DIY Hat Blocking 1

At least one Artemis Adornments knitter is attempting a world land speed record for hat knitting in 2010. While this is mostly driven by a near obsessive and somewhat illogical desire to try out new techniques – and hats are so good for that – it’s productive too. You get a lot of rather pretty garment in not a lot of time.

The best hats all need blocking, it makes all the difference between a bunched up crumple of a thing and a professional looking shape and size. Wet blocking is best, as we all have found.

This is what we do:

1. Soak the finished hat in warm water, with a squirt of added something. There is proper stuff for this, but we use a favourite coconut flavoured hair conditioner or a drop of gentle hand soap. You don’t need much. Doddle the hat gently in the fragrant water and leave it for a few minutes, while you make a cup of tea or let the cat in.

2. Squeeze gently against the side of the basin and drain out the water.

3. Gather a couple of biggish towels and lay out your hat, in roughly its shape, on the floor. You will need it to be the floor for the next bit. Unless you like standing on tables. Cover with more towels.

4. Stand on your hat sandwich, and gently tramp. This squeezes the water out of the hat and into the towels. Do it until the towels are wet. You might turn the towels over and around and do it again using dry parts. It won’t take long.

Then the blocking part. A hat block is something solid you use to sit inside the wet hat so that while it dries, it takes up the correct shape and size. Milliners’ blocks tend to be either glorious antique shop itemsĀ  (oh yes, we do keep looking) or made of squeaky polyester wig-head stuff. So this is what we do.

That knitted beret?

– a plate. The hat in the picture above is a Meret, pattern by Woolly Wormhead and was blocked on a 10″ dinner plate.

The size of the plate is pretty critical. It needs to be big enough to pull out the fabric, and not too big that it stretches the brim. 10″ is about right for an adult female beret, but a child’s would need maybe 8″ or even 6″, a saucer for a baby hat. You may well have a suitable selection in your own kitchen cupboard, but it’s worth scouring charity shops for a variety of sizes.

Gently shape the hat across the back of the plate, and pull in the brim to make an even circle on the upper surface. Put the whole thing somewhere to dry away from direct heat, resting the plate side on something to raise it up, like a tin of beans.

Your boyfriend beanie?

A small football or child’s beach ball, resting on a tower of bean tins, and tucked well into the end. If you haven’t got a football, a blown up balloon will do the same job, but obviously won’t last much beyond the first beanie. Or the first boyfriend.

The trick is to have something to shape out the slouch part, while at the same time allowing the ribbing to cling softly together. You really don’t want your ribbing to stretch, especially while it’s wet. Squeeze the ribbing together while wet, with the ball inside the end.

This one’s another free pattern – the Ribbed Beanie from Woolly Wormhead, knit extra long, for more trendy boyfriend slouch.

See how the end is wider than the ribbing? Phoar.

The chullo or felted hat block !

(We love this one.)

Over the summer, whilst redecorating one fine diy photographic studio and gallery, we sat over a tea break idly gazing at the small pile of paint tins collecting by the bins. Recycling opportunity there, we thought. Hmmm. And would you believe, the average 2.5L paint tin is 19 inches, 48cms round? You would?

Marvellous. 19″ is probably what you need to fit a snug hat on an average small-sized woman’s head. And if need be, you can pad out the width with a few layers of bubble wrap and some parcel tape.

So this is what we’ve been using to block our Chunky Chullos (pattern coming soon)

.. and our experimental and as yet unpublished felt brim hats:

The black duct tape is to tighten the heavy felt as it dries. The surface is going to be needle felted with a garland of floofy peony shapes. Not for the faint hearted, but we do like a challenge. This next one’s my current favourite, with the paint tin an unpadded 19″ – it’s 6″ across – for a snug fit around the brim.

Ladies and gentlemen we present to you – the toque block!

Pattern for the mitred toque will be available from Maria at Black Dog Fibre Studio soon.

Collect up your empty paint tins, hatters everywhere!

Happy Birthday p/hop. Have fun! We love you all.


Thank you Artemis Adornments for your top tips.

If you’re feeling inspired to knit a hat you can find all the p/hop hat patterns here.

We’ve extended the blog-a-long to the end of next week (Friday 12th November). If you would like to join in (the more the merrier) details of how to take part are here.

You can get all the blog-a-long updates by following p/hop on twitter and in the p/hop Ravelry group.

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