How to Block Knitting and Crochet

Knowing how to block knitting and crochet is a crucial skill. Blocking may be the most important step in getting a professional-looking finish for your project. It sets the stitches and can even out irregularities. It makes it easier to work seams and edgings and it can even make minor size adjustments.

While most projects will benefit from blocking, it’s important to do it right. Some crafters are afraid of blocking because they’ve heard blocking horror stories about someone killing a sweater. Blocking doesn’t have to be scary, but it does help to know what you are doing.  

This a big topic. What follows is an overview of blocking basic two-dimensional knitted and crocheted fabric. Projects worked in three dimensions or those with highly textured surfaces may be blocked a bit differently.

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Blocking Supplies

You’ll need a few simple supplies for successful blocking:

In addition, you need a large, flat surface to work on. The ideal blocking surface has these characteristics:

  • Is large enough to hold the entire piece (or all the pieces) you need to block
  • Can withstand heat, moisture, and being stabbed with pins
  • Is colorfast, to avoid transferring color from the blocking service to your fabric
  • Can be left undisturbed while the fabric dries
  • Has a printed grid to aid in getting lines straight and dimensions correct
  • Is flexible in shape and easy to store

I’ve used many types of blocking surfaces successfully:

  • Ironing board – works well for small pieces like swatches.
  • Quilter’s Cut ‘N Press – also for small pieces. It’s more compact and easier to use than the ironing board.
  • Interlocking floor mats – not pretty, but large and inexpensive. These can be used in many different configurations and sizes. A better option might be a set of grid-printed blocking mats, like the ones from Knitters Pride or KnitIQ.
  • Large blocking board – made of three 24″ x 58″ Styrofoam panels in a cotton canvas casing. The panels unfold and create a surface that’s even larger than my dining room table. It’s great for blocking shawls and other large items. As far as I can tell, it’s no longer sold, but it wouldn’t be difficult to make.
  • Spare bed – covered with beach towels. It works surprisingly well. Just be sure to collect all the pins when you are finished!

The Importance of Pins, The Allure of Wires

At some point in the blocking process, you’ll be pinning your pieces to a flat surface. Depending on your blocking method, this will happen before or after the fabric gets wet. Make sure your pins are rustproof. Nothing is guaranteed to ruin a project faster than pins that will leave a permanent stain on your yarn!

Some people swear by the Knit Blockers from KnitPicks. I haven’t used them yet. Let me know in the comments if they work for you.

Blocking wires are not a necessity, but they make it so much easier and faster to block. You’ll use fewer pins, your edges will be straighter and your pointy bits pointier if you use blocking wires. I have two sets!

Whether you are using pins, or a combination of pins and blocking wires, begin by securing the corners (if any) of your fabric. Use a yardstick or tape measure to ensure that the piece is the desired size from edge to edge and corner to corner. I prefer a yardstick because I can measure one-handed, and use the other hand to make adjustments. Make sure right-angle corners really are 90 degrees.

Blocking can be used to make minor corrections to the finished size of a piece, but it’s not a substitute for making the piece the right size to start with. Don’t use blocking for that purpose!

Choose a Blocking Method

Proceed to add pins along each edge every 1 1/2-2″ [4 5 cm]. If you are using blocking wires, use enough pins to keep the wire straight where it should be straight.

If the fabric rolls, gently unroll it and use pins to keep it in place. If there are points or scallops, pin each one out individually. This is where a blocking wire comes in especially handy, as the wire can go through each point.

The blocking method you use will depend on the content of the yarn. Acrylic, cotton, wool, cotton, and other fibers require different care. If your yarn is a blend of fibers, choose the method that is appropriate for the most delicate of the fibers. Wool and many other animal fibers can be steam blocked, cotton is often wet-blocked. With acrylic and other man-made fibers, cold blocking is often the safest method.

Another consideration is the stitch pattern you used, and how aggressively the fabric needs to be blocked. Fabric with lots of openwork, for example, needs to be stretched to allow the holes to open up. If the fiber allows, wet blocking or steam blocking will be your best options for lace.

Highly textured fabric like cables, ribbing and bobbles may not react well to too much steam. There are nuanced ways to deal with these textured stitches, but that will be the focus of a future blog post.

Always practice your blocking method on a swatch or two before trying it on your finished project!

Wet Blocking

Wet blocking is appropriate for cotton, silk, and wool, as well as for any fiber that can get completely wet.

To wet block, fully immerse your fabric in water, either by washing it or simply by putting it in a sink. Allow the water to fully soak the fabric. Gently squeeze out the water – don’t twist or wring – and pin the pieces to shape on the blocking surface.

