We all know that proper blocking can really transform knitted fabric and I think that most knitters understand the importance of carefully blocking something like a lace shawl, with pins and wires, so that all the points and yarnovers all sit correctly. But it does seem to me that we perhaps talk a bit less about the transformative effect of blocking upon three dimensional things – like hats.
Perhaps that’s because some hats are pretty much head-ready and don’t need much blocking . . . but there are many types of hat which will definitely benefit from a good three dimensional stretch. That’s certainly the case with a tam or beret, which can be blocked to the required shape over a small plate, and it’s true, too, for some hats of the beanie or toque type such as Easwas.
The fabric of Easwas is defined by strong vertical and diagonal lines (formed by purls and twisted stitches) and strong horizontals (formed by garter stitch). While all of these lines, once knitted, want to retain their geometry, you want to block your hat into a much more rounded, spherical shape that’s going to sit nicely on your head.
This is what Easwas looks like unblocked:
I’m showing you this phone snap so that you are not concerned, upon first finishing your Easwas, in having appeared to have knitted yourself a small, strange chimney top. It is a hat that looks decidedly odd just off the needles! The freaky tubular appearance is caused by the drawing in of the vertical purl columns that separate each repeat, and the desire of the crown to form a natural fold. Everything looks a bit wonky and uneven. But worry not: with a good blocking, all of these lines ease up, the fabric evens out, and the hat settles down into a comfortable, rounded slouch.
To block a hat into a slouchy shape like this, I use a milliners block.
This is a vintage block that I bought on Ebay many years ago. They don’t come particularly cheap, but you might well feel that a decent block is worth it if you are, like me a very committed hat knitter.
Milliners blocks come in standard measurements, and mine has a 22 inch circumference. I find that blocking my hats to 22 inches (2 inches larger than my head) gives the fabric a really good stretch, and allows all the stitches to settle into shape. Once dry, and off the block, the hat contracts a wee bit, and fits me really well.
To block a hat, I soak it in warm water for about 20 minutes, remove the excess water, then position it on the hat block.
I like to fold the rib in on itself a little, so that the brim of the hat is not overstretched. Sometimes I use pins, as shown here with Easwas, or sometimes I’ll thread a length of contrasting yarn through the rib with a tapestry needle, and draw it tight, so that the rib is secured in place. Once the hat is dry, you can just cut the threaded yarn and remove it.
Once stretched over the block, the stitches begin to achieve a really good definition, the fabric evens up, and the hat’s crown is nicely rounded out across the top.
Leave until properly dry – to set the stitches – and then remove from the block.
A hat with a 6 point crown will very easily retain its blocked shape by being folded lightly in half, like this. Flat, with a light half-fold, is how I store my hats, when they are not being worn.
Though I love my milliners block, I know that most knitters aren’t likely to have one – or indeed to need one. Because really, the most important thing is just to block in three dimensions; ensure that the hat’s stitches are getting a really good stretch; and check that the centre of the hat is filled to capacity (with stuffing, a small ball, or a balloon) to dimensions that are a little larger than your head (or the head the hat is to fit). Blocking like this will help the hat’s fabric to even out and resolve itself into an appropriately rounded shape.
Happy blocking! Enjoy your hats!