As you will probably know from previous blog posts (or if you’ve ever talked to me about knitting projects!) I’m not a fan of finishing. I’m especially bad at getting around to doing my blocking, partly because it’s a lot of effort but also because it requires a lot of space if it’s a large item. When I started working on the Rowan Afghan KAL I realised there was going to be a lot of blocking to do! I blocked my first few squares by pinning them to my ironing board and steaming them with the iron, but I found it took a long time to get them all pinned out properly and then more time to leave them pinned out to dry after steaming. Not very convenient, especially if you need your ironing board for, you know, actual ironing!
In the past with garments I have usually pinned them out on a towel to dry after wet blocking them. Since moving house in February, I now have a house with mostly hard floors (laminate, tiles or vinyl) and very little carpet. This makes me reluctant to pin on the floor because I don’t want to risk damaging the flooring in my rented house with pins and also I can’t secure the towel on the floor with pins to stop it moving around or shrinking while it dries.
It seemed about time to get some better blocking techniques in my repertoire so that I didn’t have any more excuse for letting my blocking languish for months on end. After some online research I found this amazing blog post all about how to make blocking easier and more convenient. It’s a long post and well worth reading, but to summarise if you’re in a rush…
Fabric Cutting Board
Block your knitting on a fabric cutting board. It’s pre-printed with measurement lines making it easier to get your item to the right size and if you are short on permanently available floor space (or have inquisitive pets/children), the board can be stood against a wall out of the way whilst the blocked items dry. Genius!
These boards are even strong enough to withstand steam blocking your knitting. I was not convinced, but the blog post was so confident that I just had to try it. So far I’ve blocked three sets of Afghan squares on my board and it’s taken no damage from it at all!
If you haven’t seen these before, the set I ordered is made by KnitPro and looked like this, containing 12 solid wires (6 long, 6 short) and 3 flexible wires:
You can use blocking wires even if you aren’t blocking something complicated like a lace shawl, they allow you to use fewer pins because the wires hold the knitting to shape and you just need a few pins to hold the wires in position. This has been especially helpful for my Afghan squares because I can thread one of the longest wires in my set through the top of three squares and another through the bottom. With just three pins to the top and bottom of each square, plus one or two down each side, that’s far fewer pins than I would otherwise have to use and produces perfectly straight edges. Brilliant!
I’d previously been blocking with safety pins as they were what I already had. It was fiddly, annoying and hurt my fingers. The set of blocking wires that I ordered came with a few T pins, which I immediately loved. So much easier to pin and remove! I ordered a full set immediately to complement the few I already had.
The pins came in a little plastic box which was fiddly to get them out of when trying to hold knitting in place, so I decided that I needed a good pin cushion to complete my new blocking kit to perfection. Luckily for me, I knew just where to go for one because Steph of Netty Not makes the cutest pincushions. I bought this little guy from her and now my pins have a lovely and convenient home.
One of the great benefits of this techniques is that once you’ve pinned your work to the board, you can stand it up against a wall or in an otherwise out of the way position so that you’re not tripping over it whilst it dries. I love it!
And here’s the result – unblocked vs blocked squares. Just a small difference!
What new tip or technique have you learned recently that you’ve really enjoyed?