Every one of my patterns ends with the instruction to "block as desired". But what exactly does that mean?
What is blocking?
Blocking is the process of using water or steam to gently shape or stretch your completed knitting project. It will relax your stitches, giving them a neater, more even appearance. And, In the case of hats, it will help give the crown a more rounded shape and may be a crucial step in making sure your hat fits properly. When asked about blocking, I always tell people "blocking is to knitting what ironing is to sewing." Sure, you can skip that step, but the finished item almost always looks better for it.
Why is it important?
Blocking will not only give your hat a neater appearance , but it can make a huge difference in how your hat fits. Stranded knitting, cables, twists, and some textured stitches can tighten up your knitting and make your finished hat seem too small. Wet blocking, along with some gentle stretching, will help with this problem should it occur.
But i love my hat the way it is
If you love your finished hat just the way it is, it fits perfectly, and the shape is just right...wonderful! Blocking is always optional.
How to block a hat
There are basically three ways to block: wet blocking, steam blocking, and spray blocking. I only use wet blocking or spray blocking on my hats, so these are the methods I will focus on. ALWAYS check the fiber content of the yarn you are using to make sure it can tolerate getting wet.
Step 1. Fill a bin or bowl with a couple inches of cool water. I like to add about a teaspoon of "Soak", my favorite no-rinse cleaner for hand washables. It makes everything smell so nice.
Pro Tip: If you think there is a possibility of dye transfer or color running (especially if one color is very dark) add a Shout Color Catcher sheet to the soaking solution.
Step 2: Gently place your hat in the water.
Pro Tip: If you prefer a tighter fitting ribbing and don't want it to stretch or "grow" while blocking, keep it out of the water by attaching it to side of the bin with a chip clip.
Step 3: While your hat is soaking for 5 or 10 minutes, prepare your blocking/drying stand.
Pro Tip: Blocking your hat over a bowl is better for shaping and drying, as opposed to letting it dry flat.
Find a bowl or other rounded object that is close to the size you want for your finished hat. If you choose to use a Styrofoam wig head, be sure it is big enough. Some wig heads are smaller than actual human heads. My favorite "Blocking bowl" is 7" across and about 3" - 4" tall.
Raise the bowl by inverting over something as simple as a couple of cans of food.
Pro Tip: Add a bit of fiberfill or batting to the top of your drying stand to round out the "flatness" of the bowl.
This entire stand may look a little silly, but it works great! And...it's made entirely with items most people have on hand.
Step 4: Gently remove hat from water being careful to support it from underneath. Allowing it to "hang" while soaking wet will cause it to stretch out too much. Keep the ribbing towards the top so it stays as dry as possible.
Squeeze (do not wring) your hat, removing as much water as you can. Roll hat up in a clean towel and tightly squeeze again to remove even more water.
Using another dry towel (or a dry portion of the towel already used) roll up the hat again and squeeze out even MORE water by placing the rolled towel on the floor and stepping on it.
Pro Tip: Removing as much excess water as possible will keep your hat from stretching out too much and also allow it to dry
Step 5: Gently place hat over your blocking stand. Smooth out any uneven stitches and very gently pull or stretch the hat as needed to remove puckers or make the hat a little bigger. Pat down and shape the crown of hat, removing any unwanted pointy-ness.
Once you are satisfied with the look of your hat, allow to dry overnight. Enjoy!
If your hat only needs minimal adjustments or smoothing out, place it over your blocking stand, spray with water, smooth and shape as needed, and allow to dry.