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Dear Ann,

I don’t need to tell you this, but I’m telling you anyway: blocking is amazing. It unfurrows the knitter’s brow, every single time.

The latest case in point: my Blossom Stripe Shawl.

The pattern:  Blossom Stripe Shawl by Dee Hardwicke. The yarn: MDK Atlas in Pear, Natural, Navy, and Cedar.

Straight off the needles, my shawl had a face only its knitter could love. All along, I’d felt like I was knitting too tightly. I had persuaded myself that since I’m a loose knitter, it ought to feel a bit too tight when I’m knitting it, and it will relax into its correct gauge when blocked (just like the swatch did).

But what if I’d overshot, used too small a needle, and the shawl actually was too knit too tightly?

The nagging doubt persisted, and I kept pushing it to the back of my mind the whole way through.

I was also worried about the seed stitch edges. The frequent edge decreases—on 3 out of every 4 rows—made the edging pull at the body of the shawl. I am not new here, so I knew that blocking would likely fix this problem, but my faith did waver, ever so slightly.

And one more issue: I was pretty sure that I’d missed a decrease once in a while, although I wasn’t counting stitches often enough to be sure. I kept telling myself, how could an extra stitch here or there make any difference to the shape of such a big shawl, with rows that started out over 300 stitches long?

Logically, it could not. But perfectionism will keep pecking away at your brain, telling you you should rip back—but to where?

I kept going, and kept worrying—in a mild way, but I was anxious to see the shawl blocked.

Monday night I fastened off the last stitch at around 11 p.m., and marched straight to the kitchen sink. Into the Soak went the shawl, for precisely the length of episode 4 of the new season of All Creatures Great and Small. (A wholesome, handknit-rich Masterpiece series playing in the background can only improve the blocking process.)

Now truly in the dead of night, I hauled the shawl out of the sink, squished as much water out as I could, rolled it up in a towel, stomped out more water, and laid it gently and damply upon the dining room table. I patted the edges into line and breathed a sigh of relief: they had softened and relaxed, and were now in perfect harmony with the body of the shawl. If they hadn’t felt a little tight while I was knitting, they would be floppy now. Lesson learned! Again!

Phew. Isn’t it wonderful? My Blossom Stripe Shawl, for all its real and imagined imperfections, looks like it was made by a good knitter. It’s the right size, it  has drape, and the edges are tidy and straight.

Tidy! And straight!

Block your knits, people! It’s the closest thing we have to a magic wand.




  • I wish someone would make a pattern book of all the sweaters in All Creatures Great and Small. They get better with every episode!

    • I agree! I love all of Helen’s knits but they never show her sitting down and knitting 🙁

    • And the hats from the Hallmark winter movies. Granted, they look manufactured but there have been several hats I’d love to knit.

  • This is wonderful! Wool and water-when used together carefully and judiciously-are truly miraculous! Another example is the mystery that is planned felting. I have felt like the Knit Witch Supreme when a felted knit project turns out well!❤️

  • I so agree, blocking can transform our knits.

    One idea for you. If I’ve got a lot of stitches to keep track of, I put the central block of 50, 100 etc between stitch markers and divide the rest by 2 on either side.

    So if I’ve got 258 I’ll put 250 between the markers plus 4 either side. Then as I add more increases they are easy to count and I can add another 50 to the central stitches when I’ve made enough. I often do this with top down jumpers and I’ll use different colours or styles of stitch markers so I’m not confused about where to do my increases.

    • Love this idea!

    • Great idea I’m really bad for checking my stitch count. I’ll try this.

    • I was never a blocker until resent years either. Your shawl is amazing.

    • This is a great tip Cathy, and it works for increasing, too. #usemoremarkers

      • Seeing this sensible tip—one that I had even used before—makes me realize that the Covid brain fog did play a role in this project!

  • Thank you for this reminder! I am down to the last three color sections of the shawl and have been having the same thoughts: knitting seems too tight, gauge must be off etc. etc. etc. I have even stopped several times to check my gauge and it is bang on; yet, the shawl still feels a bit “tight.”
    I let out a sigh of relief after reading this post.
    Planning to finish the last of it over the weekend and block on Monday!

