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It’s been A Summer, you guys. The kind of summer that I hope to never see again in my life, because it was busy in all the wrong ways. Now that there’s a hint of crispness to the air, the wasps have given up their territory to the spiders (if you have not been to a home in the Pacific Northwest in September, it is terrifying for arachnophobes), the days are getting shorter, and I hope to have some time to actually run/design/write/knit again.

So let’s get it going with a bang, shall we? I recently came across a link to an article titled “5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Block Your Finished Pieces.” Here it is, if you want to read it before proceeding. (Disclaimer: I made a version of this response as a direct comment to the piece, just under a different WordPress ID I use when I’m not posting here.)

Spoiler: I really, really don’t agree with it. To start with, the author of the piece cites fifty years of knitting experience – and that’s all – as the reason for his* ability to speak with authority on this topic. Okay. Red flag. There’s a huge pool of technical information on blocking out there, and absolutely none of it is cited in the article, either to support or refute his views. Sometimes experience on its own IS a great resource – like when advising knitters on the best patterns/sizes to choose for baby gifts and why. But when you’re arguing technical information – and on such a sweeping scale as saying “don’t block!” on a commercial site – then I expect you to provide me with actual documentation.

books with blocking info

These are blocking resources from my personal library. Most are easily available through public libraries.

So the author proceeds to list out his points of contention with blocking. I have issues with every single one of them. (His points are paraphrased in quotation marks below.)

  1. “Blocking won’t fix mistakes like missed decreases and mistakes in the chart/stitch pattern.” …that’s not even a rational argument. Poor execution of a pattern or technique is never going to be fixed by blocking. Apples to oranges.
  2. “Blocking can damage your work.” If you choose a technique that’s incorrect for your fiber/FO, yes, you’re right. But in this day and age, there’s EXTENSIVE reference material out there – and very easy to find, both in-print and online – about how to block different fibers/projects.
  3. “You lose the natural fluff and character of the fiber through blocking.” Nope. See above point.
  4. “If you knit it too short, blocking won’t fix it.” If you’re talking anything over 3/4″/3 cm? Yep. I’ll concede that point. If you’re talking under that, though, depending on the fiber and project, it may be possible. Revisit point 2.
  5. “Blocking only lasts until the next time you wash it.” Yes…? I’m… not supposed to ever wash my FOs, then? I’m confused.

The author proceeds to then say that blocking lace is okay, at which point I realized that he uses the blanket term of “blocking” to mean “HARD blocking” (pins, wires, measuring tape, etc.). He reinforces that by describing how he did finishing work on a shawl that his company markets – washed it in the machine on delicate cycle (it’s made in a superwash yarn), spun the excess water out, put it in the dryer on low for three minutes, then gently laid it out flat in the sun and pulled it into shape. By any modern, currently accepted definition – uh, that’s blocking. Easy and simple? Yep. But blocking all the same.

Blocking gets a bad rap in the fiber arts community, and I have to say, after five years’ experience working in a local yarn shop, it’s the number-one thing that scares new knitters. “Now I have to BLOCK it? WHAT? Oh crap! I heard that’s supposed to be scary!” Nope. Don’t sweat it. It’s going to be fine. Here’s a quick guide to blocking:

  • That hat? Toss it in the sink for a soak, get the excess water out (I like a salad spinner for my small objects), and lay it flat to dry. Over an air vent or in the sun makes it go more quickly.
  • Sweaters? Same thing, except take a look at the schematics and tug it into shape/to measurements. Otherwise it’s not going to fit like in the pictures. If there’s a lace/cable panel? Maybe see about pinning out that section.
  • Lace and cable-bedecked wraps and shawls? Yeah, you’re gonna want to hard-block those puppies.

See also: this post by the Yarn Harlot.

Is it an argument of semantics, ultimately? Yes and no. But please, let’s get on the same basic page and not scare away any more new knitters/crocheters.

*The article is signed by “Bjorn,” which is – from my understanding and inquiry – almost exclusively a given name for males. I’ll obviously edit the article if this is not true in this circumstance – I couldn’t find any further information on the company’s blog or website. 

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