the ritual

The Ritual

When I am finished knitting a project, it’s not really finished finished until I’ve blocked it. And as I blocked this hat today it got me thinking. With many of you perhaps knitting or crocheting things to give as gifts for Christmas (or whatever holidays you celebrate), I wanted to remind you of my Blocking Tutorial. It should be a PSA. Don’t Give Unblocked Knitting as Gifts!  If you’re one of the hopefully few people who haven’t tried blocking yet, or you think it’s too hard, or takes too long, then please check out that tutorial.

For the rest of you, I’m sure you know at least one last hold out, a knitter friend who thinks they don’t need to block their FOs. Here’s a little gift, then, from me to you. Print out this shiny new one page PDF blocking tutorial (reprinted from The Red Collection) and give it to your friend with a little bottle of your favorite wool wash. She or he will love you for it, I promise. (Yes, the file says “personal use only” and you may not print out one hundred and sell them or give them away at a yarn shop. Just be reasonable, people.)

Today I blocked Jerry’s new Girdwood hat (pattern soon!), with that unruly curled edge that was driving me nuts.


The Ritual

The Ritual

Ahhh. Curly edge tamed. I am the boss of my own knitting! Now we wait for it to dry.

**Don’t forget, the Asheboro Hat is still just $3, but tomorrow is the last day to get that deal! A HUGE thank you to everyone who has already purchased the pattern! There’s already a few other projects, YAY!**

How to do it: Blocking Wool

How to do it: Blocking
Unblocked wool mittens.

Download a printable PDF of these instructions, all on 1 page!

When I taught my first knitting class over a year ago, I decided to have a blocking demonstration. I thought it would be a good way to kill time during the second half of my class, even if everyone already knew about blocking. I was surprised when during the demo, I had everyone’s rapt attention. They were hanging on my every word! Sure, they knew what blocking was, but I think showing them how easy and quick it is really surprised them.

I’ve long wanted to do a blocking tutorial here on the blog, and I finally got my camera out today and documented the whole process. I bet most of you already know how to block your knitting, and if you do, great! This is not meant to be The Final Word on Blocking. Rather, it’s meant to give you some insight into my method.

The blocking method I am showing you is good for items knit with animal fibers (wool, alpaca, musk ox) or non-animal fibers that require hand washing.  Take extra care to be super gentle when blocking delicate lace (and invest in blocking wires).

If you’ve never blocked anything (egads!) then this is a good place to start. After you give it a few tries, you’ll see that blocking is more than just a step to skip at the end of a pattern; blocking is a magical trick that makes your knitting look really good. Like, Taylor Lautner good. I’m not kidding.

You’ll need:

  • A bowl or sink.
  • Warm water.
  • Your favorite wool wash (not Woolite).
  • An absorbent, old towel.
  • And of course, something knitted out of wool or another animal fiber.

How to do it: Blocking

Step 1: Fill your sink or bowl with warm water.

I use a bowl for smaller items like mittens and hats. The sink would take too long to fill for just a small thing. If I have a whole sweater to block I use the sink.

How to do it: Blocking

Step 2: Drizzle in some wool wash.

Look on the bottle of wool wash to see how much is recommended.

I have been using Kookaburra for a number of years and I love it because you don’t need to rinse it out and the scent is awesome. I’ve also used Eucalan and Soak and they are both good. Your choice will depend on how smelly you want your finished knits to be, and overall personal preference.

How to do it: Blocking
How to do it: Blocking

Step 3: Drop your knitting in, let it soak.

Make sure the entire item is submerged, and the wool is soaking up water. Be gentle with your knitting; too much agitation will usually cause anything from slight shrinkage to downright felting. You can let your item soak for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Some yarns might take longer to absorb water, so use your best judgment.  I’m usually ready to move to the next step after about 15 minutes.

Some wool washes need to be rinsed out. Use water that is the same temperature as the water in your bowl. You can either use a second bowl with fresh water or gently set your item aside to fill the bowl with fresh water. After rinsing, move on to step 4.

How to do it: Blocking
How to do it: Blocking
How to do it: Blocking

Step 4: Remove excess water.

Do not wring. As I’ve said all along, be gentle! Wet wool felts, and manhandling your knitting is out of the question. I usually wrap my item up in a towel and step on it (four-year-old helper optional) to get out as much water as I can. I also will spin things for 20 seconds in my washing machine to get more water out. For this mitten, the spin cycle wasn’t necessary.

I use an old, thick towel. Sometimes (as it happened with this mitten) any excess dye from the yarn will come off on the towel, so use one you don’t mind getting mucked up.

How to do it: Blocking

Step 5: Shape and lay flat to dry.

This is, by far, the best part. When you item is wet, it has a lot of give and it will do what you want it to do. Pins or blocking wires are useful tools for lace shawls or sweater pieces. For this mitten, all I needed was to straighten out the mitten, push down the braid cast on, and make sure the body of the mitten was a uniform width. I also made sure that pretty pointed top of the mitten was as pointy as I could get it. Now to wait for the mitten to dry!

