By Susan Brittain, Karen Manthey, Julie Holetz

To get most crocheted garments, such as sweaters, vests, and jackets, to match a pattern’s finished measurements, you must block them. Blocking is a process used to shape crocheted work. It can be as simple as spraying your design with water or completely immersing it in a tub to get it good and wet. Or you may use some heat by applying steam from your steam iron.

Some items, such as cotton doilies or three-dimensional designs, need a little extra shaping help from starch or another stiffening agent.

The final use of your design helps you determine which method of blocking to use. Another consideration is your yarn type. Different types of yarn respond differently to water, steam, and heat, and using the wrong method can have disastrous results. Of course, before you begin any project, you need to make sure you have the right tools on hand.

If your design has pieces that you join together, such as the sleeves and body of a sweater or the different motifs for an afghan, block each piece separately before joining. Doing so makes joining the pieces easier because each one is the correct size and shape. It also gives you a more accurate finished size.

If the design that you’re blocking is a garment and it doesn’t fit correctly before blocking (it’s too small or too large as is), don’t try to stretch it (or squash it) to fit when blocking. Blocking only shapes the garment; it doesn’t change its size. If you try to stretch (or squash) your garment during blocking, you may ruin it entirely. If your garment doesn’t fit, chalk it up to experience and pass it along to someone who can use it. Don’t despair if this happens; it’s all part of the experience of becoming a better crocheter.

The essential tools for crochet blocking

You probably already have most of the tools you need to correctly block your designs. First, make sure you have the finished design dimensions from the pattern so you know what shape you’re shooting for. Second, find a flat, padded surface that’s large enough to accommodate your design when you stretch it to its finished measurements. (The surface must be padded so you can pin your piece down.) A bed, the floor, a large piece of sturdy cardboard covered in plastic wrap, an ironing board, or a mesh drying rack all work fine as a padded surface.

Here are some other tools you may need, depending on which blocking method you’re using:

  • Large tub or sink
  • Several large, absorbent towels
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Rustproof straight pins (always pin out your crocheted designs with this kind of pin to prevent nasty rust stains)
  • Spray bottle
  • Thin cotton towels (two or three should suffice) or a pressing cloth (an old sheet or T-shirt works well)
  • Steam iron
  • Spray starch, liquid starch, or fabric stiffener (available at most craft stores)