Blocking, the all-important yet all-too-often skipped last step.

December 1, 2010 by admin

You find a great pattern, see the beautiful project in the photo, carefully check your gauge, crochet (or knit) the piece as perfectly as possible, but when you finish, it’s ok but….why doesn’t it look like that nice project in the photo?

Answer: You haven’t blocked the piece yet, have you?

Blocking is SO important for many knitted and crochet projects. As you work, the piece is naturally twisted and turned in different ways, so even if your stitches are perfectly even, without blocking, you won’t have the polished, professional, finished look that you probably desire. Blocking can flatten your piece, even out stitches, give the perfect shape to your piece, and soften the fibers. Just do it, PLEASE!!

What’s that? You’ve never heard of blocking before? Well yes, I suppose many patterns fail to mention this final step, so I don’t blame you. There are a few ways to block your work, but most often and most simply, it just means you wet your piece, lay it out flat (or for shaped pieces, stuff it) and allow it to dry. Lay your piece on something non-absorbent (I lay garbage bags out on the floor and put my wet pieces on the bags), and if you are stuffing your piece, also stuff with something non-absorbent (I use polyester fiberfill–the stuff toys are stuffed with–and would recommend it, but I’ve also heard of plastic wrap being used.)

You use something non-absorbant just so that the piece will dry properly without causing any stinky forgot-to-put-my-laundry-in-the-dryer smell.

Yepp it’s that easy. Wet, shape, dry. And yepp, it really is THAT important.

To demonstrate, I took some pictures of a scarf and some booties before and after blocking.

First, the scarf. I was experimenting with different stitches for scarves. This is made with beautiful merino wool and I didn’t want to waste it, so I kept making a scarf, pulling out all the stitches, and making a new one until I found the stitch I liked. By the final attempt, the yarn was really damaged. So the scarf just looked….terrible:

blocking-2

Yikes! But before giving up on it completely, I blocked it to see what would happen. I carried it to the tub, soaked it thoroughly, squeezed out the water, dabbed it some more with a towel, then laid it out on some trash bags :

process

Already looking better! And here’s the final result:

blocking-7

It’s not quite as good as new yarn, but its amazing how the stitches totally smoothed out, isn’t it? I even got some good enough shots to list this item on Etsy. But let me be clear, I would NEVER sell this on Etsy after re-using the yarn so many times; this will be MY scarf for the winter. Any purchased scarf will be made with NEW yarn!

For anyone curious about the stitch, it’s crochet. Super cool. Hefty like crochet, but very soft and elegent like knitting. To make the stitch, start with a row of half double crochets, then for each row after, you continue in half double crochets in the extra loop created by the half double crochet on the previous row.

Now, the booties. Here are the booties BEFORE blocking:

blocking-1

Yuck! A lumpy bumpy mess! But after blocking:

blocking-5

Ahhhhhh, perfection.

I hope this helped some of you; let me know, and also feel free to suggest anything else you would like me to blog about. Thanks for reading!

36 thoughts on “Blocking, the all-important yet all-too-often skipped last step.

  1. Blanca says:

    Wow, I didn’t even know this was possible.
    Can’t wait to try it out! :)

  2. Wendy says:

    Hi Jenn, I would like to know if you have any tutorial for making the ballet lace? As I was thinking to make some bookmarks string. Thank you.

    • Jenn says:

      Hi Wendy, I’m not sure what you mean by ballet lace, do you mean the twisted cords on my booties that tie around the ankle? If so, I don’t have a tutorial, but I did a quick google search, and this video should help: http://www.knittingatknoon.com/TwCord.mpg

      Basically, you take some yarn or string, fold in half, and twist it over and over. After twisting, you fold it in half again, and it automatically twists into a nice cord. Hope that’s what you needed!

  3. Romi says:

    Hi Jenn: Thank you again for your blocking tutorial. As I do not use any animal fibers in my projects, I wonder if you are firm in your view that blocking applies to everything crocheted. Thank you. Keep Sending your elegant ideas. Romi

    • Jenn says:

      Blocking doesn’t apply to everything crocheted, for example I don’t block my flowers. Blocking is for things that need to be smoothed and evened out. A blanket, scarf, booties, clothing..

