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Blocking Basics

June 14, 2013

pinsOnce you have finished your scarf it’s time to block. I always block my knitting before weaving in the ends.

The fabric can change with blocking and you wouldn’t want your ends to start trying to get out!

Why block? I have a confession: I never used to block my knitting. It seemed fussy and unnecessary. What real difference could a little water and laying your knitting flat accomplish? Boy was I wrong. I’m a big convert to the world of blocking (thank you Emily) so I hope you will be too. Blocking consists of wetting your knitting and laying it flat, the way you want it, to dry. When you block things like lace it can get a little more complicated but that’s the gist of it. Your stitches will look smoother and more even and if you have changes in fabric (like garter to ribbing for example), it will help to even these changes out. So let’s get blocking!

Materials :::


1. Pins: I use T-pins (they are literally shaped like T’s) but any stainless steel pin will do. You want to make sure that your pins won’t rust because rust and knitting are not a good combination.

2. Something to block on:  I bought these foam puzzle pieces at the hardware store but a piece of cardboard will do fine. You just need something to stick your pins into that will allow your knitting to dry.

3. Wool wash: something like Soak or Eucalan are popular wool washes. Read the label to see if you need to rinse your knitting or not. Soak is a leave in wash and a squirt the size of a dime will do for a scarf.

4. Something to soak your knitting in: either a clean sink or a clean basin. Emphasis on clean!

5. A towel: this is to squeeze out any excess water from your knitting.

Instructions :::

1.Fill your sink or basin with cool water and your woolwash

2. Wet your knitting. I do this by submerging my knitting and pressing out the bubbles. You don’t want to agitate your knitting too much. Leave it for about 15 minutes to get it good and soaked.

3. Take your knitting out of the water and press out as much excess as you can. Do not wring your knitting, this can put it out of shape permanently.

4. Roll your knitting in a towel and stomp on it, this is also to remove excess water

5. Lay your knitting out on your blocking boards and using your hands push it into shape. You want to lay your knitting out just the way you want it to look. For a scarf you need to create an even width and straight edges. Pin into place.

Soak your knitting

Soak your knitting

Roll in a towel and stomp out any excess water

Roll in a towel and stomp out any excess water

Pin to blocking boards

Pin to blocking boards

Your knitting should dry in a day or 2 depending on the climate (I love blocking outside in the summer, it’s so quick!). If your knitting takes more than 3 days to dry, start over. Your knitting will have a  not-so-fresh smell to it. Try again, this time squeezing more water out before pinning.

This is basic blocking, but there other, more exacting, ways to block your knitting. How you block your garment will really depend on what it is and what sort of fabric you have. You might not use pins for a sweater (unless it has lace or cables) or if you are blocking a lace shawl you might want to use blocking wires. While blocking may seem fussy at first it really makes a big difference in the finished product. You spend so much time hand knitting, what’s a day or 2 for a block?


118 Comments leave one →
  1. Eeching permalink
    September 14, 2021 12:11 pm

    Hello. I’m wondering if you can advise. I blocked my cable headband and it got stretched out too much and doesn’t fit now. I’ve already seamed the sides and weaved in the ends. Is there a way to shrink it slightly? Should I block it again and if so, how should I do it given it’s been seamed? Thanks!

    • September 20, 2021 1:54 am

      You could try to ‘felt’ it slightly by washing it in hot water with soap, and rubbing it with your hands, until it get a little smaller. This is pretty risky though! You might also want to consider sewing an elastic on the inside, perhaps just inside the bottom 1/3? So that could help it cinch down tighter around the remainder of the headband. Best luck!

  2. Joanna permalink
    March 15, 2021 2:31 pm

    I have a number of baby items to block – can I wash with baby-friendly detergent (Dreft) and then block? Or should I block with wool wash and then wash with baby-friendly detergent before gifting?

  3. PamW permalink
    February 19, 2021 9:31 am

    I have been knitting mostly scarves and afghans for years. Just began blocking.
    My scarves look better once blocked but they are much much longer than I had planned. Ack! Wondering if I should be wet blocking scarves at all or just plan on knitting them up to 10″ shorter than I want.

