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How to Block Your Knitting Projects

Klara Nilsson | Updated on June 29, 2023

There are four main methods of blocking your knitting: wet blocking, steam blocking, spray blocking, and dry blocking. In this guide, we’ll explain whether blocking is necessary, what tools you’ll need, and how to block your knitting using all four methods.
Blocking Your Knitting

Blocking is usually the final step in the knitting process. It takes some patience and can be intimidating, which means most knitters have heard about it, but fewer actually do it.

In fact, blocking is a simple but essential process that will improve the look of almost any knitting project. In just 24 hours, you can hide your stitching mistakes and transform your work into something that looks and fits exactly how you envisioned it.

If you’re in a hurry, we’ve summarized the easiest and most common blocking method in the list below:

Summary: How to Wet Block Your Knitting in 10 Steps

  1. Fill a clean basin with warm water and wool wash (or a gentle detergent).
  2. Gently submerge your knitting, squeezing out any air bubbles.
  3. Allow the project to rest in the water for up to 30 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove the work from the water whilst supporting its weight with your hands.
  5. Gently squeeze the excess water from the fabric.
  6. Roll the knitting up in a towel and press gently to remove more moisture.
  7. Lay the project down on a flat, pinnable, water-resistant surface.
  8. Adjust the garment until it matches your desired size and shape.
  9. Where necessary, use pins to help the garment retain its shape as it dries.
  10. Leave the work to slowly dry over the course of 24 hours.

There are four types of blocking: wet blocking, steam blocking, spray blocking, and dry blocking. In this guide, we’ll explain how to block your knitting using all four methods and answer any questions you might have about the process.

None of these blocking methods are complicated, and the results are definitely worth the time invested. If you’re just getting started, you can even block your knitting without a board or pins.

If you want to learn more about what blocking does and when it’s necessary, as well as how to do each method, keep reading.

What’s In This Guide?

What Is Blocking, And What Does It Do?

Blocking is the process of stretching, shaping, or wetting a finished piece of knitting to even out the stitches and set the final size. It’s the final step in most knitting patterns that gives your project a smooth, professional look.

Most blocking methods involve wetting the knitted fabric and then pinning it down to match the final dimensions of the pattern. The natural “springiness” of the yarn fibers causes them to expand and then settle into the shape and size they’re pinned to.

This fills in any gaps in the stitches, prevents curling, and creates an even, finished fabric in your desired size and shape.

Before and After Blocking
A test swatch before and after blocking. (Image Credit: TutsPlus)

You can use blocking to make your knits bigger by an inch or two, and you can even cover up some knitting mistakes by blocking. However, you can’t shrink your knitting using blocking.

The effects of blocking aren’t always permanent. Natural yarns tend to retain their “blocked” shape well until they get wet, but synthetic yarns can quickly spring back to their “pre-blocked” shape if they’re not looked after.

Is It Always Necessary to Block Your Knitting?

Nothing bad will happen if you don’t block your knitting, but it might not look as good. Blocking will significantly improve the appearance of almost any project, but if you’re not concerned with how your knitting looks, then you don’t have to block it.

Choosing not to block your knitting won’t destroy your work, but it can have negative consequences. You may not reach the exact dimensions specified in your knitting pattern, and it will be significantly harder to create panels of exactly the same size for seaming.

In addition to improving the aesthetics of your work, blocking also plays a significant role in maintaining the correct knitting tension. The knitting gauge specified in most patterns is measured after the work is blocked, so it’s important to know your ‘blocked tension’ when choosing the right needle size.

To find your ‘blocked tension’, block your swatches before casting on your actual project to determine how to proceed with your knitting.

How Do Yarn Types Affect Blocking?

The type of yarn fiber and knitting stitch used in your project will impact how you block your knitting. For this reason, the best blocking method is usually the one specified in your knitting pattern or on your yarn label.

If your pattern doesn’t contain blocking instructions or you’re using a different yarn, you’ll need to read your yarn label and choose a blocking technique yourself.

Yarn types before and after blocking
Different knitted fabrics before and after blocking. (Image Credit: Knitscene Handmade 2016)

All fiber types and yarn textures can be blocked, but some block better than others. Natural fibers like wool and cotton respond well to the process: they stretch easily, retain their shape, and they’re highly absorbent so it’s easier to fill in gaps and create a substantial finished work.

