Blocking a garment – Part 1

Remember Glacial?

Well, when I was working on it  I realized there’s lots of questions everywhere regarding garment blocking, and given that my lace blocking post is one of the most visited ones, I thought I’d build up on the knowledge base and offer you my take on garment blocking.

I could, of course, start with the easy “block by pieces” garment… but as I can’t yet share the pieces that I’m currently working on (hint – magazine work), we’ll dive right into the seamless garment category.

I’ve, in previous ocassions, mentioned my dislike for seamless garments. And while I do not like certain characteristics, I also have to admit that for certain garments it’s the only thing that will work – colourwork, lace/cable patterns that require you to work both RS and WS, and continuity of certain patterns.

This was the factor for Glacial. I desired a continuous pattern, an effect that, while small in the grand scheme of things, can make all the difference to a discerning knitter.

Let’s start with saying that for this particular pattern, I blocked it in 2 stagesone without collar and buttonbands and again with those finished and all ends woven in. The reason for it is that in order to have a collar and buttonband that doesn’t droop or pucker, you must have those edges blocked. Why?

The swatch lies. ALWAYS.

You don’t want to work a buttonband under the assumption that your row gauge will be spot on. The weight of a garment will sometimes stretch your row gauge.  If your buttonband numbers add up to 18″ in length and your garment blocks to 20″ long, you will have a puckery buttonband that is shorter than the garment, or even worse, you’ll have to distort your buttonband to stretch to 20″. No no.

You need your garment blocked, dry (and in my OCD mentality, hung from a clothes hanger for a couple of days after blocking so the weight is evenly distributed) before you start. Then you measure, see if your swatch lied and move on with the buttonband.

The same process applies to both blocking without buttonbands and collar and blocking the entire garment – this last one is especially useful, since you will need to wash your garment after wearing it often, and you’ll need to reblock.

Let’s give our garment a wash

And let’s prep our tools….

We want a measuring tape.

Schematics from your pattern. Plus any notes on changes you’ve made to them.

Blocking board / spare bed with towels.

Pins. Lots of.

If you have them, yardsticks. Why? Because they don’t move around like measuring tape!

And blocking wires. The straight, hard wires are useful for straight areas such as bottoms of garments, tops of collars, buttonband edges, etc.

And these babies…

…are flexible blocking wires. All sets come with some of these. What are they useful for? Curves along the garment, such as waist shaping, if your garment has it, neckline shaping, etc.

At this point you’re thinking “Why can’t she use just pins?” – I tell you why, pins create stress points that will make your garment pointy! If you thread the blocking wires through the blocking lines and then pin those, the stress is evenly distributed through the wire and you will have no pointy edges!

Let us begin!

Oh what a sorry, wet mess…

We will grab the garment and imagine we’re dressing an imaginary flat person on the board. Place the back on the surface, smooth it out, drape the fronts over the back, as if you were to button up the garment – overlap the buttonbands

Figure out where your “seam” would be, if this were a seamed garment. Starting from the lower area, thread the flexible blocking wire along the “seam” line, up to the underarm… Repeat for the opposite side.

Now, we align that “seam” out. Next up we look at the bottom.

Excuse the blurriness. Thread the straight, hard blocking wire through both layers at the bottom (except for the upper buttonband, the one with the buttonholes. I’ll explain why later).

Let’s look at our schematics. Mine says the bottom should measure 36″ in circumference, blocked.

This means = buttoned up and laid flat, the bottom measures 18″. Place one pin at each end, and evenly pin the bottom of the garment.

Now that we’ve got the bottom pinned, we straighten up the sides, and find out how high our waist sits. Pin the sides up to that point, measuring the center so everything is centered. Find out where the bustline will sit. Pin the sudes up to that point again, measuring the centre.

See how the flexible blocking wire makes that “seam” straight and not pucker?

Next up, sleeves.

One hard blocking wire on the outer, center of the sleeve. In Glacial, this is the center of the lace pattern.

And one blocking wire where your “seam” would be.

At this point, I look at the schematic and see what the underarm measurement is, and block that area to measurement. From then on, going down, I pin to length of the sleeve and width of the wrist.

If your blocking wire is long enough, take the one of the outer part of the sleeve and run it up to the shoulder.

To shape the sleeve upper arm area (aka sleeve cap)  I pin the shaping out, measuring the cross-back if provided on the schematics. Otherwise you can let it be and it will work out on its own.

Remember the buttonhole buttonband not being blocked out? This is why –

Thread a wire through the lower buttonband edge (usually the bind off edge) and with the upper band open, thread through the pick up line.

Close up…

Once that one has been done up and through the collar, we flip the buttonhole buttonband on top of the other one and thread another wire through them – this time, we thread the bound off edge of the buttonhole buttonband together with the pick up line of the other band.

Ta-daaa!! Next up we look at the collar…

With the buttonband areas overlapped and blocked, we measure how wide the collar should be, thread the wire through both front and back layers on the neckline and another wire through the top edge). Pin to the correct height and width.

(see what happens when you use pins, see those pucker lines? I had another garment blocking on the go and didn’t have enough wires… and it looks nasty! That’s why I don’t use only pins, because however close you place them, they’re never going to have the same effect!)

And there you have it, as if out of a Tim Burton movie, so spikey and linear… you’ve blocked a seamless garment!!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, show some love in the comments – and if you have questions, ask them there too. You can also visit the rock+purl Ravelry group, the rock+purl Facebook page and follow me on twitter for chatter and sharing of projects!

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