Wait until it dries completely before removing the pins. Obviously, this is the most time-consuming blocking method. It’s hard to be patient and wait for that yarn to dry, especially in humid climes.

Steam Blocking

Steam blocking works well for wool and most animal fibers. Be careful, however, of using it on fibers that can be damaged by heat.

Begin by pinning your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a steam iron or steamer that’s shooting out plenty of steam. Hover the surface of the iron or steamer over the fabric, about 1.5 – 2″ [4 – 5 cm] from the surface. Never touch the iron to the fabric! You are using the moisture from the warm steam to do its work, not the heat from the iron.

Get the fabric warm and damp with the steam, then allow it to dry completely. When the fabric is cool and dry to the touch, remove the pins.

Cold Blocking

Cold blocking is the safest method to use with acrylic yarns, which can be damaged beyond repair with too much heat.

Pin your pieces to the blocking surface. Use a plant mister to spray water over the fabric, taking care to dampen the entire fabric thoroughly. Allow it to dry completely before removing the pins.

Killing Acrylic Yarn

Did you know that you can kill yarn? Yes, that’s an official term for an actual thing. It happens when you use too much heat on an acrylic fiber — such as when you press a hot iron onto acrylic yarn. This causes the fibers to melt together and changes the characteristics of the fabric permanently. It can’t be undone.

Despite my warnings to you not to steam block acrylic yarn, I confess that often do. I always always always practice on a swatch first. I’m very careful to use as low a heat as possible and to hover the steamer (or iron) above the fabric. I watch carefully to make sure I’m not killing anything. I understand the consequences of failure. So if you decide you want to steam block your acrylic yarns, that’s up to you. Your mileage may vary. You didn’t hear it here.

More About Blocking

I could write another thousand words on blocking. Or teach an entire three-hour class. In other words, there’s a lot to learn! Just remember: tailor your blocking techniques to the project, the fiber, the stitch pattern and the finished use of the project. Some projects (like amigurumi) don’t need to be blocked at all, while others demand it.

Ask your questions about blocking in the comments.

Now that you know how to block knitting and crochet, go forth and practice what you’ve learned. Your projects will thank you!

5 Ways to Prevent Gaps at Beginning of Crochet Rows

There’s more than one way to prevent those ugly gaps at the beginning of crochet rows. I’ll explain what causes those annoying holes, and how to fix them.

Learn these methods, then choose the one that works best for you in each situation. Different yarns and stitch patterns will create different results, so the solution in one project might be different from the solution in a different project.

I’m using American crochet terminology.

Blame the Turning Chain

A turning chain usually starts a new row or round. Its purpose is to bring the hook up to the level of the new row. When the turning chain is used as a double crochet or a treble crochet, it sits in the location of that stitch, but it’s a lot skinnier than the stitch it’s standing in for.

A regular chain-3 turning chain leaves a gap in double crochet.

Also, the turning chain usually sits a bit to the side, rather than squarely on top of the stitch below it, causing a gap.

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#1: Use a Shorter Turning Chain

Instructions typically tell you to chain 3 for a double crochet or chain 4 for a treble crochet. Instead, chain one less. In other words, chain 2 for a double-crochet turn or chain 3 for a treble-crochet turn. You still count that turning chain as a stitch, so work the next “real” stitch into the next stitch of the row, and work the last stitch of the next row into the top of that shorter turning chain.

#2: Don’t Use the Turning Chain as a Stitch

Use a turning chain, but don’t count it as a stitch.

Use a regular turning chain (chain-2 or chain-3 for double crochet, chain-3 or chain-4 for treble crochet),  but put the first stitch of the row into the stitch at the base of the turning chain. Put the last stitch of the next row into the top of the last “real” stitch, ignoring the turning chain.

#3: Use a False Turning Chain

Pull the first loop of the row up to the level of the new row, then chain 1. Put the first stitch into the very first stitch of the row, and ignore the turning chain as you did with the method above.

#4: Use An Alternative Turning Chain

Alternate turning chain example
An alternate turning chain prevents a gap.

Without chaining, work a single crochet into the first stitch. Insert the hook into the left-most leg of the stitch you just made (or the right-most leg for left-handed crocheters), yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through 2 loops. You’ve just put another single crochet into the left-most leg of the previous stitch.

For a double crochet row, you should now be up to the level of the double crochet stitch. Count this alternative turning chain as a stitch, and continue working across the row. When you come back to this stitch at the end of the next row, be sure to work into the top of it.

For a treble crochet row, put one more single crochet into the left-most (right-most) leg of the single crochet, for a total of 3 single crochets, before continuing with your treble crochets.

#5 Use Linked Stitches

This method links the turning chain directly to the first stitch. Count this linked stitch as a stitch, and be sure to work into the top of it when you get to it on the next row.