    • February 19, 2021 11:27 am

      Hi Pam – I think the key is only laying them out to the length you want. You don’t really want to stretch them while blocking, just lay them flat.

  4. Joy permalink
    January 19, 2021 6:02 am

    I just finished my first wool sweater using your pattern Dog Star. Unfortunately it’s too big. Should I wash the sweater in a washing machine to shrink it a bit and then block it? Or can I agitate it a bit hand washing and then block it?

    • January 19, 2021 11:04 am

      Hi Joy – It’s a dangerous game shrinking a wool sweater, I would definitely do it by hand.

  5. Connie permalink
    November 26, 2020 3:39 pm

    I’ve knitted a toddlers cardigan with cable, would I block before or after sewing the pieces together please.

    • November 26, 2020 8:44 pm

      Hi Connie – I don’t usually knit my sweaters in pieces, but I would think both.

  6. Suzy permalink
    November 5, 2020 3:54 am

    Hello! I have blocked a sweater and it is about 75% dry. I am tempted to put it in the dryer on low to finish drying and fluff it up. It is a machine washable wool. How much would I regret this?

    • November 5, 2020 1:33 pm

      Hi Suzy – It should be fine, but if you happen to have a swatch I’d wash that first and see what happens

  7. Barbra Higginbotham permalink
    August 29, 2020 2:51 pm

    Is it helpful to leave your garment pinned On the mat for a while after it dries—will this help it better keep its shape?

  8. Kaitlynn Cafferty permalink
    May 21, 2020 1:33 pm

    If I don’t have a wool wash is it still beneficial to block in cold water? I’m not sure how important the wool wash is and I don’t currently have access to any.
    Thanks for all these great patterns and tutorials! I just knitted my first mitten!

  9. Laura FrancisxBohr permalink
    March 9, 2020 2:30 pm

    How do you block the beanie barley hat? I loved knitting this beanie! Thank you for the pattern!

    • March 10, 2020 4:08 pm

      I usually just lay it flat to dry, but you can block it over a bowl to avoid those creases too

  10. February 1, 2020 11:47 am

    Whoops, I weaved in my ends before reading your note about doing that after wet blocking. Is this detrimental? Should I still do it?

  11. Ardith permalink
    January 23, 2020 11:44 am

    Is there anything done differently for blocking mittens or other items done in the round? I’m a beginner and I’d like to block my Maize mittens, but I’m slightly confused as to how to lay them out and stretch them.

    (PS Love everything about Tin Can Knits – the Maize Pattern and Tutorials have been awesome and I’m so thrilled to have done my first mitten! Looking forward to trying more patterns! Thanks Alexa and Emily for all your incredible work!)

    • January 23, 2020 12:00 pm

      Hi Ardith – For mitts I usually just lay them flat. You don’t really want to stretch them necessarily. For things like lace or sweaters I like them to have a nice straight button band, or sleeves, but for mittens (and most hats) I just lay them flat!

  12. Julie permalink
    August 31, 2019 4:07 am

    What would recommend for a cotton/rayon blend for the flax sweater?

    • September 4, 2019 12:53 pm

      Hi Julie – I’m sorry, I don’t really have a recommendation since I almost always work in wool, but if you check out the projects on Ravelry knitters have made the Flax in all sorts of different yarns and fibers.

  13. Susan Carvalho permalink
    July 26, 2019 10:33 pm

    Suggestions for blocking a cotton lace pattern vest, please.

  14. July 8, 2019 11:00 am

    can I use safety pins instead of blocking pins? Also, can I just leave the piece in a rolled up dry towel or lying on a towel connected with safety pins with another one on top and something slightly heavy on top of it? All my projects are small things where the size isn’t very important

    • July 15, 2019 9:44 pm

      Hi – yep, you can use safety pins instead of blocking pins, as long as they won’t rust. I’m not sure I understand the towel strategy, but any way you can lay it flat to dry sounds fine.

