how to block stuff

Posted by on April 20, 2011 in knit | 14 comments

Oh hai! I sort of forgot I had a blog, I have been doing things like working and cooking and reading and being lazy. I don't think anyone is reading any more, but I'll try to get back in the swing of posting again, and maybe people will come back? 

I know this info is out there on the internet, but I was recently having a Ravelry conversation with another knitter working on her own Juneberry shawl, and she asked about my preferred method for blocking, so I thought I'd share my response here, just in case anyone reading is working on their first lacy project and wondering what to do when they finish knitting. 

First of all, I am obviously still pretty new to lace, and I'm sure there are many ways to do this. This is just what I have been doing, and it's worked well for me. If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments, I'm always ready to learn better ways of doing things. Also, I waited to post this until I had a project finished that needed blocking, so I could take pictures. It turns out that my Daybreak shawl was much more challenging to block than any of the lace shawls I've done, so at the end I'll tell you everything I did with that, and what I learned from all my struggles. It also turns out that I am not too crazy about the finished project, I love the pattern, and I love the yarn, but they just don't belong together, I think. I'll probably frog the whole thing and make some crazy bright socks instead. 

Here's what I like to do: 

  • Fill a sink with tepid water and some wool wash if you have it (I like Soak, Eucalan is another nice one. They are a little pricey, but I have been using a tiny bottle of Soak and have blocked 7 or 8 things and still have half a bottle left). 
  • Just drop your finished item in the sink and walk away for a long time. Let the weight of the wool pull it down under the water. I’ve left things for a couple hours, no problem, but I would say at least one hour. 

image from, just settling in for a soak

  • After that, pull the plug and let the water drain. You can walk away again and just let gravity get a lot of the water out for you. If you’re impatient, you can go on to the next step :o) 
  • Get a big towel and carefully lift your knitting out of the sink and lay it on the towel. Wrap it up like a burrito. 
  • Take the burrito to your washing machine, and lay it inside. If what you are blocking is large, place another towel opposite for balance. 
  • Run the spin cycle for just a minute or two. It sounds dangerous, but it really won’t hurt anything and it will get so much water out, you won’t believe it. 

image from I am inserting blocking wires along the edge. They didn't really work out in this case.

  • Now for the fun part! Find a spot where you can pin it all out. I use a couple big towels on the floor in my little studio (the only pet-free zone at my house), so you don’t need anything fancy. One day I’d like to have a blocking board, but this works just fine for me. Blocking wires are really handy for lace, but you can get by with just some pins. You just have to be careful about getting everything straight and even. Either way, you want to really pull it into shape. It’s pretty amazing how much bigger a piece of lace will become, and how strong the yarn can be, so don’t be scared to give it a good tug. The pattern will give you some measurements to aim for, I think of them as a guideline and don’t worry too much if I’m a little off.

image from

Then you just have to wait impatiently for it to dry!

So I thought that with my Daybreak shawl I could use blocking wires in the outer edge and gently curve and pin them out. The problem was that it took two wires for each half of that edge, and I couldn't get a smooth curve, there was a big jog where the wires intersected. I did get it mostly pulled into shape with the wires, however, so I just eased them out and carefully fine-tuned the edge and just used a few pins to hold it in place. 

image from
I was a little worried, because I didn't want the pins to pull the edge out into little points, but it came out nice and smooth, so it all worked out just fine. 

So there you have it. Blocking makes the difference between something being ho-hum or incredibly beautiful. It's also one of my favorite parts of knitting. I don't have anything lacy on my needles at the moment, so I think I should remedy that ASAP!  