On the other hand, synthetic fibers quickly revert back to their pre-blocked shape and size. This means it can be harder to “open up” dense or intricate stitch patterns and retain the “blocked” look.

For this reason, it’s best to choose natural fibers for projects with complicated stitching like lacework.

Tip: For the best possible outcome to all of your hand knitting, knit a test swatch and block it before you cast on your project. This will show you how the final fabric will eventually look.

Before You Start: General Tips for All Blocking Techniques

Before we teach you the 4 main blocking techniques, here are some useful tips to help you look after your knitting during blocking:

  • It’s best to block individual pieces before seaming or sewing them together. The blocking process flattens and finalizes the shape of each panel, which makes stitching them together easier.
  • If you have the time, block your test swatch before you cast on your project. If you don’t have the time, try blocking your gauge swatch before you block the finished garment.
  • Weave in your ends before blocking. This helps them stay in place.
  • Avoid wringing, twisting, or distorting the fabric as you take it out of the water. Once placed, let the garment dry completely before moving it.
  • If you’re wet blocking, submerge the fabric in water for up to 30 minutes, allowing it to absorb the warm water fully. The knitting should dry in around 24 hours, though it can take up to 48 hours depending on the climate. If it takes longer than this, start the process again or the fabric will begin to smell.
  • You can block ribbing, but it will lose its elasticity if blocked while stretched open. To prevent this, make sure the ribbing is fully contracted before it comes into contact with water.
  • If you’re blocking cables, avoid flattening them by pressing too hard. To avoid distortion best to steam block cables on the wrong side of the work.

Method 1: How to Wet Block Your Knitting

Wet blocking involves fully immersing your knitting in water. This causes the fibers to ‘bloom’, becoming softer, smoother, and cleaner in the process. It is the most common blocking technique, and is generally considered the best way to block most hand knitting projects.

This method is recommended for synthetic fibers, wool and animal fibers, and some novelty yarns. It’s not recommended for fabrics knitted with cotton or delicate yarns that may lose their shape when wet.

Before you get started with wet blocking, check your knitting pattern and yarn label for instructions. It might seem obvious, but don’t wet anything that says it shouldn’t be wet.

Here’s a video explaining how to wet block your knitting:

Follow these step-by-step instructions to wet block your knitting:

1. Wet the Fabric

Fully submerge the knitted fabric in lukewarm water. Let it soak for between 15 and 30 minutes, ensuring the work is fully saturated. Do not use hot water, as it may distort your fabric.

Immersing a Sweater
We blocked this turtleneck sweater with lukewarm water in a bathtub.

If you’re using wool wash, add it now. We recommend using a wool wash with lanolin for natural softness, which you can find in bottles on KnitPicks or in bars on Etsy.

2. Remove the Moisture

Once the knitting has soaked, carefully lift it out of the basin. Gently squeeze out the excess water without wringing or twisting the fabric.

To remove even more moisture, lay the fabric on an absorbent towel and roll it up gently.

Tip: To remove the excess water from your knitting quickly, you can put it on a gentle spin cycle in your washing machine.

3. Position the Garment

Set up the surface you’ll be using for blocking. If you’re using blocking mats, assemble the tiles to make room for your project.

Lay your knitting down on the surface with the right-side facing up. Begin carefully stretching the fabric to fit the size and shape you need.

4. Pin the Fabric Down

Use rust-proof pins and a tape measure to pin the garment down to your desired measurements and shape. To create clean curves, thread blocking wires through the edges of the fabric and pin them in place.

As you’re placing pins around the edges of the work, consider where you’d like to add some positive ease to your knit. Most fibers are very pliable when wet, which means you can add an inch or two by stretching and pinning the fabric in place.

Blocking a Sweater
We used blocking mats and knit blockers to pin down this sweater.

An easy way to start is to place your first pin at the top of the garment in the center. Stretch the work to your desired length, then place your second pin in the bottom center. Next, add two more pins on each side and pin to your chosen width.

You can now pin around the edges to fill in any gaps and avoid curling around the edges.

If the project is exactly the size you need it, avoid stretching it – just lay it flat and smooth any bumps down.

5. Remove the Pins

Allow the fabric to dry completely before removing your pins or moving the garment. This will usually take between 24 and 48 hours. If it takes any longer, start the process again or it may begin to smell.

As the fabric dries, it will retain the size and shape it was pinned to.

