I've got the Pretty in Pink "Little Black Dress" pattern finished as much as it can be finished up to the blocking point. It's being blocked right now. Once it is set and dry, all I'll have left is to join the two pieces and stitch the little beads around the neck. I'm torn between pearls and beads. I've got both to choose from, and they would both make for sweet neckline adornments. Ah, choices!
Until I knitted my first sweater, Desert Rose, I never even knew about blocking. I wasn't aware there was anything to do with a knitted garment once it was finished except put it on and wear it proudly. It wasn't until I reviewed my pattern for that sweater for any lost bits of finishing tips (weaving in ends of yarn, finishing neckline, etc) that I saw these words: "Be sure to block your new sweater before you wear it!" I had no idea what "block your sweater" meant until I looked it up on Ravelry. WHAT! This was a big step, and once it was explained to me, I really understood its importance. After all, why would I spend so much time, effort, and cash on a beautiful sweater if I wasn't going to treat it well or care for it properly?
Because I was eager to start the blocking process as soon as I understood what it was, I didn't bother going out to a craft store or buying any blocking detergent online. I went straight for our pup's shampoo. It was soap-free, and gentle enough to not hurt her eyes when we washed her little face with it. And who wouldn't welcome a gentle rosemary-lavender scent coming from their sweater?
I tried to document everything as I blocked the Pretty In Pink pup sweater this morning. So, here's the blocking process according to me.
Because I work at a quilt shop that carries Soak brand detergent for crafters, I thought ahead and purchased a small sample of a scent that enticed me. As it turns out, it was a very subtle and neutral scent which I really like--nothing overwhelming or too perfume-y.
First, run your water in a clean sink and add in just enough detergent to suds it up a little bit. I use hot water, as hot as my hands can handle, just because I have this idea in my head that it will make the stitches more permanent and help to set them a little better.
Once you've got enough water in the sink to put your knitted piece in and be able to move it around plenty, go for it.
Don't be afraid to get your wool (or any other) fibers totally soaked. The other part of the blocking process will insure that your piece doesn't shrink. Squish it around in the water, making sure you get it really good and wet all over. This process will a) set your stitches into place by teaching them with the washing/drying process that this is where they belong. It'll also release any extra pigment that's still holding on. See how my water turned slightly pink?
Once you think you've squished it and swished it around in the sudsy water enough, rinse it out. VERY WELL. Be sure to get every stitch and every corner of both sides.
Once you're done rinsing, it's time to get all the excess water out. You want to squeeze. DO NOT WRING IT OUT!!! If you wring out the water, you'll also be stretching some stitches out while compressing other stitches, and that'll cause your finished knitted work to be distorted and all geeked up. I put this pup sweater in a ball in my hand and pressed down against the sink so that the water would just go straight down the drain.
Now it's time for drying! I block all my knitted work on the guest bed in our spare bedroom. Normally, I put a couple of towels on the mattress first and then pin the piece on top, just to keep the mattress fresh from any damp build-up grossness. Because I was currently doing a load of laundry including all of our towels, I just went for it today without any towel buffer.
Lay the piece out flat, right side up, and start pinning with straight pins (the same ones you'd use with your sewing machine). I try to pin about every 4 stitches, or about every 1/2" to be sure all the edges stay straight. What you don't want to happen is for the yarn to shrink up in between pins, because you'll be left with a scalloped edge effect.
Be sure to keep your curious, attention-seeking pup far away from any pointy pins!
I usually let my blocked pieces dry for about 12 hours. That way, I know the fibers are very dry, and the stitches are very set in place. Once everything is dry, you can take out all the pins (be sure to get them all!) and do any finishing work--putting together any pieces that were knitted separately (like this project), finishing any edges, or weaving in any ends (which I always do before blocking, so that they stay in place as well). You're done! You've got a piece of art that will last for a long, long time. Cherish it!