      Blocking can certainly be done on man-made fibers. Acrylic, cotton, wool, doesn’t matter. But you shouldn’t block novelty yarns–the hairy fuzzy stuff, those yarns can sometimes be ruined by soaking, so check the yarn label first.

  4. Emma says:

    All I can say is THANKS! I am very new to crocheting and had no idea about this! I haven’t warn some of my new crocheted items because they are, well, bumpy and a mess. I’ll try this today on some slippers I just finished for my mum!

  5. keisha says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I am new to crocheting and would like to make some cute things as gifts and was wondering how I was going to get my blankets to look *right*… This might sound like questions with obvious answers, but do you do the blocking process before the first laundering, or can you launder you item and then block it while it’s still wet? Does a piece have to be re-blocked each time it gets wet (i.e., is laundered)?

    • Jenn says:

      Sure, you can block it while it’s wet from washing. You don’t really have to do anything, just lay it out flat to dry, and if you want a very specific shape, pin it down.
      It doesnt have to be blocked each time. Blocking the first time will soften it and even out the stitches, but washing will do the same thing. So after you wash it, blocking is really just for initial presentation.

  6. keisha says:

    Thank you! I’m excited to know just what to do for those pesky curly corners. :-) (And NOW, I’m going to bookmark this blog so I don’t lose it again!)

  7. Pearl says:

    I just want to thank you so very much for this post! I’ve heard of blocking but never seen it done and after someone posted the link for your crochet rose on Knitting Paradise I made it. Love it! And decided to check out the rest of your blog.

    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Wow! Never ever heard of blocking before, but I’m definitely going to try it out, as your results turned out great!!
    Thanks for sharing, it’s a shame how most patterns don’t mention this step! :)

  9. Charlotte says:

    Hi, i’m so in love with the little shoes, but i want to know if it is possible to have a pattern of this so i can make them for my baby.
    Thanks a lot. Best greetings,Charlotte

  10. marta says:

    socorrooooooo, ┬┐que es el bloqueo?
    me encantan tus creaciones.

  11. Chrisann says:

    Hi Jenn, thank you for your Blocking tutorial. I pick up Crochet recently, as you mentioned the material used for the scraf is merino wool, would like to know is there a need to squeeze out water after hand wash/ wet the piece ? I do not know how to wash wool material, always bring it for dry clean. Thank you and Best Regards, Chrisann

    • Jenn says:

      Hi Chrisann,

      Yes you should squeeze out or towel dry the excess water from the piece before laying it out to dry. Blocking makes an unbelievable difference in wools—it’ll be way softer and drapier after. And don’t get scared when the wool gets stinky after it’s wet — the smell will go away once it’s dry :)

  12. Bari Jo says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I didn’t realize you could lay things out on plastic… I thought I would need to use a towel – because I thought the plastic would make things smell…. I am anxious to try it. I have given away many baby blankets that were not blocked and I blocked my first one – what a difference!!!!!!! They were acrylic and I thought acrylic didn’t need blocking… but it made a difference! Wow!!! I am excited to purchase your pattern on easy for the booties. I was wondering about the flowers for the ballet slippers and headband.. do you sell those also? I sent you an email from your etsy shop before I buy. Thanks for the great info! I finished your knit look scarf – the pattern was GREAT! The bummer was that I was a little disappointed in the yarn I picked – but I bet blocking will make all the difference – I am excited to try it! Thanks for sharing this info with us!

  13. Sharae says:

    Question. If I want to add fringe to a scarf, do I block the scarf before or after I add the fringe?

    • Jenn says:

      Sharae–block after you add the fringe, then you can lay out the the fringe nicely so that it dries straight and beautiful.

  14. Catrina says:

    Thank you so much! I’m just starting to crochet again and wanted to make a scarf but it looked bulky and awful so i started a blanket instead. I’m off to buy some new wool to make a scarf.

  15. Mary says:

    How do you block booties? I only have blocked flat things… Thanks!

  16. Suzanne Villalobos says:

    Your concerns of pre-crochet vs “polished” blocked items was my exact concern. Thanks so much for sharing this information and also taking the fear out of it. I’m excited to move on now with my prized projects for Christmas gifts. Thank you so much.

