If you are gifting hand-knitted socks for the holidays, there’s one way to make them look their best- You’ve got to block them.
If you don’t believe me, look at the photo: the top sock was blocked and the bottom one was not. Eek!
When your socks come off the needles, no matter how hard you’ve worked to knit evenly, they’re going to look all bunchy and funky, like the lower sock in the photo. Why?
Wool Gets Kinked On The Way From Sheep To Sock
The reason for this is that the wool has been through a lot on its way to your sock – it has been sheared off the sheep; then carded, dyed, spun, and plied; and then finally twisted into hanks and wound into skeins.
And all that’s BEFORE being manipulated into thousands of little interlocking loops on your knitting needles. After being kinked and spun so much, there’s no way the sock is going to look as good as it could without the magic final step.
To help the socks look perfectly even and gorgeous, they need to relax into their new shape, and to do that, they need help from water and soap.
Wool soaks up a LOT of water- you’ll know this if you’ve ever had your washing machine full of sweaters quit on you before the spin cycle. This means that soaking wool garments in water gives them the chance to re-shape as they dry.
Soap And Warm Water: How To Block Your Knitting
In the video below, I show you how to block a small knitted swatch, but it’s the same process for blocking anything:
As I mentioned in the video, to block socks you should use Woolite or Soak, a no-rinse wool wash.
You can buy Soak at Soakwash.com or at your local yarn store. You’ll also need a pair of sock-blockers, also found at your local yarn store or at a few different online retailers I mention below.
Let your socks soak for twenty minutes and then squeeze, don’t wring, them out in a towel. Place them on the sock blockers and hang over your shower rod or if you’re in a hurry, lay them on a towel with a fan pointing on them.
One day later, voila! Your socks will cause oohs and aahs, whether you are giving them as gifts or sending them in as a design submission to a knitting magazine.
Where You Can Buy Sock Blockers
Here are three options for you to buy sock blockers – click the images to go to their purchase pages:
Get Creative – Make Your Own Sock Blockers
The creative knitters in the KnitFreedom forum have found and shared tons of solutions for homemade sock blockers, using…
If you’re really in a pinch, you can block socks on your own feet after they’re mostly dry. Just make sure that you have someone around to bring you something to read and refill your beverage while you’re busy blocking your socks!
The Effects Of Blocking Remain After A Wash Cycle
PS – even after a wash and dry in the dryer (I made sure it was washable yarn), the previously blocked sock retains the nice round toe and flat shape.
When you’ve blocked your socks, even after washing them they lay flat in the drawer and just look nicer! So EVEN if you’re going to wash them… do a little magic first!
If you liked this tutorial on how to block socks, post in the comments!
31 thoughts on “How to Block Socks and Why”
Thanks for sharing very interesting blog regarding block socks. I loved this blog post.
Sock patterns typically say to have 5-10% negative ease, so the sock width and length is smaller than the foot width and length. Should the sock blocker be the smaller size or the actual foot size? Thank you!
The sock blocker should be basically the same size as your feet. :)
Hello! I stumbled across this blog post because I just completed a sock with significant lacework in it. I know how to block socks…. and I know how to block flat lace…. but the two processes seem at odds (pinning out to let the lace pop versus conforming to a sock form). Any recommendations or adjustments for blocking a sock with lacework?
Hi Liz, great question!
I think for your lacy socks, putting them on a pair of sock-blockers should be sufficient. Your pattern will be designed to account for the fact that lace stretches significantly, in order for the sock to fit nicely and to see the lace pattern. So my prediction is that just blocking them to the size of socks that they are, on sock-blockers, will stretch out the lace as it is meant to be seen, no pinning required.
I hope that helps! Please reply here or, better yet, post in the forum with a photo to let us know how it goes. I love lacy socks and would love to see your project.
Hi Liat, thanks for your very informative videos, and I appreciate the way you do your patterns, such as “knit to the gap” vs. knit some arbitrary number. Anyway I also wanted to mention your link to the “Soak” soap is wrong; it leads to a bathroom hardware site. I think the correct link is “http://soakwash.com/.
Hi Derek, you are so right! I’ve fixed the link to Soak soap. Thanks for being a fan. Hugs!
I am looking for a solid sock blocker
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “a form larger than the length,” but not to worry. Sock blockers usually list what size shoe they are appropriate for.
A large sock blocker will be perfect for your shoe size.
How do you know what size sock blocker is appropriate to buy? I wear size 91/2 or 10 in ladies, my socks are around 10″ long. Do I need a form larger than the length?
Thank you so much for your sweet words! I love that you have fallen in love with knitting socks- my liking for knitting them has grown quite beyond what I had expected as well!
When I read your comment about the socks stretching so much when blocked, it makes me think it’s the yarn. What kind of yarn are you using to knit the socks? If you are using anything with alpaca, they can become quite droopy. Other droopy yarns are silk, bamboo, and possibly mink and yak.
A good (and common) fiber blend for sock yarn is 75% tightly-plied washable wool and 25% nylon. This really helps socks keep their shape.
SO my answer for you is no, you should not make the socks too small in anticipation of blocking — or that’s not ideal, anyway. If you’re set on using that yarn, you can make a swatch, block it, and then check your gauge on that swatch and use it to asses what stitch count you need for your socks.
I hope this helps!
I LOVE your SuperStar program. Most of all, I have fallen in love with knitting socks – I am quite shocked how much I enjoy making these little buggers. Your instructions and videos are amazing. Your videography is wonderful and clear. Thank you for the attention you put into this.
