how to block a flat-topped hat

ok.  i’m sure you’ve read parts 1 & 2, right?  good.  since this style is the trickiest, it seemed like a good place to start.

so, you have your “head” and you’ve decided to block your hat with a flat top (this is how the evangeline & cutting teeth toques were finished)

there are many things you can use, but the idea is the same: put a crown on it.  for evangeline, i placed the 5 1/2” embroidery hoop on top of the foam ball like a crown, gently pulled the hat over the foam ball, centering it over the hoop, and centered the top of the hat over the hoop.  using an embroidery hoop for a hat is great because the hoops are inexpensive and come in a TON of sizes.  you can remove the outside hoop with the tightening screw for a nice, round top.

you want the hat to drape nice and straight and not bunch at the bottom.  if you opted for the floral foam block, you can jab the dowel into it and leave it to air dry.  you’ll be amazed at how beautifully blocked it is!!

for cutting teeth, it was the same process, but i opted for a tiny baking pan…. and rather than floral foam, i took it outside to dry in the warm sun.  here’s a funny picture:

there’s nothing like a hat-sicle on a hot summer day, right?

i didn’t have a hoop in the correct size so i had to dig through my kitchen cabinets until i found something just the perfect diameter.   

the first picture is before blocking.  can you see how bunched up and uneven the stitches appear?  the center picture really shows how relaxed that top becomes and how the stitches have evened out. the third is just adorable :)

part 2: the basics

One of the things I love about knitters is that they tend to be problem solvers.  However, blocking a hat can be tricky and cumbersome and many times, seemingly pointless (but it’s not.  do it!).

let’s get started…

here are the basic tools needed for any hat blocking project:

a variety of foam balls from the craft store (19” circumference is my go-to, but it’s wise to pick up a few sizes to see what works best for you)

*but be careful about your foam selection, too. the really hard foam will shed little fragments everywhere and need to be covered with fabric… on the up-side, it’s actually much easier to use than the pressed Styrofoam ones for this purpose*

thin, inexpensive fabric like muslin if needed as described above & sturdy string or twine to tie it

a 1/4 or 1/2” dowel (they sell them in packs pre-cut to about 18”)

a 5 ½ or 6” embroidery hoop (a wide variety of sizes will serve you here, & they’re cheap enough to stock) 

plates (paper, glass, ceramic - whatever you may have on hand), baking pans, lids from coffee cans, tupperware lids… (get creative!  you never know what will be the perfect size or shape)

a medium-sized cube of floral foam (optional)

to get your new “head” ready for blocking, jab the dowel into the foam ball and cover with fabric if you got the really good, crumbly kind.  next, jab the dowel with fabric-covered foam in place into the center of the floral foam (if you have it).

now you want to soak your hat.  dunk the hat in cold water and swish around gently.  when the hat is fully saturated, drain the water, press the hat against the side of the sink or basin to gently squeeze much of the water out, then lay flat on a clean towel.  roll the towel up like a jelly roll and press hard to remove much of the remaining water.  now you’re hat is ready, but what shape should it be!?

part 1: if it can be blocked, it should be blocked

i have developed a theory over my years of knitting… if the fiber is animal, the piece should be blocked.  in fact, i’ve been known to “block” plant fiber as well, but i won’t get into that just now.

there are certain items that are considered for blocking above others and i’d say shawls take the cake.  often times socks, sweaters, and anything lace yearns for that satisfying dunk and dry, too - but why do we even bother?  i think knitting is such a process from choosing the perfect pattern and yarn, the actual practice of knitting slow and steady, to binding off, seaming if needed and weaving in all those little ends - that blocking should be the triumphant finish!

when you dunk that finished piece, the fiber changes.  just like human hair relaxes, straightens, and (sometimes only briefly) springs back to it’s natural wave and texture when wet, so does the animal fiber in the yarns we love.  all those little hairs relax and take a stretch; they become pliable and ready for molding to their new shape.  when the piece drys, the hairs recoil and embrace their new form.  the process of the hair relaxing, then tightening back up also evens out stitches (like that one weird loose stitch that appears for no reason), and can often promote beautiful stitch definition.

there are a slew of tools on the market for blocking - blocking wires & pins for those avid shawl knitters, sock blockers in a variety of sizes and materials for those amazing sock people, mats, and even mesh racks for sweaters but WHERE ARE THE HAT BLOCKERS????  

like most people, i’ve used the blown up balloon inside a beanie or a plate inside a beret, but there are other, more difficult hat shapes to block - like my evangeline & cutting teeth toques.  necessity is the seed of invention.  those hats needed a good blocking and they were gonna get it.  my bazaar devices brought a lot of questions from the IG community and though i had included a brief hat blocking tutorial with those particular hat patterns, i decided i should put what i had learned on my quest for the perfect hat here for all to see and build upon.

 

i hope you gain something here and if you have a particularly clever method, please share!!