A few questions have come up a couple times both here and on the Socks with Sarah Ravelry Thread regarding sock blocking: What is it? Why should (or shouldn’t) I do it? And how do I do it?
To start, let’s address the first question: What is blocking? Think of sock blocking — or the blocking of any knit item — as a finishing technique. Blocking allows you to perfect the shape of your knit item. You can ease uneven stitches, let cables settle, or even coax a piece a wee bit longer or shorter. Now the second question: Why should I block? While the afore mentioned ways of altering the appearance of your handknits are very good cases for blocking, I’ve found they’re not necessarily the most convincing for sock knitters. As much as we love our handknit socks, they are going onto our feet which are undeniably great at breaking in new handknits. The main reason I block my socks is actually because I like what it does to the wool. For many fibers and fiber blends, a good handwashing makes a big difference in how the fiber feels. Wool will often bloom, or fill in/fluff up, and soften with handwashing. For me, most projects just don’t feel finished until they’ve had a nice bath.
So. How exactly do I block my socks? Great question! While there are different kinds of blocking (wet blocking & steam blocking), I use wet blocking for socks. Here’s how I go about it.
First, I add a little Eucalan to the bowl.
This is about 2-3times what you really need, but I wanted you to be able to see it. And the big bottle of Eucalan I have will probably last me almost a year. I like Eucalan because it is non-toxic, pHneutral, and has very subtle scents (from essential oils). I also love that it is a no-rinse wool wash. No more squeezing suds through my handknits until my hands hurt. Eucalan also contains lanolin which acts as a conditioner for wool. It’s a wash that is good for the environment, good for my house, and good for my wool. Win-win-win.
And then add your socks. When blocking wool, of course, you never, ever, ever want to wring or agitate the pieces. This may cause them to felt. Simply put your handknits in the water and gently squeeze the suds through. Let them sit for 15-20mins. If you are like me, you will probably forget about them and they will bathe for much longer. Whoops! It’s OK though, I’ve never had an issue with this — yet another benefit of a gentle wool wash.
Next, you will pull each handknit out of the bath and gently squeeze as much liquid as you can out with your hands. Again, no twisting or agitating, just gentle squeezing. Should I use the word ‘gentle’ again? I should be clear, your socks need not be treated like they are delicate crystal, but do be aware that wool is a bit more fragile as well as prone to felting (if 100%wool) when wet. Then lay them flat on a clean, dry towel.
Roll them all the way in and then squeeze the towel until you have freed as much moisture as possible out from your items. I will often kneel on the roll to maximize this step. If you feel you can still get more moisture out, you can repeat the towel rolling with a fresh, dry towel until you get all the moisture you can out.
From here, they go onto sock blockers. Sock blockers can come in many varieties and I’m sure as far as drying and shaping your socks go they are all mostly equal. The one thing you will want to pay attention to is most sock blockers come in different sizes, so get the appropriate size for you and/or your loved ones. Personally, I like my Bryspun Stainless Steel Sock Blockers for two very simple reasons: they are inexpensive and I can hang them up while they dry.
I live in a small space and don’t have a ton of places where I can lay things flat to dry where they won’t get in the way. These I pop up on the shower curtain rod and they dry in no time and aren’t in anyone’s way. Perfect. Just wait until they are dry and then wear your nice clean, fresh socks!