Tools, the blocking edition

I am particular about blocking.  It makes such a tremendous difference in how your finished knitting looks (and fits) that it’s worth taking a the extra time to do it right.  It’s only going to take a fraction of the time you’ve already spent knitting, so it seems well worth the effort.

I’ve been blocking things for the photo shoot (April 7, remember…you’re all supposed to be arranging for a warm, bright-but-overcast day, with no snow on the ground, ok?), and thought I’d take a second to show off some of the tools I like best for blocking.  You can see  four of my favorites here.

DSC_0661The most important bits are probably the blocking mats and pins.  I like the mats they sell for floors of play rooms or gyms.  They’re markedly cheaper than the ones they sell specifically for knitting (and generally come in  a wider array of colors).  I’ve had these for almost three years, and they’ve held up well.  You can see that I’ve stabbed them full of pins, but they still work perfectly.  I will issue a general warning that, if you have an insane cat who loves to chew foam (no flip flop or yoga block is safe in this house), keep them away from the cat.  But I think that says more about Kitten Overlord Barry and his odd predilections than about the mats.

I also have strong feelings about pins.  I spent the many years blocking things with the straight pins you use for sewing (the kind with the little colored plastic ball on the end that always melts when you accidentally iron over it).  I would like those years back.  T-pins are much much better.  They’re easier to grip, sturdier, less likely to stab you (someone tell me I’m not the only one attacked by straight pins), and just nicer to handle.  I strongly recommend getting the two-inch ones in preference to the shorter ones (you can drive really torque on your knitting and drive them into your mat at an angle).  I use these, and I’ve ordered at least three boxes over the years (pinning out a curl takes a lot of pins).  I’ve bent one or two, but I’ve never had one rust (you don’t want anything rusty near your damp knitting, that would just be heartbreaking).

The next two are maybe a bit more eclectic.  I confessed when I talked about my travel tools that I have a favorite ruler.  So perhaps it will come as no surprise that I have a favorite yard stick too.  And yes, yes I totally do use a yardstick when I pin things out.  For the love of yarn those points should all be the same distance apart.  Do yourself a favor and get two.  That way you can set your yard sticks up on your mat (just put pins on each side to hold them firmly in place) and pin your knitting out between them.

And that brings us to the last thing.  I don’t actually expect many of you to decide you need this, but if you’re truly, deeply obsessive, get yourself a pair of framing squares.  That’s what those L-shaped bits in the picture are.  Think of them as two rulers (in this case, one side 16 inches and the other side 24 inches, but they come in other sizes, too) held forever together at a perfect right angle.  You can use the two of them together to make small rectangles (they’ll make sure your corners are straight), or use them with yard sticks like I did above to make larger rectangles.  I know this is likely far more obsessive than any normal person needs to be, but I am rather smitten with mine.

Those four (plus the free custom graph paper I mentioned over here) let me block pretty much anything I need to.  So how about you guys?  Do you have any favorite blocking tools?  Do you measure it all carefully, or just pin things out by eye?  Are you using mats, or just pinning things out on the bed or carpet?  I know it can be a touchy subject (and I promise I’m not going to tell you you’re doing it wrong), but I’m curious how much time folks are willing to spend getting the blocking just right.