The Advent CAL starts soon and I plan a blanket CAL in the New Year, so I thought it would be helpful to give you some insight into how I block and especially the things I use to block motifs (decorations and squares!).

I have acquired a lot of blocking ‘kit’ over the years, but you need this sort of kit if you want good results.  It’s no use spending hours lovingly making something only to fail at the last hurdle by not blocking it properly and finding all your effort produces an unshapely item.

These are the things that I use:

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Mat – I use some interlocking gym mats, they are 60cm (2ft) square and I have 8 of them.  I bought them on ebay (I think – it was a long time ago!).  They are perfect for pinning items to.    By interlocking all 8 in a grid 3 by 3 (leaving one space in the centre) I can make a 6ft square which is perfect for getting the edges straight on a large blanket.   Interlocking 2 or 3 together is perfect for a shawl or scarf, and 1 or 2 are great for garment pieces.

Steam iron – this is just my household iron.

Towel – I use old towels

Pins –I like long blocking pins and you can buy these at any yarn shop or online.  I have quite a lot of these now; only a small selection lives on the doggy pincushion!

Wires – I have about 20 wires, bought at a yarn shop and at a yarn festival, you can also purchase them online.

Ruler – I much prefer a solid ruler than a tape measure as it gives an more accurate measurement when blocking flat, this one came with my blocking wires but I also have a folding haberdashery one which read in cm as well as inches.

Spray bottle – for holding water

Soak – or I sometimes use Eucalan

Spray starch – I use this for stiffening hanging decorations, or even mandalas

Kitchen towel 

Blocking Boards – I also have a a couple of blocking boards:

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This one is by Scheepjes and I bought it last year from Deramores (the only UK supplier I could find at the time) but they are now more readily available.  It is 30cm (12inches) square and has 8 plastic coated metal pins which screw into the holes on the board.   It makes blocking squares, triangles, rectangles and octagons very easy and accurate.

But I love hexagons (and snowflakes) and it isn’t laid out to do them.   However, a short while ago I discovered R Hills Wood Turner on Facebook, and he makes the most beautiful blocking boards to order.  So guess what arrived in the post today? This:

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It is a thing of beauty  in thick solid oak, and yes – it is made for hexagons!

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It isn’t quite as large as the Scheepjes square board but I never make huge hexagons (if I ever needed to I would order one of Roger’s boards!).  The holes take 3mm needles or bamboo bbq skewers.

So how do I block?    Well I could write a very lengthy blog about the all the different blocking processes I use, because I vary how I block depending on what I am blocking and the exact yarn content.   However, here’s a ‘nutshell’ explanation:

The first consideration for blocking is the yarn, generally (for me) this means:

Acrylic or other man-made fibres – steam block
Cotton – steam block or wet block
Silk – steam block or wet block
Wool/alpaca and other natural animal fibres – wet block

Wet blocking requires soaking in a solution of Soak (or Eucalan), drying first in a towel (to get rid of excess water) then pinning to shape on the mats using wires and pins (depending on the item) or (for motifs) pinning on the blocking board, then leaving until it is bone dry.

Steam blocking requires pinning to shape and holding the steam iron (low heat, high steam) over the item (about 2cm or 1 inch away – do not touch the item!) until it is well steamed, then leaving until bone dry.  Sometimes I use the spray bottle to spray water on an item before pinning and steaming, it just helps me to shape it a bit.

Spray starch is used on items that need stiffening, such as hanging decorations. I place the blocked items on kitchen towel and spray, then leave until bone dry.    Normally spraying on one side is sufficient, but sometimes it is necessary to do both sides.

I hope this helps you with your blocking in future.

News of the Advent CAL will follow soon!

Happy knitting and crocheting xxx