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.)

Maggie’s Kitchen

If you know me in real life, then you probably know how good I’ve got it. My husband, Gerald, cooks dinner. I stay at home every day while he’s off at work, then he comes home and whips up something delicious. He used to be a chef, so to him cooking dinner is no big deal. I’m a lucky girl, for sure.

Although I spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, it is most certainly Gerald’s kitchen. I’m a good baker, a master cleaner-upper, and recently I have been preparing more dinners than in years past, but still, I’m just a guest there. We do things his way.

For example, if it were my kitchen, we would have a little drawer with oven mitts and potholders for pulling hot things out of the oven. But having been a chef in many kitchens, he has no time for silly things like potholders. Gerald uses a kitchen towel for everything from wiping the counter off to grabbing hot pans. I’ve had to adjust.

And Gerald has a tendency to be, um, a little messy. If I had sweet little handmade potholders lying around the kitchen, they’d quickly get icky and dirty. I can’t have that.

That’s a long way of saying all these potholders I’ve been crocheting lately are completely useless in my our kitchen. If I don’t give them away as gifts, they will probably end up as playthings in…Maggie’s Kitchen.

maggie's kitchen potholder free pattern

FREE CROCHET PATTERN! Maggie’s Kitchen

Free Pattern

Use it to make crocheted hot pads, potholders, coasters, or toys for your 4 year old’s play kitchen. The pattern includes instructions for a basic circle out of double crochet, and a choice of five different edgings. There is also info on how to attach a little plastic ring for hanging.

If you are a seasoned crocheter, then you can probably look at the picture to figure out the pattern. This project is ideal for knitters who want to expand their crochet skillz. But be forewarned – crocheted potholder are highly addictive.

Maggie's Kitchen

I used Cotton Classic from Tahki Stacy Charles, Inc. and a size D (3.25 mm) hook. The finished size in the pattern is 4.25″ (11 cm) circumference before the edging. It is very easy to make bigger potholders by adding additional rounds.

The free pattern Crocheted Potholders by Bea Aarebrot inspired this design. I updated the terminology to US crochet terms and expanded the edging choices. Big thanks to Bea for allowing me to share this with all of you!

Find it on Ravelry here. See a few more pictures in my Maggie’s Kitchen Flickr set. Download the pattern immediately by clicking the link below (you do not need to be a Ravelry member to download). Thanks, and enjoy!

Free Pattern


latest projects

Maggie's Kitchen

I crocheted what feels like a hundred potholders. I originally planned to participate in this year’s Potholder Swap! but the timing just didn’t work out. I had already made a bunch of little pieces, but then I got busy with the Graveyard Socks and other things. No swap for me. Sad, especially because last year I got the best bunch of potholders ever.

But then the yarn store I teach at, Common Threads Yarn Shop, decided to have a ‘little cotton gifts’ workshop. Potholders are, of course, the perfect little cotton gift. Yay! This Saturday (Apr. 10 from 11am – 2pm) I get to share my growing love for crochet with the masses at the yarn shop. The workshop is free, you don’t need to sign up, and there will be free patterns for a number of little cotton gifts.

Maggie's Kitchen

The pattern for my little potholders is based on and inspired by Bea Aarebrot’s Crochet Potholder pattern. With Bea’s permission, I will be publishing my own version, complete with five edging choices, and offering it for free download. I’m polishing up the pattern as we speak, and should post it by the beginning of next week.

Maggie's Kitchen

Another project I’ve been working on is my Saroyan Shawl. I’ll be teaching a project class for the shawl on April 17th at Common Threads. The design is fantastic, fun to knit, and I used a really, really fun yarn – Silky Wool (or as Cindy calls it, Silly Wool).

Saroyan Shawl
on display at the shop

Saroyan Shawl
looks better on the dress form than on me

Keep an eye out for the free crochet pattern! It’ll be ready soon…