Blocking Saves the Day

By Kay Gardiner
May 9, 2019
The best reason to finish a sweater is so you can start another sweater.

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84 Comments
  • Such a beautiful sweater!

  • Best story! Excited to hear it as i think I’m in a similar sweater situation!

  • Beautiful sweater! And, glad to hear I’m not the only knitting dodo—-currently about 8 inches up the back of a sweater for son-in-law and recently realized I forgot to upsize the needles after the ribbing. Trying to decide if I should rip back or just cross my needles and hope for the best…..

    • I have a sweater on the needles (since September – it’s all over cables) and realised after completing the second arm that I had also made that fatal mistake just on the one arm. Am praying to the gods of blocking that the mistake will not be noticeable. I’ve also just realised that I meant to make sure it was the left arm when I started knitting the sleeves onto the body but I have no recollection of checking that. Just a few more weeks of knitting and I’ll have a photo for a verdict on whether blocking will hide the mistake!

  • Amen, sista!

    • Yay!!!

  • So I thought I was the only addlepated knitter who forgets to change needle sizes. It even happens with experts! You are a great model and the yarn for that sweater is gorgeous. And you are so well accessorized.

    • Isn’t she? Carrying a small dog might be an even better solution for concealing knitting mistakes!

  • You are not alone in this crazy knitting world. Been there, done that! But … my experience is, that the blocked material does go back a bit to it‘s original state. Maybe not all the way, but maybe half the way. We keep fingers crossed for you!

  • Im so excited for you to have made this sweater work. It looks lovely on you!!! I hope to make one as well!!!

  • Love that you are so honest and human and willing to share. You made my day. Thanks! Oh, and the sweater is perfectly fab. 🙂

  • I have done the needle mess up far too many times but I am a soaker and it has saved many a project!

    • “I like to exhale, and slouch, and I want room to do both of those things inside the sweater, without it showing on the outside of the sweater.”. Me, too, sister! Love this!

      • It ain’t nobody’s business!

  • Been there, done that, and so glad it worked out for you. The sweater looks fabulous.

  • You look great! Did the gauge of your finished blocked sweater match the gauge of your swatch? Or were you initially knitting for a bigger size? Blocking really is the best thing ever.

    • The gauge is tighter than my swatch but luckily I was knitting for a bigger size.

  • I LOVE the color and how the shading works between your yarn choices!

  • I love this article helped me get over my fear of blocking! did once (actually twice) 2 versions of same sweater. It turned out beautifully posted on my IG page @nanatsknits
    Im in love with top down sweaters this one looks lovely is it also top down???? Can I buy the pattern????
    Thanks a mint
    Annette

    • The pattern is the Bottom Line Pullover by Isabell Kraemer, in MDK Field Guide No. 11. And yes, it’s top-down!

  • Hi love your story. Can I just ask does the yarn have to be natural or does this also happen with acrylic/manmadeequivalents? Thanks

    • In general, blocking acrylic doesn’t do the wonders that it does to natural fibers (you don’t have a whole lot of growth or reshaping possibilities). It still makes the end product look more “finished”!

    • Steam blocking acrylic (usually just machine washing & running through a warm tumble dryer) will let the fibers relax a bit. The stitches even out & you’ll get some growth, but not to the extent you would get with wool that’s been wetted & stretched ’til the sheep bleats. More aggressive steam blocking, with an iron or a steamer, can handle reshaping, like flattening a corner that wants to pop up, but it has to be done carefully or the texture of the fabric can be altered.

  • I love your sweater!! And blocking truly is amazing. It even works on purchased sweaters. (What? Buy a sweater?!! ). I got a super cute linen cabled sweater on great sale but it was a little wide and shorter than I’d prefer. I’m long and lean. Blocking!! Worked like a dream!!

    • I also have a bargain sweater that is cotton and blocking works wonders on the fit. I like to stretch it out into an A-line shape to fit better over the hips.

  • Soaking is so relaxing, even for sweaters!

  • LOL, sure hope the blocking gods will be as kind today with the Mielie vest I just finished and hope to be able to close comfortably

  • Words of comfort and wisdom!

