There are several ways to block (neaten and even out) knitted pieces, but because I’ve been steam blocking the pieces of the yellow top I’ve just finished I thought I’d take some photos of this process on the sleeve pieces, done with an iron (most of us have one….although to be honest my knitting is about the only thing I will ever bother to get it out for!).
Steam blocking works well on most types of fibres, and it’s quicker than the wet blocking process where you soak and lay or pin out your knits to dry. The only thing to watch out for is to be careful with the steam and learn to work with it gently. Steaming too close for too long or touching an iron onto the stitches can cause irreversible changes to the fabric, particularly with acrylics, which can be “killed” by doing so, meaning that the surface of the stitches melts slightly and causes the fabric to become very silky and drapey. Which is sometimes really desirable but not great if you didn’t intend it to happen.
What will blocking do for your pieces? Take a look!
Here you can see the two sleeves. The one on the left is not blocked. It’s trying to curl up and looks generally like a crumpled dishrag. The one on the right has been blocked, quite a difference!
To steam block you will need…
1. To set your iron to make lots of steam, so fill the tank, get it hot and make sure it is on a good steam setting.
2. A relatively flat and heatproof surface on which to block your work. I’m using my ironing board here, but you can use a thick towel over a table or on the floor.
3. Your hands, or pins to get your work into approximately the right shape first, pins help if you have a particularly stubborn piece of knitting or are just not too confident about shaping the piece out by hand. I didn’t use pins on my pieces.
Hold the iron over the piece. Start with it a few inches away and let the steam come out over your work. Give it enough time for the steam to slightly moisten and penetrate.
Move the iron away from the work and immediately pat the knitting into shape with your hand. Make sure that the iron is out of the way first (of course!).
Pat the pieces down gently with your hand after each pass of steam.
Shaping with the hands is a really important part of steam blocking.
Don’t be afraid to gently pat, pull, tug and manipulate your piece to get it looking the way you want it.
Done! Leave the pieces until completely dry and cool, which will not take more than a few minutes.
Like most things in knitting, confidence is key. Don’t be scared of damaging your work. If you start with the steam high up over the piece, take your time, and remember not to touch the stitches with the iron you shouldn’t run into problems, and you can increase the amount of steaming if needed as you see how your piece reacts to the treatment.
And here’s me wearing the finished top!