How to Block
Alright, we spent tons of time learning all these great new stitches, but now we need to talk about something that's a really practical part of knitting, especially now that we know how to do a little bit of lace knitting, and this is something called blocking. You'll notice in a pattern often in the finishing section, it'll say block if necessary. So what that means is certain stitch patterns and certain fibers don't look all that smooth and clean right off the needles. You might notice that some of these, the stockinette piece especially. That doesn't have a border so that's also why it's doing it. This piece. They're fine. I mean, they look decent, but they don't look crisp, and it's because they need to be blocked, and I'm gonna show you the basics on how to do that. How do you know whether or not your piece needs to be blocked? Do you like how it looks once it's off your needles? Yes, you do? You're golden. Don't worry about this. Not so much? Blocking. Blocking is magical. Someti...
mes especially if you're working with intarsia, which is kind of color block knitting, you'll see a bunch of holes and you think, oh my gosh I'm lame. This looks terrible and then through the magic of blocking, you realize that you've killed it with your knitting. You are that awesome. So, this is just a really great way. Don't discount anything that you've worked on if you see that you've done all the stitches correctly until after you've gone through this process. So there's several different ways that you can do this, and I'm just gonna show you three of the ways based on what you have at your own home, or maybe what you want to purchase. So, I like these little, these are specifically for this. These are by Cocoknits, I believe, and these are actually blocking mats. But if you look at them, they really just look like the little mats that you might see in a child's playroom. The only addition is that they've added, you can probably see my dog Rio's hair on it, 'cause it really is made to grasp at those fibers to hold it in place, so there's this layer of fabric over it. That's the only difference between these. The other cool thing is that they're modular, so this actually comes in a set so I could cover almost this whole table, if I wanted to, or if I was making a long scarf, I could lay them out. So that's a really nice option. But, you can also use a carpeted floor, or if you have folded towels on a table, often I will tape the towels, with masking tape or whatever just to keep them in place. But any of those options work, I've even seen people, if they're working on huge pieces, actually just pin straight up to their beds. You just need something that can hold a pin, and that will keep something firmly in place. So, if you take a swatch, you're just gonna pin it down, and this is when your T-pins come into place. And you want to, one of the blocking mats that I use actually has grid lines on it, if you were working with something that needed to be an exact shape or size, that would be really helpful, because you could just measure it out right there. For something like just this little swatch of general lace, I can just eye it, 'cause really all I want is, I want it to open up a bit. If I was being, if you tend to walk on the perfection wild side, you could even take a measuring tape and make sure that, all across, all the way down, that it was the same measurement. I do not walk on that side, so I'm not even gonna attempt that. But like I said, if you really had something that needed to be a shape, you could work on a mat, they make mats that actually have grid lines. And that's really for when you get into more advanced stuff, really advanced lace scarves, and that kind of thing, or at least shawls, in which case you'd also have additional tools that would help you with that too. All right, so you're gonna pin these pieces down, and I'm pretty generous with the pins, because I want each little area to get its own attention. All right? I'm gonna just pin a couple of these down, you could do this with any of these. I'm working on my lace. Lace, almost always, needs to be blocked. The yarn kind of tends to pull in, into itself, and because you have all these yarn over holes, you want them to open up, you want them to spread their wings, you want them to open up. And they don't naturally do that, you have to give 'em a little help. So, because these are just swatches, I'm not being super super careful about... shaping. You can kind of just eye it. And I like to put the pins in, the reason why these T-pins are great, is because, I don't know if you can see this. Let me get a lighter one so maybe you can catch it easier. I like to slide it in kind of at an angle so that the T portion of the pin kind of acts like a hand pressing down your piece. It just helps to keep it flat versus pulling your piece out, 'cause you don't want to misshape it, too, that's something that you can, this could be counterproductive if you don't pay attention to things like that. So, once again, you're gonna just pin down all of... your areas, and