Author Topic: Question for the knitters - blocking  (Read 5017 times)


  • Stubble
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Question for the knitters - blocking
« on: January 14, 2014, 11:39:24 AM »
I'm a very sporadic knitter, but one of my best friends recently found out she's expecting for the first time, and that has my fingers itchy to pick my needles back up again and make her something special. Anyway, in looking at various patterns I realized I have what may be a silly question: if a finished project (let's say a blanket for simplicity although I haven't decided what to make yet) requires substantial wet-blocking to flatten out, what happens when the item is washed later on? Would it need to be blocked again every time it's washed? Does this depend on the yarn?

Babies are messy, I don't want to make something that's going to be a headache to clean! Plenty of nice patterns out there to choose from, just wondering if I should eliminate any that will be lumpy or whatever without lots of blocking. Thanks in advance!


  • Bristles
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2014, 11:49:48 AM »
Nah, blocking is just a fancy way of saying 'lay flat to dry'.   Depending on the fiber, a hand-knit can be machine washed or hand washed and then laid flat on a towel to dry...the nap of the towel 'grabs' the knit fibers just enough to hold the item flat while it dries. 

My kids have worn lots of hand-knit vests and sweaters, hats, mittens.  I usually wash in the tub with a little dish soap, roll it between a towel, stand on the towel to squeeze out as much water as I can and then lay it on a dry towel. 

Nice of you to make something for your friend. 


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2014, 12:11:39 PM »
Actually, blocking is more than laying flat to dry. It is shaping the knitted item to the final, finished measurements which, with a blanket, isn't difficult since it's a square/rectangle. There are different ways to block - wet, steam, etc. but do whatever your pattern recommends. The rub here is if you want something machine washable and durable, I would recommend an acrylic or acrylic blend (which cannot be blocked). Maybe a super-wash (machine-washable) wool, but I haven't had great luck with actual machine-washing with those - they typically stretch out, even on the gentle cycle. If you want to give an heirloom gift, use a natural fiber such as cotton or bamboo or soy (go vegan knitters!). Wool will likely be too itchy for a baby. If you use a natural fiber you should recommend that it only be spot-cleaned, hand-washed, or dry-cleaned (which is gross since the baby would be laying around in all those chemicals - ick). Hand-knitting for children is a joy but you have to face the fact that kids are messy, destructive, and forgetful. Go to your LYS (Local Yarn Store - not Michael's or JoAnn's) and talk to the experts. They are snobby sometimes but they usually know their fibers and can help you choose something that will fit your needs. Keep knitting!


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2014, 11:45:22 AM »
I find blocking really only makes an appreciable difference if the project uses lace or stranded colorwork. Freshly knit lace usually looks a bit crumpled and homemade. However, once you get it wet and stretch it out, then it looks beautiful. Stranded colorwork usually looks a bit uneven and blocking helps make the patterns more defined.

After the initial block, the item won't need to be blocked again.

For a baby project, stick with acrylic, cotton (preferably a blend) or possibly superwash wool. My kids both have handknit acrylic baby blankets on their beds that have held up really well. They're 5 and 7 now and have given those blankets tons of abuse.

If you care at all for your friend, do not give her anything that can't be machine washed and dried. She'll be frazzled and sleep deprived, your gift will absolutely end up in the dryer at some point. It took my mom a few shrunken sweaters to figure this out. I can remember to separate the hand knits from the rest of the wash most of the time. However, wool still felts almost instantly in the dryer on the one time you forget . . . 


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2014, 12:19:58 PM »
Blocking can help when you're trying to get something to be the right size, or symmetrical. It also helps cables look nicer, and can help with 'ladders' that you can sometimes get in work knitted in the round with dpns. I haven't blocked a ton of things, but everything I have blocked has come out looking a little more polished, at the very least.

Some more on blocking:

The lady at my LYS almost always sends me to the same yarn when I'm looking for yarn for a project for a child. I can't remember what it is just now--I''ll check when I get home and update this, but it's some kind of superwash merino/synthetic blend, and it's very, very soft. I've enjoyed working with it a lot. And it's machine washable! I always recommend drying flat, but it's possible it could be dried on low in the dryer, maybe?

Definitely ask the recipient what his/her approach to laundry is before you pick out the yarn. Some people handle all items the same, regardless of the label, and some people are super careful. Personally, I already hang/line dry or dry flat lots of things because they hold up better than if I were to put them in the dryer, or would shrink, or whatnot, so I totally would not mind receiving hand-knit woolens that required hand washing/flat drying. But not everyone is willing to manage that, and the time that goes into hand knits is not trivial. You don't want the recipient to avoid using it because of special care instructions, or to ruin it by putting it in the dryer, either!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2014, 12:45:28 PM »
Blocking knitting (except lace) smooths things out, and for most things, wash/dry (according to the ball band) is all that's required.

Lace goes from looking like the dog's breakfast to stunning with appropriate blocking (i.e. pinning out until it begs for mercy and letting it dry).  Not what you'd give to a baby anyway, but it needs the same treatment whenever it gets wet.

There are plenty of superwash wools that aren't itchy and are appropriate for babies (Malabrigo Rios, Knit Picks Swish are two of my favorites).  But if you wash superwash wool, it really needs to be tumble dried to get it back into its original shape.

I don't usually use acrylic for babies because of the small risk of melting and fumes in a fire, but many do.   


  • Senior Mustachian
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2014, 05:24:31 PM »
All good advice, especially checking with the recipient to see how laundry is done at their place.  One more idea - enclose the ball band with the blanket, so the instructions are handy.  Maybe even tie a strand of yarn around it, or put yarn and band in a baggie, so they stay together.


  • Stubble
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2014, 07:56:05 AM »
I haven't seen many baby blankets that require "substantial" amounts of blocking, so I'm a little curious as to what you're looking at.  Ravelry link/other link???


  • Stubble
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Re: Question for the knitters - blocking
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 10:42:47 AM »
Thanks for all the advice!! I will likely end up doing something in either acrylic (although I hadn't thought to worry about the flammability factor) or soft natural fiber like cotton... even the softest wools always feel a little itchy to me plus baby will be growing up in California so a super warm blanket would get less use than something lighter.  I think I'm going more for "attractive but good for everyday use" rather than heirloom; I want it to be made with love but not be so precious it will just sit on a shelf or display somewhere. (Plus I'm not enough of a fancy-pants knitter to pull off the really intricate designs anyway.) Ultimate outcome would be something like TrMama's kids still using theirs 5-7 years later, that's awesome!

For the record, this is the pattern that made me wonder the answer to this question:

(But I'm not planning to make this one, it's a cool idea but I think it's a little on the bold side for my friend's taste.)