  1. i have recently purchased blocking wires. i’m trying to build up the things i need before i need them because i AM one of those impatient people and when i need things i want them NOW. I haven’t really tried anything lace but my best friend would LOVE to have shawl so i’m going to attempt something very soon. I am so glad you share your techniques. i find them incredibly helpful & love reading about them. i did finish my first paid of socks!!!! it went much smoother than i thought it would. worknig on a blanket now but will be making more socks soon 🙂

  2. Thank you for posting this — I’m working on my first lace project, Anne Hanson’s Aria Delicata in Handmaiden Seasilk (topaz colorway, gorgeous!), and I can’t wait to block it. Now I think I’m going to get some blocking wires because I can see it will make keeping its shape easier.

  3. I check in quite often and just figure you are busy in the garden, doing something in your house and just busy…in time you will blog! Fun to learn along with you and yet sometimes I tire from all your energy and talent!

  4. I am so behind with my Ravelry friends! Your socks look great! Have you been able to wear them much? I know when it's cold, I wear all my hand knit socks first, and I hate it when they're all dirty and I have to wear regular socks instead :o) I definitely need more, I just have made quite a few and given them away. I need stop doing that for awhile and keep some. How do you like the Malabrigo sock yarn? I love mine, but I do find that the yarn doesn't seem quite as stretchy as some other sock yarns I've used, so my socks get a little loose and shapeless by the end of the day. Still, is so soft and the colors are so pretty, I can live with that. 
    I think you will enjoy knitting lace, and it's just like magic once you get it off the needles and then stretch it all out and block it. :o) I don't have any lace on my needles at the moment, but I have a long weekend and if my yarn arrives today I think I am going to cast on Le Petite Sac from Quince & Co, it's small but lacy enough and I think it will be the perfect little summer bag. 

  5. That scarf is going to be beautiful! Anne Hanson does some wonderful lace, I think I've only knit a mitt pattern by her, but I know I've got a bunch faved on Ravelry. With the straight edges on that, blocking wires will make the whole thing so much easier and it will block out so nice and straight. 
    I just visited your blog, I'm a bit of an Anglophile too! When we had cable I pretty much mostly watched BBC America, and now that I look at my Netflix queue, it's pretty full of British movies and TV series. In fact, the DVD I just got in the mail is Wild Target (Bill Nighy & Emily Blunt) and I'm on season 8 of MI-5. There's an American CIA agent, played by an Irish actress, and her accent is just terrible! I often wonder how close Americans get and if it's just as grating to them to hear us do a British accent :o)

  6. Oh Maili, if only you saw how many lazy, lazy weekends I have! I only wish I had more energy to do all the things I want to get done :o) I am starting to spend some time out in the garden, I hope that by doing just a little bit here and there I'll be able to get lots of vegetables growing this summer :o) 

  7. Thanks for checking out my blog, and also thanks for your kind words about my scarf. Yes, Hanson does some gorgeous work. I’m itching to get started on those fingerless mitts in the winter Knitty.
    I’ll have to add Wild Target to my Netflix queue. American actors seem to be not-so-good with the accents; the Brits doing Yank seem to have an edge. For example, I was shocked when I found out Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) on The Wire was Brit. And you could have knocked me over with a feather when Stringer Bell proved to be Brit, too. That Baltimore accent is a tough one!
    OK, sorry, didn’t mean to hijack knit talk!

  8. Okay, Anglophile and fan of The Wire? I think we should be friends :o) That is one of my favorite series ever! And good point on Dominic West and Stringer Bell/Idris Elba, their accents were perfect (and Stringer Bell was the sexiest bad guy ever). Have you seen Luther? I think it was on BBC America, but I just watched it on Netflix. They really should have done better with the actress on MI-5

  9. Hey, I like your blog and I read! I don’t comment much but thanks for your writing!! Love what you are knitting.

  10. Hello! Love this info. I need to make something so I can block it. 🙂

  11. J–how do you know Marne?! 🙂

  12. love the colors

  13. Do you think that this would work for a very very large and heavy blanket?

  14. I don't see why not, you'd just need a lot of space to lay it out. I think the spin cycle in the washer would be especially helpful, though, to get all the excess water out.

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