  • Blocking magic wins the day, again! It’s gorgeous

  • This is so timely, as I recently realized I did the same thing — knitted body of my #bangoutasweater (yes, from February) in #6 from the armpits down vs #7 for the yoke. How, you ask? Because I first made the looser tunic body continuously in #7, did a sleeve, then decided to rip out the entire body to make a fitted body instead, but didn’t change out the needles from the sleeve cuff ribbing in #6. So not only did I knit a tighter fit in my body re-do, I also did it in a smaller needle size. Oy. Current status: friends have implored me not to rip out the body again. This has been a difficult temptation to overcome because it’s just NOT RIGHT. However, #6 tighter body is still intact, I knit the second sleeve correctly, and will attempt blocking magic given Kay’s happy outcome! I think it’s gonna turn out fine.

  • Wow – you look fabulous in the finished sweater! I “know” the power of blocking but great to see such a clear and obvious demonstration of it. Also, did I say you look fabulous?

  • You’ve inspired me. I have a too small body of a sweater I was going to rip out, but I’m going to try blocking it before I give up on it.

  • Kay – you look great and you are not the first person to have needle-neglect – or even the millionth! Thank goodness you’re a loose knitter today 🙂

  • I love this sweater and the way you look in it. That gradation of color from the yoke to the body is the best. Did you pin the sweater during the blocking? A salesperson at my LYS recommended a Lacis blocking device, sort of a torture rack for knitted objects. She claims she’s gained two sizes through it. I haven’t made the investment yet, preferring to stretch aggressively and pin, or donate to someone smaller than me.

    • I only pin lace. I didn’t stretch this sweater; it is just the effect of soaking it.

    • A wooly board (aka sweater/jumper board) is not meant to stretch a sweater on the rack. It was designed to support all the parts of a sweater so that it can be dried vertically. Shetland knitters didn’t have a whole lot of unused flat surfaces to waste drying sweaters. Good explanation & photo at https://www.hazeltindall.com/jumper-boards

  • Kay – You done great!

  • I once made not one but two socks using#2 not#1 as called for. So I can totally understand forgetting to change needle size. I always think of blocking as tightening up knitting, not loosening it.

  • That was a totally fun account to read! I have used blocking to the same effect but never took the time to do all the before and after measurements. I think I’ll do that next time as it was really cool to see. Thanks!
    And love the sweater!

  • Yay!!! Love a happy ending Especially after all that knitting on a teeny tiny size 2 needle;)

  • After 35+ years of knitting, I had never blocked anything. Using my wonderful Rowenta always worked for me. I ordered short blocking wires because I am in the process of knitting a baby blanket that I made quite a bit larger. The blocks are triangles and they need to be exactly the same size so I’m learning to block ! Now that I’ve seen what you did with wet blocking, I am so excited

  • I love to block. It is amazing to see how it smooths and evens out stitches of even the simplest knits. Imagine how large you could have made your sweater if you had used a superwash yarn!

  • congratulations, kay! it is beautiful!

  • Wow! That’s a lot of growth. Was the yarn super wash?

    • Nope.

  • It’s beautiful! N

  • I’m amazed you could knit a sweater so fast on size 1s. If I did that, it would take a decade. I believe this will be your most worn sweater. It looks great on you.

  • I must ask. Did you wash your swatch?

    • Yes.

  • Love your sweater and how great it looks on you. Really? You knit it on size 1 needles? I shudder to think how long I would have to labor on it. And I’m so encouraged to hear you never pin except for lace. I’ll try that on my next FO.

    • The miracle is in the soaking.

  • Great job!

  • I’m in the opposite quandary. I have a finished sweater that fits perfectly. It still needs to be washed, but I really want it to stay exactly the same size. Can I somehow make sure that happens?

    • Sadly, I don’t think there is any surefire way to do that. However, your sweater may very well not grow as much as Kay’s did. The effect of soaking depends on many different factors: fiber type, yarn construction, and, perhaps most of all, the idiosyncrasies of how you make your stitches (hence all the advice about making a big swatch and washing it, but I know that doesn’t help you right now!).

      When you wash your sweater, however, you can keep it from stretching by being careful to support it completely with your hands when it’s in its wet, droopy state. You can measure it before hand and then, while laying it flat to dry, attempt to gently pat it back into those measurements. This can mostly work if it only grew (or contracted) a little bit.

      If it does come out too big after a wash, if you are feeling adventurous you can try sending it on a short trip around a tumble dryer while damp (stand right there and check the progress every 5 mins, ideally with a tape measure). How much of a difference this makes will depend again on whether it’s wool, superwash wool, cotton, synthetic, a blend, etc.

