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Wet Blocking 101: how to wet block knit and crochet projects, a step by step guide.

Wet blocking our hand knit or hand crochet projects can feel intimidating. This step by step guide will take some of the mystery away and reveal the magic of wet blocking. This post contains no affiliate links or adverts, but if you would like to support my work, feel free to buy me a kofi!

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A video demonstration

A quick note: You will notice throughout this post that I mention wet blocking for both hand knit and crochet items, yet my images feature knitting. As a knit wear designer I have more access to knitting photos in the depths of my photo app! But it is important to remember that everything that follows, the science behind blocking and the instructions themselves, are relevant to all hand made fabric - including weaving!

Why wet block our hand knit and hand crocheted items?

First things first: why would we even want to wet block our hand knit and hand crocheted items? There are two main reasons we block our hand made items. Wet blocking involves submerging our makes in water and there are two magical (or scientific, depending on how much you wanna geek out) ramifications of this.

When the fibers absorbe the water and become fully saturated, they expand. When they dry that expansion is of course given up and in this process, all the stitches have an opportunity to settle in together nicely. Issue with tension are evened out and often disappear. The difference can be quite dramatic. Look at this example of the Solimar Socks by Lauren Rad of A Bee In The Bonnet. Even if there wasn't a partially knit cuff in one photo it isn't difficult to see which one contains the blocked socks. Check out more of Lauren's work here.

Solimar Socks by Lauren Rad. Even with a partially knit cuff in one photo is isn't difficult to determine which photo contains the blocked pair of socks!

The other magical result of fully wetting our hand made items has a special impact on animal fibers. Without getting too deep into the science, animal fibers are made of chains of proteins, much like our hair. With heat and water the molecular bonds between those chains are weakened. After "laying flat to dry" those bonds reform IN THE SHAPE WE TELL THEM TO! Again, think of how humans can use heat and steam to curl or straighten their hair. Sleeves of sweaters can be made longer and shawls can be shaped. By stretching and pinning out lace, the yarn over or chain spaces can be exaggerated making the design more visible. However, just as human hair will eventually return to its natural state, animal fibers have "memory" and over time, our project will return to its original shape. And like our hair, this process can be encouraged with a thorough wetting. This characteristic can be a bother when we need to re-block our makes in a year, but is a huge relief when we realize we shaped them in a way we wish to modify!

Leah's Lace Shawl, before and after blocking. Notice the difference in shape and how much smoother the lace appears.

How to wet block hand knit and hand crochet items, step by step.

  1. Step 1: Sew in the ends.  Remember how all the fibers expand and contract again, allowing them to settle into place nicely? That works in our favor when we want those ends to stay put. I choose to wait until after the blocking process is complete to trim the ends close to the fabric to give a tad extra room for expansion.

  2. Step 2: Fully submerge the item in a bowl or sink of lukewarm water.  Gently press the air out of it and leave it be for at least 20 minutes or as long as a few hours. Go ahead and run to the grocery store.  I often use a no-rinse lanolin soak. Eucalan is my favorite

  3. Gently remove the item from the bowl or sink of water, letting the excess water run off.

  4. PRESS the water out of it by squishing the item between open palms. Reorganize the bundle of fabric and press again. Repeat until as much water has been pressed out as possible. Avoid wringing as this could distort the stitches or felt the item.

  5. Spread the item out flat on a clean towel and roll it into a log. Press on the log or even stand on it to remove excess water. Occasionally I will sandwich my item between two towels before rolling it up.

  6. Lay flat to dry or pin into shape. This is the step that gives the maker all the power. Now is when the item can be reshaped, stretched or scrunched. Note that by folding or creasing the item, that fold line will remain visible after blocking thanks to the molecules of the fiber rebinding in the shape the fabric is left to dry. For this reason, if an item with two layers such as a sweater or cowl is being blocked, its important to remember to check that the lower layer is also laying flat and in the shape desired.

  7. Leave it be to dry and try to stop the kiddos and the cats from playing on it (good luck).

This video illustrates the entire process of wet blocking a hand knit item.

Watch it here or follow this link to the original instagram reel.

I love to hear from you! Do you have a great blocking story or any questions? Feel free to leave a comment!

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