Blocking is the important, yet often dreaded, final step to making your crocheted projects look polished and professional! Blocking a finished project using moisture and/or heat can make the item look nicer, fit better, and will help correct any wonky edges, curled brims, or misshapen parts. Shawls, granny squares, and doilies are a few of the items that most commonly require a bit of blocking to make them picture perfect!
Gather Your Materials
Some of the basic blocking materials that you will need are rustproof pins, a spray bottle, and your yarn or thread labels. Depending on how serious you are about blocking, you may also need a wool wash, blocking mats, blocking wires, and a steamer. If your iron has a steam setting, that can work, too.
Check Yarn Labels
Locate the fiber content of the yarn you used for your project. Most natural fibers can be wet- or dry-blocked with ease. Some synthetic fibers can be ruined by blocking, or they may not respond to blocking at all. Similarly, novelty yarns (e.g. fun fur, metallic fibers) may not be able to be blocked at all. Your yarn labels will list laundry care instructions that will help guide you.
Make a Swatch
Yep, sorry. No one likes to swatch, but if you spent hours working on a beautiful shawl, you definitely won’t want to ruin it by blocking it improperly! Make a small swatch using the same hook and yarn as your project, then block it using the appropriate method for the fiber content.
Pin it Down
Lay your project on a soft but firm surface. This may be done before or after wetting it; see next section for more information. An ironing board, a table covered with a folded towel, or blocking mats will work fine. Gently smooth your project to the correct shape and size, pinning it around as you go. Place a pin every 1-2” around the outer edge. More/fewer pins may be required. Go with your gut on this one.
Time to Block
There are several blocking methods available, but these 3 are great for blocking beginners:
1. Wet Blocking
This basically means “hand wash and dry flat,” and is recommended for most garments. If your fiber can tolerate getting very wet, dunk your project in some cool water. Add a little soap or wool wash, if desired. Press out the excess water by gently squeezing the project or rolling it in a towel. Do NOT twist or wring out the water; that may stretch your item too much. Then pin it in place and let it air dry.
2. Steam Blocking (or Dry Blocking)
This method is a gentle way to get your delicate or lightweight projects into shape. For steam blocking, pin your item into place first and then holding your iron or steamer about 1” away from the fabric, steam it gently for a few seconds. After steaming, let your item rest and dry completely. Be aware that steaming acrylic may “kill” the fabric, causing it to permanently lose all elasticity.
3. Cold Blocking (or Spray Blocking)
This is the method used when designers say, “Block lightly if desired.” Pin your item into place, then spray it with cool water until it is lightly and evenly dampened. Add or adjust pins as needed, and don’t be afraid to use your hands to coax it into shape. Let it air dry or (if you’re impatient) speed things up by placing it near a fan.
Once your project is completely dry, carefully remove all the pins, and it’s good to go! There are a few other tips and tricks to blocking that aren’t mentioned here… like, did you know you can block the crown of a hat on a plate or bowl? But those are tips for another time.