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Tips for When You Don't Have A Blocking Board

Dec 3, 2008

Spray blocking on a blocking board

After years of blocking my knitting and crocheting on kitchen counters, floors, and dryer tops, I finally broke down one day and bought an Official Blocking Board. All that time, I'd been telling myself that I didn't need anything fancier—that is, until I started dealing with a serious lace habit. One day, I tried blocking my newest shawl on a makeshift foam board that I thought was waterproof ... but guess what. It wasn't. The board warped as the shawl dried, and the shawl warped along with it. I ended up having to re-block the shawl all over again. (Not fun, especially when I was anxious to wear it and show it off!)

A blocking board definitely makes the task of blocking a lace shawl easier, but you don't need an Official Blocking Board to do the job well. Knitters have been using mattresses, towel-padded floors, and other ingenious solutions throughout history.

 



Whatever creative solution you come up with for use as a blocking surface, be sure to keep these guidelines in mind:

Use the right surface for the task. A kitchen counter-top or a table padded with towels works fine for pieces that can be simply patted into shape. For items that need to be pinned out, such as lace shawls, you can try waterproof foam-core boards, an ironing board (for small pieces), or cork bulletin boards (covered with towels). Someone once suggested those interlocking rubber floor mats used for children's play areas—I thought that was rather clever.

Make sure the surface is water-friendly. All blocking methods involve water in some way, so make sure that water will not ruin whatever you are using. Note: This includes surfaces that may have dyes that might bleed through when wet!

Make sure that the surface is easily accessible. If you have arthritis in your knees, a set of rubber mats on the floor may not be the best choice for you, especially for anything lacy that takes a long time to pin out.

Your blocking surface has to be big enough for the biggest dimension of your knitting. You can't really block half of a scarf at a time, so the top of the dryer won't work well for large or long pieces.

The surface has to be something you won't need to use for other things for a day or three whilst your piece is drying. I've known some knitters to use their bed for blocking; this can be problematic if the knitting will take days to dry (unless you like sleeping on the floor).

Put your blocking out of the way. Your blocked piece needs to be undisturbed until it is completely dry, so keep
 it out of range of cats, kids, dogs, and well-meaning housemates.

The comments on a previous post here contain dozens of clever ideas for blocking surfaces from your fellow readers, so check them out! And be sure to leave your own tips in today's comments, because no doubt some of you have even more great ideas from your own experiences.

-- Sandi

 


 

Sandi's Pick: Stocking Stuffer Idea

Does your family fill your stocking with toothbrushes and little bars of herbal soap at Christmas? Those are nice and all, but wouldn't you really rather have something knitterly? There are, after all, plenty of little things that fit in your stocking that aren't just your average stitch markers...And your family may think (silly them!) that you already have all the stitch markers and wee pairs of scissors you could ever need. (They're wrong, of course, but that can be a tough sell.) So maybe they need a little hint?

How about The Harmony Guides 101 Stitches to Knit Card Deck? The cards--each with a different stitch pattern--are a nice readable (yet portable) size (5.25" by 6.5"); they're quite sturdy, with rounded corners to help prevent damaging the edges. The front of the card has a color photo of the stitch, and the back has the full step-by-step instructions for the stitch. The stitches are favorites from The Harmony Guide series: some are from the Lace & Eyelets book, some are from the Cables & Arans book, and some are from the Knit & Purl book, so you get a little of everything! The set comes with an 8-page insert that tells how to use the cards.

And lest you think we've forgotten the crocheters: Check out The Harmony Guides 101 Stitches to Crochet Card Deck, with stitches from both The Harmony Guide: Basic Crochet Stitches and The Harmony Guide: Crochet Stitch Motifs.

Hot tip! Know what my favorite thing is about these stitch card decks? I can go through them to find stitch patterns I like, and then I can lay out my choices side by side to compare the designs before making my final choice. Now THAT'S nifty. (Kind of like playing Knitting Solitaire!)

Look for these great Interweave books at your local yarn shop, or purchase them from our online store.




Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles this week? I took my Leaf and Nupp Shawl to Alabama with me--it's amazing how fast lace knitting goes on a cross-country plane trip when there's no one to pester you! How far did I get? Check back later this week for photos!





