To block crochet, or not to block, that is the question. If you’re wondering why to block your crochet or how to block crochet, this article is for you! Read on to learn all there is about wet blocking, spray blocking, and steam blocking, and answers to the most frequently asked blocking questions.
Guide to Blocking Crochet
When you block crochet you are forcing your completed project to dry in a certain position. This is done by using moisture – either by soaking, washing, misting, or steaming your crochet project – then pinning into place. There are many things you can do to ensure a nice block with clean edges and crisp lines.
There can be a massive difference in the size of an item simply by blocking. Many times in patterns that have a lacy design or other element that requires blocking you’ll see two gauges listed, one unblocked and one blocked.
It’s never a bad idea to crochet a gauge swatch, then block the swatch to see the effect it has on the stitchwork and the overall design before you start a large project.
You can block virtually any crocheted or knit piece. Of course, there are some things that don’t really matter if they are blocked… like blankets, or washcloths, hats and beanies, etc. For other projects though, you’ll definitely want to block the piece, and for a variety of reasons.
Blocking also makes your work look more professional and polished.
Sometimes you’ll want to block your piece to open up the stitchwork. Many times with thinner weight yarns (size 1, 2, or 3), and also depending on the fiber content of your yarn (acrylic, cotton, mohair or other animal fiber, etc) the stitch definition can be lost if left unblocked.
Blocking is also extremely helpful when making a set of identical small pieces (like Granny Squares) that will be sewn together to make a larger piece such as an afghan or as in my Fat Bottom Bag pattern. Blocking crochet pieces before you sew them together ensures that all of your pieces are the same dimension, making it easier to line up edges and seam, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why should I block my crochet?
Blocking helps to open up the stitch pattern so that you can clearly see the stitches of your crocheted piece. This is particularly beneficial with smaller weight yarns and/or lace stitches. That being said, some items do not require blocking like blankets or hats etc.
Do I HAVE to block my crochet if a crochet pattern says to do so?
Technically, no. You never HAVE to block anything, but if you went through all of the trouble of crocheting the piece, taking the additional bit of time needed to make that project really POPS is definitely worth it.
What is the best blocking method? (Spray Blocking, Steam Blocking, or Wet Blocking)
This depends on the fiber content used, but mostly on your personal preference.
A spray bottle (Spray Blocking) is a perfectly sufficient means of moistening your crochet, but if your piece is of decent size your hand will get tired of pumping.
You could also soak the piece in lukewarm water (Wet Blocking) to make sure that the entire project is completely water laden. Then lay out a fresh bath towel and position the wet crochet piece on the towel. Gently roll the towel and press out any excess water DO NOT WRING. Take the piece and position on your blocking mats (or foam mats like these) and pin into place/dimension and allow to dry.
By pinning the crocheted fabric into place while dry (Steam Blocking), then using a garment steamer I tend to get the best results. See the instructional photos below for a visual explanation.
Do you block cotton the same way you block acrylic yarn?
The three methods above can be used to block virtually any fabric made using yarn, whether that be knit or crochet.
Acrylic yarn contains components that will melt, then keep their shape as it dries. In order to do this, you need heat. Steam blocking is preferred for blocking acrylic yarn, but do proceed with caution as it can be irreversible.
Is blocking permanent? How do you get yarn to stay blocked?
Unfortunately, blocking is not usually permanent. Many fibers will “remember the block”, so to speak, but after repeated washings you may find yourself needing to reblock. The only type of blocking that IS permanent is steam blocking acrylic. As mentioned above, introducing heat to acrylic yarn melts and relaxes the yarn, and when it cools and dried it stays in that shape. Use with caution – this type of blocking can not be undone!
Does blocking affect the drape?
Blocking will always make crocheted garments hang better. Especially with shawls or other more delicate wearables, blocking can make all the difference in the world!
Best tools for blocking crochet?
Steam blocking is my preferred method of blocking and this garment steamer is my favorite. In the past I have used other steamers and I do caution you that some may drip boiling hot water when tilted too far at an angle. The burn on my leg is proof of that! After that incident, I invested in this Conair garment steamer and I can not tell you how much of a difference this has made. I highly recommend it!
Knit Blockers are an absolute game changer! These plastic rectangles come in two sizes included in the set that have sharp pins protruding along one edge. These are by far the best way I’ve found to keep lines as straight as possible, as you can pin multiple places at once!
T-Pins (rust proof pins) are very helpful when blocking. Easier to grab and hold onto, and easy to tie twine or contrasting yarn around to create a straight line.
Blocking mats with grid lines are a great way to make sure that your lines are a straight as possible as the fabric dries. Of course, you could use the twine method I mentioned above which is a free option.
A towel is also a useful blocking tool, used to roll up and wring out excess water before pinning a piece into place. This helps to remove moisture which speeds up the drying time.
How to Choose Blocking Supplies
What you use as a blocking mat is totally up to you. You could purchase a blocking mat specifically marketed for blocking, or those colorful foam mat sets traditional made for kids’ rooms that come with NINE 12″ x 12″ inter-locking foam puzzle pieces, or even the larger floor mat tiles you can pick up at the home improvement stores. I prefer these simply for their size.
Basically any surface that you can use to pin your crochet in place will suffice.
How To block crochet
First check your yarn label to make sure that the yarn/wool can get wet/be washed. (see more on the difference, and felting here.) Then decide if you want to spray block, wet block or steam block your piece.
For regular wet blocking you will either:
1. ) get it completely submerged in water and let it soak, then press in a towel to semi-dry (do not wring)
2. ) mist with a spray bottle until damp.
Leave the piece in place on the blocking board until it has completed dried. If you can leave it outside to dry in the sun/wind that is optimal but not necessary.
When dry, remove the pins and that is it!
Then there is the other way of blocking… steam blocking!
Steam blocking is the method of blocking crochet that I prefer by far. I like this method for two main reasons:
- It significantly cuts down on drying time, and
- I like to prepare my blocking board by using my T-pins and twine (or contrasting yarn scraps) to definitively see exactly how far to stretch each side. This eliminates so much time measuring as you pin!
To steam block you’ll simply pin your piece to the desired dimension, then use your garment steamer (or the steam setting on your iron – carefully!) to introduce the moisture needed. Then simply let it dry and you’re finished!
It is possible, depending on the item, that you will need to block your piece after laundering. This will most likely occur with lightweight shawls or other light items. If you’re blocking squares now to sew together for a blanket later, just wash and dry the finished blanket as instructed on the yarn label.
Isn’t that fun and easy?! What will you be blocking first?