I am making an afghan that is 20% wool and 80% acrylic. It will be 35, 10x10" squares sewn together. Do you think that blocking is advisable? I read once that you shouldn't block acrylic. Can anyone with experience offer suggestions?
Thanks for all the excellent information! Being new to knitting, I'm still amazed at the amount of science and math there is in the craft. I'm also learning to understand, and truly respect, the properties of yarns. You guys are the best!
Here are some links to sites that advocate steam blocking acrylic. I am working on my Master Knitter Level 1 from The Knitting Guild of America and one of the tasks we must complete is a blocking report, so I’ve been researching this for a while.
In general, wet blocking has little to no effect on acrylics because they are not affected by water but rather by heat, being plastic. Some people feel that a simple machine wash, spin or shake to even out stitches, and machine dry is all that’s needed for acrylic objects and that this aligns and smooths the stitches and softens the yarn to an acceptable state.
Others choose steam blocking/killing the yearn, which permanently alters the hand of the yarn. There are 2 main ways to steam block acrylic: a light steaming with an iron or steamer where the steam source is held about an inch above the fabric (with or without a pressing cloth) followed by gentle patting into place and then air drying. Some like a true “killing” which involves heavy steaming and/or pressing the fabric with a steam iron (usually with a pressing cloth) to remove the manufactured elasticity and alter the yarn’s properties; some people feel this creates a softer, more draped fabric with a more professional-looking finish. You must be careful with either method because acrylic, since it is plastic, will melt with too much steam heat.
I would suggest trying the different methods on some small swatches to see if you like the effects before committing your afghan to a full blocking with the steam methods, which are permanent. And you might consider blocking the squares before joining them together for your afghan for ease in assembly if you decide to steam block them. It will be more challenging to block the finished afghan but of course you can do that as well. Since you are using a blended yarn the wool fiber will respond to either light steam blocking or just washing/drying. Since the acrylic is the dominant fiber that should probably determine the method you choose.
Good luck to you and make sure you let us know how your afghan turns out!
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It's not that it's not advisable to block acrylic. Heck, you can throw much acrylic in the wash and dryer with no change to the inert platics of the fiber unless you heat on high and melt it. It's the fact that due to it's inert properties it tends to not block. It's in the shape it was melted down and spun into, and getting it wet and soaped up, isn't going to change that as it does with other natural fibers that you affect the oil and strand structure by wetting and blocking. You are in luck with your yarn you chose though. The 20% wool makes most of those blended yarn much more able to block. It is not going to block as well if it were all natural, but it's going to give you some leave to work with. I say go for it! I too have done large afghan work with such a blend when I know it's going to go to someone who may not give it the same care another fiber kid will. Therefore if it gets thrown in the dryer on accident or the dog or grandkids smears goodness knows what on it, no biggie. My projects too have benefited from the blocking, particulary along seams that may need a little evening out (God I hate seaming...).
Good luck, I'm sure it's beautiful!
My first afghan was knit with Lion Brand WoolEase, which has the same fiber content as the yarn you mentioned. The afghan was also made of many square blocks and rectangular panels. If my memory serves correct, I joined the squares, added a crochet border then blocked the afghan. Since some panels/squares were cabled and others had some yarn overs, I think it did help keep the shape of the entire piece. But that's just me. I don't see what it would hurt to block it.
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