Blocking Acrylic Yarn: You Can and You Should

I admit that I can be a bit of a yarn snob and really only like to work with wools and other natural fibers.  I just don’t like how acrylic feels under my fingers and I can usually knit a sweater with a basic wool like Knit Picks WOTA for less than the cost of lunch out for me, I don’t even bother with acrylic.

That said, I sometimes have to reach for an acrylic or a blend every now and then for specific projects like this cowl.  I found a really amazing stitch that I thought would make a pretty cool cowl or gaiter and went about figuring out how to knit it in the round.  After about 3 inches into the project, I realized that I’d have to block this sucker and it would be a bit harder than just soaking it and laying it out on a towel in the corner of the living room.

Let’s look at the before.  It’s cute but not at all what I envisioned.

I dampened the cowl slightly and pinned it to my ironing board and got my iron ready.  To merely block the cowl, turn on the steam (or use a garment steamer but mine has somehow grown legs and walked off a couple of weeks ago.  My house is not that big; there are only so many places it can hide but I can’t find it anywhere…)  You want to hover over the piece WITHOUT touching the iron to the piece.  You don’t want to melt your piece to your iron.  I don’t know what would be worse – messing up your iron or messing up the piece you just spent hours making…  Pat your piece into place.  If I have areas of texture like this guy, I like to pinch the areas that need a little more definition.

Blocking Acrylic Yarn
I’m hovering over the piece without touching the iron to it.

Now let it cool and dry overnight.  Look at how that opens up the work, evens everything out and just finishes off the piece!

If you want to KILL your piece, (that term is just so scary but the process is pretty painless), you can place a piece of fabric between your iron and gently touch the iron down on the piece.  I do not put any weight on the piece but tap and lift, tap and lift.  “Killing” the yarn removes the elasticity from it and makes it permanent (by essentially melting the yarn slightly).  You get a much softer and gentle drape to the finished piece by killing it.  Killing your finished piece gives it more of a commercial, “store bought” feel so keep that in the back of your head when you’re knitting for those tweens or older kids who are too cool to be caught dead wearing something homemade (even though the stuff we all make is WAAAAYYYYYYY cooler than anything you can get in a store…)


18 thoughts on “Blocking Acrylic Yarn: You Can and You Should”

  1. i think i want to “kill” a store bought acrylic sweater that won’t stop pilling. i’m thinking that by melting the surface a bit, the surface won’t be able to pill. is that true in your experience? because i haven’t found a knitter who mentioned anything about pill-prevention or pill-proofing garments via heat. thoughts?

    1. I’m unsure about killing acrylic to prevent pilling; that’s an interesting idea. You don’t really melt-melt the yarn through killing but it changes the texture and drape definitely. I want to say, in theory, it would work, or at least help. Do you have a small spot you could try it on before you did the whole sweater?

  2. Years ago, I made an entire baby blanket from acrylic, not realizing that it wouldn’t block out like natural fibers would. It’s been hidden in my “embarrassment box” ever since. If I took it out and “killed” it, would it be machine-washable (the whole reason I used the acrylic in the first place) and keep the “killed” shape for good?

    1. I think it would be okay. Killing acrylic means melting the fibers ever so slightly and then when they cool, they’re locked into that shape/form. Just be sure not to melt too much or you’ll have a mess!

      1. Thanks Steph! I’m going to give it a shot. Since the project won’t ever be gifted in its current state, there’s really no risk in trying it.

    2. Oh my gosh, it is like a total miracle. I had the exact same experience as you – knitted baby blanket in the embarrassment box. I read this article, pulled it out, blocked it, then marvelled at the difference. It is truly astonishing. Then, threw it in the washer and dryer with a bunch of tee shirts and it is perfect. It maintained its blocking. I’m telling ya, it is a whole new world out there for me. Go for it. What do you have to lose?

  3. Patricia Bricker

    I began crocheting about 40 years ago but eventually stopped when I couldn’t create the thin, crisp fabric I envisioned in my head. It all turned out so clunky and frumpy. I came back to the craft a few years ago when I saw some amagurumi figures around the time two of my kids were expecting our first grand-kids, and made a couple monkeys that were too cute. While shopping for the monkey project, I was amazed at the new yarns that were available! I was determined to make the fabric I knew was possible all those years ago. I bought a skein of RH Unforgettable and was hooked, this time for good. So when I finished this new project (an openwork shawl) I set out to find a method of perma-blocking it, and came across the steam blocking method – TOTAL GAME CHANGER!!! That was almost two years ago and I have not looked back… My crochet items are anything BUT clunky or frumpy, the word “wispy”even comes to mind!

  4. Pingback: Fee, Fly, FO, Phooey – The Owl Underground

  5. Thank you for this information! I’ve only just started blocking my items and these details on acrylic are so helpful. Do you have a link to this pattern stitch? I’d love to try it. Thank you again!

  6. I just finished crocheting a baby cocoon. made from synthetic yarn. It’s a chunky stitch, made on a L crochet hook. Any thoughts about lightly blocking it?

    1. I would lay it out as close to the shape it will be and then use the steam method. Sometimes I stuff parts of a piece with towels to keep its shape.

  7. I have a problem. I knitted a sweater with acrylic and then took it to a cleaners to be blocked. It was stretched about two sizes larger. What do I do?? Can I block it again?? Or should I chalk it up to experience??

    1. It really depends on the yarn used. You can definitely try to reshape and reblock it but that may not work. Acrylic will stretch in warm water so you want to hand wash in cool/cold water to help the yarn keep its shape.

  8. Steph, I have tried pinning to the original width and length, then steam blocking two of my acrylic crocheted diamond mesh lace scarves with my garment steamer. I didn’t kill the acrylic but after letting the scarves dry and unpinning them, the scarves grew when I put them on and are now too long. I am wondering if it the fact they are lacey. Or am I adding too much steam? I have made several acrylic lacey diamond mesh scarves and wonder if I should try “killing” the acrylic diamond mesh lace, it would stop the lacey scarf from stretching out and growing longer. I also have two lacey shawls and am very concerned about then growing and stretching out of shape when I steam them.
    Not sure what I am doing wrong. Your suggestions will be very appreciated.

  9. Will killing the yarn stop dropped stitches from unraveling in a finished piece?
    I have a box of squares my mother was knitting when she passed. I wanted to sew the squares together to make keepsake pillows for my daughters. My mother’s vision was poor and she dropped stitches in almost every square. I don’t want to redo any of the squares, I’d like to leave the work as-is. Would killing it hold those stitches, or should I do something else to secure them?

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