Blocking Brigid

Whoah Nelly!  Two knitting posts in one month?  I’m feeling a little 2009ish.  Swell!  And, wait to you see what I cast on next (and you do have to wait because I haven’t photographed it yet).

I have one word for the next project.


And no more I’ll say.

Anyway, I took photographs of Brigid (from Vintage Modern Knits) blocking, so I thought I’d share a few blocking tips.  I feel like I should have a title like 10 Helpful Blocking Tips, but I’m doing this off the top of my head, and I don’t know if I’ll get to ten.  

So first – block.

That’s it – number 1 advice stands alone – you must block your garments, or they’ll look like poo.  I know people who don’t.

And I’ll say no more.

I’ve already said what I think they’re finished garments look like.

No. 2 – Block before you sew.  Why?  Because I said so, dammit.

No, really – here’s why.  Because sewing your garment together is probably going to be trickier than knitting it was, and you want to make your life easy.  So, before you sew – and I know you just want to dive right in and do it, but don’t – get out the schematic that came with your pattern, and block your pieces just like their accompanying pictures.

Schematic?  Huh? You say – this isn’t one of those crazy Ikea products I have to put together, this is knitting, what are you talking about, schematic?  Every knitting pattern should have a diagram, a little picture of the finished pieces, showing the measurements for each size.  The more measurements given, the better the schematic.  And, if your pattern doesn’t have a schematic, you have a crappy pattern.  And if you have a crappy pattern, you should draw yourself a sketch of what the schematic should look like based on the measurements you were given in the pattern.

And now the magic begins.  You have all of these curly, unruly pieces of knitting, that may look two sizes too small (if they look two sizes too big, they probably are, and you didn’t properly check your gauge – and that’s another lesson for another day, and if it looks more than 2 sizes too small, again, it probably is, it’s not just cables that need to bloom, or lace that needs to grow.  At that point, you have a choice to make – you can block it long, you can block it wide, but you can’t do both – you can only compensate so far.  And if you try to pull the fabric out too much – you’ll get crazy points in the fabric.  If it’s too small, and you aggressively block – you may damage the integrity of the yarn and your stitches, and you may want to just consider gifting or ripping).  But, it’s typical for yarn to bloom once its wet, and once you start blocking – and all of that, say lace – once you get it on your floor, your blocking board, whatever – it’s going to take form, those cables?  will magically unsquish.  There is one bit of magic that blocking can’t do – it cannot fix a too tightly bound off edge.  So, if in your desire to get your project done, you bound off your stitches so tightly that the edge curves – take a step back.  Put your pins away.  Go back, rip out the cast off, and do it again with a bigger needle.  If you don’t, it will always curve.  Water and pins can only do so much.

Now, of course, I didn’t take any photos of the presewing blocking of Brigid.  But, here are your basic steps – (I’m recounting because this seems like very disorganized babble but I really don’t feel like editing this – I know, I’m not winning any blogging awards any time soon) – so – 1. Choose blocking, 2. Block before Sewing, 3. Find Your Schematic

Once you have that down, wet your pieces.  Now here’s an important think – you’re wetting wool – don’t felt your sweater before you even get it on the blocking board.  Put the thing in your sink, get it wet, but don’t be aggressive with it – at all.  I run the water over the garment, let the water soak in, and then I drop it in a towel that’s been spread out.  Then, to get the excess water out, I don’t squeeze it – I simply roll up it up in the towel.  Roll, don’t squeeze = no felting.

Next, get your blocking tools ready.  I use a blocking board.  If you don’t have a blocking board, use your floor.  But, whatever you use, make sure you have some kind of measuring instrument.  That’s why the blocking board is nice – it’s divided into blocks.

Gosh this post is sounding more and more like a field guide to brain surgery with every sentence – a blocking board has blocks – genius!

Ok, so you have your blocking board, with little blocks on it, and your pins.

Pins are your friends.

You can never over pin.

Pins = use them. 

Use them alot.

So, take your pieces – generally your front (or fronts if it’s a cardigan), the back, and your sleeves.  And the most important thing you’re going to block – meaning, pin into place according to the measurements on your diagram/schematic – is the armhole. And the sleeve cap.

If you screw up the armhole and/or the sleeve cap you’re doomed.

Sorry, but true.

If you screw up the armhole, you’re going to find yourself fudging the sewing – the sleeve cap must fit into armhole – and if it doesn’t you’re going to have a lump of fabric either in the armpit, or on the shoulder – Quasimodo, Elephant Man, you take your pick.

And the beauty of blocking is that even if you’ve screwed up your decreases (just a little bit, you can’t fix big big mistakes with blocking) on your armhole or sleeve cap, you can probably fix them when you block, as long as you’re following your little picture/diagram/schematic.  Fudge while blocking, not while sewing.

So pin out all of your pieces – I pin them on my blocking board just like the diagram – so I have a sleeve on each side – blocked very near the arm hole so I can eyeball that they’re going to work.  Two fronts of a cardigan I’ll block side by side, so I know they’re the same length, width, etc. and then I’ll block the back.

Then let it dry – overnight.  Don’t skimp on the drying.  Just let it sit.  Patience.  I know it’s hard – but do it.

Then, you can sew.

And then, sometimes, you can block again!

And that’s where my pictures come in.

Once blocked, and sewn (and sewn much easier because you have nicely blocked, flat edges, and perfectly formed armoles and sleeve caps), often, you have to pick up a buttonband and a collar.  Sometimes, after I’ve done that part of the finishing, I’ll block the whole garment in one piece, to get a nice edge on my button band, and a nice even edge to the hole garment)  –


So – there you have it.  I have again wet my jacket, and gotten it into shape on the board.

I have been generous in my use of pins – pinning down the buttonband, and the bottom of my jacket.

And why aren’t the sleeves pinned?  Because at this point I was happy with their shape, they didn’t need any additional pins – and the only thing I could have done to them at this point is over block them – pin them in strange, contorted ways that would result in some crazy point in the fabric.

Love these buttons!

So, there you have it.  Any questions?  I know this was completely and totally clear.

Seriously, if you need any help, feel free to email.




1 Comment

  1. Sarah Friedman April 11, 2012

    I think I need a blocking board stat. I typically use the guest room mattress, but it's a lot of guestimating and slightly crooked blocking results!


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