  • It is truly a thing of beauty!

    I don’t know who taught me to use a knotted scrap of yarn with the number of rows of pattern repeats placing clips to designate decreases so when I see it at the beginning of the row I perform the task for that row. Some projects have more than one because I use them in cables as well.

    I keep them and have been known to move the markers for the next project. Whoever added it as a hint once has my everlasting gratitude.

  • It’s so beautiful … and it WAS made by a good knitter. (I love a midnight blocking session … I bet so many of us can relate to an 11pm bind-off and march to the sink.) Love these stories, always.

  • A light steaming while the piece is in progress, still on the needles, will calm the anxiety immediately.

  • “…looks like it was made by a good knitter.”?!! Ha! Probably because it was made by an incredible knitter!

    • It is beautiful! I would love to see a larger picture of the whole thing…perhaps with you modeling? 🙂

      • I took a few selfies but…nah! Will try to get somebody to take a proper photo.

  • Yes, blocking is truly magic! One great thing I invested in a while back, for my yarn dyeing, was a small spin dryer. It takes most of the water out of my just knit projects and cuts down on drying time while blocking.

    • My old front load washer has a drain and spin feature that works like a charm.

    • Oh, lucky you! I’ve been hunting for one for ages. My latest (frontloading
      ) washing machine has the wierdest separate spin programme ever – 10 minutes slow and then 10 fast. Guaranteed to felt. I finally found a mini washing machine with spin feature on joom and am hoping it will work for handmades.

      • I’ve had a NinaSoft spin dryer for years and love it. It’s basically just a spin cycle mini machine for getting water out of your handknits or delicate items. Used to use my washer’s spin cycle but a plumber friend told me that’s not good for the washer. In my case I had to interrupt a normal wash cycle to get to the spin section. They are currently $124 and are well worth it if you knit a lot or have to hand wash your knitted lovelies. It’s very small, fits under a little table in my laundry room but can handle spinning of a large men’s cabled sweater or a knit jacket. Dont know why they aren’t sold at fiber festivals!

  • This is a wow! I have an intense need Right now to finish my shawl VERY quickly so I can jump into blocking!!! Thank you for your words!

  • Your shawl is amazing and will no doubt provide warmth and coziness this winter and beyond. I know blocking is a must, but whenever I block a hat I am disappointed with the results. Even the ribbing stretches out. I have just steamed them as Arne and Carlos taught us with much better results. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Pam!

      As far as hats go, how about running a string through the bottom of the ribbing and cinching it up a bit? I learned that one from one of the Shetland Wool Week patterns. Bonnie Isle, maybe…

      Eventually, you’ll want to wash your hat, so you might as well wash and block it at the beginning, too.

    • Hi Pam! For small items like a hat I use my salad spinner. I give it a good soak and then pour the water out and spin the heck out of it. It’s not as heavy as trying to handle it when it is soaking wet. Then I lay it out on a towel and pat out the head part but I don’t touch or stretch the ribbing while it dries. Every so often, I give it a quarter flip so that I don’t get creases on the sides. It’s worked like a dream for me!

    • I’ve used a balloon for hats and it doesn’t stretch the ribbing.

  • I admit to not blocking for years, and then HAD to block and shape a piece and was gobsmacked at the difference. Now, despite my eagerness to jump into my garment, I’m a committed blocker and actually love the process.

    • Thanks for all the blocking ideas. I can now look forward to my next hat.

  • Excellent reminder of a truth that I know but that escapes me when I’m mid-knit.
    (And I’ve been obsessed with the cedar-navy-pear combination ever since your first post on this shawl – good eye, Ann!)

    • Ann does have a great eye, but I think Kay chose the colors for this shawl as she was rushing out of MDK World Headquarters to catch a plane? I anguish over color choices but, based on the success of Kay’s shawl, perhaps I should wait until there is a plane to catch and then go with my gut without leaving any time to second-guess!

