We've all done it. We've all got stuck in and knitted something from a pattern we adore, reached the making up instructions and been told to block our new knitted creation. It used to be, when I was younger and rather more slap-dash, that I would ignore that last instruction and just start wearing whatever I'd made. But now that I'm older and wiser, I know what a difference it can make.
Blocking your knitting makes it relax after all that tense knitting. The fibres behave naturally once they've had a soak and the true size and shape of your garment is revealed. You may have read in Kirstie's editor's letter for issue 113 that I have just finished knitting a pair of socks for my husband. This very delayed birthday present (they weren't finished in time for August...) will now be a Christmas present and so I wanted to treat them with the proper respect.
Blocking is particularly important for socks because, being a tube, they can really shrink in on themselves very easily. If you've chosen a pattern with any kind of design (mine had an 8-stitch cable on either side of the leg) then this can be hidden until the socks are blocked. These details are the parts that you've worked hardest on, and they really sell handknit socks, so we want to show them off as much as possible.
The first stage to blocking is soaking your knitting in some kind of hand-wash detergent. I used a sachet of Soak and left the socks in their bath for around 15 minutes. After waiting patiently, it's simply a case of gently ringing out any excess water and sliding the socks onto some blockers. They have to dry naturally, and I left mine in a sunny window for a couple of days (although, I'm not sure how many more sunny windows there will be between now and Christmas).
You can buy sock blockers in various sizes, and if you are a keen sock knitter they are a really good investment. The ones in the photo above were actually a bit small for my socks, and I ended up using a larger pair of blockers to get the best results. Blockers come in plastic, metal and wood and range from about £10 per pair.
Since blocking, my socks have almost doubled in size and the cable detail has bloomed so that it can be fully appreciated. Now, when he unwraps them on 25 December, my mister will be presented with beautifully finished socks.
Do you block your socks? We'd love to hear your top tips!