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.