  15. Cyndy Paulus permalink
    September 17, 2018 11:33 am

    Love your detailed instructions especially with links to other items of interest such as a stitch. Really enjoying your Barley Hat in cotton as a chemo cap gift. Thank you!!!

  16. Wendy Emmerson permalink
    June 21, 2018 12:55 pm

    Hi I have just knitted a lacy cardigan with picot edging in cotton. Will blocking sto the picot edge rolling up? Wendy

  17. Brittany permalink
    May 29, 2018 11:02 pm

    <- These will change the way you block. I have bad eyesight so stepping on a pin was inevitability so I was less than enthused about blocking, but these are brightly visible. Plus, pins can cause weird scalloping; nice straight edges are really easy to get with these. :)

  18. Tamika permalink
    January 10, 2018 6:41 pm

    Hi dear. Can you speed up the wet blocking process by steam ironing over a wet towel and then pin it?

    • January 13, 2018 7:07 pm

      Hi Tamika – you can, but I don’t particularly trust myself with an iron, steam, and my knitting. The wrong move can be a recipe for felted disaster!

  19. Jessi permalink
    December 9, 2017 4:24 pm

    I am making a wrap/shawl and it says to block work. I will try it as your instructions but will this wrap/shawl need to be blocked each time it is washed? This is a gift and will I need to let the person know to block it once she washes it. Thank you

    • December 11, 2017 9:58 am

      Hi Jessi

      I would lay it flat to dry (as I would with any knitwear), but I only really block my shawls once a year or so. It doesn’t need to be blocked each time.

      • dMackie permalink
        November 19, 2018 11:47 pm

        If it was knit with wool, you won’t need to wash it every year. And blocking is not always needed, but only when it needs to be re-shaped. Blocking means to use moisture to give it shape. You can just lay flat and make smooth with your hands, stretching when necessary. Lace does benefit from stretching out as much as possible. This is NOT a very difficult job!

      • November 20, 2018 11:48 am

        Hi – I like to give everything a bit of a refresh, my knits get a fair amount of wear throughout the year and my kids wear their knitting pretty hard. You are correct, blocking isn’t always needed

  20. Claire Xia permalink
    October 11, 2017 8:22 pm

    How should I block my Flax?

  21. Kathleen permalink
    October 3, 2017 7:10 am

    Knitted my scarf but after blocking it ended up longer. Is there anything you can do to shorten again or can you take stitches out after blocking to shorten?

    • October 3, 2017 8:28 pm

      Hi Kathleen – you bet! You could try blocking it again and making sure to block it at the dimensions you like first, but if that doesn’t work you can take ’em out!

  22. Claire Xia permalink
    September 30, 2017 9:21 pm

    Hi! I’m currently knitting the Winding Way socks, and I want to know how to block lace socks. I don’t actually have sock blockers, so what I do is I use towels that are folded up to be thicker (usually one, haven’t knitted anything that big yet), and pin the piece out using stainless steel plastic head pins I got from my mom’s sewing drawer. I know lace needs to stretch out usually, but how should I go about this blocking socks?

    • dMackie permalink
      November 19, 2018 11:50 pm

      Yes, you can use that rolled up towel as a blocker for socks. Or you can lay them flat, and pin them out, if you wish. Yes, lace benefits from being stretched out as much as you can, but with socks, you don’t have to. After washing, just lay them flat, smoothening out as much as you can. You will stretch them further when wearing them!

  23. Patsy permalink
    August 12, 2017 9:40 am

    My sleeves are separate. They are about 1″ too long, do I just scrunch them up , re wet, or blow dry shorter. This is my first sweater blocking experience😜Help!!

    • August 12, 2017 11:10 am

      I don’t think blocking will save the day this time, I don’t think you can block things smaller. If they are separate I would take out an inch before you block

  24. Georgann permalink
    July 21, 2017 7:58 am

    Should I block a sweater knitted with Linpur linen yarn?

    • July 21, 2017 9:41 am

      Yep, I block everything!

    • Von permalink
      October 3, 2017 11:40 am

      All knitting, and I mean ALL your knitting, MUST be blocked to call it finished. Without blocking, you are missing the most important step of all that work! Blocking will improve your knitting 120% and you will look like a professional. Don’t skip this most important step!!