How to do it: Blocking

This last picture shows the blocked mitten on the left, and it’s mate, still unblocked on the right. If I could show you the mittens in person, you would see the dramatic effect that blocking has had. The blocked mitten is smooth, the wool is softer, the smell of tea tree oil is intoxicating — the mitten looks finished. It makes me look like a better knitter and all I did was take the time to give it a little bath.

Although the difference between the blocked mitten and the unblocked mitten is not as glaring in the photo, I think you still could have been able to tell them apart. If you have not yet tried blocking, go for it!  It just might blow you away.

(That mitten on the right did not stay unblocked for long — I couldn’t stand it looking all lumpy and forlorn! I will wait for them both to dry and report back soon with more details about this great pattern.)

How to do it: Slipper Soles

Have you ever worn felted slippers? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Felted slippers are the bomb. I’ve made a bunch of pairs and I wear them all the time: In the winter because it’s cold, and in the summer because the AC makes it cold. I had to make a new pair for myself recently because my old ones had developed their own bad case of air conditioning.

Make your own slipper soles!

I know you can buy ready made slipper soles, but I had trouble finding the right size for my slippers. There are also many different ideas and tutorials on how to make the slipper bottoms slip-free (in Ravelry forums, just search “slipper soles”).

But I thought it would be fun to do a tutorial here on the old blog. A change of pace for me, and a bit of a treat for you. If you are a visual learner like I am, just scroll through the pictures — you’ll get the idea. Now, let’s get started!

How To Make Your Very Own, Custom Fitted, Slipper Soles

What you’ll need:

  1. A pair of newly felted, dry slippers.
  2. Paper for making a template.
  3. Scissors.
  4. Marking pen. I used an extra-fine tip Sharpie.
  5. One sheet of suede. I got mine at the craft store for $5.99.
  6. Leather punch, size 5/64″. I got this at the craft store, too, as part of the Mini Punch Set. It was $8.99, and I’m already scheming to use it for more projects.
  7. Tape measure or ruler (but “eyeballing it” works for this project).
  8. Block of scrap wood.
  9. Hammer or heavy mallet.
  10. Sharp sewing needle.
  11. Embroidery thread in a color to match your slipper.  **UDATE 1/30/08: My embroidery thread is not wearing well, and one of the heel pieces has come off.  I am going to try using leather thread, if I can find that at the craft store, and I’ll let you know how it goes.**

Here’s some of the supplies ready to go.

Make your own slipper soles!

The first thing you need to do is make a template. Trace around the bottom of your slipper onto your template paper. For the toe piece, draw the template piece about 1/2″ in from the edge that you traced and long enough to cover the ball of your foot, curving the corners. Do the same for the heel piece. Cut out your templates, and lay them on your slipper to make sure they reach just to the edges, but not over the edge. Here’s my templates on my old slipper, checking to see that the problem areas will be covered.

Make your own slipper soles!

Next, use your marker to trace around your templates onto the wrong side of the suede.

Make your own slipper soles!

Make your own slipper soles!

Then cut them out.

Make your own slipper soles!

With your marker, on the wrong side of the suede, mark where you will punch the holes. My dots are 1/8″ from the edge, and 3/8″ apart. I did not measure the marks until after I made them; it’s really easy just to eyeball this part.

Make your own slipper soles!

I keep talking about the wrong side of the suede, and in the picture above you can clearly see the difference. The piece on the right is the smooth, even, front side of the suede. The one with the marks on the left is uneven and more rough to the touch.

Alrighty. Now on to the fun part, in which you get to hammer really loudly and aggressively! I did this step outside for some reason, but I suppose you could do it anywhere suitable for hammering. First, practice with the punch set on a scrap of the suede.

Make your own slipper soles!

Once you get the hang of it, you’re ready to start punching the holes. Place the puncher directly over the first dot, and hammer it through the suede.

Make your own slipper soles!

At first it took me seven or eight hammers to make the hole. After a few holes, though, I got into a good rhythm and the job went faster than I expected.

Make your own slipper soles!

With your holes punched, you’re ready to sew them on your slippers. Using embriodery thread (all 6 strands) and a sharp needle, sew through all the holes around each piece.

Make your own slipper soles!

In that picture it looks like the needle goes into the fabric below the hole, but it doesn’t. Put the needle into the fabric next to the hole you just pulled it through, and bring it out through the next hole. Because the fabric (the felted wool) is thick it takes a little muscle to make sure the thread goes into the fabric, not just into some fuzzies. (If anyone can tell me the name of this type of stitch, I’ll add it. What can I say? I’m self-taught.)

That’s the job! You’re done!

Make your own slipper soles!

Phew, that was fun. Since this is my first tutorial please let me know if something isn’t clear. I’ll let you know how these babies hold up to my rigorous wear.