Search This Blog

Friday, April 1, 2011

Steam Blocking

Speaking of blocking woolens, you do know not to set your steam-wet sweater—or finished needlepoint—on the floor, don't you?  That is, if you have a cat.  Kitty, if she finds it, may make it wetter.

(Which, for reasons I cannot fathom, reminds me that my stepdaughter-in-law's shelter rescue mongrel likes to suck on a ball of alpaca.)

A good steam blocking will change the texture of some knitted pieces.  Bamboo yarn can be somewhat...hmm...crunchy to the touch.  My handspun is.  But hit a blocked piece of knitted bamboo with the steam iron, and it goes nicely limp and drapey, a desirable quality that only appears when it's finally blocked.  (In the photo, notice the difference between the blocked center and the unblocked outer edges of this knitted piece.)

A good knitting book will tell you which patterns need to be lightly blocked [stretched], which ones need a more strenuous blocking, and which should not be blocked at all.  A second-tier book will leave you to figure it out for yourself.

As a matter of course I don't block garter stitch or ribbing where I'm using them for their elasticity.  I want them to keep all the spring I can get.  I do block some cables, though, despite its flattening them a bit.

If you're concerned about subjecting your knitted work to the direct heat or weight of a steam iron, you can always wet a tea towel, wring it out thoroughly, lay it over the pinned piece, and then apply the iron.  Your woolen (or silk) work will thus receive a cooler moisture without pressure.

But whichever method you use, remember this:  it isn't over until the flat lady sings.


  1. Thank you for sharing this info. I live in FL and don't use a lot of natural fibers to knit with. I am wondering if blocking is also as neccessary with the acrylic yarns? Mostly I put them into the washer and dryer and when I have tried to block them the don't look a bit different they when the come out of the dryer? Am I doing something wrong??

  2. Sue, I appoint you our resident expert for acrylics. My only experience with the synthetics has been knitting toys for the grandkids, and since these are invariably stuffed, they don't get steam blocked. Stay on course, sister-in-knitting: you're obviously doing something right!