article from being to long, each method has its own page:
If you don’t know which method is suitable for your item, consider the following:
- You can wetblock every fiber
- You can sprayblock every fiber, but sprayblocking doesn’t remove the excess dye from yarn. So don’t use this method if you have used bright or very strong colours in your item.
- Steamblocking can be done with 100% cotton fibers and when done carefully with acrylic fibers too.
So after blocking (or making anything handmade in general) you want to take good care of your piece. There are a few things you might consider:
- Use a colour catcher. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes your yarns will run. Especially when you use lighter and darker colours right next to each other, there’s a small chance of colour bleeds. To prevent this, you can add a colour catcher to your laundry. It’s good practice for washing anything handmade really!
- When you wash your work, wash it by hand. It’s the least agitating for your yarn. If you don’t have the possibility to do so, choose the most gentle cycle on your machine (often wool wash) and prevent high temperatures. Acrylic can be washed on a regular low temperature cycle though.
- Let it dry naturally. Don’t put it in the dryer! It’s bad for most yarns, but also undoes a lot of your blocking work. Let it dry flat, ‘iron’ it a in shape with your hands and do not leave it in direct sunlight to prevent fading colours.