The final step in most knitting projects is blocking, which settles the knit stitches into place, stretches and reveals lace patterns, and allows your yarn to bloom and the collection of knit stitches to become a unified piece of fabric.
Wet-blocking a sweater is really much the same as blocking any other piece of knitting. If you’ve never heard of blocking, you might like to read our Blocking Basics post first, as it illustrates the basic steps that we cover below.
Depending on the garment, and the finished size you desire, you will block your sweater more or less aggressively. In some cases, you may want to use blocking wires, while in others this may not be necessary.
5 steps to block a hand knit sweater
- Fill your sink or basin with lukewarm water and wool wash if desired.
- Gently wet your sweater.
- 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.
- Some fibres (cashmere, silk) take longer to become saturated with water.
- If you are blocking a multi-coloured piece, you will want to prevent the colours from bleeding into one another in the soaking bath, so instead of wool wash, add white vinegar to the soaking bath, and take care not to leave the sweater to soak for too long (don’t forget about it overnight!).
- Take your sweater 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.
- Roll your sweater in a towel and stomp on it, this remove excess water. You may need to use two or three towels in a row if you’re drying out a larger or bulkier sweater, as the knit will have soaked up a lot of water.
- Lay your sweater out on your blocking boards (or mattress, or carpet) and using your hands push it into shape.
How to lay it flat
For a simple stockinette sweater, it may be sufficient to simply pat it into shape, with approximately the right body and sleeve width / length. For a patterned sweater, you may wish to block the piece more aggressively, using blocking wires and pins to stretch out the body, sleeves, and yoke to open up a lace or cable pattern.
If your finished garment turned out a little too short, or too skinny for your liking, you can also block ‘for length’ or ‘for width’, stretching the piece more aggressively in one or the other dimension to coax it into a better fit! This won’t work a miracle, but knit fabric (especially wool) is quite flexible, and as Alexa and I always say “when in doubt, block it out”!
Washing your hand knit sweater
The steps above for wet-blocking are also the same process you will use when washing your handwash-only hand knit sweaters. I’m not adverse to hand-washing, but I find that part of the magic of wool is that it needs washing only once or twice a year, so taking care of your hand-knit wardrobe doesn’t become an unreasonable task!