  25. Rhona permalink
    May 29, 2017 8:05 am

    Should I sew the buttons on my sweater before or after I block? I’ve already woven in the “ends” so I hope that won’t be a problem. I’ve knitted for years and years and have never blocked before but I think this latest project needs blocking.

    • May 29, 2017 2:04 pm

      Hi Rhona – I usually block before I sew my buttons but I’m not sure it matters. My sweaters get a re-block every year and they have buttons on them!

  26. Joan Bassey permalink
    May 10, 2017 1:05 pm

    where do you buy blocking equipment?

    • May 12, 2017 11:13 am

      I have some blocking wires and pins I’ve picked up at my local yarn shop, but my mats are from Canadian Tire, lots of hardware stores or baby stores have them!

  27. Sarah Jordan permalink
    March 21, 2017 10:31 am

    great blog and brilliant set of questions and answers
    my question (do you need to block acrylic yarn) got answered!

  28. christinesommerville permalink
    October 19, 2016 3:58 am

    I am knitting the Snowflake pullover and I am wondering about whether to block the lace yoke before joining round. Any tips please? Is it necessary? Or will the lace open up sufficiently if I only block the finished garment. The thought of blocking and pinning with all those live stitches makes me nervous!

    (In case it’s important to know, the yarn is a wool/bamboo blend, nice and squishy – I’d hate to damage it).

    • October 19, 2016 9:32 am

      Hi – I think it is best if the yoke is blocked before joining in the round. I would put the stitches on waste yarn and give them a wet block. It opens the lace up a little more fully than when the sweater is complete

  29. Mickayla permalink
    September 15, 2016 4:27 am


    I was looking for some advice on blocking a large circular shawl. It’s 64in in diameter. The problem is that there is no carpet and the biggest bed available is a twin size. Could I try blocking it on the hardwood by taping (scotch tape, masking tape, duct tape) it into place? It’s a pretty sturdy wool, so I doubt scotch tape or masking tape would hurt it, but I was wondering if you knew any other way or if you’d heard of anyone trying this method. I can’t seem to find anything on the web for blocking such a large item without a big enough bed or carpeted floor.

    • September 15, 2016 9:19 am

      Hmm, a logistical question. I might try masking tape if you don’t think it will hurt the wool.

  30. Jen permalink
    July 7, 2016 6:15 pm

    I am finishing a sweater that I inherited from my great great great aunt and it is all in pieces (front, back, sleeves). Should I block the pieces first and then stitch them together? I would still need to finish the yoke and lapels once together since it is a button up.They are done in a super bulky yarn in k2p2. I am confused in which order I should be blocking, stitching together, and finishing it. Thanks.

    • July 8, 2016 10:53 am

      Hi Jen – I understand the confusion, which order to do those things is definitely a matter of debate among knitters. I would say, block the piece, sew them together, add the button bands and collar, then block the whole sweater.

  31. Pat permalink
    March 25, 2016 12:42 pm

    I am knitting a dish cloth with cotton yarn. I see some small spaces ( just a little loose). Should I block it and if I do, will it look better and closed spaces?

    • March 29, 2016 12:19 am

      Hi Pat – blocking will help to ‘even out’ your stitches, so it will most likely fix those slightly looser sts

      • Pat permalink
        May 5, 2016 9:03 am

        Thank you for the tips alexaludeman.. Sorry it has been a while…🤓

  32. March 18, 2016 1:51 pm

    I Just finished a sweater knit in a tube in a garter rib stitch. I’m not sure how to block it to even the stitches out. Could you please advise me?

  33. Connie permalink
    December 22, 2015 7:02 am

    I block with my steam iron. Is this method better?

    • December 22, 2015 10:17 pm

      Blocking with steam can work well too, we just prefer to wet-block because it is very effective and thorough. Also, it is the method you will use after you hand-wash your knits.