For double crochet, ch 2, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 3 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 2 times to complete the double crochet.

For treble crochet, ch 3, insert the hook into the back bump of the 2nd chain from the hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert the hook into the back bump of the next chain, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into stitch at base of chain, yarn over and pull up a loop. You now have 4 loops on your hook. (Yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 3 times to complete the treble crochet.

Other Solutions

If you are starting a new yarn, you can use a standing stitch in place of a turning chain. These 5 ways to prevent gaps at the beginning of crochet rows are by no means the only ones you have available to you, but they are the ones I use most often.

If you know a different method that works well for you, please share it in the comments below.

Crochet Technique: Crossover Slip Stitch

Closeup of Crossover Slip Stitch

Crossover Slip Stitch allows you to cross your crochet hook over a chain. It keeps the chain looking smooth and right-facing, while allowing you to do some fancy stitch patterning.

The exact location of the slip stitch—that is, what the slip stitch is crossing—will depend on your pattern and the purpose of the crossover slip stitch.

Crochet a Decorative Chain

Crochet a Decorative Chain with Crossover Slip Stitch graphic

Let’s look at a little decorative chain as an example. The “pattern” for this chain is:

*Chain 8, crossover slip stitch in 4th chain from hook; repeat from * for desired length.

Scroll on down to see a video of this in action.

How to Crochet Crossover Slip Stitch

Step 1. Insert hook into designated stitch

Step 1. Insert hook into designated stitch.

Step 2A Cross chain over working yarn

Step 2. Cross chain over working yarn. Alternately, you can cross the yarn ball under the work in progress.

Step 2B Cross chain over working yarn

Step 3 Yarn over and pull through to complete slip stitch

Step 3. Yarn over, pull through everything on your hook to complete the slip stitch.

When to Use Crossover Slip Stitch

Crossover slip stitch bit of a hidden technique, in that I don’t know that it has a widely accepted name. It’s long been my argument that crochet suffers from a lack of nomenclature that would help us share knowledge easily. When I coined the term standing stitches, somehow people started “discovering” the technique. I hope that by naming this technique crossover slip stitch and using the technique in my patterns, more crocheters will learn about it and spread the word!

You can find crossover slip stitch in Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs. It’s all over the Eulerian Triangles Shawl. And watch for it in an upcoming free pattern right here on the blog!

5 Tips for Beautiful Crochet Borders

A crochet border provides a polished touch to your crocheted or knit project. No matter what type of crochet border design you choose, follow these 5 tips to set a solid foundation for beautiful crochet borders.

Tip #1: Start with a Base Row/Round

Tip #1 showing base row worked with main color and with constrasting color
The base row worked in the main color blends in, while the base row worked in a contrasting color highlights uneven stitches.

Start with a base row or round of single crochet in the same color as your main fabric. Using the same color makes the base row blend into the fabric and hides any uneven stitches. You can use a contrasting color on the next row, and the stitches will look nice and even.

Tip #2 Work Stitches Evenly Spaced

Tip #2 showing arrows evenly spaced

The base row stitches should be evenly spaced along each edge. This may be one stitch in every stitch across, or some other ratio, like 2 stitches out of every 3. Along a selvedge (side edge) the ratio may be one single crochet in each single crochet row-end, 2 single crochets in each double-crochet row-end, or some other ratio. You’ll have to play with those ratios to get them just right for your situation.

Tip #3 Put Your Hook Into Selvedge Stitches

Tip #3 showing stitches worked into selvedge correctly and incorrectly
Working the base row stitches around the post or chain creates a hole.

It’s tempting to put your hook into the nice chain space or post stitch along the vertical edges. Resist the temptation! Instead, put the hook into the “meat” of the stitch: the actual chain stitch or post of the stitch.

Tip #4 Increase at Corners

3 single crochets in each corner allows the edge to lie flat.

If you are working all the way around around a square or rectangle, you’ll need to increase at the corners to ensure the edging stays flat. Put 3 single crochet stitches into each corner stitch. On later rounds, you’ll need to increase in pattern to allow the border to lie flat.

Tip #5 Assess Your Work

Tip #5 showing too many stitches on a base row
On this swatch, there are slightly too many stitches for the base row, causing the edge to flare out slightly. This subtle excess will cause the edging to ripple and flare more as you work additional rows.

Stop from time to time and look critically at what you’ve done so far. Is it lying flat? Does it curve in or out, even a little bit? Does it ripple or draw in?

Tip #5 showing edges drawing inward.
Although it may not be noticeable at first, this row is drawing the fabric inward. See how the side edges curve in toward the top? They didn’t do that before the purple row was added.

