Sometimes Blocking is Not a Good Idea

There are occassion when blocking knitting should be avoided at ALL costs. Trust me.

This may be blasphemous to say, but I feel a strong conviction that there are several occasions blocking your finished knitting is a bad idea.

It Fits Perfect The Way It Is

Maybe your swatch failed you. Maybe you just didn’t swatch. Or, maybe you didn’t soak your swatch and patiently wait for it to try. Who knows. Whatever the case may be, sometimes your finished knit fits perfect before blocking. The sleeves are the perfect length. The torso just falls just so. A neckline to die for.

This is of particular importance if you have just knit something large. A sweater. Or, worse yet, a dress. Yet still, a full length Oscar gown. (Hand knit Oscar gowns should be more of A Thing, by the way. Someone, quick, send Hollywood a Twitter. Or whatever.)

This is all I can say: DON’T BLOCK IT.  Leave it alone. At best, spritz lightly with a spray bottle and lightly iron the thing (assuming an all-natural fiber).

Also: DON’T GET IT DIRTY. Washing will be difficult. Wear with an undershirt, a slip, or some type of something that will absorb any and all body odor.  Avoid wear around toddlers, Italian food, red wine, cooking with splattering grease (actually just stay out of all kitchens at all times), and gardening.

Just be thankful the darn thing actually fits and take good care of it. Cast on the next project.

Your Wool is Extra Stretchy When Wet

I have become a good better little knitter and now soak my swatches, pin them as I would my finished knits, and wait for them to dry (the worst part, by the way). Even so, I could swear my finished knits stretch much more than my washed and pinned swatches. I think the tremendous weight of the wet wool, being much more substantial in mass than an itty bitty swatch, cause the actual thing I have knit to stretch much more than my swatch.

It’s just my working theory.

I am constantly surprised by how much my wool can stretch, even if I am being gentle and not trying to stretch it. With some yarns that I have worked with again and again (say Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light), I just know the stuff can really stretch. I amend my math with what you might call Gut Instinct. I do my swatch math…and then add a little something to it for the Stretch Factor. There is no hard and fast formula for it. It just comes from making the same mistake over an over and over experience.

Your Stitch Pattern is Particularly Three-Dimensional or Perfectly Textured

This last example is the category to which I most recently fell victim. …Although I kind of victimized myself on purpose for ulterior motives that I will Keep Secret as you to maintain your faith in me that I somewhat know what am doing (even though I don’t…). If your stitch is particularly dimensional and textured…Or textured in a subtle but very significant way that MAKES your entire project, DO NOT BLOCK. Your dimensional stitch will change and BECOME FLATTER. Your subtle texture? Gone!

Case in point: before. Full. Fluffy. Dimensional honeycomb-type stitch. You could hide marbles in those honeycombs!

Great stitch dimension and texture.

After soaking and pinning: flat, dimensionless honeycomb-type stitch. An entirely different beast altogether. The good news: my overall piece worked better as one stitch type transitioned to another. Plus I had a finished cowl, which is exciting.

(This is Madelinetosh Pashmina Worsted in Betty Draper’s Blues, by the way. This Worsted Pashmina is discontinued, but I love it. It can still be found at discount on many online yarn shops, although WEBS is out of it completely now. Quick, off to Google you go!)
A knitted cowl. Simple and beautiful.

If Your Finished Knit Is Exactly How You Like It

Your project is the right size? You like how it looks? It’s dimensional in a way that resembles the Greater Universe? Your project is a hat, scarf, or cowl-type thing that doesn’t particularly need to be washed anyway?

Leave it alone! Spritz and iron.

Consider yourself lucky.
A knitted cowl. Love. Simple and beautiful.

As for my cowl…I like it. Even though it didn’t come out exactly like I planned (and when does it ever?). I am eager to move on to Development Phase 2 and see what comes next. Hopefully something not too incredibly disastrous. And, possibly something I won’t soak and block.

Just maybe.





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  • Reply MrsKirstyHoll January 17, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Thanks for this 🙂 I’ve not blocked anything yet. So it’s good really great to hear your experiences 🙂

  • Reply Stefanie January 17, 2016 at 11:46 am

    It was interesting to read about your blocking experiences. I haven’t worked with many big pieces, just my Rococo shawl and my Polly Pullover. I hear you about how wet wool stretches when wet. I try to leave the weight of it in the sink while I squeeze out the water and carry it in a towel to my blocking mats.

  • Reply purepurly January 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I actually was my hand knits in the machine…with a special programme though. It is quite common here in Norway, it has a careful spin that is just perfect to get most of the water out without affecting the wool. It makes blocking quite easy, only uses a damp iron. But I have been to eager on the ironing sometimes and thus got a few bad blocking episodes 😉

  • Reply soknitsome January 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    It’s the superwash (i.e. machine-washabiltiy of yarn) it can make items grow. Sometimes it’s helpful to go down a needle size so you can still retain a bit of texture. Of course patterns that have you knitting looser than true gauge (compare with ball-band) are not helpful. If I’m making a garment at a loose tension, I like to hang from a clothes hanger for a while before final deciding on length.

  • Reply pumpkin sunrise January 18, 2016 at 5:59 am

    I like your number three the best! I do not block lots of things because when it comes off the needles, I’m madly in love 🙂 Great list!!

  • Reply caffeinegirl January 18, 2016 at 7:15 am

    And I thought I was the only one who didn’t always block!

  • Reply nanacathy2 January 18, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Ph my! I confess I don’t swatch and I don’t block knits. One day I will come unstuck!

  • Reply lissymail January 18, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I’m with you on this! I had a silk blend hat that I loved (and had never blocked) . . . but when I did: disaster!

  • Reply Gem Davis January 20, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Good to hear! I’m afraid I’m one of those lazy knitters that rarely block or even swatch…Seems to be going ok for now though.

    Also, I just wanted to say I love your writing style, very enjoyable read!

  • Reply When Blocking IS a Good Idea - This Knitted Life February 29, 2016 at 7:50 am

    […] me a hypocrite. I know. I can’t even follow my own advice on the matter. I didn’t want to block this cowl because I feared the honeycomb stitch […]

  • Reply Ten MORE Knitting Lessons I Learned the Hard Way - This Knitted Life December 16, 2016 at 8:11 am

    […] Sometimes blocking works. Sometimes it doesn’t. […]

  • Reply Merewyn Groom March 30, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I wish I had read this before… 🙁 is it possible to unblock? Or did I just ruin months of work, cardi in Madeline tosh light. Why oh why didn’t I just steam the lace gently?

  • Reply Sylvia May 19, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Is there any way to fix a garment thats been blocked?
    I blocked the edging on a baby cardigan and have spoilt it by making it so flat.

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life May 20, 2017 at 6:22 am

      You could try blocking it again and trying to plump up the edge with your fingers when you lay it flat to try. Depending on the situation, it might be only moderately helpful. Good luck!!!

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