  34. Diane Therrien permalink
    December 4, 2015 12:49 pm

    If I rinse my wool scarf in a bit of lanolin, will it soften it? Is it advised? How much lanolin in a sink of water? Does acrylic knitting need blocking, or can you just iron it? Thank you,

    • December 22, 2015 10:20 pm

      I’m not aware whether adding lanolin will soften a wool scarf. I have heard that using hair conditioner can help. Sorry I also have very little experience blocking acrylic. I don’t believe wet-blocking will have much of an effect, but I could be wrong… You’re probably more experienced than I am in that regard. I’d simply try it and see.

  35. Lillian permalink
    November 8, 2015 8:50 am

    The edges of my croched scarf roll up…Is there some way I can flatten that area without blocking?

    • November 11, 2015 3:11 am

      Not really! I’d suggest you try blocking. Some kinds of stitch patterns in knitting and crochet have an innate tendency to roll, and blocking can help with this, but the fabric will eventually roll, it’s just a matter of time, with these kinds of patterns.

  36. Katie McKenzie permalink
    October 9, 2015 7:19 am

    Hi Alexa,
    When should I sew buttons on my Antler Cardigan – before or after blocking?

    • October 13, 2015 2:52 pm

      Hi Katie – I usually do it after, when my button bands are blocked and even.

  37. Marjorie permalink
    September 6, 2015 3:19 am

    Hello, thanks for all the tips and tutorials you post, they are really helpful. I knitted the MALT blanket but it’s not the first time I had a problem while blocking. I think the stitches ar too stretched and I can see the carpet underneath through them. I’m afraid it will not be as pretty as it was before I blocked it.Do you have a tip for avoiding over stretching? I don’t know if I’m clear enough, english is not my first language.

    • September 7, 2015 9:05 am

      Hi Marjorie – When you are blocking you want to make sure you are laying your item flat, not stretching it (lace is a bit of a different story). Since Malt is a worsted weight blanket it can get pretty heavy when wet so you want to make sure you squeeze out as much water as possible, it will probably take rolling it in a towel and squeezing out the water a few times to really get the bulk of the water out. When you lay it out try not to stretch it, if it does seem too stretchy try to smoosh it back into place.

  38. Norma Fairbairn permalink
    April 27, 2015 9:23 am

    one more thing please …pattern instructs me to join shoulders and pick up sts…before or after blocking?
    it doesn;t say

    • April 28, 2015 12:21 pm

      I would join shoulders and pick up before blocking, because I would want to block that seam later. Good question though

  39. Norma Fairbairn permalink
    April 27, 2015 9:11 am

    i am completing a baby dress ,st/st so the bottom edge wants to roll up will pins make a straight edge? ,how far apart should the pins be set? GREAT BLOG btw

    • April 28, 2015 12:22 pm

      Well, as a rule, I don’t think you can possibly ‘over pin’ so maybe 1.5 inches apart? Pinning will straighten some things out, but if it’s a stockinette edge it will still roll a bit, it’s the nature of the fabric. If you want a straight edge I would do a garter st or ribbed border.

  40. C Cooley permalink
    March 6, 2015 11:38 am

    I did not notice any instructions regarding raised stitches such as cables but do you block the garter stitch borders?

    • March 9, 2015 3:34 pm

      We block them the same way, sometimes more aggressively to really show the sts

  41. Beth Duder permalink
    January 3, 2015 10:10 pm

    #2. You say press out the bubbles.please elaborate.

    • January 5, 2015 6:33 pm

      Hi Beth

      I’m not quite sure how to elaborate. You are literally pressing on the garment so the bubbles come out.

  42. Beth Duder permalink
    December 28, 2014 11:30 pm

    How do you press out bubbles when your knitting is submerged in soapy water?

    • December 29, 2014 5:57 pm

      Hmm, I’m not sure what you mean, I usually use a wool wash that doesn’t need to be rinsed out and press with my hands. Does that help?

  43. December 9, 2014 6:47 am

    If you are knitting a wool cowl and it has a design “roll”on each end, how do you block it? Do you”unroll” it and pin it??? Or do you leave the roll? If you pIn it straight will the “roll” snap back when dry?

