We are a broken record around here when it comes to blocking: DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! This advice? It goes for hats too, so here is how we block a hand knit hat. Not knitting a hat? We have a blocking basics tutorial, a tutorial on blocking sweaters, and a tutorial on blocking lace too.
Four steps to wet-block a hand-knit hat
- Soak the hat
- Squeeze out the water
- Stretch the hat over the support
- Let it dry slowly
What is blocking, anyway?
Blocking is basically washing and shaping your knits. You’ll block a little differently depending the project and fabric type, but the principles are the same. Your newly finished knit needs a wash, you want to even out those stitches, and you sometimes want to shape your knit or open up the fabric. I promise your knits will be even more gorgeous after a block! If you’ve never heard of blocking before, read Blocking Basics first, then come back to see how I block hats in particular.
To block a hat you will need:
- A finished hat: I like to weave my ends in before I block it, but I wait to attach the pompom until after I block it.
- A support: find a support that you can place inside the hat. I look for a support that is about the right size to represent a person’s head. With little kids and nonstop birthday parties, there are usually a balloon or two floating about, and I can use one of those. Alternatively, I often use a bowl, or the lid of some sort of container. I look for something that’s round, possibly domed, and around the same size as the top of a person’s head. If you’re feeling fancy you can certainly use a head form, but there are lots of household items that will do just fine.
- A clean sink, basin, or bucket: My sink it almost never clean enough, so I have a little bucket I use.
- Cool water and optional wool wash: I like a little lightly scented wool wash for my knits, but it’s completely optional. Some cool water will do just fine.
Got the stuff? Great! You’re ready to rock.
Four steps to wet-block a knitted hat
- Soak the hat: Soak the hat in cool water for 10-20 mins. You don’t want to use water that’s too hot, or rub the knit too much because you don’t want your hat to felt. But, to be honest, it’s pretty difficult to felt knits by hand (though we have managed, by sending this hat through a hot wash cycle in the machine!)
- Squeeze out the water: Gently squeeze the water out of the hat. Try not to wring it. Then roll it in a towel and stomp on the towel to get as much water out as possible. If it’s really sopping, unroll the towel, move the hat to a dry section, then roll and stomp once more. The goal is for the hat to be just slightly damp. If your hat is too wet, it is a lot easier to block it too large.
- Stretch the hat over the support: Gently stretch the hat a little this way and that, then place it over the support you’ve found, pulling the crown outward slightly, and smoothing out the decrease section. Double check your measurements once you’re ready to leave it to dry. Does it still measure a size that will fit the human you intend it to? You want to even out those stitches, but you don’t want to block your hat to epic proportions.
- Let dry slowly: Let the hat air-dry over a day or two, till it’s completely dry, then remove from the support and enjoy!
That’s all there is to it! Blocking is a simple, yet important, step in the knitting process. Don’t skip it!
Here you can see the difference blocking has made for the Prism hat. On the left is the pre-blocked and on the right is post blocking. The stitches are much more even and the decreases are all smoothed out.
Why I block my hand-knit hats
Does it seem ‘over the top’ to spend the time blocking, of all things, a HAT?!
To shape a hat you need to decrease at the crown, which is the top of the head (or increase, if you are knitting from the crown down). This shaping is often a little bumpy when your hat is freshly completed. Blocking relaxes the fabric, allowing each little loop that forms the knit fabric to relax in the water, and then dry in its final shape, locked into the stitches above and below it.
Wet blocking will change the nature of most knit fabric – sometimes only slightly, but often quite dramatically, and almost always for the better! The knitted fabric smooths out, gains more drape, halo, and consistency. Just trust me, it’s a great transformation that makes for a smooth and polished finished knit. Or don’t trust me – go try it yourself and see!
Some stitch patterns benefit even more from a block. When it comes to working lace, you don’t really see the finished pattern until you’ve wet-blocked the piece; read more on wet blocking lace here. With cables, I find that blocking really ‘fills in the gaps’, and unifies the fabric in a way that makes texture and cable patterns shine. And when you’re knitting colourwork, the blocked fabric just feels so much more even and finished after blocking.
Have we convinced you yet? Grab your latest finished knit and head to the sink!