Blocking is a handy technique for stretching, easing, and redistributing stitches in a finished piece of hand knitting.  Whether you are preparing to sew pieces of a sweater together or simply finishing a scarf like the one shown here, blocking creates a beautifully even fabric, which makes it easy to work with and lovely to wear.

You can block any type of natural fiber for any type of garment, as long as you are gentle.  The goal is to get the knitting into a desired shape without stretching it out or damaging the fibers.  These directions work best (in our experience) for all types of natural fibers from mohair to cashmere, cotton, silk, and blends.

Materials for Blocking

Blocking | Purl Soho

Here’s what you’ll need:

blocking pins – We recommend Clover’s flower head pins because they are sturdy, rust-proof, and cute

spray bottle –  Any spray bottle will do as long as it is clean.  We love this old copper gardener’s sprayer.

towel – Choose a towel that is big enough to fit your knitted pieces, and not too linty.

soft surface – You can use your ironing board for small projects, or your bedspread, the carpet, or a fabric covered couch cushion for larger projects.  You’ll be sticking pins into the towel on top of this surface, so choose something that won’t mind getting a few stray pin pricks.

To make a portable blocking board, cover a 18 x 24-inch piece of 1/2-inch plywood or MDF with cotton batting. Staple it to the back using an upholstery stapler.  Cover the batting with cotton fabric, attached with velcro so you can remove it for washing after a while.

Step 1: Hand Blocking

Blocking | Purl Soho

Stretch the knitting horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, several times in each direction.  You will be able to see progress after a few rounds; the stitches should appear more evenly spaced.  Different fibers call for different amounts of elbow grease, so don’t yank on lacey cashmere as you would ropey linen!  The key is to simply watch the knitting and adjust your strength accordingly.

Blocking | Purl Soho

Step 2: Pin + Spray

Lay your knitting out on the towel.  If it is a shaped piece, a sweater back, for example, you may want to stretch it slightly into the shape you desire.  If it is a scarf or other simple rectangle, lay it down so that it is flat, but not stretching unnaturally.

Begin to pin around the edges of your knitting, being careful to maintain the shape you want.  Once you have pinned around all sides, spray the piece with water and leave it to dry.  Be patient!  It may take a few hours, or even overnight.

Blocking | Purl Soho

Heavy Duty Blocking

If you have a hat that’s a hair too small, or a sweater a few rows too short, you may want to try a more aggressive blocking technique:

Rather than pinning and spraying the piece, submerge it in a bath of room temperature water.

Remove to a clean towel and roll it to get out excess water.  Don’t wring or twist the knitting while it is weak and wet!  Be gentle!

Hand block the damp knitting to the desired size and pin it into place.  Let it dry thoroughly.