Before I joined the online knitting community some years back, I'd never heard of blocking. I guess this isn't unusual for 'old school' European knitters, whereby we were always instructed to "reshape whilst damp" or "press with a damp cloth". I didn't know about steam-blocking until I looked over the tech edited version of Hexed prior to it going live either. Neither did I know that short rows were called short rows - I had used them before, having worked them out for myself but didn't know that there was a terminology for them.

Lately I've been reading (on Ravelry, mostly) that when a pattern states to work in pattern for XX inches in length that it is assumed that the measurement means the blocked measurement. i.e. the knitter is expected to calculate from their blocked swatch how much that means in 'real' terms. And by real terms, or raw terms, I mean the knitting as it is on the needles, unblocked and relaxed.

This was news to me. The discussion then went on to say that most knitters don't realise this, and are more often than not of the belief that this given measurement is as it is on the needles. Which is exactly what I've always believed. I really wanted to ask why give a blocked measurement when most presume it's unblocked... why not just work in unblocked terms? But I didn't, because I'm not all that confident about my 'different' ways of doing things. But it certainly sounded like an awful lot of work to me. And rather ironic, when the trend in knitting patterns has been leaning towards doing everything for the knitter, as some might say, hand-holding.

I then read on another forum that you *must* (and this was emphasised muchly) design using the blocked measurements of your swatch.

This gave me the heebies. A wave of panic spread across me, suddenly believing that I'd been doing everything wrong. For over 30 years, I've been doing it wrong. Because I don't. I work in raw measurements. And honestly, if it were that crucial, why have I not discovered this information before?

I had to sit back for a while and calm down, and eventually realised that as long as a designer is consistent in the types of measurements they use, that's what's important. But I still don't feel confident enough to say shout this from the roof tops.

Now, I don't design jumpers and other larger garments unless it's for me or someone close to me, in which case it would be a custom knit, and not for pattern designing or writing. So I'm pretty sure that anyone who does design larger fitted garments could give good argument as to why working with blocked measurements would be better.

I then wondered - when it comes to blocking swatches and using those measurements to calculate other measurements needed for a pattern, how do you know much to block? Blocking is subjective, and gauge swatches can lie. And of course wet blocking isn't permanent - you'll have to do it again each time you wash the item, and potentially each time it could end up slightly different.

Now, don't get me wrong - I thinking blocking is important. It helps stitches settle, it helps seams behave themselves and generally makes an item all that much more presentable. It's really easy to tell when something that should be blocked hasn't been. I certainly wouldn't advice not blocking when a pattern says you should do it first, because that would make me out to be a complete anarchist, which I'm not. Also, there are other reasons for blocking a swatch other than to check measurements. Wanting to know how a yarn behaves or softens after washing is the primary reason, so if you don't know what to expect it's worth doing for that.

It's just that sometimes I wonder if there's an over reliance on blocking. I learnt the hard way that if the structure isn't sound, if the stitches don't add up or the seams don't match then no amount of reshaping whilst damp will make it perfect.

So, I can't help but wonder - is this just me? Or is it because I was taught the basics and worked the rest out for myself, but missed some secret vital info along the way? How do other knitters perceive this? Do we Europeans do things differently or is it a personal issue?

You could argue that this is what happens when someone is mostly self taught, when someone doesn't have access to knitting books or the internet when they are working things out or when in need of help. But that doesn't make it a bad thing, or wrong. Infact working it out for yourself is a good thing - you learn and understand why things work as they do, get under the skin of it all. Best of all, it makes you independent.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm consistent then that's what is important. It's the same with knitting terminology - it's nice to use standard abbreviations but it's perfectly OK to use your own made up notations too, so long as they are explained within the pattern. I give the unblocked gauge, give measurements in raw terms, and give as much as I can to help the knitter out. But I'm not going to change how I work, I can't. I've learnt a lot about pattern layout and have improved greatly, but I still use UK terms and language, it's too deeply ingrained to do otherwise. Likewise with the "reshape whilst damp" issue - I've just been doing it that way too long. And hey, it does work for me, so why 'fix it'?

I don't like the way some patterns give US needle & hook sizes only, or only work in inches. I give metric needle & hook size and provide metric & imperial measurements, because I believe it will reach more people. Heck, I even give US equivalents in my crochet patterns. But I'm not about to berate someone for doing it differently to me, so I hope folk won't judge me because I leave all the blocking until the end.

It feels really weird writing all this, like I'm suddenly an outcast amongst my peers and will have fellow designers shrieking in horror and arguing that I'm just plain wrong. Like I've laid my knitting soul on the line to be criticised for not playing the same game. Thing is, I'm not saying everyone is wrong for doing it differently to me, I'm saying that there is more than one way to approach a problem, and more than one way to solve it. It doesn't matter if you sing a different tune, so long as you keep singing the same tune.

You'd think I'd be used to not following the crowd by now, yet it still makes me feel anxious whenever I speak up.

Anyways. In the effort of being a better blogger and showing pretty photos, here's the new design. It's not finished or nicely photographed, nor does it have a name yet.

It will be available in extra slouchy/rasta version (shown) and regular slouchy version, each in 3 sizes with notes on how to adjust. It will have charts as well as the written format, and because it's knit sideways with a graft other than stocking stitch kitchener, the grafting tutorial will be included in the pattern.

The extra slouchy in the largest size uses a whole skein of Araucania Aysen, 175m/191yds to 100g, yet that's plenty big enough to fit me so most folk won't need that big a size. Malabrigo would also be a good substitute for this pattern; a nice soft drapey yarn will do this pattern justice.

Tom's been trying to get me modelling it, yet I haven't recovered from the Magknits moment a few years back... Hats suit me but camera's don't.

Thank you to everyone who has got out a tape measure and posted their measurements! We do however need many, many results for me to be able to calculate a good average, so go get that tape measure ;)

AuthorWoolly Wormhead