blocking, design, sweater

How Do You Really Block a Sweater?

blockingAs my newest sweater piece came off the needles, contradictory advice on wet blocking swirled in my head.  I’ve been on a bit of book binge and have purchase some new knitting books:  “Finishing School” by Deborah Newton and “Knowledgeable Knitter” by Margaret Radcliffe.

Ms. Newton is a pattern designer and declares that “less is more” when it comes to blocking- with the caveat that you should treat your swatch as you would your finished garment.  She talks about taking your hand-knits to the dry cleaners and that a little bit of steaming is generally enough. Ms. Radcliffe, on the other hand, extols the virtues of wet blocking and highly recommends wet blocking your pieces before assembly.  She says that many yarns can be wet blocked.  In fact, the manufacturers will generally say “dry clean” if they feel a dye may run and that water will not damage the fiber.  The two books take very different approaches to blocking.

blocking3I suppose if the main purpose of your garment is to be photographed for a magazine and not worn regularly, then wet blocking (aka hand-washing) isn’t crucial.  So, steaming is enough as your sweater will never see water in it’s entire life.  But, if like me, you plan on wearing your handknits, and eventually hand-washing, then wet-blocking both your swatch and your sweater is very important!  At least that is the conclusion I have drawn.

I don’t mean to pick on Ms. Newton or her book.  In fact, there is a goldmine of information in there.  The blocking piece just confused me for a while because I’ve just recently gotten into the habit of wet-blocking my swatches because of former knitting disasters and the “less is more” advice had me second-guessing myself and scratching my head.  🙂

blocking2My latest sweater is a stash buster.  I’m going for a crazy, garish, super-comfy sweater.  I’m planning on knitting the other side of the front with different colored stripes to add to the obnoxious-ness of the sweater.  So far, only the front left piece completed.  I’m holding a fingering weight yarn double and the two-colors-at-a-time approach gives each stripe at heathered appearance which I like.  The yarn is Palette from Knit Picks that was in my stash.  I’m going to try to knit projects from my stash for a while to see if I can get to a point where I can open my yarn cabinet without yarn jumping off the shelves at me.  After 4-5 sweaters, I should get my stash down to a reasonable size.

KnitBookUsing a technique picked up from yet another knitting book, The Big Book of Knitting, I’ve inserted diagonal pockets into the front of the sweater.  I think they are a little on the small side but it’s not worth it to me to rip them back.  Perhaps during finishing, I could rip out the sewing and pick up stitches and extend the pockets all the way to the center.  We’ll see.

And, I notice on the blocking mat that the center yellow stripe is 2 rows too short!  It’s not a huge, big deal as long as I match the short stripe on the right side and back pieces.  My sweater will just be .25″ shorter than I planned.  I’m just glad it didn’t happen in the arm hole.  No one likes squeezy armholes!  I suppose I could perform surgery on this sweater to add back the stripes like I did with my lounger socks.  Hmmm… maybe surgery is in order.

socksurgery4This sweater seems to be flying off the needles since I’m not writing a pattern at the same time.  And, I’ve ordered a purple metal zipper for the front closure from an Etsy shop.  I really love Etsy.  There are some amazing hand-made things on there in addition to the entire section of craft supplies.  I’ve got my eye on an interchangeable knitting needle case.  Is it not the best design for interchangeables?  My current interchangeable needle storage method is the “stuff them all into a drawer” method.  This would be a HUGE improvement.

15 thoughts on “How Do You Really Block a Sweater?”

  1. I love your newest sweater. I still have to block the last sweater that I knit. Maybe I should get around to that and then I can put on buttons. I love reading your experienced opinions on your blog. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the colors you’ve chosen for your sweater. I think it will look marvelous when you’re done. And thanks for the info about blocking. That’s the next stage for me on a sweater and I’m a bit nervous. How did you find the Knowledgeable Knitter?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks! 🙂 I found the book at Barnes & Noble. I spent way too much time browsing the knitting section and easy too many dollars buying an arm load of books. Lol. Knit Picks is currently running a 40% off all their books sale. I wonder if they have it there for less?


  3. I’m the same way… I can spend hours just browsing and thinking about all the knitting projects. Have you had a chance to read through the Knowledgeable Knitter? Do you like it? I’ll check out Knit Picks as well as Amazon. They’re pretty good about carrying most books.


    1. I’ve browsed the book and have read only a few sections but I really, really love it so far. The book is aptly titled because Ms Radcliffe is very knowledgeable. There are lots of pictures and a clear and down-to-earth writing style. She covers the “why” as well as the “how” for all types of knitting techniques. It’s my favorite of all my recent knitting book purchases. I don’t think you will regret getting it if you are looking to expand your understanding of knitting principles. It’s very thorough. No patterns are included, which I prefer in this type of book. 🙂


      1. Thank so much. I found it on Amazon in paper and kindle versions. With these types of books, though, I usually prefer paper. Although, lately I’ve been putting my patterns on my ipad and that’s working out really well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am the same- I need to have it in paper. But, patterns on the ipad make perfect sense. You can zoom in on charts and the section you’re currently knitting! I do the same except with a laptop. 🙂 Great minds think alike!


    1. I love turning knitting mistakes into “design features”. 🙂 Sometimes it works out really well.

      I still may cut into my knitting to add those 2 missing rows. Since all my ends are already woven in, frogging would be a nightmare so that leaves the scissor option which isn’t too scary anymore since I’ve got a couple of tries under my belt. Now that I’ve noticed the short stripe, it is really bugging me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I prefer wet blocking, because as you say that’s how the sweater will be cared for. The lack of two rows is a “design” feature!! Never a mistake. Love the needle case. I keep planning to make one for mine, but never seem to get on it! Right now I am using a paperback cover that is modified to hold everything. If you’re on Rav it’s in my projects, braeburnknitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the needle holder! That is a very clever idea. Far easier than sewing the whole thing from scratch! I’ve thought about making myself a needle case but I’m not the most experienced seamstress and I prefer a pattern. Starting with a book cover is genius! 🙂


  5. I’m a huge fan of wet blocking…I wet block everything. I find that steaming flattens the stitches somewhat, whereas with wet blocking the stitches bloom. Not only that…I like the fresh smell 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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