One of the most interesting things about working at a yarn store is listening to people explain the processes involved in things they do differently than you do. If you let go of conventions about there being a right way or a wrong way there is a lot to learn! Recently a woman was explaining how she blocked her knits. Now, I am going to say right now, I block everything. It just makes things look better, even the simplest hat. But I don’t do a full on pinned blocking every time, which I will explain shortly. How this woman blocks her knitting is by taking a damp towel (or two) and placing her work on it, either folding it so both sides are covered or putting another one on top. When the work is damp she would then lay it flat to dry. I had never even thought of using a damp towel, but can see how this would be a great way to block really delicate knits. As long as you are getting a result you like, there is no wrong way to block.
Now here’s what I do. First, it depends on what I am blocking. If it’s something simple, or something with lots of colourwork, I do a steam block. I take my Super Cooker (a wedding gift – I’ve always wanted to test if I can cook a steak and cake at the same time!) which is basically a really big pan with a domed lid and a steamer rack. I put some water in (not too much, just 1/2 inch or so) and let it boil. I toss my knits on the rack, put the lid on and let them absorb the steam for a minute or so. Then I take them out and fluff them into shape. It works pretty good, and is my line of first defence when it comes to blocking.
If my work needs a bit more, or I am blocking lacy openwork, I opt for full immersion. I take a big bowl and turn on the kettle. I place my knits in the bowl and when the kettle is almost boiling, I pour the water (gently) on to my knits. I let it sit until the water cools considerably and then GENTLY wring out excess water. Then I take some towlels, lay the knits flat on a towl, roll it up and stomp on it as I read somewhere that Elizabeth Zimmerman did this, and I giggle at the idea of her stomping on anything. Then I lay it flat and start shaping and pinning. I put blocking wires in the straight edges and pin down the middle first and start working outwards. Then I let it dry (sometimes I cheat and use a hair dryer to speed things up).
If I am blocking silk, I just spray and pin as quickly as possible, the smell is so bad!
So that’s how I block. How do you do it?.