Okay, so you’re probably thinking that machine-blocking must be something highly technical. It’s really not, though. It simply means using your washing machine to help you out with the blocking process. Now, I know that this sounds dangerous (at least to your knitting), but if you have a washer that meets certain criteria, using it can save you a lot of elbow grease. After all, how many times have you wet-blocked a sweater or other large item, only to spend forever trying to get all the water out? I don’t know about y’all, but standing at my kitchen sink, squeezing out all that water, really makes my back and hands sore. Definitely not my favorite thing! So, without further ado, here are some guidelines for machine-blocking (please read these carefully and use common sense; I won’t be held responsible for ruined projects):
- Wet-blocking always poses a certain amount of risk to your project, but you can take certain steps to minimize that risk. When it comes to non-superwash wool, heat + moisture + agitation = felt. It’s very important to remember this formula, because all three elements must be present for wet-felting to occur. Obviously, when you wet-block a project, you can’t (and shouldn’t) eliminate moisture, but you can control the other two elements.
- In order to eliminate agitation, you need to be able to stop your washing machine after it has filled, and then skip directly to the spin cycle once soaking is complete. Most top-loaders have this option, as do some front-loaders. Let me repeat–DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER THE AGITATION AND SPIN CYCLES! Some front-loaders use only preset cycles, which usually means they won’t work for blocking your projects. If you’re not sure, consult your manual and do a trial with a swatch.
- If your machine is compatible with blocking, then the next step is to eliminate heat from the equation. Personally, I think warm water does a better job than cold. Whichever you choose, just make sure to AVOID HOT WATER! And you’ll be skipping the rinse cycle, so the temperature of that doesn’t matter a bit.
- Don’t let the water fill directly on top of your work. I would consider this to be agitation, especially in top-loaders. You may even choose to put your work in after the washer has filled (water for a small load should be all that’s necessary, but again, check your manual and do a test).
- Instructions for wet-felting are always emphatic about not letting your project go through the spin cycle, and it’s absolutely true that letting newly felted fabric spin can and will create permanent creases; however, non-felted knitting is much more resilient, able to withstand the spin cycle without developing permanent lines and wrinkles.
I know this sounds like a lot to remember, but it gets easier with practice. In fact, it scared me to death the first time I tried it, but now I do it all the time. Here are the steps that I follow when blocking in my washer (I have a top-loader):
- Set water temperature to warm; set load size to small; start delicate cycle (I put it on delicate as a fail-safe).
- Pour a small bit of wool wash into washer (optional).
- Place project(s) in washer, taking care to shield feltables from filling water; squeeze project(s) to release excess air from fabric.
- Stop delicate cycle once washer has filled; leave door open; allow project(s) to soak for at least 20 minutes (again, I leave the door open as a fail-safe).
- After soaking is complete, close door; turn dial to final spin of delicate cycle; allow project(s) to spin fully. DO NOT RINSE!
- Remove project(s) from washer and block as usual.
In conclusion, depending on your washer style, machine-blocking may or may not be for you. At the very least, I hope this discussion has given you enough information to make your future blocking adventures successful, whether they be by machine or by hand!
How about you? Have you ever used your machine to block knitting? Please share below!