5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BLOCK YOUR FINISHED PIECES

Today I want to share some of my experience with you. I’ll tell you why I don’t like to block my finished pieces and give you an alternative that I find more natural and gentle for the fibers of my projects.

First things first: what is blocking?

Blocking is a method of stretching and shaping a finished knitted piece to reach the dimensions suggested in the pattern. It’s also used to make two pieces that need to match the same size or to make your stitches look nicer and more even.

A blocked cardigan

A blocked cardigan

Wait a minute! That actually doesn’t sound too bad! Knitted projects often won’t come out perfect as soon as you bind off so shouldn’t you use blocking to tell the stitches where to sit?

Well, let me tell you. I’ve been knitting for half a century now (Oh, am I really that old!?) and here is why I usually don’t block my finished pieces:

  1. First of all blocking won’t make up for those stitches you forgot to decrease or that little section where you went off pattern. It’s hard to hide knitting mistakes.
  2. Blocking can mistreat your piece, fibers will suffer from being forced to do something they don’t want to do naturally.
  3. I like my pieces fluffy; naturally taking their shape and staying true to my work.
  4. Blocking cannot make up for sizing issues. If the sleeves on a knitted garment are too short you need to add some extra rows.
  5. In the end blocking a piece into shape will only last until you wash the piece. As I mentioned before textile fibers have a life of their own and they don’t like to be forced into a shape they’re not designed to go.

Having said that there are situations when blocking makes sense: For example the art of lace knitting. Here you should use blocking to show the lace knitting by stretching the piece out and pin it to a grid to open it up. You will not mistreat the piece in that case because you worked all the openings into the shawl.

Blocked lace shawl

Blocking Lace is an option since it won’t hurt the fibers.

As you might know by now I love to do things my way and I have so much fun thinking out of the box. When I created SKEINO’s Miss Grace Free Form Shawl I could have blocked the piece but I didn’t. Here is how I treated my finished piece. If you purchased the kit this might be an inspiration for you once you’re finished with your knitting.

Firstly I gently machine-washed the shawl using a mild detergent. The yarn is superwash so machine-washing is a wonderful feature about this shawl. After that I spun the piece at high speed and dried it in a machine dryer at low temperature for 3 min. Then I put the shawl outside on a warm tile surface into the sun (Here’s where the Florida climate comes in handy!). Not forcing it, I perfectly shaped the triangle the way the shawl allowed me do it. Resting on top of the warm tiles I let the Miss Grace Shawl dry in the sun. The piece came out great. It was perfectly shaped with wonderful memory, great drape and wrinkle free both now and into the future.

SKEINO Miss Grace Shawl drying in the sun after washing

This is the original Miss Grace Shawl model resting on hot tiles and drying in the sun.

Conclusion

As we said blocking will not make up for any mistakes in knitting, material or size. It’s merely a process to help you shape your piece after knitting it up. But there are alternatives:

A scarf, shawl, cowl or even a poncho and a cape should be cuddly and drape well. Wash your piece gentle by hand or in a machine (if it’s a superwash yarn). Don’t be afraid to spin it, the drum only runs in one direction and will not felt your piece. It’s the agitation (back and forth) that causes a piece to felt. The dryer is a very good tool to make your piece fluffy but watch the temperature and the timing – it’s crucial! Stay close to the dryer and test the progress every few minutes to be sure that you don’t ruin the piece. It should always come out damp for the final air dry. If you have a warm, sunny surface let your piece dry in a shape it allows you to.

What are your experiences with blocking? Are there any arguments pro or contra blocking that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the Comments section!

Love,

Bjorn

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8 thoughts on “5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BLOCK YOUR FINISHED PIECES

  1. I’ve been tossing hand knit and crochet items in the washer and dryer for years, using pretty much the same method you do (even when the wool isn’t superwash). It really works. With non-superwash wool, I put the item in the washer with nothing else using the cold water only setting and a little mild detergent then agitate on gentle cycle for only a few minutes (never the entire cycle), spin to get the excess water out, then put it in the dryer on the delicate cycle but take it out after a few minutes while it’s still damp. Then I lay it out on a towel to dry completely. Nothing has ever been harmed and my items are always cleaner and fluffier than from hand washing and stretch blocking while still almost soaking wet. Caveat, I don’t ever knit lace (just not my cuppa tea) so this method works for everything I make.

  2. I guess I’m a little confused. In my mind, if you are washing the piece in any way, shape, or form, laying it to dry to a certain shape (even if not attempting to meet measurements on a schematic) and then laying it out to dry… you ARE blocking an item. Hard-blocking with pins, wires, and a measuring tape? Not necessarily, but that’s still a form of blocking in my book.

    Personally, I don’t think that points 1, 4, or 5 are valid reasons not to block. 1 & 4 are based on mistakes that… no, of course blocking won’t fix – it doesn’t even seem like a rational expectation that blocking would fix them, and 5… I have mass-produced clothing off the rack that tells me I should reshape it after each wash. I’m certainly not going to avoid washing a storebought sweater just to avoid reshaping it! If I have a cowl that I make and wear on a regular basis, even if it’s not lacy, I’m not just going to toss it on a drying rack. I am going to take some care to at least get it back to my favorite size/shape, make sure that I’ve tugged so that structural/design details show… and that’s blocking.

    As far as point 2 goes, if blocking “mistreats” the piece and results in a finished product that unacceptable in some way, then the crafter has likely chosen the wrong blocking method. I’d never immerse a cotton sweater in cool water for 30 minutes and then hang it to dry, for example. That’s a sign of a crafter who hasn’t done a thorough job of researching good practice in fabric/fiber care prior to embarking on a project.

    For point 3, if a crafter blocks so severely that elasticity/”sproing factor” in the yarn disappears, then that’s blocking gone wrong. You shouldn’t kill the fabric’s give during the blocking process.

    Not all blocking is equal, that’s for sure, but in my opinion, it’s inaccurate to say that what you do isn’t blocking.

    • Thank you for your comment. Opinions are welcome! In my mind blocking refers to what you call “hard blocking” using pins and forcing a garment to shape in a non-natural way. This will eventually harm the fibers and the garment will go back to its original shape anyway. So I think we are on the same page here. You seem to be very experienced with textiles. However I experienced many cases where knitters would block their pieces as described in the post and that’s why I wrote it. Thank you, Bjorn

      • Understood – I think, in that case, you’d present a more accurate picture if you discussed what you consider your definition of blocking to be at the outset. Otherwise, this post gives far too narrow a definition of “blocking” without any further context. In any number of standard knitting references (from the Yarn Harlot’s book Knitting Rules to Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting), the blocking process is described in numerous ways and gives specific details on how to handle particular fibers to avoid all the problems you cite.

    • Thank you!!! You could not have summed up my thoughts any better. I was horrified reading this blog post. Hopefully new knitters will come down and read these comments and not take the post at face value.

      • I’ve been knitting for decades and never blocked a thing, though all knits were ‘dried flat’; that’s it. In fact I have never heard of the term until I started reading blogs and watching Youtube recently. I wash everything in the machine, even cashmere sweaters in cold water and wool wash then dry flat. Obviously my knits look more ‘homemade’ – that’s OK by me though I appreciate that others may want a different result.

  3. Pingback: No, you SHOULD totally block your finished pieces | alcesmystax

  4. Pingback: 3 TIPS ON FINISHING YOUR KNITTING PROJECT | skeinoblog

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