Hand wash and lay flat to dry.....I know what you're thinking, ain't nobody got time for that! Well for years I thought the same thing or I would drape my woollens over an airer and figure part of it was flat right!
But then I began to want to get a better, more professional product out of my knitting and I discovered blocking and it all started to make sense!
So let's start with a definition...what is blocking? Blocking is a process of dampening your knitted or crocheted woollen item and drying to shape. Sounds simple, but allow me to explain a little further. Depending on how you go about it, blocking will help even out stitches, allow your yarn to soften and bloom (sounds very Sound of Music I know, but go with it!), remove any oils used in processing the yarn, shape your product to the right size and shape and best of all leave you with a handmade item that looks truly desirable and professional. The best example of the effect of blocking is lace work. I have made this simple guide using a lace sample knit in Knoll Kilcarra Tweed and simple materials you can source.
So here is the lace sample fresh off the needles before being blocked. Keep this in mind when you see it blocked!
So how do you do this 'blocking'?
There are some beautiful products designed specifically for blocking and if you are doing a lot of projects you may want to invest in them, but for most of you you can put together your own kit.
First you need some basic equipment:
- Foam mat. I just use the kind of foam mat you can get from hardwares or camping stores. They are cheap and they lock together to make as bigger surface as you need.
- Towel. This just absorbs some of the moisture from your pinned project.
- Pins. Ideally these will be stainless steel to avoid them rusting in your work. I usually use my glass top sewing pins and don't leave the knit drying too long
- A bucket or bowl. A simple 9 litre bucket will be enough for fair big projects. A small bowl will be fine for small projects.
- Wool wash. A no rinse wool and delicates like our Eucalan will soften and prep your project and allow gentle handling as there is no need to rinse.
Next fill your bucket or bowl with tepid water (about 40 degrees celsius...or just warm to your touch, not hot, not cold but just right!) and dissolve your wool wash. Pop your item in to soak and make sure it is fully wetted and submerged.
Now, make a cup of tea and let your project soak for 5-10 minutes.
After soaking for 5-10 minutes, take your project out and gently squeeze out the excess water. You should feel the difference in the yarn and notice how it has softened and relaxed. Lay out your project and start gently pulling it roughly into shape. Start pinning, but don't sweat it, you can move and adjust as you go. For my lace sampler I started by creating points and scallops.
Then a straight edge...
... and so on until your piece is in the shape you want.
Now you can leave this in a warm, shaded spot to dry. This could take a day or two. Once dry, unpin and voila!