Adventures in Blocking

Sometimes, it is necessary to block a garment once you're done knitting it. Or, you've got an older sweater that isn't its perky self anymore. Blocking. I resisted for a long time, but it really does help. Here is an example of rights and wrongs in blocking:
1. Soak the garment thoroughly, using a wool wash like Soak or Eucalan. Some knitters just spritz water onto the garment, but it doesn't yield the same results.
2. Gently blot or squeeze water from garment. The temptation to wring is high, but don't do it!
3. Lay the garment out on some towels on the rug or your bed. Remember, this will take twenty four hours, so you might have to sleep on the couch.
4. Massage the garment into its desired shape. Want it a little bigger? Well, now is the time to stretch it! For sweaters, I like to make them sweater shaped, checking that the sleeves don't look weird and are the same length and making sure that the hem isn't wonky from shaping.
5. Let dry. Admire your handiwork as it dries, while looking forward to wearing said garment.
6. Once it is dry, try it on. If it is wonky, you may want to dampen it and make corrections. Dry flat if needed.

So, that is the ideal process. Here's what I did with my Matsuri cardigan. I laid it out to dry on the bed, but it was still soaking 48 hours later. I moved it to another location to dry, where it was lain upon by my cat. The areas covered by cat dried fully, but with cat shaped dent. Disgusted, I put the still damp sweater in the dryer on fluff. Fluff. It doesn't have any heat, just air, I reasoned. Will definitely be safe. Was not safe. Upon removing sweater from dryer, noticed that it was pleasantly fluffy. Fluff came at expense of size. Yes, without any heat, I managed somehow to shrink my sweater about ten percent. That ten percent was needed to get the cardigan to button across my big tickets. Sigh. I thought longingly of a drying rack, which would allow air to circulate around or through the sweater as it dried. Maybe it would dry in a timely fashion on a drying rack. So, I headed over the local sheets and shit, which is having a big going out of business sale. They had no drying racks, but they did have a Rowenta steamer that should sell for $100 marked down to $38 after taxes. This is so much better than a drying rack. Now I can freshen up my sweaters without having to soak them in the tub (unless they need it), make my scarves look crisp and professional, and fog up my glasses. I am nerdily excited!

I quickly realized the problem, as I looked at the sweater laying on the bed. I knit the yarn over-gauge. No biggie, because it wasn't a big gauge difference, except when I fluffed it, the yarn reverted to its natural, smaller gauge. Steam to the rescue! The sweater has now been steamed, allowed to set, and lays on the bed awaiting some revisions around the hem. I could have added an additional increase in the waist shaping. If you do decide to steam block, remember that you have to allow the garment to set before moving it, or the blocking will fall out. I learned that the hard way on a silk gown when I was in college.


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