What is blocking and why do I need to wet block crochet squares?
Wet blocking is the process of reshaping finished crocheted (or knitted) fabric using moisture in the form of either liquid or steam. Wet blocking helps to relax the yarn fibres and even out the stitches. This improves the overall shape and drape (how a fabric hangs) of the crocheted piece and gives and nice, neat finish. It’s really great for granny squares! Wet blocking also gives the crochet a gentle clean, which is particularly important for items that are being gifted to babies.
There are several methods to block crochet, each with their own pros and cons, but typically wet blocking involves adding some moisture to the finished crocheted piece to help with shaping. I am going to discuss how to wet block crochet squares, but the best blocking method for you will be determined by the yarn you are using as well as your personal preferences.
What equipment do I need to wet block crochet squares?
While wet blocking sounds like an arduous process, it is very simple and requires only a few basic supplies. Of course there are always additional products available at a wide variety of price points, but the basics include;
- A container to hold water (the sink also works just fine!)
- Gentle liquid hand wash / wool wash / a few drops of essential oil (optional)
- Stainless steel pins (these t-pins work wonderfully, as do Knit blockers)
- A surface to pin the squares to, such as blocking boards (discussed further below)
Types of blocking boards / surfaces
Interlocking foam blocking boards are specifically designed for blocking knitted and crocheted items. They can be joined together to make the surface area required for blocking larger or smaller. These boards generally have a grid printed onto them which is a useful reference for obtaining straight lines while you work. Because they are made of foam, they tolerate getting wet and are easy to pack away. Be aware of the thickness of the boards when pinning so that you do not pin all the way through and scratch the table underneath.
Wooden blocking boards are typically designed for blocking squares of different sizes. A wooden board is filled with evenly spaced holes where steel or wooden pegs can be fitted to hold a square in place.
While these boards look beautiful, they are somewhat limited and can only be used for very geometric shapes (for example, you cannot block irregular or circular shapes with this type of blocking board). The size of the squares you can block is also limited by the space between each hole. However, this type of blocking board is great for blocking many squares of the same size at once as you can stack the squares on top of each other. Since these blocking boards are made of wood, they tolerate some water, but should not be wet for long.
Piece of styrofoam
I use styrofoam to wet block crochet squares. It is 100% tolerant of getting wet and won’t get damaged or mouldy. The piece of styrofoam that I use is also substantially thicker than a regular blocking board which means that I can pin my square firmly in place without worrying about scratching the table beneath. Best of all, you can pick up styrofoam for free as it is often used as packing material. And using it as a blocking board instead of sending it to the trash is a small win for the environment.
Rolled up towel
If you don’t have any of the options above you can used a rolled up / folded towel. The towel will absorb any excess liquid which is great. However, it can be tricky to get precise edges when using a towel as it is not a rigid surface.
How to wet block crochet squares
My favourite method to wet block crochet squares is with water (rather than steam). It is easy to do and can be used on just about any yarn!
I like to add a small amount of gentle hand wash liquid or wool wash as this will clean the yarn, help the fibers to relax and give your squares a gorgeous smell. This is especially important if you are gifting the crochet (tips for gifting hand made items).
You can use any gentle hand wash liquid. Check to see if it requires rinsing (some don’t and this is a bonus!) but you can also omit the liquid and opt for a few drops of essential oil.
My steps to wet block crochet squares are:
- Fill a small dish with some cool water. It is important that the water is not too warm or hot as this can felt certain natural fibres like wool.
- Add your favourite hand wash / wool wash / essential oil to the water and mix it in well (optional).
- Thoroughly wet your crochet squares and squeeze out any excess water. Rinse if you prefer.
- Place the squares on a towel, blocking board or piece of styrofoam.
- Gently shape with your fingers and pin the square in place.
- Allow the square to dry before removing the pins.
TOP TIP: If you are pushed for time and you need to wet block crochet squares, you can pin the dry squares directly to the blocking board and lightly spray them with water.
A note on steam blocking
Steam blocking introduces moisture to the crocheted piece in the form of steam. This method is best used for yarn (and a blocking surface!) that can tolerate heat.
First, the squares are pinned into shape and then steam (either through an iron or a hand held steamer) is applied gently to the square. Make sure not to actually iron the squares, but rather hover the iron over and allow the steam to penetrate the fibres. Once the crochet dries, the pins can be removed and the square will hold it’s shape.
This method is good for cotton, although I find that for thicker cotton pieces the steam has a hard time penetrating the fibres all the way through and the shaping doesn’t hold as well.
You can use this method with acrylic yarns, but do so very carefully as the steam is hot enough to melt the yarn and will ruin your square. I like to use this method for acrylic squares if there is stubborn curling. It’s always a good idea steam block a test square first.
While blocking may seem like an unnecessary extra step (and if you are like me, when your project is done, you want to move onto the next thing post-haste!) it truly does make a difference to the finished piece, and in my opinion, is worth the extra effort.
Happy stitching fibre friends!