6. Seam the Pieces Together

Once you’ve finished blocking and you have removed the pins, you can stitch the pieces together. If they’re a little stiff after blocking, try streaming the seams with an iron to loosen them up a little.

Method 2: How to Steam Block Your Knitting

Steam blocking is the best blocking technique for delicate yarn fibers that can’t get wet. It’s also great for cotton, which tends to lose its shape in water. You should avoid steam blocking synthetic fibers like acrylic though, as the hot steam can melt or destroy the yarn.

The effects of steam blocking are the same as wet blocking, but gentler. Instead of using warm water to loosen the fibers, you simply use the steam from an iron. This avoids stretching the fabric with the weight of the water.

Here’s a video explaining how to steam block your knitting:

There are two main methods for steam blocking. You can steam the fabric first to relax the fibers before you pin it, or you can pin the garment to your desired shape and then steam it to set the shape.

In this section, we’ll teach you how to steam your fabric and then pin it, so the yarn is pliable first.

Here’s how to steam block your knitting:

1. Wet a Protective Cloth

Set up the surface you’ll use for blocking. Meanwhile, saturate a large cloth with water and squeeze out the excess until it stops dripping.

Lay your knitting down and gently place the cloth over the top. If you’re blocking a heavy yarn weight, you can also spray it with water to protect it even more.

2. Steam the Fabric

Set your iron to the lowest temperature that allows steam. Once it has heated, hover it slightly above the surface of the protective cloth and steam the entire garment in an “up and down” motion. You can also use a steamer for this process if you have one.

The goal is not to add pressure, but to send the steam through the cloth and into the fabric. It’s not the heat, but the moisture that does the blocking. If you let the iron actually touch the fabric, it may melt the fibers or flatten the stitches.

You can finish steaming when you feel the fabric relax.

3. Position and Pin the Garment

Once the yarn feels moist and relaxed, remove the protective cloth and position the garment according to your knitting pattern. Follow the pinning instructions above to fix it in your desired size and shape.

4. Leave to Dry

If you’re happy with its positioning, leave the garment to dry completely before removing the pins. Unlike wet blocking, this should only take a few hours at most.

Method 3: How to Spray Block Your Knitting

Spray blocking is the gentlest and fastest blocking method. It’s best for small projects, delicate or expensive yarns, and stitch patterns like lacework. You can also use it to refresh your knitting after you’ve worn it a few times.

The process is similar to steam blocking, except you gently mist the fabric with a spray bottle instead of a steam iron.

Misting is fast and very delicate, but it’s not always effective. It’s hard to gauge exactly how wet your fabric gets, and it’s often just not powerful enough to block big and heavy projects.

We recommend spray blocking if you’re new to knitting or you’re not sure how a particular yarn will respond. If it doesn’t work, move on to steam blocking or wet blocking.

Here’s a video demonstrating how to spray block your knitting:

Just like steaming, you can spray your fabric both before and after pinning. We’ll explain how to pin your garment and then spray it, as it’s the quickest and easiest method.

Here’s how to spray block your knitting:

  1. Lay the garment on your chosen blocking surface and pin it to your desired measurements.
  2. Lightly spray the fabric with clean, lukewarm water from a spray bottle. Aim to dampen and relax the yarn fibers without completely saturating them.
  3. Gently smooth the fabric with your hands to remove any bumps.
  4. Allow your knitting to completely dry before removing the pins or moving the fabric.

Method 4: How to Dry Block Your Knitting

If you don’t have time to block your knitting properly or you’re worried about the effects of moisture, it is possible to achieve the effects of blocking without water.

You can use “dry blocking” to quickly fix small imperfections in any knitting, regardless of the fiber type or stitch pattern. It can make your work look a little bit better, but it won’t have anywhere near the effect of wet blocking.

If you have the time and materials, we always recommend blocking with water, steam, or spraying.

Here’s a video explaining how to dry block your knitting:

Here’s how to dry block your knitting without water:

  1. Begin by holding the knitted fabric at the edges and pulling it in opposite directions. If the garment is too wide, fold each vertical side inwards and pull on the folds. Keep folding and unfolding the project to stretch the entire width of the work horizontally.
  2. Repeat the same process, but lengthwise. Fold the garment in horizontal sections and pull it from top to bottom, stretching out the fabric. At this point, the stitching should start to look a little neater.
  3. If you have any particularly large holes, uneven stitches, or mistakes, pull on the surrounding stitches to distribute the yarn more evenly.
  4. Repeat the process until you have hidden any obvious mistakes and made your stitchwork as uniform as you’d like it.