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Comments

Jutti wrote
on Dec 28, 2008 11:02 AM
I love knitting lace scarves. I've had a hard time finding something long to block them on. Blocking boards just aren't long enough. Then, while at Home Depot I saw some runner rugs on sale. I selected one that has geometric patterns running the length of it. Now I just lay it out on my bed and use the patterns as a grid.
DeLainaS wrote
on Dec 10, 2008 2:37 PM
I live in a 16 by 10 dry cabin in fairbanks and I dry my peices on a bullein board that I hang from the ceiling, but Ive been thinking about changing to a screen with a wodden frame so that I can also use it for drying things like herbs. the only problem with that would be that if the peice is wet enough to drip its all going to drip right onto the middle of the floor.
Slickchick wrote
on Dec 8, 2008 6:17 PM
Having a husband who is a carpenter and always being in a renovation, we always have sheets of gyprock (drywall) around the place. It's the only thing big enough for a shawl. I place towels on top and pin through. Mind you, your pins are useless afterwards. I'm planning on trying drawing pins next. The added advantage is you can stand it up out of the way whilst it dries. Lisa
KatY wrote
on Dec 8, 2008 8:57 AM
At a garage sale, I found a padded seat for porch glider swing. It works great for sweaters and such. For larger pieces (such as shawls and scarves), I have a 4X8 piece of foam core which I can lean up against the wall.
TommyS wrote
on Dec 5, 2008 10:40 AM
The Yoga mats are so cheap. I have only blocked little things, but I'm about to block my first lace scarf. The Yoga mat will be perfect for this.
Vivi M wrote
on Dec 4, 2008 2:08 PM
I used to have one of the cardboard, fold up cutting boards years ago and tried to find a new one recently with no success. Can anyone tell me where I can find one? Many thanks.
QueenM wrote
on Dec 4, 2008 11:37 AM
I have standard, no window, segmented, hollow garage doors. One of them is never opened. I used heavy foam core topped with foam and then covered with muslin and fit panels into each segment of the door so I now have a vertical (wall) blocking board and it is totally out of the way so my Pi Shawl in worsted weight weaver's wool (for example) can take as long as it needs to dry while blocking.
on Dec 4, 2008 8:39 AM
Could you please post where to buy a good blocking board? I'm new to this blocking and haven't been pleased with my results thus far. Love Knitting Daily & Interweave.
Baraka wrote
on Dec 4, 2008 8:21 AM
As a seamstress as well as a knitter, who used to make elaborately trimmed belly dance costumes on which I would often glue sequins in geometric patterns, I had long used a regular cutting board from the fabric store (they run about $12) for my sewing. Since these are just cardboard marked with a measured grid, the waterproofing problem is solved with clear contact paper. For under $20, I get the same results as anyone with a much more expensive blocking board, and it folds up and stores in about 1.5" of space. My current board has been in use for 15 years, so replacement isn't a big issue either. When I started knitting about 6 years ago, I found that using this board was the easiest, cheapest and most logical solution for blocking.
VickyL wrote
on Dec 4, 2008 6:34 AM
I use 4' x 8' sheets of fiberglass foam insulation from the local hardware store. It is completely shrink wrapped in plastic and has tung and groove sides so you can make it really BIG! It costs about $15 per sheet and lasts me five to ten years. It is very light weight, pin pricks easily for blocking all my work and stands against the wall when not in use.
BoyceS wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 4:03 PM
A large flannel backed vinyl tablecloth is great to cover the bed, floor, etc., where you plan to do you blocking. Also, when blocking a large, lace project I have used a large piece of flannel, placed on the wall and the item pinned to it. It is so much easier on the back!
machtknits wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 2:54 PM
Like many others, I too use layered cardboard boxes cut to size and duct taped together. I use these for cutting boards as well, and anything else you may need a board for. It is super inexpensive and last a long time.
Louise@4 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 2:35 PM
What ever happened to the curtain stretcher? That would be the obvious solution for large retangular/square pieces. Thanks so for the suggestions.
JennieVH wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 2:10 PM
TamiH touched on this, but it is too good not to emphasize. The use of a fan, especially an oscillating one, will cut your drying time in half, especially for wet-blocking. It is an amazing tool. Also, make sure your pins are rustproof!
RebeccaM@7 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 2:09 PM
What NOT to use: an inflatable EZ bed. Lace shawls are worth it, but . . . That $15 hank of merino wool suddenly makes a $315 shawl. yikes.
EvelynL wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 1:41 PM
For years I used the bed in the spare room, the carpet with towels over it, my ironing board, etc. I have to tell you, I finally broke down and bought a blocking board. I put it on a fold away table set up with the legs on those things that are made to lift your bed up so you can store stuff under it. I also bought blocking wires. I feel like a new person when I approach blocking an object. I used to dread it. My back does not hurt anymore. I don't use a thousand pins. It takes about 10% of the time it used to take. I do not regret one penny of what this cost me.
