Monday, November 17, 2014

Blocking Handmade Gifts

Now that the Gift-along is in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to focus on the subject of finishing those holiday projects with ease: td to me, that means mostly translates to all things blocking-related! .There are a lot of great blocking tutorials out there, and I don't plan to spend too much time on such well-covered territory. Instead, I'll be sharing some of my favorite tools, tips and tricks for finishing my holiday projects with ease in the hopes that others find at least some of this information helpful!

The first question I always ask myself is: to block or not to block? Usually, the answer is yes, and my personal default is wet blocking. It's a simple way to make projects look polished - you can fix wonky stitches and pretty much stretch your piece to whatever dimensions you like (within reason). Pretty much any stitch pattern (and even stockinette) is guaranteed to look infinitely nicer with the magic of blocking. Witness this before and after with my first Pins and Needles Challenge mini-sweater:
Before: Bunchy & Kinda Misshapen

After: Nice, Neat & Sweater-y!
If you are new to the concept of wet blocking, it's really just a fancy way to say you immerse your finished article in a water with a gentle detergent of some sort, then lay it flat to dry (side note: there are a few other types of blocking you may wish to explore, explained in more detail here).

I like to use a no-rinse formula, since it saves both time and water. I know some folks say they just use dish soap or hair conditioner (I assume because it's a bit cheaper), but it can take a lot of effort to rinse all of that out of the finished garment - to me, it's just not worth saving a few pennies. Another benefit of using a detergent made specifically for wool and other luxury fibers is that they don't contain harsh bleaches or other chemicals which are damaging to fibers. Translation: your hand-made projects can be enjoyed for years to come!
Lately, my favorite detergent is a new fiber wash called Allure. I was recently sent a Sample Pack which allowed me to test drive all three scents: Woodland Mist, Prairie Breeze, and Unscented. If you have never wet blocked before, there are some easy-to-follow instructions here on the Allure website to get you started - just follow the instructions for hand washing.

My standard practice is to wet block anything that can be worn - sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, etc. The only projects I don't tend to block is finished knit or crocheted toys, although there have been times when I've felt the need to wash individual pieces of the toy prior to assembly.
If you've been shopping around for a wool wash, you've probably noticed that there are a lot of scented options out there. When I block items for myself, I absolutely love to use a scented wash; there's something about it that just feels luxurious. Usually, the scent doesn't linger (at least, in an overpowering way), but I still sometime worry about using scented wool wash when I'm making gifts.

If that seems like a strange thing to say, allow me to explain: it seems like a lot of men I know are particular about the kind of scents they like, if they like them at all. In my family, I have many guys who fit this description, and my husband is especially not a fan of anything overly fragranced. Also, with synthetic fragrances being added to so many products these days, it seems like more and more people are becoming hyper-sensitive to scents: sometimes, even a faint whiff can be enough to set them off. Just to be on the safe side, I've been using a fragrance-free wash for my gift projects this year.

For those of you who are curious about Allure, here are my impressions for each of the three scents from the sample pack I received:

Woodland Mist: If you are in the market for a good unisex/guy scent, this is a great option. It reminds me of good men's cologne - light & fresh with a hint of spice. It's a little woody, and the more I sniff it, the more I keep thinking of the word "mossy," which I think might be on account of the notes of spices and vanilla mentioned in the product description. 

Prairie Breeze: This definitely smells more floral to me, but in a really good, musky way. Reading the description on the website, I can see why I like it: it's got all of my favorite scents! Bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, and sandalwood are just a few of the notes; I hate to show a bias here, but this is hand's-down my favorite of the three!

Fragrance Free: Unsurprisingly, this has virtually no scent. As in: there has been no fragrance added to mask the natural aroma of the product itself (honestly, you'd be surprised just how often fragrance is added to a supposedly unscented product - it boggles the mind!). If I was pressed to describe it in some way, the best I could come up with would be clean.

Image from
I hope you'll join me next Monday for part two in this series, where I'll share some of my time-saving tips to make sure your projects are dry in plenty of time for gifting (especially if you need to allow extra time for shipping)! In between now and then, I hope you'll also drop by for WIP Wednesday and FO Friday. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Fun, haven't heard of allure before! It's definitely safer to soak gifts in something fragrance free, or in something that's scented with a very safe essential oil (vs. a synthetic fragrance oil).

  2. Glad to know about this brand, as I have not seen it before. And on the scent question, I always love the *sound* of scented things, and sometimes even the first whiff of aroma, but the reality is, I just can't tolerate scented products. The last time I was tempted to buy a luxurious bar of lightly-scented handmade soap, I brought it home and put it first by the kitchen sink, then moved it into the shower (farther away), and finally gave up and put it outside! So, on;y unscented for me, but I'll look for the Allure!