Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scarf Blocking Tutorial

Here is the promised scarf blocking tutorial. There are much better blocking tutorials out there, but this should get the basic ideas across. I resisted blocking for years, especially for scarves since they look pretty good right off the needles. But especially for heavily textured scarves, like this reversible cable pattern, blocking makes a big difference in the finished product, and I recommend it. It's easier than you think! There are several methods of blocking - this is full-immersion wet-blocking. Also, this kind of blocking works best for animal fibers - wool, alpaca, etc. Cotton, silk, acrylics, different story - don't do this.

You will need:
  • an animal fiber scarf or other piece of knitting
  • a sink
  • a wool/delicates detergent (I use Ivory snow, you could also use Woolite or Eucalan)
  • a couple of towels
  • rust-proof pins (Mine are these from Knitpicks.)
To start, here is the unblocked scarf. (Click on any of these pictures to embiggen.) The blocking process was supervised by Harold, a tiny stuffed penguin from a zoo in Montreal. It was photographed by Mike, stand-in blog photographer extraordinaire.

Step 1: Fill sink with cold water and a splash of wool wash or delicates detergent. If the water is extremely cold, your hands are going to start hurting soon. Suck it up, or go with lukewarm/cool water instead, it probably doesn't matter. I like to see if I can stand the cold water.

Step 2: Swish the water around to make it sudsy. (Hands getting cold.)

Step 3: Add scarf to the water. Squish it very gently to get it wet and sudsy. Be careful to avoid too much agitation, as wool can felt or shrink with agitation. (Hands getting colder.)

Step 4: Drain the water, gently squeeze out the scarf. Now fill the sink with clean water and swish the scarf around in it gently. Notice I keep saying gently. Repeat this step until the water is clear and the scarf is no longer soapy. (Hands very very cold now.)

Step 5: Pull the scarf out of the water in a bundle, being careful not to let it stretch out. Gently squeeze some water out so it's not dripping. Now get a towel and roll the scarf up in the towel to get more water out. You want it to be damp and pliable, not sopping wet or bone-dry.

Step 6: Now you're ready to pin. Lay out your towel(s) at least the length of the scarf. I fold it in half or thirds so there is more material to stick the pin into. There are blocking mats that are much nicer, but I just use towels. Start with one end of the scarf, stretch it out a little bit horizontally, and start pinning. I pin every 2 inches or so, enough so that it keeps it shape and doesn't do crazy scalloping. For lace you have to use more pins or blocking wires, but I won't go into that.

Step 7: Wait. Wait until it's dry, at least overnight, probably longer for less arid climates.
This scarf blocked out really nicely. I'd show you a close-up of the finished product, but it's a gift, so you have to wait until the recipient sees it.

Hope this was helpful. Feel free to post questions/clarifications in the comments.

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