23 May 2011

Blocking Acrylic: THE EXPERIMENT!!!

I'm nearing completion of my sidewalk shawl.  I'm very excited at seeing how it will look when blocked - but OHNOITSACRYLIC!!

I'm actually NOT one of those acrylic-haters.  Just do what feels right man, peace.  But I have heard on the grape vine that acrylic is notoriously difficult (or doesn't) block, some people swear by it and others are adamant it can't be done.

So I wanted to try it.  At the same time, I was scared that all my hard work on my shawl would go to waste if I ruined it.  So I needed to conduct AN EXPERIMENT!!!

Before I started THE EXPERIMENT!!!, I did research, just like any good SCIENTIST would do.
I found this tutorial from beadknitter  most useful.  And this one from rainyknits was good too.  This article suggests a different method.  I also asked the lovely ladies at Crochet Lovers Victoria for their advice.  Even the men who knit had something to say on the subject.

I'm not going to regurgitate all that info.  READ IT YOURSELF!  Seriously, it's kinda interesting.

In short, the consensus is: pin it out, steam it with the iron.  DO NOT LET THE IRON TOUCH THE YARN!


Hypothesis:  The acrylic yarn will hold its shape and become softer with a lovely drape upon applcation of steam.


  • Your acrylic yarn of choice.  I got mine from Big W.  It's a surprisingly soft acrlyic, really squishy.  Not like most acrylics I've tried.
  • With your yarn, crochet up a swatch.  I did a sample representing a bit of the pattern.  The swatch measured 17 cm long and 18cm wide unblocked.  I also added some tassels to see how they would behave when steamed. 
    My swatch, pre blocked.
    Detail of swatch.
  • Iron with a good steam capability.
  • Pins
  • Preferred blocking board - I just pinned my swatch to the ironing board covered with an old towl.

Pin your swatch out to the desired shape.  I didn't pin super aggressively, but did try to reveal the pattern.

When I pinned it out it measured 22 long and 23 cm wide.

Then steam it. I held the iron about the height of the pins sticking out, about 2-3 cm. ( I wish I could give you an action shot).  My iron has a setting which gives you a burst of steam every time you press a button.  I just kept pressing the button while hovering the iron above the swatch.  I also got a few drips of water coming out.  I was concerned, but I don't think it mattered. Steam is just water anyway, right?

The articles I read didn't say much about how much steam to use, so I went over it about three times to be sure.  The yarn was slightly damp at the end of the steam session.  My iron was full of water to max level before the experiment, and about half full at the end of steaming.


In short, I am VERY impressed.  The yarn has totally relaxed, and has AMAZING drape.  It's almost too much drape.  The swatch is very floppy.   Soft too, possibly even softer than it started.  It has kept its shape very nicely. 

Without pins and after one day to allow for relaxing of the yarn, it measures 19cm long and 20 cm wide.  That's a growth of 2cm each way, or 10% (if my calculations are correct). 

Remember, the swatch before...

... and after!
And some detail:


Steam blocking rocks.  Give it a go, don't be afraid.  I think it's even easier than wet blocking, and it dries faster too.

Stay tuned to see how my shawl behaves after blocking!!


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