I am having a wee problem with blocking the socks. The socks are stretching to the point of being too big. I am careful to not wring the socks – just a gentle squeeze. However, the final product is too big. The socks fit fine before blocking, but literally fall off the blocking forms. Is this normal? Should I make the socks too small in anticipation of the stretching? Please help.
I know I’m coming to this discussion a long time after its original post but I hope I can still ask a question here.
Do yarns other than wool benefit from blocking too? I have acrylic, nylon, bamboo and other combination yarns that have a mix of synthetic fibers and wool, cotton, silk or bamboo. I even have a mystery yarn that was in a grab bag. Its definitely sock yarn weight but it is a bit elastic. How do I block these yarns if needed?
I also want to tell you how grateful I am for your web site and your outstanding teaching. Your videos have helped make my knitting stress free and more fun. Thank you , thank you and thank you again.
Well my reply is long overdue! I’m so sorry I missed seeing your comment back when you wrote it.
Anyway, in answer to your question, I think ALL yarns and knitting projects benefit from blocking. I once had a knitting friend who made me SWEAR to block every project I made! I was very impressionable. ;)
But in my experimenting, she’s proven to be right. I’ve found that blocking either doesn’t hurt or it makes the project look nicer (usually the latter). You can block any knitted piece just by getting it wet, although some patterns recommend you lightly steam the pieces. They may flatten out if you do that, though.
And thank you so much for appreciating my site. I love what you said.
Thank you so much for this article. As a new sock knitter I desperately needed to read this. I knitted with a yarn that has instructions on care and it says do not soak. Should I lightly dampen the yarn? How crucial is the soaking part to the process? The care instructions also say use mild soap. Is the soap you recommended mild?
Thank you so much.
I’m so glad you found this blog post helpful! If your yarn label says do not soak, maybe you should spray it with a spray bottle?
The soaking part is what helps the wool to relax and take on the nice, flatter shape.
The soap that I recommend in this blog post is a mild soap. You can also use Woolite.
I hope this helps!
I just watched your videos and I can’t wait to start knitting a pair of socks. You make it look so easy. I am a beginner, but I feel confident that I can do it just by watching your videos.
My question is: If we are making socks for children, do we have to block them like we do for adults? If so, can we buy sock blockers for kids? Where?
Thanks so much. I can hardly wait. Now to do the dreaded swatch, so I can start my socks.
Yay! I’m so glad I’ve inspired you to start making socks! As far as socks for children go, you really don’t have to block them. If you want to make child-sized sock blockers, you can always make them out of a wire hanger like I show in the blog post. And as far as the “dreaded” swatch: check out this blog post on how to make a swatch in a hurry. Dreaded swatch no more! Happy knitting. :)
Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this blog post. That was practical. Keep posting!
I made seven pairs of socks with your wonderful pattern for toe up socks. Then I got up my courage and did 2 at a time. Wonderful to have both finished at the same time. This is my fourth 2 at a time. I have never blocked. Can I just do it with pins on the puzzle thingy like you did your swatch. Or do I need sock blockers for socks? I have a pair that I am finishing the bind off for right now and I am “keeping this pair for myself”!!!! I want th to be perfect!!!
Congratulations, that is absolutely fabulous! I think it is much easier to block socks using sock blockers, and if you like to knit lots of socks, as you do, I think it’s worth it. If you try to use pins, you won’t know how big to make it. You can also just block the socks and lay them out flat and flatten them and with your hands – there’s no need to pin socks – it would be weird, and the sock would dry with a little “corner” everywhere you put the pin. :) I hope this helps, and congrats on having made the 2-at-a-time socks!
Are all sock blockers the same size? I am finishing my very first (gasp!) pair of knitted socks! I had been wanting to tackle them for a long time, but had to mentally work my way up to them. I guess I better finish them the right way since I made it this far!
Congratulations! That is wonderful! No, sock blockers come in different sizes, usually small, medium, and large. I hope this helps!
Liat – your videos are the best I have ever seen. Your voice is so mild, soothing, and pleasant to listen to. It is easy to see that you enjoy what you are doing. I am so looking forward to watching and learning from you again! Thank you and blessings in the coming new year!!
Marcia, thank you so much for the sweet compliments. I hope you have a wonderful 2013.
Thank you thank you thank you. I have been wanting to knit socks for years, YEARS. But never knew how to get started much less finish. You make it seem so easy that I can hardly wait to get started. Just watched all the videos and am ready to tackle socks.
April, you are so sweet! I’m so glad that you’re ready to tackle socks now.
Practice makes perfect. Let us know how they’re coming along!
Good grief! I’ve knitted tons of socks and gave them away… never blocked them. You can bet I’m going to do that from now on. I love to knit socks; I’m always knitting them, no matter what else I may have on other needles.
I need to buy sock blockers. I’ve seen them at the local yarn shops, but I thought it would stretch the sock and make them bigger, so I ignored them.
Thanks for the heads up.
Hi Thelma –
I’m so excited that you’ve seen how awesome it can be to block the socks that you’re so generously making for others.
You’re so welcome for the heads up! You’ll have to let us know if you like the end result after you’ve blocked your socks. :)
I love the detailed explanation and photos of “why” the socks need to be blocked to look their best. I heard some sock knitters say they never block, but the difference is obvious. Thanks!
Yay! That makes me happy. Blocking makes socks way better, and after you’ve put in all that effort, why not make them all flat and perfect? :)