There’s lots out there on blocking, generally, but I get a lot of requests to share my process for blocking a sweater. And in particular, how to block sweaters with “non-edge” shaping. So here it is!
All of my patterns are written with waist shaping located in the middle of the piece, and I strongly recommend it as a great way to get an easy, great sweater. Doing so (or adding bust darts) results in a more interesting blocking job, though! Because the sweater that’s produced by these methods is not a flat piece of fabric. It’s a 3D thing.
So here’s how I block my 3D sweaters:
- I start with nice, long soak.
I use cold water and my favorite wool wash, for at least 15 minutes. Really soaking the fibers results in an amazing fabric. Then, I spin the excess water out in my washing machine’s spin cycle. (I have a front-loader and I use a low speed spin. Your mileage may vary; rolling up in a towel and stepping on the towel to remove moisture works too, but you need to get the sweater to the towel all in one clump to avoid stretching.)
- I remove it from the washing machine in a wadded-up ball and dump it unceremoniously on my blocking table.
No really, this step is really important. Getting the sweater to my blocking board quickly and all bunched up means that I’m not stretching the still-wet pieces out. Stretching out is bad!
- I lay the pieces out roughly in shape, using a light touch.
Again, the “light touch” part of this is important. Especially if your fabric is on the drapier side, you don’t want to stretch it out too much because it might not go back into shape.
More important than the light touch, though, is to leave the sides of the sweater alone (where the waist shaping is). You’re no longer working with a flat surface. If you try to pin the sides (which are straight lines, when worn) into a straight line on the table, you’re likely to destroy the shaping of your sweater.
Instead, let ’em roll:
- I pin to the correct hip width on the back.
- I pin the correct hip-to-armhole length, and correct bust width, on the back. These have to be done at the same time, and are the first part of ensuring your sweater is the correct length.
- I pin the correct cross-chest width and armhole depth at the same time. Again, you need to pin these at the same time. The hip-to-armhole length, plus the armhole depth, is the total hem-to-shoulder length of your sweater.
- Now, I’m done with the back! Notice that the sides are left COMPLETELY UNPINNED. This lets the fabric do what it should.
- I repeat this for the front.
The only difference with the front is that if the sweater has bust darts, I literally pad the bust with paper towels so that the bust pins can be the right distance apart on the blocking board. (The “right distance”, here, is the same width as the back.) That looks like this:
- The sleeves are even less work. Essentially, I just pin out the bicep and cap dimensions, and make sure the sleeves are the same length.
Blocking this way isn’t a ton of work, and it’s well worth it. It will produce a sweater
- with a polished, finished fabric,
- that’s easy to seam,
- and that’s shaped the way you’re shaped.
When sweaters are shaped the way you’re shaped, they give your figure a great set of curves without being tight or uncomfortable in any way.
…But that’s another topic.