then there's a couple ways that you can do this. You can either just get a plain old spray bottle, like you can find this at your local drug store, or whatever, and you can just cover it. (spray sounds) Just get it wet. You don't want it soaking wet, but nice and damp. And then you would just let it sit, if you're happy with how it's pinned. I would probably have a pin up here too. If you're happy with how it's pinned, you're just gonna let it dry, probably overnight. You want it to completely dry. And ideally it's gonna dry mostly in this shape, because this is really open weave lace, it's gonna retract a little bit, but at least it's gonna lay a little bit flatter. So the other thing, my preferred method, when I'm not being all fancy and using my new toy, which I love, which is a handheld steamer, but that's not something that you even need to go into now, is get a tea towel, and just wet it. And this one, I have been using this one for years, so it's got, like, it looks a little rough, I'm not gonna kid you, but I love it because it's huge. It's big, so I can use it for a lot of big pieces. So just any kind of water, it doesn't matter what. And then I would just lay it out. There's even burn marks from when I accidentally used an iron on it, too. You're gonna lay it over the piece, and then you're gonna just press on it, and you wanna make sure that your piece is saturated. I mean, you don't have to obsess over it, but you know, just make sure that you press down on all of it, and then you're just gonna let that set for as long as it takes for that to completely dry, until the towel's dry. And that's gonna be really nice. The reason why I like this method is because I have animals and children, and so this is gonna protect, my cats love to just randomly sit on the swatches, and that does not help in any way. So this way, if somebody, if an animal steps on it or sits on it or whatever, you're not gonna get their hairs into the fibers. Plus, this is a really inexpensive alternative. A tea towel, really inexpensive to get, you probably even have one. You can use a thick kitchen towel, it's the same thing. So inexpensive, and really practical, especially if you have children or animals. Another way that you can do it is you can use a towel, which I mentioned before, and tape it down. I would not necessarily go that route if I were blocking something like this shawl. The only reason that I put it here is just to show you a different way of pinning. When you're working with a shaw like this one, you'll notice that there's some little points. But, see how they naturally curl up? That's just something that's just totally natural when you're working with this really fine yarn. So they really need to have each individual point... blocked out. Now when you get into advanced shawls, there are special wires and tools and pins for blocking shawls. That could be a whole class in and of itself, but for the purpose of this shawl, this is just a basic, probably an intermediate and advanced beginner shawl, this is totally fine. So if we were not working within the constraints of this table, I would have a huge, I would probably have a ton of these laid out, or I would have, I would go to a carpeted space, and I would have it all laid out, I wouldn't just have a portion like this. I'd want it spread out all the same. And I might even use the grid lines, just so that the two sides were symmetrical. So then, I could still use either one of the methods that I just showed you, or the other option that you can use is an iron. The really important thing to know, though, is that you never, ever actually place the iron on top of the fibers, whether it's, if it's animal fiber, it could burn it or disintegrate it, if it's an acrylic, it could actually melt it. Just, don't do it, 'cause it's so sad if you've worked that hard and then you destroy it in the finishing process. But what you do want to do, is you want to use the iron, and you just wanna steam it. So just kind of hover it over there, and you have the steam function on, and you wanna kind of feel it with your hand, and make sure that it's doing its job, and it is. I can also feel that the water's coming out from the top of it, which is good, 'cause it's saturating it, and then the steam acts like one of those fancy steamers I was talking about earlier. And, you know, most people have an iron, so there's no additional money that's going out of your wallet, which means you can spend more money on great yarn. And that's really it. Those are the basics. All you really need to invest in are some T-pins, so, not a big investment, and then you can kind of figure out. Practice with these different methods. See what works for you. It'll often depend on how much space you have to work on. Go and look at any of your projects. If you have any projects that you feel like, eh, I don't know, they look kind of schluppy, or whatever, give 'em a block. I promise you that you're gonna be much happier with your finished product after you've blocked than before you did it. All right, let's go back to some knitting.