The Passion of the Blocking
March 7, 2004
Here’s a pile of Sassy, off the needles, ready for its destiny in my basement, ready to meet Rowenta the Steamy and the Tomato of Pins.
There’s always that last triste moment when I’ve actually, finally reached the last stitch of knitting. Oh, chenille, sorry for that time when I was so ugly to you. You are a good yarn. Stay sweet, OK? And have a great summer.
Proof of blocking.
Our reading this Sunday comes from the Book of Hiatt,* page 392, paragraph 1:
“Many people erroneously believe that they can block a fabric out in order to adjust the overall size of the garment, counting on this process to correct problems with the fit. There is also a popular misconception that blocking a sweater is in some way permanent. In fact, cleaning a knitted fabric has some analogy with what happens when human hair is washed and set to give it curl.”
And paragaraph 5: “Since the advent of steam irons, blocking with pins or stretchers is no longer necessary unless the fiber cannot tolerate steam and the stitch pattern must be stretched open beyond what can be done by hand. A situation when both of these things are true is quite rare. Once dry, most garments can be dressed simply and easily with just steam. But tradition dies hard, and many knitters today go to a great deal of trouble not only to measure and pin out a garment just the way their grandmothers did, but then when they are dry, they steam them. The steam immediately relaxes the fibers and erases the dimensions so painstakingly achieved with the pins. Pinning out was the most tedious aspect of washing a handknit; aren’t you glad you don’t have to do that anymore?”
As you know, I LOVE BLOCKING. I have seen every sweater I’ve so painstakingly pinned achieve new heights of smoothitude and loveliness. I have seen edges made easier to sew up, I have seen curling edges vanish, I have seen the dead rise up and–OK maybe not. You can’t make a size medium into a size large, but you can get a piece of knitting (your Sassy, for example) to open up and behave better by pinning it.
No matter what the good book of Hiatt says, I will keep pinning, wetting AND steaming simultaenously, then letting it all dry.
And of course, I am talking about blocking only before I sew up a sweater. Once it’s finished, it joins the ranks of plain old clothes–it gets its one spa treatment when it’s born, and that’s all.
*June Hemmons Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting continues to be my very most favoritest knitting reference. It continues to amaze me that the folks at my long-ago employer, Simon & Schuster, could not figure out that putting this 1988 book back into print would be a) easy; b) profitable; and c) smart. I wonder what the story is.