Steam dunk or spray Deciding which blocking method to use

The best blocking method for your project depends on the fiber of your yarn, the amount of time you have, and the stitch pattern you've used. You can wet block just about anything that's colorfast with superb results. Steam blocking is faster than wet blocking and is fine for sweaters in stockinette stitch and that were worked in a yarn not susceptible to steam damage. But don't use it on acrylics or for stitch patterns with texture you want to highlight — especially cables. Read the following list to identify your blocking options for different kinds of yarn, and then go on to the appropriate sections later in this chapter to find out exactly how to steam or wet block.

i Noncolorfast yarns: You can wet or spray block just about anything with superior results — except yarn that you suspect may be less than colorfast. Before blocking a striped or color-patterned sweater, wet a 20-inch sample of each color and wrap the strands around a paper towel. Let them dry. If any of the colors bleed onto the paper, forget wet blocking. Steam the pieces and send the completed sweater to the dry cleaner when it needs a wash.

i Mohair and other fuzzy yarns: Wet block fuzzy yarns such as mohair. Steam will flatten them. When the pieces dry, you can gently run a special mohair brush, or your own hairbrush, over them to fluff up the fibers again; just be sure to use a light touch.

i Wool, cotton, and blended yarns: You can steam block wool, cotton, and many blends with great success. Steaming is quicker than wet blocking because the drying time is significantly reduced, but it requires care and attention because you have a hot iron up-close-and-personal to knitted fabric.

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i Synthetic yarns: Don't steam a synthetic yarn. It will die before your eyes. Too much steam-heat destroys a synthetic yarn's resilience. Wet or spray block this yarn instead.

No matter the fiber, cabled and/or richly textured sweaters are best wet blocked with the right side facing up. While the sweater pieces are damp, you can mold and sculpt the 3-D patterns. Steaming will flatten them somewhat.

With so many blended yarns on the market and new kinds of fibers in novelty yarns, caution when blocking is critical. If you have any doubts about the fiber of your yarn and how it will respond to heat, experiment on your gauge swatch before working on your actual piece. You'll quickly know whether steam enhances or ruins your yarn.

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