To Block or Not to Block? That is the Question

Hi There!

Madrona Scarf Better

I’ve been thinking more about blocking.  I know that’s solid evidence that I am a knitting geek.  (As if there was any question about that!)

I was surprised by the group I visited and told you about in this post.  How could such accomplished knitters not routinely block their work? I talked to a knitting friend.  She didn’t find it surprising and said that lots of knitters don’t block their finished products. I believe her words were, “Not everyone blocks all the time the way you do. You are the Queen of Blocking.”  Not sure how I feel about that . . .

There are some knitted items you really need to block, some you shouldn’t block and a lot in the middle.

To Block

Clearly, you must block lace.  As Evelyn Clark says in her book Knitting Lace Triangles, “Lace often looks limp and lumpy when it comes off the needles, and blocking is the simple process that brings out its beauty.” The picture above shows the Madrona Scarf Evelyn has designed for the 15th Madrona Fiber Arts Conference with the lower section blocked and the upper section not.

I am knitting a sample of the scarf for Jorstad Creek yarns in their Brynn Icelandic yarn.  Kerry Graber will have kits of the yarn, beads and pattern at the conference in February.  I blocked the first few inches I knit to be sure she liked the gauge and the beads before proceeding to knit the whole scarf.  And so, I have a blocked and unblocked section.

To Block, or Pat or Something

You have to do something with sweaters.  Fortunately, there are a lot of options.

Blocking Europa Body

With a sweater, I often block some of the pieces separately, before assembly.  That’s what the picture shows with the body pieces of my Customfit cardigan.

Connecting the shoulders helps me get the pieces the same size.  I only attach the sleeves before blocking if the sweater has a dropped shoulder which is not a current style. In the picture, I’ve used blocking wires at the front and back hem and pins elsewhere.  Because there is waist shaping in the body of the sweater (not at the seams) I have not pinned the middle of the sides, which could work against the shaping.

It also works just fine to assemble the entire sweater and then block.  It does take longer to dry because there are two or more layers in most places.

Sometimes it works to just pat the sweater into shape and let it dry with no pins.  Meg Swanson of Schoolhouse Press highly recommends this approach. Some people might not call this approach blocking but who would want to say, “I need to go pat my sweater”?

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

There are a lot of knitted products which you could block or not.  Socks, hats, and afghans (or throws as they are now called) are in this group.

Not to Block

Diagonal Ridge DetailDiagonal Ridge 2

Sometimes blocking is not indicated. A couple of examples:

  • Ribbing shouldn’t be blocked because a key feature of ribbing is its elasticity, the way it holds the bottom of the sweater into the body. Blocking stretches out the ribs so that the fabric is no longer elastic.
  • Some pattern stitches shouldn’t be blocked.  One example of this is the pattern stitch in the pictures, “Diagonal Ridges” from the Harmony Lace and Eyelets stitch dictionary. Blocking would work against the ridges and flatten out the knitted piece, which could be beautiful, but no longer a ridge.

And So

I must admit I am a dedicated blocker.  I routinely block my gauge swatch and usually block the first few inches of the first garment piece to be sure I am working at the right gauge and that I will like the fabric in the final product.

I guess that does make me a “Queen of Blocking”. . . it is certainly better than “Knitting Geek.”

Thanks for dropping by. I’m off to more KnitKnot Adventures.



One thought on “To Block or Not to Block? That is the Question

  1. Pingback: Spiral Cowl | KnitKnot Adventures

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