Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Blocking, and Vegetables


My first Craftsy class (ooh... there's a hint there... ) is all about Blocking.

I was having a discussion with someone about it recently. He described the class as being an "Eat Your Vegetables" sort of thing.

Now, I feel very strongly about blocking. It's one of the least-understood and yet most important steps in the knitting process. Everything I knit has a bath before I declare it done.

Especially swatches. And anything that needs seaming. Or any special fabrics like lace, cables or colorwork. Or anything that I might have spilled coffee on. Or that might have dog hair on it. Or anything I've knitted during the winter when I'm obsessively applying moisturizer to my hands.

Now, if I tell knitters that they should wash their stuff before it's done, fear of water aside, this instruction is usually understood. And knitters can usually cope.

But as soon as we use the word blocking... well, we get blocked.

It sounds complicated. There's special equipment: mats and wires and pins. And you need to buy special wool-washes. And lie things flat. It sounds hard.
(So let's get this out of the way: 9 times out of ten, a wash is sufficient for blocking. Yes. When I say "block", most of the time all you need to do is wash it. 
Yes! The only time you need to do anything complicated, or with special equipment like mats and pins and wires, is when it's lace. The rest of the time, washing is ALL YOU NEED TO DO.)
And compounding the problem, I think we do a lousy job of explaining the value of blocking. We don't even do a good job of explaining why it's so important - let alone why it's so wonderful.

It's a bit like eating your vegetables. It sounds difficult and boring and it doesn't seem like there's any value. Who wants to, really? So you don't.

But then you discover that broccoli with cheese sauce is delicious, and that mushrooms add a sophisticated depth of flavour to a tomato sauce, and that roasted cauliflower with a bit of garlic, salt and olive oil is an even better snack than greasy old chips.

But you have to prove it to people. They won't just take your word for it. They have to try the roasted cauliflower. (Really, you do. It's amazing.) I have had to actually take stuff out of people's hands and put it in water, to prove my point. And then they get it.

To that end, I had a comment from a student in my Craftsy class recently that I wanted to share with you.
I knit a large hat, my first large item on size 1 needles, first 2 color in about 40 years and I was not really thrilled with it. But after blocking, it was just like you said. The stitches evened out and I feel the 4 months it took me to knit it (a promised gift) was time well spent after all.

See? Just like I said. Totally worth it!

And if you're still not sure it's worth your time or money, here's a trailer for the class.


Unknown said...

Kate, when I started knitting more seriously a couple years ago, I took this class. I can't tell you how much it has helped! Thank you!!! I never don't block anymore. Ever.

Renee Anne said...

Blocking is magical...but sometimes, I agree with the pain in the butt mantra that people have about it. I'll admit to total laziness about it sometimes...and other times, it takes too long and small fingers want to pull the pins out...

susanjd said...

About blocking swatches for checking gauge. how do you block a swatch to get an accurate measurement of gauge?

Kate said...

SusanJD - I've answered your question in this blog post.