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Blocking: Before and After

Mar 16, 2011

The Moss Fern Wrap before blocking.
Immersed in a nice bath.
The wrap during blocking.
A note from Kathleen: In knitting and crocheting, blocking is what separates the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the great from the mediocre. And the a-ha moment really comes alive when you see before and after photos.

I invited Sarah Read, project editor of Interweave Crochet, to tell you her blocking story. Welcome, Sarah!

Sarah's Story

I think nearly everything is better if it has just a bit of crocheted lace embellishing it. I always have at least one lace project in progress. Of course, that means that my blocking boards and wires are almost constantly in use.

Blocking makes all lace more beautiful.

Freshly made lace is rumpled, springy, and stretchy. It's lovely, but is not even near its full potential.

To achieve airy, drapey, elegant lace, we need to block it.

This is my pre-blocked Moss Fern Wrap, designed by Kimberly K. McAlindin (Interweave Crochet Fall 2009). It's a great shawl for lace beginners: it works up quickly with a simple, easy-to-remember stitch repeat. My shawl was made with a wool/soy/cotton/chitin blend sock yarn (South West Trading Company's Tofutsie; one ball).

Once it was finished, I soaked it for ten minutes in a bowl of warm water with a bit of wool wash in it.

Note that some fibers like wool wash and others don't. Some like warm water, and others prefer cold. Check your ball band and have a nice chat with your yarn before this step.

After the shawl had a nice soak, I stretched it out on a foam mat and threaded blocking wires through each edge of the shawl, weaving the wire through the lace openings. (Blocking wires are long, thin rust-proof wires that you thread through the edges of your garment. They make it really easy to block large pieces like lace shawls, although I know Kathleen uses them all the time for sweaters and scarves, too. I ordered mine online.)

Then I gently stretched the wires away from each other, stretching and opening the stitches of my lace. When it was stretched out to the point where the lace looked nice and open, and the measurements of the shawl were to my liking, I pinned down the wires.
The Moss Fern Wrap after blocking: Fabulous!

I let the shawl dry over night, and then, voila! I had lovely, airy, open lace!

If you've caught the lace bug, subscribe to Interweave Crochet today! We always include at least one project for lace lover, and we love providing lots of great tips and techniques for all kinds of projects.

Isn't blocking amazing?


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SUSANL@94 wrote
on Mar 28, 2011 9:23 AM

once you block a sweater and wash it , do you need to block it each time you re wash it ?

sakitty08 wrote
on Mar 17, 2011 8:15 PM

Thank you so much for your line blocking tip from Interweave Crochet Editor Marcy Smith! That is absolutely ingenious (and saves the need for blocking wires, of which I do not have and would cause a bit of a problem as I'm a bit short on dispensible cash)! Thanks Interweave Crochet! Always a great read (Crochet Me blog & magazine)!

SusanN@2 wrote
on Mar 17, 2011 6:41 AM

Thank you, Jean02. The cowl is wool, and I think your steam/ironing board idea sounds good. I'll try it.

I agree that the effects of blocking might show even more clearly if both photos were done the same way - both close ups or both on the dummy.(I'm a bit greedy. I'd like to see both versions!)

jean02 wrote
on Mar 16, 2011 6:29 PM

How about using steam to block the cowl around the ironing board?  If it's wool, it will not suffer if the iron accidentally touches it.  If synthetic, however, becareful as a hot iron will completely kill the body of acrylic.  

(This from a former machine knitter who used to block everything with the iron and it looked great.)

jean02 wrote
on Mar 16, 2011 3:38 PM

I agree that blocking is important.

A slight criticism, though.

These pictures really do not effectively show the impact of blocking because the before photo is just a close up of the stitch pattern -- it doesn't show how the shawl would look draped on the dummy before blocking.

Also helpful would be pictures of a plain stockinette sweater before and after. Folks are often unaware how beneficial blocking is for evening out the appearance of plain knitting.

Love your website and hope you'll take this critique in the helpful (positive) spirit in which I intend it.



SusanN@2 wrote
on Mar 16, 2011 1:38 PM

Blocking more thing I didn't know existed. Thanks!

...Any advice on how to block the (closed circular) knit cowl I've just finished?

I can't think of any way which won't put a possible unwanted crease in the piece.

Dorisjchan wrote
on Mar 16, 2011 8:42 AM

Thank you, Kathleen and Sarah, for illustrating so brilliantly the joys of blocking.  May I add that, from my experience with crochet, you rarely need special wires, strings, pins or tools to see "Ah-HA!" results.  Dampen, spread out, gently/judiciously stretch and smooth, allow to dry flat. Do not fear the blocking.  Blocking is your friend.  :-)

on Mar 16, 2011 7:37 AM

I've rediscovered the joy of adding crochet to a knit easy to do. I started out my yarn life as in crochet, and I'm returning now..but I still don't like to start chains. Blech. Rather hitch on to an existing project.