If it’s not entirely flat, rip it out and adjust your stitches until it does lie absolutely flat. Taking the time to set up your first row or round perfectly will the the main ingredient in the success of your crocheted border.

More Tips for Beautiful Crochet Borders

Crocheted edgings are one of my favorite topics! I’ve developed lots of ideas on how to enhance your projects with edgings both plan and fancy.

Together, Around the Corner Crochet Borders and Every Which Way Crochet Borders offer more than 289 border patterns designed to flow around 90-degree corners. You can work them back-and-forth, as well. You are sure to find a border that is just right for your next project.

For more crochet tips, go to Crochet: Basics & Beyond.

Join a New Yarn with Standing Crochet Stitches

Standing Double Crochet

Standing Double Crochet
Standing Double Crochet

A standing crochet stitch allows you to join a new yarn or a new color invisibly.  The technique is easy as pie, even for beginners. Once you see it, you’ll never go back to “join with slip stitch, chain” again!

Read on for more information and how to work standing single crochet, standing double crochet, and standing half double crochet. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the video tutorials.

What is a standing crochet stitch?

A standing crochet stitch is just a term for any stitch that has started “in the air” rather than from a previous stitch. You simply begin with a slip knot on the hook, then make the stitch called for in the pattern.

You can use standing stitches anytime you would otherwise join the yarn with a slip stitch, then do a turning chain or build-up chain to reach the level of the current (or new) row of stitches.

Why “standing”?

While the technique itself has been around for a long time, a lot of crocheters don’t know about it. In patterns, the instructions would be “Join (yarn) with sc in first st,”, or “Join (yarn) with dc in first st.” They were just telling you to do this standing stitch technique.

When I was writing Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, my research didn’t turn up a a generally accepted term for the technique, so I called them standing stitches because they stand on their own without relying on a turning or build-up chain to connect them to the piece in progress.

I think that, by labeling the technique and having it become commonly used, we can help spread the information to crocheters everywhere.

Standing Single Crochet

Standing single crochet
Standing single crochet

To work a standing single crochet, begin with a slip knot on the hook, then work a single crochet into the stitch or space indicated in the pattern, as follows:

Standing single crochet step 1
Standing single crochet Steps 1 & 2

Step 1: Begin with a slip knot on the hook.

Step 2: Insert hook into first stitch.

Standing single crochet Step 3
Standing single crochet Step 3

Step 3: Yarn over and pull up a loop. Continue reading “Join a New Yarn with Standing Crochet Stitches”

Front Post & Back Post Double Crochet

Path of hook for front post dc

FPdc and BPdc symbolsWhen a pattern calls for working a front post double crochet or a back post double crochet, what do you do? Working around the post of the stitch can be quite easy, but you have to bend your brain a bit at first to understand the concept. Read the instructions below for how to work front and back post double crochet, then scroll down for a video tutorial.

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Identify the Posts

Post of stitch circledBefore you can work a post stitch, you need to know what a “post” is. A post is the vertical part of a stitch. Double crochet is a tall-ish stitch, which makes the double crochet post easy to recognize.

For both front post and back post double crochet, use a chain-2 turning chain at the beginning of a row and a half double crochet in the last stitch of the row.

Front Post Double Crochet

Path of hook for front post dcTo work a front post double crochet (FPdc or fpdc), yarn over, insert the hook from front to back to front around the post of the stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, then (yarn over and pull through 2 loops) twice.

FPdc is simply a double crochet worked by inserting your hook around the post from front to back to front, rather than into the top two loops of a stitch as you normally would.

A front post stitch sits up in front of the fabric, creating a raised stitch that “pops” toward you.

Back Post Double Crochet

Path of hook for back post dcTo work a back post double crochet (BPdc or bpdc), yarn over, insert the hook from back to front to back around the post of the stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, then (yarn over and pull through 2 loops) twice.

BPdc is simply a double crochet worked by inserting your hook around the post from back to front to back, rather than into the top two loops of a stitch as you normally would.

A back post stitch recedes behind the fabric, creating a stitch that hides behind the others, away from you. Keep this in mind, because when you turn the work, that back post double crochet that was hiding on the first row is now sitting up in front of the fabric and appears as a front post stitch.

Double Crochet Rib

Double Crochet RibTo make double crochet rib, work one front post double crochet and one back post double crochet, alternating across the row. On the following row, work front post double crochet around the front post stitches and back post double crochet around the back post stitches. After a few rows, you’ll see a vertically-textured pattern appear.

Check out the video to see these stitches in action.

Crochet Answer Book 2nd edition
The Crochet Answer Book

For answers to all your crochet questions, read The Crochet Answer Book. For more online resources, check out Crochet: Basics & Beyond.