How to Block Cotton Using Your Iron

You’ve finally finished knitting up that beautiful cotton garment and now the directions say to “block to measurements”  – and that’s it!  No more information on how or where.  If you are a new knitter, this can be quite frustrating.  Don’t fret – I’m here to help you through this.

First, you may be asking why

electric iron emitting steam, ready to useYou’ve finally finished knitting up that beautiful cotton garment and now the directions say to “block to measurements”  – and that’s it!  No more information on how or where.  If you are a new knitter, this can be quite frustrating.  Don’t fret – I’m here to help you through this.

First, you may be asking why blocking is important.  The answer is two-fold: to give your piece a nice professional finish and to bringing your piece to specific measurements. Blocking sets the stitches in place, making everything neat and tidy.  This is where you’ll fix any minor differences in your tension as you worked, as well as being able to do things like nip in a waistline or slightly lengthen a sleeve.

Now, onto the process.  The most important thing to remember about cotton is that when it is wet it loses all structure and becomes a mess.  This is why most of your cotton sweaters say to dry flat.  If you hang them, they stretch out to turn your beautiful sweater into a mess. You’ll want to apply a method that does not risk stretching out your piece.

To properly block your sweater, your best – and most reliable – method is to steam block with your iron.  The steam will provide the moisture needed to properly block the piece, and using the iron will ensure that you do not risk creating a misshapen mess.

To steam block, you will need to find somewhere safe to apply a bit of heat where the hot steam will not damage what is under the sweater.  I usually choose my mattress, pinning the sweater to the measurements on top of a few towels.  You can also do this on your carpet, or pin your sweater to foam floor mats.  Avoid wood floors and linoleum, as you will run the risk of burning and/or warping the surface. (Trust me on this one, I learned this the hard way!)  It is also very important that you use pins that will not rust.

Once you have your piece measured out and pinned to the proper numbers, turn your attention to your iron.  Fill the water reservoir with water and turn the heat to COTTON and the steam to FULL STEAM.  After the iron has heated to the proper level, carefully tip the iron and hover it above the fabric, allowing the steam to saturate the fabric.  It is crucial that you do not touch the iron to the fabric, and you do not need to get the piece very wet.

After you have carefully steamed each area of the piece, set your iron safely aside and use your fingers to adjust anywhere that needs a little tweaking.  One trick that I apply to my cotton pieces is to carefully “WHACK” it with a large wooden spoon. This is an old trick that my great-grandmother taught me and really sets the stitches into place and helps to even out any inconsistencies in tension.

Now all you have to do is to allow the piece to completely dry while still pinned in place.  If you did not oversaturate it, it should dry overnight with the help of a small fan.

 

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