Laura@6 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 1:33 PM
I had a sweater that I needed to block, and I really don't have a lot of room in my house. (I'm a teriible pack-rat.) So, I went to my local big block store, you know the one, and bought a twin size foam mattress pad. On side is smooth, and the other looks like a giant egg carton. I pinned my sweater parts on a the egg carton side. It worked like a charm, and I was able to just lay the mattress pad on my bed during the day, and lay it only the floor at night. Worked great, and it was only about ten bucks.
DonnaP wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 1:32 PM
I use the ironing board, the washing machine and dryer, a padded card table - whatever it takes! For those who have expressed skepticism about he need for blocking: yes, it does make a difference. When I first started knitting and crocheting, I couldn't understand why some patterns said to block. Then I made a very fine shawl with lace trim. It was pretty before blocking but stunning after blocking.
ClaudineB wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 1:25 PM
I block on a clean sheet laid over my carpet. It is perfect for large lace pieces. Sandi, could you tell us about a wooly board? Why do so many people find it superior for sweaters? Are they worth investing in? Are they complicated to set up? Thanks!
Melodie wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 12:56 PM
Normally I block on the bathroom counter or ironing board but earlier this year I needed more space. I made my husband a sweater, my first, and I needed more space for the pieces. I borrowed my daughters (2) boogie boards. You know, the foam boards for playing in surf at the ocean? They are perfect. They are almost twice as wide as the ironing board. They are covered with a light fabric that does not run, made of foam so I can pin to them, and portable. I was able to let his beautiful wool cabled sweater dry before seaming. I have used them end to end as well for long scarves. Still working on the blocking board plans for my husband to build but in the meantime the girls don't mind that I borrow their boogie boards!
ArielL wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 12:14 PM
I block on my bed. Placing a plasic tablecloth on the bed keeps it from getting wet. Then I pin with T-pins. Works great!!!!!
TamiH wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:47 AM
"You can't really block half of a scarf at a time" Ummm....forgive me Sandi, but I just did this a couple of days ago. I have two dogs so any surface accessible to them isn't a good blocking surface. I usually turn to my always setup ironing board. I pinned 3/4 of the scarf in place and then set my little fan to work blowing on it. I was working with Malabrigo Lace and and hour or so later a quick check showed that half of it was dry. Quickly unpin and turn and repin and set up fan again and the second half was dry in a little over an hour later. Necessity is *always* the mother of invention. ;^) When I finish my next shawl I imagine I'll have to lock the dogs out of the bedroom while I use the bed for blocking.
Debcelley wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:42 AM
I made a blocking board with a ceiling tile (purchased at Home Depot) and a yard of 1-in square gingham. Cover the board in gingham, duct-tape it down on the reverse side. Viola!
LynG wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:38 AM
The first time I made a lace shawl I knew that blocking was something I could no longer do without. Having a small apartment and no blocking board or even a good-sized kitchen table, I used an undecorated wall! The hall beside the front door is entirely unadorned, but it looked just spectacular with my shawl tacked to it! I used regular push-pin tacks, dampened the shawl before hanging and placed a tack at every appropriate place. A picture can be seen at http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Petaloutha/wild-flower-shawl.
Amabbott927 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:37 AM
I use craft foam boards(presentation boards?) covered in contact paper...they're easy to stick pins in and inexpensive to replace and easy to find..they're just with the poster board...
poodlecurls wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:36 AM
I use my dining room table with an extra thick pad of towels. This is close to my fireplace, so things dry very quickly. Diane
Aggie83 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:29 AM
I made blocking boards out of ceiling tiles. 2' x 4'. First, use clear or white duct tape to finish the edges. Then I used heavy muslin, doubled, to cover the 'front' side of the board (the part that shows in a room" and stapled the cloth tightly around. I attached hangers to one end so they can be hung on the wall (great for small projects waiting to dry). I have two and can make either a 2' x 8' block or a 4' x 4' block for larger or longer items. I also keep large hemmed gingham sqaures, 1/4 inch squares and a one inch squares, when I need to block to a specific size I just lay them on the boards. Use T-pins to pin item to a board. I bought my tiles for cheap at a home improvement store-- look for tiles missing corners and offer to pay $2 per tile. They are usually happy to find someone to buy them!
LisaG@3 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:22 AM
I use a stretched canvas with a towel over it - works like a dream!
