Care and Feeding of Hand Knit Socks

If you already have a system for caring for your hand knit socks that works for you, that's great and I would love to hear about it - especially if it is simpler than mine - I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and routines.  

Firstly, I soak all hand knit socks before they are worn.  I fill the washroom sink, add some Eucalan and soak them for a while.  Then I gently squeeze the excess water out and lay them to dry; unless they are a gift or need to be photographed in which case I will block them on a sock blocker.  I like to wash them before they are worn because I tend to knit socks everywhere I go, so my WIPs come into contact with lots of pet hair, floors, dirty hands (mine if I am snacking and knitting) and whatever else I come into contact with when I am out in the world. 

After that, we wash our hand knit socks after each use.  I know some knitters do not like to wash their hand knit socks that frequently, but we find that they get a bit stretched out after a full day of wear and washing them helps them to bounce back.  Also we have a lot of pets and, try as I might, we probably do not have the cleanest floors around.

I put them in lingerie bags much like this one: 
Then they go into my washing machine on the 'Delicate' or 'hand wash' setting with some gentle detergent.  I have a sensitive child, so we already use a fragrance free, dye-free, paraben-free, everything-free laundry soap.  In fact we usually make our own laundry soap

When they come out of the washer I hang them on our sock-drying-octopus-hangers and hang them to dry from hooks above the bath tub in our master bathroom.

Then they are folded (not rolled as I find that stretches them) and put away until they are worn again:
When I have some time, I plan to make some sock blockers from wire coat hangers and start drying socks on those because I find that blocked socks are less bulky and take up less drawer space than socks that have been hung to dry.  

DIY Sock Blockers

A little while ago, there was a picture floating around Pinterest of someone's very large, very beautiful laundry room on sock-washing day.  The walls and counter tops were covered in freshly laundered hand-knit socks drying on beautiful artisan sock blockers.  It was a gorgeous picture (that I can't find now).  It was basically the opposite of my laundry room. When I wash our hand knit socks, I hang them to dry in our master bath on these:
I have three of them.  They each hold 8 pairs of socks.  They are from Ikea and are fairly inexpensive. I have been told that they are also available on Amazon.  They get the job done, but the socks don't look as pretty or store as flatly as when they dry on sock blockers.

I have steel sock blockers that I purchased from WEBs.  I love them.  I have all three sizes and they are simple enough and pretty enough that I have even used them in pattern photos for some of my designs.
This weekend I went to my local dollar store and found some vinyl placemats.   I traced the outline of my sock blockers onto them and cut them out.  This is what happened:
One placemat was too flimsy - it would have been frustrating wrestling a damp sock onto it - so I taped two together to make a thicker sock blocker.  Cheap and cheerful. The only drawback is that they are solid so there is no airflow therefore the sock would take longer to dry.  Also, they do not have a hanger, although it would be easy enough to put a hole in the top to hang them up.

So I made sock blockers from wire coat hangers.  We have lots of wire coat hangers because the Husbeast is a suit-and-tie kind of guy so I frequent our local dry cleaning establishment.
Not pretty, but functional and easy.  It takes about 2 minutes to shape one into a pseudo sock shape and it has a built in hanger.
I think I will make a few more coat hanger blockers and use them for drying freshly laundered socks. They are easier to fold and take up less space when they are blocked vs. when they hang dry.

Socks: to Block or Not to Block...

Do you block socks after you knit them? 
I have a confession: if the socks I knit are for me, the Husbeast or one of the kidlets, I do not block them (gasp!) 
My reasoning is that socks are self blocking - they will mold themselves to the shape of the wearer's feet.  Thinking about it, this is probably true about most knitted items that are worn with negative ease (especially hats). 
I block socks if one or both of the following conditions apply:
  1. The socks will be photographed
  2. The socks are a gift
There is no denying that blocking makes handknits extra beautiful.  Here is a photo of my Gitter socks before blocking:
They kind of look like a crumpled mess; like they have been scrunched up in a bag for a while (which they have since they live in a project bag while I am making them). 
Here they are after blocking:
Blocking has opened up the pattern and evened out the stitches.  You can see the garter stitch lattice stitch pattern and the colour variegations in the yarn.  They are much prettier after they have been blocked. 
Blocking socks is easy, first I bathe them in a sink of warm water with a few drops of either Soak or Eucalan:
Then I gently squeeze the excess moisture out of them and hang them on sock blockers to dry.  If you do not have sock blockers, you can shape them by hand and use blocking mats and pins to block them. 

If you are into DIY, here is a link to a tutorial for making sock blockers using dollar store placemats (the vinyl ones).  Making a few of these is on my to-do list for 2016. 

Happy Knitting!

Blocking Cotton - Wet Blocking Edition

A couple of weeks ago, I steamblocked my new Allons-y market bag and it worked out wonderfully:
before blocking
after blocking
So when I made a smaller market bag I decided to try wet blocking it:
this is during blocking - that weird triangular thing is the flap of the pouch

this is after wet blocking and steam blocking
Ultimately, the wet blocking was a fail.  First, it took 3 full days for my project to dry; that was inside a centrally air-conditioned house, pinned to a blocking mat.  Second, when it finally dried, the fabric was coarse and not very pleasant to the touch.  Knitting is a tactile art and in my opinion should be wonderful to touch.  So I got my iron out and steam blocked it.  Just like with the larger bag, the fibre relaxed beautifully, softened up and the stitch pattern opened up exactly how I wanted it.  

The moral of my story?  Steam blocking cotton results in a softer and more co-operative fabric than wet blocking.  Also it takes about 35 1/2 less hours to steam block.

Blocking Cotton

I recently knit a a market bag from 100% cotton.  The bag features an attached pocket that the bag folds into when it is not in use and acts as a hidden pocket inside the bag when the bag is open.  A very clever design, if I do say so myself ;)

Normally I would not block a market bag, I would consider it self-blocking, but I wanted to make it fit nicely into its attached pouch and train the flap on the pouch to sit flat.

I chose to steam block as opposed to wet blocking because cotton is a stretchy fibre (especially when wet) and I did not want to change the shape or dimensions of the bag.  I do not own a steamer, I used my trusty steam iron

The fibre relaxed beautifully!  The before and after pics speak for themselves:

before blocking and weaving

after blocking and weaving

before weaving and blocking
after weaving and blocking
Blocking makes a huge difference.  I will have to re-block it each time I wash it, but it took me about 2 minutes so it really isn't a huge commitment.  I am working on another cotton project right now and will definitely block that one too.