Blocking Is Your Friend

Please.  Do not fear the blocking.  You will see and feel the difference, trust me.  Do it for all lace crochet, do it for all wearables regardless of what fiber is in the yarn.  I totally recommend wet blocking, but first you must be sure that the yarn is safely water washable. Check the yarn ball band/label/tag for washing care.  If you don’t grok those little hieroglyphics (fabric care symbols) you sometimes find in laceweight print at the bottom of a label, see here. When I first searched for and found this explanation, it musta been what it was like when archeologists found the Rosetta Stone. :-)

(In all my years playing with yarn I have only met two that could not be water washed.  One was a silk ribbon, which I lightly steamed.  The other was linen paper yarn, which continues to languish in the stash.  Don’t ask what I was thinking when I took that one home!)

If it raises your comfort level to think of blocking as simply “hand wash, lay flat to dry”, then that should be your mantra.  Unless the pattern instructions tell you to leave any tails for whatever reason, weave in all the loose ends before blocking, so that the ends have the greatest opportunity to get locked into the fabric.

1) Dunk the project in a sink filled with cool water.  You can add a drop of fragrant liquid wool wash or shampoo to the water first if you like, no rinsing needed.  Get the piece totally wet.  Avoid excessive wringing or twisting.

2) Drain the sink, press gently to remove as much water as you can.  Either throw the piece in a washing machine and run a spin-only cycle, or roll the piece in towels to soak up as much moisture as possible.  Sham Wow towels work great for this task, BTW.

3) Lay the damp piece on a roomy, flat, moisture tolerant surface, like a not-wood table or spare bed or clean floor covered with towels.  If you  have kids and/or pets I don’t have to warn you that it should be someplace where it can stay for a while and not be disturbed, trampled, soiled or otherwise bothered.

By all means use your special blocking screens or mats that allow air to ciruculate all around, but can fugeddabout the blocking pins, clips, rods and wires, unless you really enjoy the process. Honestly, I believe these instruments of torture were designed by knitters for knitting.  The basic knitting stitch, stockinette, has a marked tendency to curl.  Perhaps blocking hardware is totally critical for fixing that, but in my experience such tools are never necessary for crochet.

4) Gently but judiciously push, pull, straighten, smooth and fuss with the fabric until the piece has the finished dimensions you want.  This is where you help the fabric, the shape and fit of the garment be all it can be.  Make it more you-shaped. Help the points become pointy, the curves to curve nicely.  Do not overly stretch.  Some yarns stretch alarmingly when wet, but will pull back when dry, so if your piece is majorly stretched out of shape, don’t panic.  Pat it back to the dimensions it should be. Some yarns actually seize and get tighter when wet, but will relax as they dry.  Only experience will tell you what to expect.

4) Allow to dry completely. This might take a couple of hours for a lightweight wool garment.  Or a couple of days for heavy cotton in a humid climate.

If this level of immersion is not practical, you can do damp blocking if you like.  First spread out your project on a layer of towels atop a water-resistant surface.  Using a sprayer or mister or laundry sprinkler, spritz all over with water until dampened.  Ease to measurements and allow to dry completely.

As hinted at earlier, you may lightly steam most yarns, but please be careful.  DO NOT PRESS or touch your steaming equipment or steam iron to the surface of your crochet.  DO NOT PRESS ribbing in general.  DO NOT use high heat anywhere near acrylic.  You could melt it or kill it.

The problem with steam blocking is that it has to be done bit by bit, area by area, whereas wet or damp blocking allows you to work on the entire garment.  Hey, everything is connected.  Better to see the whole picture.  I have occasionally used steam to touch up trims and remove the “fold line” from previously blocked garments, in the same way I might iron a permanent press shirt that’s a little banged up.  It’s great for that purpose.

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29 thoughts on “Blocking Is Your Friend

  1. Pingback: Blocking Crochet: Just Do It | Doris Chan: Everyday Crochet

  2. Thank you so much for this. I thought I had to get hold of all sorts of stuff for blocking and it was really putting me off trying more interesting designs.

  3. Okay, I’m convinced. As you so completely explained, garments are best if blocked. I just bought a fabric cutting cardboard thingy for $4.99 and covered it with plastic (I didn’t even end up taping it. I pushed round-ended pins to hold the items to the stretched position and let them dry for a day or two. Seems to be working fine. Not my favorite part of the process but it does help the fit. Thanks! And thank you for designing with the diagrams. I never was able to crochet garments before I found Doris Chan designs. I love you! I have made lots of your garments and get compliments all the time. And I’ve added sleeves to sleeveless, tucked in at the waist and I’ve been having a ball.

  4. Thank you so much I have been worrying about this and had read in a couple of places some really complicated directions. This has made it seem so much more doable and explained why it is needed so well.

    • No, Norma. Does the pattern say BLOCKED GAUGE? Unless otherwise stated, the gauge is always always always as crocheted. Blocking your swatch might show you how your finished dimensions will differ from crocheted dimensions, how your yarn and fabric will behave.

