Don't skip it!
Back in the old days, when I would finish knitting something, I would go straight to wearing it without pausing to block it. If I could go back in time, I would slap my hand and say “Stop it!”
Why does it matter so much? Think of it kind of like ironing, without the iron, and more passive. Maybe that’s a bad example. I almost never iron, even though I know it makes clothes look so much better.
Anyway, much like how ironing smooths out wrinkles and gives a nice crispness to the fabric, blocking your knits makes the stitches look more even, filled in, and just makes it feel better.
This is my Clarke Pullover before I blocked it. It’s a nice sweater but see how it just looks kinda… lumpy? The underarms are weird, the sleeves are a little short, and the fit at the waist and hips is all wrong. (The hip thing is partly due to me adding hip increases that weren’t called for in the pattern and not spacing them out enough. But watch to see what happens there…)
The blocking method I’m teaching you today is “wet blocking” It’s not the only method, but it’s pretty basic and works well for most yarns. We’ll get into the other methods another time. For today, I want you to know that the yarn I used for the sweater I’m showing you is a wool blend and I measured my gauge swatch before and after blocking (as per pattern instructions) so I knew what to expect as far as how much it would grow lengthwise.
Another thing to remember is that a whole sweater will be heavier than a little gauge swatch, especially when wet, so expect a little more growth in the length.
Put that baby in a tub.
Fill a (clean) sink, bucket, or bathtub with lukewarm water and place your finished knitted object into it, gently pressing it under the surface of the water. Let it soak for about 15 minutes. You can add a wool soak if you want, but to be honest, I just used plain old water here.
Drain the sink or whatever you’re using, and gently squeeze the excess water out of the fabric. Don’t twist or wring!
Next, you’ll roll it up in a clean dry towel like a burrito or sushi and squeeze it again. Press out as much water as you can, and if the towel feels really wet, do it again with another fresh towel.
Spread it out
Carefully lay it out flat on foam blocking mats or yet another clean towel. I like blocking mats because they don’t absorb the moisture, which allows the sweater to dry faster, and you can move it around without messing anything up. You can also pin into it if you’re blocking something with a precise shape or needs to be held in place. I got these mats from KnitPicks.
Shape it into the desired shape and size, gently. For this one, I knew I needed the sleeves and body to be a little longer, and that the gauge swatch did grow lengthwise so I didn’t need to force anything. I did a little work on the hips, shaping them more like the shape of my body and coaxing out the lump I accidentally created when I graded up to a larger size below the waist.
(This is the beauty of making your own clothes. You get to make the garment work for you instead of feeling like it’s your body that’s wrong.)
Pat it to get all the ripples out and make sure the side seams aren't crooked. If you have a small fan, place it nearby overnight. Once it’s completely dry, it’s done! Now you can wear it proudly.