When you block a lace crochet item, your project has a more finished look and the stitch design is enhanced.
Blocking knit and crochet items opens up the stitches to give the pattern more definition. You can use blocking to define points for a more distinct shape. It also helps the finished item conform to the expected dimensions. It can help that sweater fit better or that shawl drape nicely.
I have a pretty simple process when it comes to blocking lace crochet projects, or any project for that matter. There are many ways that knitters and crocheters “block” their finished items. There’s no “right” way to do it. Here, I’ll share the simple 3-step process that works best for me and the projects I typically make.
3 simple steps to block your lace crochet:
1. Lay the item flat and get it wet.
Instead of purchasing a set of knitter’s blocking mats, I have these inexpensive floor mats that I got from Harbor Freight. There are 4 large panels that fit together like puzzle pieces, which can be arranged a few different ways and are usually large enough for blocking a shawl.
I have seen people use those children’s floor mats. They’re made of the same material but have smaller, colorful panels, usually with letters and numbers on them. They work just the same, but beware: I’ve read about a few incidences where the dye from the mats had leaked into the yarn after getting the mats wet. I recommend laying a towel between the mats and your work if you plan on using these. If you don’t have mats to lay down you can use a mattress, large cork board, or even a couple of layers of towels on the carpet (stretched taut and weighted down so they don’t bunch up as your project dries).
I use a spray bottle of water to wet the item. If you’d like to wash the item, do that first and then block it before it dries.
2. Stretch the item to desired size and pin in place.
I use large T-pins to pin the project to the mats: they are easier to grab than the small straight pins used for sewing. If you have an edge you want to straighten, there are blocking wires you can buy specifically for blocking knitwear, but I just use welding rods. They’re small, sturdy, and cheap. I thread the wire through my crochet stitches every couple of inches or so, then pin along the wire. Unfortunately, they don’t have much bend to them, so I can’t use them for rounded edges.
Usually I repeat the stretching and pinning steps a couple of times. If I’m trying to “aggressively” block a shawl to really open up the stitches, I’m stretching it out quite a lot. Sometimes when I pin it in place, I realize that I can stretch it even more so I stretch, pin, stretch, pin. I try to be gentle but firm.
3. Let your item air-dry, then un-pin and weave in ends.
Drying may take a day or more, depending on your climate.
Weave in your ends after you block, not before. This will keep those ends from pulling awkwardly at your work as you’re pinning it to size.
Here’s a before-and-after of my Over the Willamette lace shawl:
Not every knit/crochet project needs to be blocked. Ultimately it depends on your personal preference for how you’d like your item to look. Your pattern may specify instructions for blocking, but if you finish crocheting and decide you like it the way it is, go ahead and skip the blocking. I generally don’t block hats or mittens or simple rectangular items unless there’s a shaping or fit issue that could be helped with some adjustment.
A couple of things to consider:
- The projects I use these techniques on are usually made with yarns that are predominantly wool fibers. Other materials may act differently. I’m not sure if projects made with acrylic or cotton yarns are much affected by blocking. Luxury fibers such as cashmere and silk may need more gentle or specialized treatment. Again, this process is just what I do that works for me and the items I typically make.
- If you have small children or pets, try to find a space where you can isolate your project from curious hands and furry bodies. I use a bedroom where I can close the door: if I don’t there will certainly be a cat laying on top of my work within minutes or a toddler pulling out every sharp pin.