Monday, October 7, 2013

Steam Blocking Knitting: part 1

Well, it seems I just can't stop making videos now, LOL!  Actually, I've been meaning to do these for quite a while, and yesterday morning I had the perfect combination of some knitting waiting to be blocked, some time to make a video and a non-cloudy sky!

Blocking and finishing are the two most common things people ask me about re: knitting.  I've often been surprised at the mildly shocked reaction I sometimes get when I talk about steam blocking.  Maybe it's unorthodox - I don't know.  But I figure if it's OK to iron my pants and shirts, it should be OK to do my knitting too, albeit in a modified way.  And I do seem to remember Jared Flood admitting on his blog quite a few years ago that he irons his knits.

I've been steam blocking my knitting with my iron exclusively for the last three years or so.  Before that I used to pin my pieces onto a blocking board to the required finished measurements and spritz them with water, then leave them til they dried.  However, depending on the fabric, I did sometimes use steam.   What finally tipped the balance for me is a lovely cream-colored sweater I pin-blocked that got rust stains in the selvedge from the pins :-(  I bought some stainless steel pins that were supposed to be made for blocking, but they were so thick and dull from the get-go that they didn't want to go through my knitting and into my board.  So I just defaulted to steam.

Most of my knitting is done with natural fibers (and among those, mostly wool and cotton).  If I do use a yarn with synthetic, it's generally a small percentage.  So bear that in mind if you try out this technique.  I probably wouldn't do this on a 100% synthetic yarn.  (That's not true - I'd try it, but I'd be extremely careful not to melt anything.)  That said, I've steam blocked sweaters I made from Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which is 60% cotton and 40% acrylic.  As always, if there's any doubt, try it out on a swatch first.

I really love steam blocking for a lot of reasons:
     * it's fast
     * I don't forfeit a lot of space to drying knit pieces
     * a lot of times I get a better finish with steaming than with spray blocking
     * I don't have to worry about my soaking wet knitting stretching out 
     * I can block my work as I go along, to give me an idea of the finished fabric

So if you've never done it before, go ahead and try it out!  It's not as scary as it seems!  You can steam block to your finished measurements just like you can when pinning out a wet piece.  If you're scared to do it on a sweater, try it out on something like a scarf that doesn't have to keep specified proportions.

And now, after that lengthy introduction, here are today's videos:

EDIT:  Urrrrgh!  I waited ALL day for the videos to "process,"  and this morning they STILL won't load onto Blogger.  REALLY tired of checking to see if they're ready yet!  So I'm going to publish them here through the back door, by posting them separately in two posts to follow.

But here are the before and after blocking photos, and a picture of the piece I'm working on:


  1. The kara cardigan! Mine is currently in the same state (though I wet blocked). Will take a look at your steam blocking series and will give it a try after I have seamed this bad boy.

    1. Oooh, yay! Kara sisters! Will look forward to seeing yours. It's such a great pattern, isn't it?

  2. Blocking. I love blocking. I truly don't quite understand people who knit but don't block!!! It is like missing out on the best part...

    1. You're weird. In a way that I LOVE!! ;-)

      No, seriously - I agree completely! It's so fun to see the knitting fall into its finished state, isn't it?


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