      Good luck! Remember that sweaters are stretchy and forgiving garments, so it’s possible that it might still look great even if it changes size a little bit.

  • That is the best Hail Mary save my sweater story ever! I adore the humor that MDK has in these daily emails. Thanks for making me smile first thing every day! And that sweater is fantastic now

  • God, what a beautiful sweater. The variegated yarn turned out just right! Also, the fit is wonderful.

  • You’re beautiful, Kay!

  • The sweater looks great, but Olive looks disappointed that you didn’t have treats up your sleeve.

  • I can’t wear brown, but I want a brown sweater just like you! Gorgeous.

    • Brown is the new black. And this brown has a lot of black in it.

  • Beautiful! And just right, though Olive appears to be saying, “Why is there no treat in that outstretched hand?” I just had a discussion with someone re: the definitions of “fitted,” and “too tight.” I maintain that “fitted” is always too tight for my full breasts and midsection! YMMV. (And by “Y” I mean the general “Your.”)

    • I feel the same way. Fitted is not for me, but I do like a bit of structure/shape, and I’d noticed in pictures that my sweaters were too roomy, by a bit. I’m trying to embrace the “body skimming” fit.

  • “Right up there with the loaves and the fishes,”

    LOLOLOL

  • Yes, blocking can save SOME knitwear. But, in my experience, your success in transforming the garment from one size to another varies hugely based on the yarn used. I’m glad it worked for you! But to the rest of us . . . Make the right size, using the right needles in the first place!

  • Fantastic! It’s a perfect fit and so gorgeous on you. Or rather you look gorgeous together. All’s well that ends well.

  • …and the color effect turnout fabulously. Too bad it fits you now, too. I was hoping…

    • …turned out…

  • the sweater really look wayyy better. The heads on also looks better!

  • Beautiful!!

  • Truth! and congratulations on the save. Lovely sweater! (Hi, Olive!)

  • Blocking is the magic that turns a project into a usable thing.

  • I love blocking and I block everything! One thing I would like to add for those who don’t block is that blocking CLEANS your project too! I have seen blocking water get so dark from dirt and extra dye that I couldn’t even see my project – the idea of wearing something that dirty is disgusting.

  • Love the picture of you and Olive. He is definitely checking out the sleeve length.
    Great demo of the power of blocking.
    Color of the sweater is divine as well.
    Enjoy

  • Beautiful sweater! thanks for the blocking difference pictures. Do you have to block every time you wash a sweater?

  • If the gauge error is discovered 3 quarters of the way through, I just go on and finish, then block? So, if the magic (due to my error or for whatever reason) doesn’t turn out to be the look I want, how does that affect the yarn that has been stretched and blocked within an inch of its life? Can the already stretched/ blocked yarn be trusted to work in a different sweater? I can stand to mess up a pattern, but to ruin lovely yarn?? I just hate to ruin lovely yarn. I know reclaimed yarn can be used, but how has it changed? (Just curious…today’s knitting seems OK, but I have the Power to really mess up a pattern from time to time, and this would be a great Save!)

  • I knit a lot of lacy shawls, so blocking is second nature now. I have a friend who puts her finished garment through the washing machine and then blocks. I go for soaking, wringing out in a towel and then blocking flat on the spare bed. My washing machine friend blocked a shawl on the washing line with pegs. It was very effective

  • I love a happy ending 🙂

  • I love your sweater. I am having the opposite problem. I used Periwinkle merino dk for my Calligraphy sweater and after a short soak, it is so soft, I cannot get it back to the size I need. I always wet block, have never had this problem before. Any suggestions/

  • Glad to see the sweater came out great! I spazzed out when I read you were sweater knitting on US1s.

  • Hey Kay — mind if I ask where you got the skirt? I’m getting too old to wear leggings — even with a long top. A skirt would make me more comfortable in public. I like the one you are wearing with this sweater.

    And of course the story about blocking is AMAZING.

  • This story makes me feel like a normal person. Thank you!

  • How much ease did you end up with? Looks perfect.

  • Totally agree – blocking saved my St Catherines….I was happy with width gauge but didn’t worry too much about length and just followed the pattern – when finished my cardigan was boob scrapingly short. Luckily as it was garter stitch, and the yarn had some silk in it, and I ‘encouraged’ it to lengthen as it dried, it ended up the perfect length, but I was a bit gutted there for a while.

  • Love this pattern. Yours looks great!!