Blocking is something that I didn't know anything about until I started crocheting.  I knew that if you washed a jumper or something woolly you should lay it out flat to dry and ease it into shape, but I didn't know that that was blocking or about actually pulling and stretching things into shape.

The first thing I ever blocked was my seaglass shawl.  Oh gosh, the results were incredible.  It grew so much larger, the stitches looked so good, the shapes really appeared and the whole shawl just looked so good.  I have worn it several times since and it still looks really good.  At some point I will need to launder it and once I have done that I will definitely be blocking it again.

So, what does this mysterious blocking actually entail I hear you asking?  What is this crazy woman on about now.

The idea is to either soak, or dampen your finished yarn project, then pin it out onto a flat surface into the shape that you want the finished item to be, then you leave it to dry, unpin it and voila, one finished blocked item.

I know, it sounds scary and I have seen and read a lot about how to soak and dry your item, there are soaks and washes that you can buy to soak your item in that as far as I can tell mostly make it smell nice.  T pins, blocking wires, blocking mats, all kinds of paraphernalia!

What do I do to block my items then?

Let me start by telling you what I (probably against all the "rules") don't do.  I don't use any soaks or washes.  I don't own any blocking wires - although I could see the benefit and if I ever get some I will figure them out and let you know how I get on.  I also don't use special T pins.  I don't soak my project, I don't spend hours squeezing water out of it either.

I bought some of the foam interlocking playmats that are sold for children to play on a hard surface and not hurt themselves.  Mine are quite large so they are tricky to store, but it means that I can make a really large area to pin out onto.  The downside is that I don't have a large flat place to leave them, so I have to balance them on our guest bed and prop up the edges with chairs that have cushions piled on them!  If you have floor space I am sure that it is much easier!!!

The pins that I use are nickel plated which my husband tells me will not rust.  You don't want to use anything that will rust otherwise your damp project will make the metal rust and then you will have rust stains on your newly blocked item.  Not a good look I am sure you will agree.

To begin I lay out as many mats as I think I will need, place my dry project on them and then because I know it will grow in size add more mats if I need them.

Then I take my finished item, gather it gently into a ball and run it under a slow running cold tap.  I gently - very gently! - sort of pat the item between my hands so that it gets damp all the way through.  It is important not to let it hang down as you don't want it to stretch.  Also do not rub it as that could cause it to felt.  Just gently pat and squeeze it until you feel that it is like a damp cloth that you might use to wipe something with.

As soon as it feels like that, remove it from under the tap, turn off the water - obviously! - and then pat it again until there is no water coming out and it all feels the same dampness.

Then take your project to the mats, carefully unravel it and lay it out flat into the shape that you want the item to be.  If you are blocking something such as a shawl that has points, you want these to be at least roughly equal distances apart and if there are straight edges you want those to be straight of course.

To do this, if am making a straight edge, I pin along the edges of the mats in a straight line and then work from there for the rest of the project.  For points, I use something to measure the distance between, such as a crochet hook of the right length.  I push the pins in a line at the right distance apart and then gently hook the points over the pins to hold the item in shape.

Of course you can easily adjust and move the pins as you need to because once you start to lay it out, you might find that you need more distance between the pins, extra pins or so on.  Just keep moving the item around and repining until you have achieved a shape that you are happy with.

This is what an item will look like when it is all pinned out.

Then comes the hardest part of all.  Walk away and leave it alone!!!  You have to wait until it is dry.  This will of course depend on how warm it is and how wet your item was.  It could be a few hours, or you may have to wait until the next day.  There is no point in moving it before it is dry because it will just go back to a random shape and you will have to start again.

Once the item is dry, remove the pins, lift the item up and carefully fold it up for moving or storage, or just wear it of course!  Pack everything away and you can start blocking again another day.

For socks you can buy special sock blockers which are foot shaped and you just put the sock onto the blocker and you don't have to go through the pinning process.  Not that I have ever made a sock you understand, it is just what I have learned from others!!!

That is it.  Blocking really is easy, it gives great results and is definitely worth doing.  Give it a go!