      Yours,

      Doris

  5. Doris, I recently purchased a lovely pattern for a crocheted scarf that calls for blocking. I’ve never done this procedure before and am curious if the scarf would have to be blocked anew each time it is washed? I was hoping to give the scarf as a gift but most likely won’t bother with it if the care instructions involve this process each time it is washed.

    Thanks so much,

    Nancy

    • Nancy,

      Don’t you ever give gifts that specify hand washing? Do you not own lingerie or any knitwear that has to be hand washed?

      Blocking is just “hand wash in cool water, lay flat, smooth into shape, allow to dry”. That’s all. Yes, each time the project is washed, which shouldn’t happen too often with a scarf, really, then you treat it in the same way as any hand washable item. This is not rocket surgery. Just include the note to hand wash lay flat to dry.

      Yours,

      Doris

  6. I’ve just completed your pattern for the Avalon top but haven’t blocked it yet. This is my first item that I’ve needed to block ( in fact my first item of clothing I’ve made) so thank you for the notes!

  7. Thx so much! I was like wtf is blocking???? I just finished a shoulder bag a was checking if whatever blocking was referred to this. I’m using worsted yarn(purple!!! 😉) and this is only my third project. Thx!!!😃

  8. Doris, I’m just finishing your Valley Cowl in Deerfield, and I can’t figure out how to go about blocking it because of the twist. It will need to be stretched quite a bit to open the pattern and drape as beautifully as the one shown with the pattern. Any advice is appreciated. (BTW, I love your patterns.)

  9. Doris,

    I am a crocheter and knitter, and a few years ago I purchased an afghan online that was made by a professional crochet designer for use in a crochet design book. When I received the afghan, I noticed how smooth it was and how even the stitches were. This is a large afghan made all in double strands of Red Heart Super Saver yarn, so I know it’s acrylic. I purchased the book so I could make one for myself. I have since made five or six of these afghans, following the pattern exactly. The design calls for a size N 10mm hook. I have made the pattern using several brands of hooks, with some hooks in size N being 9mm, and some 10. I got the gauge to come out right using the 10mm hook. The only problem is, each time I make one, it looks good, but it’s not nearly as smooth and uniform as the one I purchased. I am even friends with the designer, so I asked her about it, and she said she has never blocked an afghan in her life! The only conclusion I can come up with is, maybe the publisher blocked it before the photography shoot. If so, I wonder how they were able to block an acrylic afghan with such success. How would I find out if this was even done, and if so, do you think they would reveal their secret? This afghan was published in Easy Living Crochet, by the House of White Birches, from 2005. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I tried just machine washing and drying, but that hasn’t changed the piece much. Thanks!

    • Hey Dan,

      It sounds suspiciously like they “killed” the acrylic yarn before the photo shoot. I have done this by accident, but I understand that it is sometimes done on purpose to make stiff, harsh synthetic yarns more pleasant. The usual method is to apply excessive heat in the form of steam. If you use the steam from a steam iron, do NOT touch the hot soleplate of the iron directly to the yarn surface. You do not want to melt the fiber.

      Before you do this to a finished afghan, please experiment with a swatch to see if the result is what you seek.

      Yours,

      Doris

  10. Thanks, Doris! I had the same suspicion you did, and I’ll bet that’s what happened. I have steamed acrylic pieces before, so I’m familiar with the method. I’ll give it a try and see what happens. I’ll be careful, too!

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  13. If you do feel like you need to pin the piece down when blocking it, a piece of a child’s play mat works great. They generally come in 12”-16” pieces that look like puzzle pieces that fit together. I have one that I bought for my daughter and she never uses and it’s excellent. Plus, if you have friends who knit/crochet and want to go in on one with you it’s incredibly cheap.

  14. Pingback: Finishing Your Crochet Project | Make and Takes

  15. Pingback: On Choosing/Not Choosing Yarn for Crochet | Doris Chan Crochet

  16. I read your article just do it and then this article. I have blocked snowflakes this past winter and that was it. Well you hooked me. I ended up making my own blocking wire set and case out of stainless steel non-Flux welding wire and pvc pipe (covered so it dosn’t look like pipe) and then I bought a set of 6 in 24 x 24 play mats (only 14.99) and last night I blocked a shawl I made. Wow, is all I can say and Thank you. I will be blocking everything!!

  17. Pingback: A blocking mental block | The Prune Tree

  18. Thank you for your great articles on overcoming the fear of blocking and actually doing it. Do you have a recommendation on block a lacy poncho? How do I do both sides?

    • Just as you would treat any delicate or “special” garment, hand wash, lay flat to dry. That’s all it is. So, yes, this is what you want to do whenever your piece needs washing. If you have used a sturdy, machine washable yarn and your project itself isn’t fussy about fit, then you may try machine wash gentle cycle, lay flat to dry. But still I would not advise machine tumble dry, to avoid excessive abrasion/wear and tear. Hope this answers your question.

      Yours,

      Doris

  19. Thanks for all this great information, Doris. I am relatively new to doing crochet with a pattern, although I have crocheted since the age of 8. I wasn’t sure about the blocking process but you’ve explained it all so clearly. I love, love, love, love your designs and am just about to embark on my first project from one of your books.
    Best wishes from Carol Harrison

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