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Tutorial: Steam Vs. Wet Blocking

The term "blocking" simply means "to shape," but it is a critical component to finishing a knitted garment perfectly. This one trick smoothes out the stitches, eases out any rough parts, makes laddering disappear, and generally results in one amazing piece of knitwear. But, should you steam or wet block?

Choose wet blocking if:

  1. Your yarn is composed of anything synthetic, bamboo, rayon/viscose, hemp or soy. Superwash yarn prefers to be wet-blocked, as do the delicate animal fibers such as cashmere, alpaca or quivut. Be sure to check your yarn labels.
  2. Your garment is primarily lace. Wet blocking really relaxes the fibers, allowing you to stretch out your lace significantly.
  3. You don't mind that it takes up a lot of space or time.
  4. You don't have a steamer.

Step 1: Fill a sink or bin with lukewarm water. I often add a drop of no-rinse wool wash at this point so that is smells lovely (it is also what I hand-wash with).
Step 2: Drop your knit piece into the water, giving it a good couple of squeezes to help the water penetrate into the core.
Step 3: Let it soak for 20 minutes (at least).
Step 4: Pull the knit piece out and squeeze gently to release as much water as you can. Do not wring or twist.
Step 5: Place the knit piece onto a towel; roll the towel up and press on it for a few minutes to force out the last bit of excess water.
Step 6: Remove it from the towel and prepare to pin the knit piece to measurements indicated in the schematic.
Step 7: Take this time to pinch any cables that look weird, push open any eyelets, use your hands to smooth any wrinkles, and make sure that the measurements you are aiming for look correct.
Step 8: Leave it alone until it is completely dry, at least 24 hours. When dry, unpin and continue with any finishing that remains.

To Steam Block
Choose steam blocking if:

  1. You have an iron with a steam-blast setting or a garment steamer.
  2. Your yarn is comprised of wool, because all wool loves steam, as do cotton, silk and linen. Always check your yarn label or experiment with your gauge swatches, though.
  3. You are too impatient to wait for wet-blocked items to dry, or you need to block in pieces due to space constraints.

Step 1: Start by pinning your knitting to the measurements indicated in the schematic.
Step 2: Heat up your steamer.
Step 3: Saturate your knits with steam until they are hot and moist to the touch. If using an iron, do NOT touch the metal to your knitted fabric. Garment steamers can touch knits without worry.
Step 4: While the pieces are damp, take this time to pinch any cables that look weird, push open any eyelets, and use your hands to smooth any wrinkles.
Step 5: Wait 15 minutes or so for the pieces to dry; then unpin and continue on your merry way.

Now, go forth and knit the stunning garments in the winter issue!