  17. meriam says:

    hello i just need ur help what about after blocking i mean i’m doing thread crochet tablecloth for my mother and i know that i have to block ot which is easy after reading ur post what about when she uses the table cloth for a while and need to clean it do i have to block the piece for ever or what and i heard about starch spray how to use it plz give me steps and is it going to save me the ace of blocking every time or what i’m little confused

    • Jenn says:

      Well.. the answers aren’t clear cut, to me anyway. First of all I have never used starch spray so I can’t answer about that. I think you have to starch after every time you wash though.

      After you finish making something, it’s sorta stretched out from your hands working with it. So you wet it and let it dry flat to block it. After you wash it, if you let it dry naturally, it will sort of naturally block its self. It’s not going to go back to the wonkiness it has after you first make it. But after you wash it, the original blocking doesn’t last. So technically, you block it every time you wash it… but all this means is, lay it out flat to dry. If you hang it up, it will dry all stretched out.

      Hopefully that helps a bit.

  18. Nakia says:

    Great tips. I’ve always wondered how block shaped pieces. I have some booties that will be getting this treatment today. I noticed you didn’t mention pinning the items you are blocking. Is that not something you do?

    • Jenn says:

      Usually I block scarves and booties for my shop, and I don’t pin either of those. I pinned scarves originally, but then realized it was unnecessary, at least for the scarves I make. But if the exact shape something dries in is important—-maybe a sweater, or a doily, then pinning is definitely helpful.

  19. Sophie says:

    Hi!
    Thank you!
    I did my first blocking on towels like another website said, and the smell on my project! Yak
    Then I did your way with the plastic bag an THANK You!!
    No smell!
    Merci merci merci

  20. julia says:

    I recently crocheted myself a pair of slippers with leather soles. Since the yarn is already attached to the leather, do you have any tips on how to block it? I am afraid that the water and wool wash would damage the leather. Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hmm that’s kinda tough. My suggestion would be to use a spray bottle to dampen the yarn while avoiding the leather. After spraying it, you can work the water into the yarn with your fingers. That should work pretty well.

  21. Monique says:

    Hi Jenn,

    I made a crochet amigurumi (stuffed toy) tree. So the trunk is stuffed and I don’t need to block it as the shape is well given by the stuffing. My problem is the leaves that are all twisting on themselves (so bad that my boyfriend was wondering what I made) but if I untwist the leaves it’s beautiful. Now, I can soak the leaves in water, but since the pattern is 3D, I cannot really flatten the leaves on something (like pinning onto something). Also, I made it in 100% wool yarn, so I guess I shouldn’t manipulate it too much while it’s wet to prevent felting.
    I was thinking of squeezing each leaf into two small pieces of plastic canvas (like those: http://www.amazon.com/Darice-Stiff-Plastic-Canvas-12×18-Clear/dp/B0018N26NC) so that each leaf can dry in position. I thought that the plastic canvas would keep the flat shape and let the water dry at the same time. I thought of using some clothespins or rubber bands to hold the two pieces together.

    I would like to know what you think about it and/or if you wouldn’t have any better idea.

    Thank you so much

    • admin says:

      Hmm, I think plastic canvas sounds like a pretty good idea! Blocking makes a huge difference with wool in my experience, pieces I’ve made with wool are way softer and lose the stiffness they had before blocking. So hopefully those leaves will relax and open up after you block it. I’d love to see how it turns out!

  22. Olivia says:

    You are soooooo patient… Bless you.

  23. Monique says:

    Hello Jenn,

    I have an other question for you. Can I use the yarn again for another project after blocking? I am thinking about my leaves again and I wander if I can use the yarn again to correct them if I realize the final appearance is not like I thought it would be. I mean, I think that once block it will look great but if not, I’m thinking of just undoing them and try to do it again another way. Because once the yarn is felted for example, you can’t use it again right? Is it the same for blocking?

    (Yes, haven’t done it yet. I finally found some plastic canvas to do it and this question pop up in my head. lol)

    Thanks a lot again,

    • admin says:

      You can re-use yarn after you block, but it works best if after you undo your work, you wrap the yarn around something (I wrap it around a clothes hanger) and use a spray bottle to wet it, then let it dry. Then you’ll have nice smooth yarn again. If you block it and then undo it, it’ll be super kinky yarn, so it doesn’t always work well if you reuse it without smoothing it out first.

  24. Cindy says:

    Never knew about blocking either! I will try it. Have you completed the adorable bootie pattern? I’m ready to purchase the pattern!

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