perhaps I do not understand blocking

My understanding of blocking is that you do it to “relax” the yarn into place–to set all those thousands of little stitches. I don’t really understand what happens with the whole fact that the fiber will bloom and get bigger. When it’s dry, it goes back to its “natural” state? Or it only goes back partway, perhaps? Or only to where you pin it to?

See, I thought (foolishly, apparently) that if yarn had been washed several times before, it would have sort of worked out its blooming/shrinking issues. You see where I’m going with this, right?

cardigan blocking

The yarn I reclaimed from the Ex’s sweater had been washed before. In sweater form, in unraveled form–what other form could I have washed it in? I even did that thing where you sort of stretch the reskeined yarn out with a hanger to smooth it after you’ve washed it. So I knit up my Cambridge Jacket, taking the recommended measurements and assuming that any “growth” would be minimal.

Oh how wrong I was. The fronts, to the armhole, are longer by an INCH AND A HALF. The sleeves? FIVE INCHES longer than they’re supposed to be. I am an idiot, apparently. So now what? Will it shrink as it dries? Or do I have to take it out and start over? I don’t really think that just shortening the sleeves is going to help. This requires an overhaul.

I’m sorry, but my feelings on this can be summed up in one glorious word: FUCK.

30 Responses to perhaps I do not understand blocking

  1. Karen says:

    OMG, I would’ve thought the same thing – that it wouldn’t bloom that much when blocking because it had been washed so many times before. You’re not an idiot – that assumption makes perfect sense to me. Here’s hoping it will shrink back down, although I guess it sounds like it may not.

  2. Micki says:

    How awful! Is it superwash wool? I find that sw wool generally grows when dried flat. Sometimes dampening it and throwing it in the dryer will make it shrink back.

  3. Ashley says:

    Oh, man. That deserves an f-bomb if anything ever did. I don’t suppose you could roll up those 5 extra inces on the sleeves and call them cuffs?

    The dryer might be a solution here–but I’d swatch, block, and then re-dampen and put in the dryer rahter than just toss the sweater parts in there.

  4. nicole says:

    I was going to say what Micki said. I have found that superwash will grow as much as 50% and then dry back into shape. When blocking the Latifa scarf (silk & wool), it also grew. I threw it in the dryer and it got some of it’s spring back. Good luck!

  5. Nubiancraftster says:

    OMG!!! Only profanity can truly express this situation. I fear the bloom!! Hmmm…is it gross to never wash a handknit object? Ok, yeah I guess so, but if this is what happens when you put water to our works of art you might as well take fire to it and see if it spontaneously regenerates!

    I really really hope you find a solution for this. I am waiting with baited breath.

  6. Rachel says:

    Don’t panic! Remember when I was blocking Starsky and thought I was going to have to wear it as a bathrobe-style ballgown? It all turned out fine. Block it to the measurements you want as well as you can (even if that means you feel as though you’re almost squishing it shorter — just try to keep it flat), and I swear when it dries it’ll be fine. Seriously.

    Set a fan on it so it’ll dry faster and you can emerge from this state of panic as soon as possible.

  7. modjac says:

    First of all, don’t you remember that having really long sleeves with a thumb hole is the newest fad around?

    Second of all, you have just explained (quite well) the entire reason I am afraid to begin knitting sweaters. Hats and scarves (and arm warmers, for that matter) are just fine with me, thanks.

  8. Specs says:

    You get my favorite swearing phrase:
    Oh fucking hell.

    I have no idea what to do with this, unless you want to risk tossing it in the dryer. I offer my complete moral support should you decide to reknit the whole thing.

  9. hpny knits says:

    it will bounce back in some. especially with the rib in there. for the sleeves- you can cut them (after they dry-)
    first thread knitting needles, in the round (3DP or 2 circs) through the row of desired length- (or a little bit short, towards shoulder) all around sleeve. make sure to catch all stitches. next, cut 2 rows towards the hand,all around- now- knit to finish!

  10. Stef says:

    Before you resort to the dryer, try drying a swatch. I tried to resize some superwash wool (the notoriously questionable Brown Sheep “Superwash”) and ended up with a cropped and cardboardy Rogue. Ugh. Echoing hpny’s advice, I’d try carefully re-blocking it to a minimum width, then adjusting the length as required. Good luck!

  11. Annie says:

    Holy crap. Fuck is right!

    Um, not to add more pain, but uh, did you swatch first and wash the swatch to see what would happen? Honestly, I’m not sure that I would think to do that since it’s a recycled knit, but you know, bystander. From the sidelines it’s easy to say “Did you do this or that?” I think you deserve a night (or 2) of drunken bliss at that frat place on 2nd ave.

  12. Jennie says:

    Damn. that sucks. I hope some of these tips work — I’d go with Rachel’s suggestion — rewet it, reblock it WITHOUT stretching it. Try and keep it at the measurements you want and see what happens when it dries.

    Part of what happens when you block things is that the yarn “blooms” — it gets fuzzier, fuller, etc. The other part — when you pull and pin it, is that it stretches out the stitches — the loops of knit fabric are flexible, and that’s why things can grow, no matter how many times they are washed. It’s not the yarn that’s growing, it’s the stitches that are stretching out and changing tension. That’s why I think Rachel’s blocking suggestion might work. Keep us posted!

  13. Olga says:

    *moans* I am so, so sorry! Little comfort, I know, but at least it’s a lesson (that the rest of us are benefiting from, too). I think that what Jennie says makes so much sense…it’s like a lightbulb moment. Aha! It’s not the yarn that grows, but the stitches. Good luck! I hope you find a workable solution.

  14. Liz K says:

    The only new thing I have to add to the chorus of F-bombs and dryer-recommendations is to remind you that 1.5 inches isn’t so bad. Maybe you just need to reknit the sleeves, worst case scenario…

    All together now – FUCK!

  15. Lynne E. says:

    Maybe it’s the Curse of the Ex! Did you pick up the pieces without supporting them when they were wet? That’s about the only thing I can think of that would permanently stretch the yarn.

    When you block, you are just setting the dimensions, which is why it has to be done over again every time you wash the garment. If you pin out a piece to a wide width, then the overall length will be less; if you pin out to a narrow width, then the overall length will be greater. This is because there is a certain amount of yarn in each stitch/row. Once the piece is thoroughly dry, it should hold its shape until the next washing, although it may stretch from the weight of the garment itself.

    “Squishing up” as you pin to a shorter length–and greater width– should work, as long as the yarn fibers haven’t been damaged by excessive heat or pulling while wet. Fulling or fuzzing is not a product of blocking per se, but of agitation or rubbing while the fibers are wet. (You do this on purpose when you felt knits. ) Fulling isn’t reversible, for the most part; blocking generally is, although different fibers vary in their ability to recover their original shape after washing or blocking. Wool, as opposed to cotton, has excellent capacity to recover.

  16. Christine says:

    I am delurking to say that I don’t think the yarn is hexed–I am a HUGE believer in the power of reclaiming things after boys go their separate ways. So, while it may be painful, I encourage you to keep at it. Hopefully, you can reblock into an appropriate size, but no matter what, reclaim that yarn, and make it into something beautiful for yourself. As your dad said in an earlier post, this is the year of Erin. You can do it!

  17. Goldie says:

    Adding my personal favorite curseword of all time, shitfuck. I like two of the ideas your awesome knitting friends/gurus came up with – one being to add a thumbhole and go with the fashionista look, or the second being to just cut the ratbastard sleeves & do that tying off thingy. Sending good knitting vibes your way!

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