A striped child's sweater before wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference even to acrylics.

A Sweater in a Week and Why Blocking Acrylic is a Great Idea

I did it – the little colourblock sweater for my niece was completed in a week!

But with yarn, nothing’s really done until it’s blocked. And sometimes that means (gasp) blocking acrylic.

Lets talk about the sweater first, then I want to get into blocking acrylic.

I’m not an especially fast knitter, but I knit on this a lot. I cast on under “house arrest” – AKA waiting for both a delivery and a tradesperson. I was not going anywhere, and new, colourful knitting helped me not lose it while our internet was being installed. Worth it. On all fronts.

Stripes also always help me knit faster – just one more colour! Of course that does slow down finishing time…

I call this piece “So many ends OMG.”

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All the details are on Ravelry, and in this post, but this little sweater is based on Flax. I used 3.25mm needles throughout, and it’s worked in Stylecraft Special DK left over from Rabia’s Blanket. It’s one of the nicer acrylic yarns I’ve ever worked with.

This little sweater is not perfect, but overall, I’m happy with it. It’s cheerful and bright, it used stash yarn, and I think it might even fit my niece!

I promised to talk a little about blocking acrylic, so here we go…

Is there any point to blocking acrylic?

Short answer: yes. Well, more or less.

Acrylic doesn’t have any of the memory that wool does – you can’t block it into shape and expect it to just stay that way. That’s not how the fabric works.

Instead, you block acrylic to even out the stitch tension. Plus you can also see if any ends have been woven in poorly (they’ll “pop” out and you can weave them right back in).

I wanted to block this little acrylic sweater to sort out the tension issues caused by carrying the yarn. This isn’t usually a problem, but I was slipping stitches willy-nilly to create jogless stripes and of course I had to weave in all those ends.

Here’s the before of the “bad” seam:
An acrylic sweater before blocking - blocking makes a huge difference to this raglan seam!

And the after:

A sweater after wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference to this raglan seam!

You can see how some of those big, wobbly stitches have flattened out.

The results aren’t perfect (I believe they’d be nicer on a pure wool sweater) but they’re much better than they were and hey – this is a handmade garment for a child, not high fashion.

Let’s see more before and afters… Before is first, after is second.

A sweater before wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference to this striped child's sweater

A sweater after wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference to this striped child's sweater
A striped child's sweater before wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference even to acrylics.

A striped child's sweater after wet blocking acrylic yarn - blocking makes a huge difference even to acrylics.

It’s not a dramatic difference, like you see when blocking lace, but there is a difference.

Another reason for blocking acrylic is to see the finished piece as the wearer will.

This is knit a sweater for my niece. If it fits and she likes it enough to wear it (two very different questions), it’ll be dirty soon enough. My sister washes my niece’s handknits, bless her, so seeing a little sweater post-blocking is how it will look post-wash. Not stretched funny? No errant ends? Great, mission accomplished. And I like how it looks, so I can gift it in good conscious.

And that’s the final reason to block acrylic: to get it clean. I’ve been dragging this little sweater around with me for a week  I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a bit grubby.

Wet Blocking Acrylic – How To

You can also steam block acrylic, but we’ll leave that for another time

Fill a (clean) sink with cool water. Drop in some wool wash, or hand soap, or shampoo. Not enough to make a ton of bubbles, but you want a little something in there to dissolve the oils from your hands.

Gently press the item under water, then go make a cup of tea or something. Leave the item soaking for at least twenty minutes, or up to 24 hours if you get distracted.

Lift it out carefully, supporting it with your hands so it doesn’t stretch under its own weight. If I’m not in a hurry, I sometimes leave things draining on the side of the sink for a couple of hours – otherwise gently squeeze out water with your hands.

Roll it up in a clean towel, and walk on it. Don’t skip this step, otherwise it won’t dry for a week and you’ll wonder where you went wrong.

Lay it out flat, patting into shape. Leave for at least 24 hours, or until dry.

And that’s it! Like this little sweater, it couldn’t be simpler.

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