How to Block Your Knitting Without a Board, Mat, or Pins

If you’re choosing not to block your knitting because you don’t have the materials, you’re missing out. With just a few household items, you can block your knitting and get great results without paying for the equipment.

To block your knits without a blocking mat or board, simply find a towel and a flat surface that you don’t mind getting a little bit wet. For example, you could use the floor, a table, or a desk. For added protection from water damage, try placing a garbage bag or plastic cloth between the surface and the towel.

If you plan to pin your knitting in place, choose a cushioned flat surface like a yoga mat, ironing board, bath mat, cushion, carpet, or a bed. If your project is small enough, you can even use a corkboard.

Once you’ve covered your chosen surface and wet the fabric, lay the knitting on top and gently nudge it into shape. To pin it in place without blocking pins, you can use safety pins, drawing pins, or even clothespins.

Fix the project in place and then leave it to dry without moving it.

The convenience of self-assembling blocking mats and readymade pins is hard to beat, but if you’re just starting out this method of blocking using household items will work well.

Materials You’ll Need for Blocking

There are tools and materials specifically designed for blocking knitting projects. They’ll make it easier to find the right size and shape for your work, and they make the process much less messy, too.

Here’s a summary of the materials you might need:

If you’re blocking your first project, you can purchase a blocking starter kit that contains all of the tools you’ll need to get started. If you want to try blocking your knits on a budget, skip to our section on blocking without a board, mat, or pins.

Blocking Boards and Mats

The first decision you’ll have to make is where to block your knitting. You can use any flat surface as long as it’s water resistant and large enough to spread your work out fully.

You can also use specially-designed blocking mats made from water and heat resistant materials. These mats usually come in interlocking pieces that you can assemble to suit the size and shape of your work.

KnitPro Blocking Mats
Blocking mats are designed to fit together like puzzle pieces. (Image Credit: LoveCrafts)

Ready-made boards typically have grids printed on them for measuring, and the foamy material is easy to slide pins into.

Blocking Pins or “Knit Blockers”

You’ll need strong, rust-proof pins to hold your knitting in place while it dries. Most pins come in packs of 50 or more, which is enough for even large projects. T-pins are popular for blocking because they’re long and the shape makes them easy to place and remove.

You can also use special pins called “knit blockers”, which have a strong plastic cap and three to four needles attached.

KnitPro Knit Blockers
Knit blockers are an easy way to pin your work down. (Image Credit: LoveCrafts)

Ideal for garments with straight edges, knit blockers also include anchor holes which you can thread string through to maintain tension.

Blocking Wires

If you’re blocking lacework or another large project, you can use blocking wires to help pin curves in place.

To do this, simply thread the wire through the edges of your project and place pins on the inside to hold them in place.

Blocking Wires
You can use wires to block curved projects and scalloped edges. (Image Credit: KnitPicks)

As with traditional pins, simply follow the measurements in your pattern and adjust the wires to meet your desired shape. You should also make sure to use rust-proof wires that won’t be affected by exposure to water.

Sock Blockers

As you might guess from the name, sock blockers won’t be useful to you if you’re knitting a sweater or a knitted dress pattern.

However, if you’re following a sock knitting pattern, they’re essential. Simply choose a blocker in the right foot size and the tool will help your work dry to the shape and size you need.

Sock Blockers
You can use adjustable sock blockers to block multiple projects in different sizes. (Image Credit: Etsy)

If you knit socks often, you can also find adjustable sock blockers that allow you to block your socks in multiple sizes.

Blocking Basin and Spray Bottle

Finally, you’ll need somewhere to soak, wash, and rinse your work before pinning it down. Most knitters use a bathtub, but if you don’t have one, you can also use a blocking basin made specifically for knitting.

The larger your project, the bigger the container you’ll need. Whatever you use, just make sure it’s big enough to fully submerge the item you need to block.

If you’re planning to “spray block” your knitting, you’ll need a spraying or misting bottle like the one you’d use for plants. You can get these online or from any hardware store. Likewise, “steam blocking” your knitting will require a steam iron.

How to Block Your Knitting: Free Printable Instructions

Below, you can find full instructions for blocking your knitting in a handy printable guide. Share it, download it, or simply print it out and keep it for the next time you need some help!

How to Block Your Knitting Step-by-step Instructions

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