B.HOOKED GUIDES

The Ultimate Guide to Blocking Knitting & Crochet [2022]

No matter if you crochet or knit, eventually, you’ll come across the term “blocking”. You can easily argue that this finishing technique will help you achieve more professional looking crochet or knits so it’s a worthwhile technique to learn. So what is blocking anyway and do you have to do it? We’ll answer those questions and more in this guide.

Hey there!

This guide was designed to answer all your questions about blocking knitting and crochet like the big one, what does blocking mean in the first place? Do you have to block your finished projects? Is blocking permanent? What happens if you don’t block? These questions are common among new crocheters and knitters so we’ll focus on answering each, plus help you decide if you need to block your project or not. We’ll explain how to block a project and share the tools we use and would recommend to a friend. Let’s dive in!

Contents

  • What is Blocking?
  • Why Block Your Knitting and Crochet Projects?
  • Projects That Can Really Benefit from Blocking
  • How to Block Your Knitting and Crochet
  • Steam Blocking?
  • Finger Blocking?
  • What You Need To Block Your Project (and What Items are Optional)
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What is Blocking?

When you finish a project, the last thing you want to do is spend an additional day on a finishing technique. You’d much rather wear it, gift it…enjoy it. However, in many cases blocking can vastly improve the shape of your finished project so you can achieve a more professional looking result. Not only that but sometimes its absolutely necessary to get the right sizing.

So the short answer to why you should block your project is that it can make it look even better. The not so obvious answer is that it can really help if you’re less than satisfied with how it turned out.

If you plan to seam along one of the edges of your project or component, blocking can make this process easier for you. If you made a scarf with what you thought was a beautiful stitch pattern, but yours looks kind of “blah”, stretching the stitches out and blocking them will usually do the trick. If you made a scarf but the edges are a little messy, blocking can help.

Although just about every project can benefit from blocking, there are some projects that benefit from it a little more than others.

Projects That Can Really Benefit from Blocking

As much as we’re an advocate for blocking your knitting and crochet projects, admittedly, not every project needs it. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here’s a list of projects we always block when we cast off.

  • shawls
  • scarves
  • garment panels
  • motifs like granny squares
  • placemats or table runners

To help you start making the determination on your own, think about the shape of the finished project. Does it need crisp, clean edges or corners? If so, blocking will definitely do the trick. Does your pattern say specifically to block to a certain measurement? If so, definitely don’t skip that step. When you cast off and finish, are you satisfied with what you see? If not ask yourself if the stitches were more open or the edges a little straighter, would you be happy with it? Blocking will never hurt your project (as long as you follow some general guidelines) so if you’re ever in doubt, block.

As wonderful as blocking is, there are projects that never need to be blocked at all. Amigurumi falls into this category. There are many more, however, that fall into the “can be blocked but the choice is yours” category. Things like hats, mittens, headbands…objects that tend to stretch when worn, can be blocked but they don’t have to be. The best way to judge is to look at the stitch pattern. If it looks as you’d expect, you probably don’t need to block, but if it’s a little messier than you’d like, block it.

Blocking Knitting and Crochet Step-by-Step

Blocking is typically achieved in one way although there are a few quicker methods we’ll discuss as well. “Wet blocking” is the more common term you’ll hear, and that’ll help you differentiate between the techniques.

The blocking process takes place after you cast off or finish your last stitch. You can weave in your ends first or choose to do that bit after blocking.

Step 1: Saturate your project with lukewarm water.

If you used a wool or animal fiber yarn, you want to be extra careful during this process. Agitating, wringing or scrunching of the yarn too much may cause pilling or felting. Just hold the project directly under the faucet or easily dunk it in a full sink. You can add a bit of wool wash here if you’d like but it’s not required. Some people opt to spray their project with a spray bottle instead. More on that later.

Step 2: Gently remove excess water.

If you soaked the project in the sink, remove the stopper and let the water drain. Next squeeze out the excess water. We find that if you fold the project several times and gently press on it, you can remove enough water without agitating the fibers too much. You want it to be wet but not dripping.

Step 3: Pin the project on a flat surface.

The goal is to pin it to the size and shape you want it to be after blocking. To do this you have to stretch it for the blocking process to work. If you pin it down without stretching it, it’ll dry in the same position you started and blocking wouldn’t have worked. Remember, your goal is to stretch it a bit so the stitches can set in the new position you’re giving them.

Step 4: Allow the project to fully air dry.

This is the reason the blocking process takes so long. Some acrylic yarns will dry overnight while some animal fibers can take two days to fully dry. Either way, don’t remove the pins until it’s completely dry to the touch. If you remove the pins before it’s fully dried, the blocking effect won’t be nearly as good.

Steam Blocking?

Those are the steps you’ll take to wet block any project, crochet or knitting, but it’s not the only way to block a project. Occasionally you’ll hear of someone using a steamer because it’s a quicker process. By using a steamer, you cut out steps 1 and 2 completely and start with step 3, pinning it out, and instead of letting it air dry, use your steamer to get the job done.

Our experience with steam blocking is much less than wet blocking. Although it’s a quicker method, the results don’t seem to be quite as good and the block doesn’t seem to hold as long.

Finger Blocking?

