Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shout Out to the (Knitting) Experts: Wet Blocking a Complete Sweater

So, I just this second finished the Tubey sweater. I have lots of thoughts and feelings about it (and photos to come) - amongst them:
  • Wow, this thing is really low cut - especially since I lowered the neckline by 3/4". Note: Based on measurements, I believed the neckline was going to be very high, if constructed as per the instructions. (My measurements were, apparently, erroneous.) Happily, I came up with a great work around - again - details to follow next post...; and
  • I don't know if I like it, but I sure don't hate it and, while knitting, I learned SO many things. Even if I never wear the thing - and with a cami I will wear it - it's been more than worth the experience.
Here's what I don't get: How does one block a complete sweater - as opposed to flat pieces - one that's been knit in the round? I guess I wash it carefully, then put it on towels and try to adjust the front and back with pins as one unit? But isn't it going to take forever to dry? Will the underside come out as well as the top side? Any feedback would be so welcome...


  1. Yes, just as you describe. I did that with a mohair dress I knit in the round -- I'll admit, though, that I just patted into measurement shape, didn't pin it. When the top seemed dry enough (and wool is surprisingly quick to dry) I flipped it over, preserving shape as well as I could, patting it back where needed.
    I always make sure there's enough absorbent towelling underneath.

  2. I never pin sweaters. Generally speaking, I only pin things that need to be stretched into shape and held that way (such as lace shawls). Usually find with wet-blocking sweaters you're at greater risk for the opposite problem (stretching out too big). I just squish out all the water by rolling it up in a towel, and then arrange it into the correct shape/size, and then leave it alone.

    And yes... the bottom does take longer (although in my experience it doesn't look any different than the front) and the whole thing takes a while (usually like 24-48 hours, depending on how thick it is and how warm/dry your house is.) I always block on top of a dry towel, and I find it helps if I change that towel to a new, dry one every 12 hours or so.

  3. I occasionally wet block sweaters, but more often I steam them with my iron - especially wool or cotton. Much faster, and I personally like the result better.

  4. I'd just pat it into shape too. I never pin ribbing, and only things that need a firm straight line. Flipping it half way through and changing towels is also good.

  5. Wet blocking sweaters is a really scary term for hand washing your sweater (minus any agitation). Soak in water plus wool wash, squish out excess water, roll in a towel and stomp more water out, and lay on a new towel flat to dry (adjusting the shape if necessary).

    If the knit is particularly delicate I've seen placing a colander between it and the sink, then you just lift the colander up to drain.

    Knitty has an article on blocking (in two parts) with photos if you like.

  6. Oh - and generally this isn't useful advice for bigger/thicker sweaters, but for small ones (or knit accessories... or delicates of any kind, really!) I find a salad spinner to be an invaluable laundering tool! Hello, spin cycle.

  7. Thank you so much knitting friends! You always come through for me... FYI, as I've wet blocked a variety of items so far - and as this fabric seems kind of heavy and likely to grow a lot if fully immersed in water - and as Gail suggested she prefers steam blocking, I decided to try it.

    I was a bit concerned given the microfibre content of the yarn, but I tested it slowly and it seemed unharmed in any way by heat and steam.

    Truth is, I don't know if the steam has done anything, though I did spend 20 minutes blocking this way. I know the idea is that the fibres relax, but I can't tell if it's worked. I'm letting it rest for a while.

    In a worst case scenario, I tried something new and I'll wet block tomorrow.

    mater and mardel: I have only used a very few pins at the back neck (which is in roll-y stockinette - I loathe that roll) and at the side under the arm / bust, where it's a bit too small.

    Kate: I was worried about the rib stretching out, which is why I opted not to wet block at first. But I love your salad spinner idea for delicate fabrics!

    Gail: We'll see if this works :-)

    anotheryarn: Isn't it weird that they've made something simple seem scary? :-) After reading the article, in addition to all of this great advice, I'm trying the steam method first.

    I'll let you all know how it plays out...

  8. My favorite way to wet block (and also to clean) is to soak the sweater in a large bowl or pan in some tepid water with one of those sweater soaps that you don't have to rinse out. Let the sweater soak for 10 minutes or so and then dump the whole container into the washing machine and just spin that sucker dry. Then do the pat into shape on a dry towel thing. The sweater will be dry in a day or so, as opposed to the 5-7 days it seems to take if I try rolling the thing in a towel to suck out the excess water.