I have been thinking about blocking quite a lot, wondering what it’s all about. I dry-block (warm iron on a damp towel over) knitted pieces to reduce the curl on the edges before sewing up, but until recently I have not noticed any difference. With the Zig Zag ribbed vest, I used a warmer iron on a damper cloth over the pieces and it seemed to have neatened out the stitches somewhat. With Hollis’s cable vest, I had to wet-block to stretch out the ribs.
I watched a number of videos on You-tube on wet-blocking wool and read up on the process in a few posts on various sites. It’s really no different from washing your hand-knits. One of these knitters says that wet wool is like clay and can be shaped while damp. The aim is to straighten the garment, but you can also work shapes (like ruffles) into it if desired. You can generally stretch while blocking but not shrink (unless by accident). The process is basically to soak the hand knit, squeeze out the water, shape while drying flat. Agitation is to be avoided (as this may result in felting). The textile lecturer at my work recommends eucalyptus oil over detergent. The biggest risk is to allow the weight of the water to stretch the garment when it’s taken out of the water, so care has to be taken there. Other than that it’s pretty straight forward.
Wet-blocking does neaten. If stitches are on the x-axis, and rows are on the y-axis, wet-blocking straightens out the z-axis. I find that it does not miraculously fix loose stitches or makes the completed garment the right size if it’s knitted too big, but it does make it much neater. I blocked or washed a few more of my hand-knits and find that the unevenness I complained about previously has more or less disappeared.
When I move onto summer knits (which will be soon), I will have to work out blocking for silk and linen.