There’s an even quick method to steam blocking if you’re really in a time pinch; finger blocking, but it really only works in some situations. You probably do this already and don’t realize you’re “blocking”. Tugging on the project in various places to force the stitches where you want them is essentially finger blocking. However, if you’ve done this you know it doesn’t last.

Finger blocking is a temporary fix, but if you pair it with something like a spray wrinkle releaser, it can hold a little longer. Starch products like this will effectively stiffen the yarn to hold them in place; admittedly, not always the result you want.

What You Need To Block Your Project (and What Items are Optional)

By now you know blocking is a pretty straightforward process. You soak the project, pin it out and let it dry, but as you’d expect there are many products to help you accomplish all this. Let’s start with the absolute essential.

Pins for Blocking

The most important quality of a pin used for blocking is the material. After all, it’ll be exposed to water for long periods of time and that can equal rust if you’re not careful. Look for the packaging to say “rust proof”, “rust free” or stainless steel. The last thing you want is your project to be stained with rust.

We like T-pins the best because they’re more comfortable to work with than pins with small pinheads. When you’re pushing dozens of these, your fingertips will thank you.

Blocking Boards

This is the surface you’ll use to pin the project to, and we’ve tried just about everything from dedicated blocking boards to ironing boards and towels on a bed. Having a spongy, foam-type board really is the best option we’ve found. Pins stick in it well (and stay in place) and it’s not at all effected by water.

Whether you use something that was specifically made for blocking or you use something like an athletic flooring tile or those letter blocks your kid has is up to you. They all work pretty much the same. However, the one big benefit to using a blocking board is the grid. This will make blocking shapes and corners much easier.

Optional Products Used for Blocking

Spray Bottle – if you’d rather skip the soaking step, pin first then spray with water, you’ll need some kind of spray bottle. Just make sure you fully saturate it so the blocking will be effective.

Blockers – These nifty little things will no doubt cut down the pinning time but they also make it a little easier to get perfectly straight edges.

Blocking Wires – If you have an intricate lace that needs blocking, these are usually the tool of choice. Feed them through the outer edge of the lace pattern and use pins only where you need them.

Starch or Wrinkle Releaser – These products work well for 3D objects you can only finger block like crochet flowers.

Sock Blockers – Some projects are really hard to block because of the shape, including socks. Wet your socks and slide it on a sock blocker to get the job done.

Wooden Blocking Boards – These are excellent for when you’re working on a big granny square (or other motif) project. Place the bars exactly where you need them and block several motifs at a time.

If you’re feeling a little unsure about the whole blocking process, we’d urge you to give it a try at least once. You don’t even have to practice on a full project either. Next time you practice a stitch pattern and make a swatch, wet block it using the steps we described and see the results firsthand.

In case you still have more questions, we wanted to dedicate an entire section of this guide answering some of the most frequently asked blocking questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Blocking Knitting and Crochet

Is Blocking Permanent?

After you spend the extra time to carefully block your knitting or crochet it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder how permanent that change will be. Fortunately, natural fibers will hold the block until they get wet again (so if you wash or re-block it). Acrylic fibers, however, will only hold the block for a length of time. Eventually notice them start to creep back to their softer shapes.

Do you have to block knitting or crochet?

The simple answer is no. You don’t have to block if you don’t want to and in some cases you won’t have to at all. However, blocking can greatly improve the look of your project so we think it’s worth investing a little time in.

Should you block your project?

The type of project will help you answer this question. If the pattern tells you to block to a specific size then yes, you should. If the project needs straight edges or clean corners, yes, you probably should block the project.

Can you use an iron on your project or use the steam from the iron to steam block?

We never recommend touching a hot iron to a finished project made with yarn, especially acrylic yarns. The iron can irreversibly ruin your project in a matter of seconds. If you wish to steam block, we recommend you pick up a cheap laundry steamer from Amazon. You can find them for less than $15 usually. That being said if you’re very very careful not to touch the yarn with the iron, you could technically hold it a distance away from the project and direct steam at it to steam block it. But again, we don’t recommend this. Getting a steamer or using water to wet block traditionally is the better choice.

Can you use spray starch?

Avoid spray starches that need heat to activate. Products like wrinkle releasers can be useful for 3D projects that only need a little help keeping the stitches in place. However, we don’t recommend using a spray starch or wrinkle release product to block projects or take the place of water in the blocking process.

What happens if you don’t block?

Generally speaking, if you choose not to block your project nothing bad will happen. However, if your pattern tells you to block to a certain measurement, you’ll want to follow those instructions. That can be the difference between a project that fits and one that doesn’t. If nothing is noted in the pattern about blocking and you choose not to block, your project just may look less “polished” than it could if it were blocked.

Can blocking make your project bigger or smaller?

The short answer is yes and no. Wet blocking stretches the project to allow the stitches to settle into a better position. This will make it slightly bigger. Blocking will never make your project smaller.

Can you block twice?

Absolutely. You can block as many times as you want. For natural fiber projects, you can expect the second blocking to reverse the effects of the first blocking and “reset” the stitches to the newly blocked position. For projects made with acrylic yarns, you can expect the blocking will eventually soften and you may have to block again.

Can you use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process?

Technically yes, but it’s best to let the project air dry. Speeding the drying process means less time in the fixed position which will lead to results that aren’t as good. Plus you have to think about the yarn and how it will react to hot air being forcefully directed at it. This is a risk we typically avoid.