  • The shawl is beautiful and I loved your story. Very relatable.

  • It’s gorgeous–the colors, the yarn! I laughed so hard: preblocked…only a knitter could love! Same here before its bath–my flowers looked like a random string maze. This shawl to date (and I have knit dozens) ranks as one of my all time faves.

  • The colors are so nice. Beautiful

  • Thank you for the insights and your personal thoughts. This rings so close to home
    Love knitting and have learned to block.

  • Blocking is Harry Potter magic. I love doing it as well. Beautiful, beautiful shawl.

  • Your shawl looks great and the color choices are striking. I rarely block my knits but it really does help them shine.

  • Absolutely it would be wonderful to see the entire scarf. I love your colors. I’ve only made hats and scarves and tended at first not to block them. I’ve learned in the last couple of years that blocking makes a huge difference and is really fun.

  • I have always suspected that the way you get so much accomplished is you just don’t sleep. I am an accomplished sleeper and perhaps an under achiever. But I really enjoy my sleep and am grumpy when I don’t get what I need. Different strokes for different folks.
    Blocking is the miracle! Your shawl looks cheerful and happy. Enjoy it!

    • The lack of sleep is why I can’t post a photo of me wearing it! I’m an incorrigible night owl with nobody to tell me to go to bed except a sleepy terrier.

      • I am an incorrigible night owl married to the same. We have a small amount of discipline, but go to bed late enough that I never schedule appointments before 10 AM and spend most of the time till noon doing the things more disciplined people finish by 8 am (I imagine). But we are retired, so don’t beat ourselves up over it.

      • Boy! Can I relate! And I don’t even have an animal to push me towards the bedroom! I love your shawl.

  • It’s a beauty, for sure. When you say you patted it on the dining room table, did you pin it, too? It looks perfect.

    • I would pin out a lace pattern or anything that needed to be stretched taut, but that’s a rarity for me. Damp wool is so malleable that I find it just as effective to do a little patting on a flat surface to straighten edges and even things out. And patting means you don’t have to worry about unintended picots from the pins!

  • I’m stuck at a damp shawl being laid on a dining room table. I guess I’m picturing my old oak one!

    Beautiful shawl!

  • The shawl is very pretty! The colors look so nice.
    It really inspired me to cast on (which I haven’t done yet). I appreciate this post because I can always use reinforcement as to the right process to follow in knitting. I will not be anxious when my shawl appears a bit wonky. I will remember to block for best results.
    Thank you.

  • Blocking makes all the difference – like from mediocre to professional if you want a fantastic look to whatever you are knitting. I don’t think my project is finished until it is blocked, dried, and off the mat.

  • Your shawl is perfectly beautiful. Color, stitches, everything.

    Blocking is magic, for sure. The last two shawls I designed/knit, I didn’t know if I’d like them until they were blocked. They made sense in theory…and they turned out fine. Thank goodness for blocking!

  • It’s a beaut!

  • It looks so snappy! Great job, as always.

  • Pretty shawl! I love how even the stitches look after blocking. Just looking at them in the picture makes me feel warm and cozy.

  • There are so many lessons in life we learn over and over again!

  • Love snippets

  • My cousin never wants to block. She’s a relatively new knitter who chooses projects with bobbles, cables and lace work for baby blankets. She can’t understand why I insist she block to allow all that beautiful stitch work to blossom.

  • The message of this article is so important. I’m working on a sweater and I’m feeling the same doubts you mentioned. Thanks for helping keep me focused!

  • How could any knit go awry in the presence of all the Fair Isle, cables, and luscious future yarn on the hoof during All Creatures? My little Frenchton is spellbound by all the critters on the screen. I love the knits, the wit, and the wisdom and home creating of the wonderful Mrs.Hall. I stocked up on butter to try her shortbread recipe in February when the other holiday calories have been dealt with.

  • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    This sticker from my LYS is the perfect reminder that Blocking is MAGIC. 🙂

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