on Dec 3, 2008 11:10 AM
Besides the alphabet foam mats, you can also get 2ft square interlocking foam mats; mine came from Toys R Us ($20), but you can get them online. These store really well and don't absorb the moisture. One of the best tips I have for speeding up the drying process is to use a small fan and set it to blow across the drying surface. Move it around to take in the entire project. If you have a ceiling fan, that will help too.
FrancescaR wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 11:06 AM
The problem with blocking boards is that I have never seen one big enough for a good sized lace shawl, which is the reason I've never bought one. I don't have a perfect solution because it only works in warm weather. I use the garage floor, covered with a small sized silk rug, and a popypropylene woven rug on top of it. When it is gawdaful hot here or at least dry, works like a charm. Are there any blocking boards out there that work for regular sized shawls? Francesca
Lderr wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:58 AM
I use the neighbors trampoline when the kids are at school, it lets air thru on both sides and dries really quick. They laughed when I aked to borrow their tramp and they found out what I wanted to do with it.
CathL wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:56 AM
Try this: buy 1/2 inch gingham fabric, a piece of plywood as long as you like, and quilt padding. Wash the fabric to remove excess dye. Lay the padding on one side of the board, pull the fabric tightly over it and over the sides and staple it down. Use T pins, with or without wires, to block items. Store the board behind a bureau or other large piece of furniture. I've been happily blocking for 10 years on my board.
CarolynW wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:56 AM
If the item doesn't fit in my bathtub on several layers of thick towels, then I place the towels on a carpet, and block the damp item(s) on the towels. I've never had a problem -- not even with the cat. She just walks around it, the little angel. Sandi, I had to comment on how awesome you look in your newest photo. Gorgeous! Way to go, girl.
StarrS wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:54 AM
Several years ago my husband and I took a yoga class. We haven't kept up with the yoga (actually barely finished the class) but we still have our 3' x 7' thin rubber yoga mats!!! When looking for something to block my first lace project on I came across these. long abandoned" mats and thought - this could be the perfect thing!! I lay them next to each other on our spare bed, cover them with a think absorbent beach towel and I have the almost perfect water-proof, easy to pin to work surface
rhayes wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:50 AM
Hi... I am very interested in find the blocking boards. Could you please provide information on how to obtain them. Thanks.
JillW wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:45 AM
Sandy, I've been hoping that you would do a column answering some of the questions that I have seen frequently in these blocking comments. They are some of the same questions that I have, such as how to block sweaters knit in the round, and also, do you have to reblock every time the sweater is washed? If so, what do you do when giving the sweater as a gift? The recipient won't necessarily know how to block or even have the equipment to do it.
NinaN wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:45 AM
I've been using the cardboard cutting boards for years. I haven't had a problem with the ink running, but after a few years, I do need to replace them. . . .But they're cheap and they fold away nicely! Once I had to block half a lacy shawl at a time because the board was not big enough. But it worked. I didn't have a choice.
BarbaraF@4 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:43 AM
I use a set of the interlocking alphabet foam blocks for children's play areas too. They come in a zippered case, and you can use just as many as you need for your blocking project. You can configure them to meet the shape of the object to be blocked, and they're thick enough to allow you to pin into them easily. Besides, your knitting shouldn't be dripping wet while you block it! I got mine at Michaels (craft store) with one of their frequently-available coupons - a steal about $13!
Victoria wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:32 AM
I've been doing this for years. Over 15 years ago I used quilting spray glue and a plastic tri-fold sewing board I found at Joanne's. It was the only way I could get the perfect shape when I felted. I have a wonderful granny square felted blanket for my bed in the winter.
Victoria wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:29 AM
I've been doing this for years but I use the quilting spray glue and a plastic tri-fold sewing board. It was the only way I could get a perfect wool piece when I was felting anything.
Linda@7 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 10:25 AM
When I first started blocking my crocheted and knitted items, I was unaware of the blocking board. This lead me to cardboard covered with clear contact paper. I would go to stores and ramble through boxes to find the perfect size, take it home, ramble throught the pots and pans for a lid to draw me a perfect circle, then cover the board with contact paper. Over the years I did find the blocking board and had to purchase one, however covering it in clear contact paper keeps it dry and it still folds up for storage. Linda aka yarnstasher58