    • December 12, 2014 9:06 am

      It doesn’t really matter too much, since it will roll back no matter what you do. I would pin it out to even out the sts.

  44. Pepperpot permalink
    December 5, 2014 6:14 am

    Instead of stomping in a ‘towel protection’, couldn’t you protect it in a pillowcase and spin it?

    • December 12, 2014 9:07 am

      I wouldn’t, tends to mash up your knitting and sometimes it stretches different parts in different ways.

  45. This Little Blue Homestead permalink
    November 11, 2014 12:59 pm

    Reblogged this on This Little Blue Homestead and commented:
    Reading up on Blocking to decide what to do about the Christmas presents that are ‘flying’ off my needles

  46. Tali Ann permalink
    September 4, 2014 8:50 am

    For a 2 month infant, I made the Moderne Lincoln Square blanket. Can I wash it in baby Dreft detergent and since I am a little nervous about blocking 34″ by 30 blanket I was thinking of then having a knitting store do it. What are suggestions?

    • September 4, 2014 2:37 pm

      Hi Tali

      What yarn did you use? If it’s a washable wool you can wash it in the machine and I would lay it flat to dry. If it is a wool you should hand wash for sure. Basically you will want to follow the washing instructions on the yarn and I recommend laying it flat to dry.

  47. August 12, 2014 8:44 pm

    I’m making your Wheat scarf right now. I’ve never blocked my knitting before but will definitely give it a go this time around. Thanks for the clear instructions.

  48. Kendrea permalink
    March 25, 2014 4:54 pm

    Hi and thanks! How do you block 3D things like a hat, sweater, or Möbius cowl, though?

    • March 25, 2014 10:21 pm

      Yep, I block EVERYTHING! There was a time when I thought it was a waste of time but I am a huge convert to the world of the block. I usually just block my hats flat but if it’s a beret or lacy I will block it over a plate or bowl. The sweater or Mobius cowl I would block flat.

      • Pat permalink
        May 5, 2016 9:08 am

        Thank you for all this advice! I have been knitting for over 20 years and like you at first…why block? Now I do too…really helps and I have always used the towel method, never in a washer…no no.

        Have a good day.

  49. March 20, 2014 4:05 pm

    Hi, great post! Just wondering, is it absolutely necessary to use a wool wash if the fibers aren’t animal-based, e.g. acrylic? Are there any alternatives or home-made solutions?

    Thanks in advance!

    • March 25, 2014 2:01 pm

      If you have acrylic blocking won’t make a difference so you can skip it altogether!

      • Carla Barth permalink
        February 22, 2018 8:08 am

        So…If I use acrylic yarn I don’t have to block? Or…If I use acrylic yarn I don’t have to use a softener?

      • March 13, 2018 11:02 am

        Hi Carla – I don’t really know too much about care for acrylics. They don’t have ‘memory’ like wool, so I don’t think blocking will really do anything. I would definitely give a finished item a wash regardless. Check the instructions on the ball band too!

  50. Annie permalink
    March 18, 2014 8:14 am

    Hi! Thanks for the tutorial! I was wondering if we have to do blocking only once or if we need to do it each time we wash the knitted sweater, for instance.

    • March 25, 2014 2:02 pm

      I would block it carefully the first time and always lay it flat to dry myself. So you are sort of blocking it each time. But lots of people use washable wools they toss in the dryer so it’s knitters choice!

  51. March 13, 2014 6:41 am

    Great tutorial – thanks! Dumb question – why would you not want to use pins for a sweater?

    • March 14, 2014 4:03 am

      Hi Kim

      It really depends on the sweater. If it has lace, for example, or if I need a little extra length or width etc. then I would use pins. Otherwise, on a simple sweater, I would just be blocking to smooth out the stitches so no pins required.

  52. Dagmar Tisdale permalink
    March 7, 2014 2:55 pm

    Where do I buy a blocking board?

    • March 14, 2014 4:06 am

      Your LYS is great if you have one. Otherwise you can use a piece of cardboard or I use foam puzzle mats, the kind they have for kiddies, the hardware store will have these.


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