Tips and Tricks: Blocking!
Sometimes, even if you’re careful about checking the Sizing Tips of a style, the fit isn’t exactly right. You need a little less room in the foot or a little more stretch in the calf.
If you’re a knitter, you’re probably familiar with the ways to get a little more stretch out of a sock. High percentage cotton and wool knits can be manipulated when wet (“blocking”), sneaking out a little more room or tightening up the fibers for a snugger fit. You can’t change the stretch or size of a sock dramatically with blocking, but you can add (or remove) a little extra for a more custom fit.
Whether you’re looking to add some more stretch in the body of the sock or shrink the foot a little, you’ll need a small towel, hot water (Be safe! Wear rubber gloves if you need to and keep the water about the temperature of a hot bath) and a place you can splash a little. And of course you’ll need the socks you’ll be working on. I’ll be showing you the process using O Basics.
If you’re looking to stretch the body of the sock, you’ll also need something to stretch around. Coffee cans are pretty perfect for this, but anything sturdy and round can work. Use a measuring tape and find something that’s just a bit wider around than the sock can stretch now. Or you can go around putting the sock on things to see what just barely fits. That is more fun.
Right now there is a lot of variance in the calf stretch of O Basics, so sneaking a little more stretch out of this style is pretty useful. Wet the area you’ll be working on by dunking the body of the sock into your water. Get it thoroughly wet, somewhere between dripping and just damp. I’m mostly concerned with the calf area, so that’s the only part I’m getting wet.
Now gently but firmly stretch the sock over whatever you’ve picked to stretch it over.
Now you just wait a couple of hours (or longer, depending on how humid where you live is). Once your sock is dry, slide it off and check it out.
Before stretching the body of these O Basics stretched to just barely 16 inches. On the can they were stretched to about 16 and a half inches. Now they stretch to 17 inches! How much you can get out of wet stretching depends on the fiber blend, the colour of the sock (some colours just have no stretch, it's crazy!), a lot of little variables. But you can almost always get a half inch more. Keep in mind that you've reduced the elasticity a bit, so your stretched-out sock may not stay up as well as an un-stretched sock.
Shrinking the Foot
This process is more of a try and try again sort of procedure. You’ll notice that for high cotton content styles like the O Basics we recommend that you “Machine or hand wash in cold to cool water, tumble dry low or hang dry.” If you’ve ever had a pair of high cotton or wool content socks sneak into with a load of bathtowels you know why—they shrink in the heat!
Unlike some of the other DreaM Stockings (like any of the striped “knees” styles), the O Basics have a smaller foot, which we recommend for “Women's shoe size 5-10, maybe even bigger.” But it’s loose on a size 5, so let’s see if we can make them work better. They’re starting off at about 6.5 inches from toe to heel, unstretched (my measuring was a little more accurate than this picture!).
WARNING: doing this is going to shrink the body of the sock a little too, so if you don't want to lose any calf stretch, you might be better off using this awesome sewing method we linked to on Pinterest from Little Porcelain Princess.
The first step is just getting the foot thoroughly wet in hot water. Just get the foot wet (and the ankle, if it’s too baggy on you), unless you’re trying to shrink the whole sock.
Now throw it in the dryer on medium, with towels or some other bulky stuff. If you can (although it's a waste of energy and quarters), dry them with things that aren't wet or damp, so the body of the sock doesn't get wet and shrink as much as the foot. As the sock dries the fibers contract. Now the foot is about 6 inches unstretched! Not a huge difference, but it can mean a lot to little toes. We did try getting the foot wet and letting it air dry AND getting the foot wet and putting it in front of a hot air heater, but they didn't create any noticeable shrinking.
Remember, wet stretching doesn’t totally transform the fit of a sock, it just helps you get that extra perfect fit. Read those Sizing Tips and remember you can always drop us a line for more in-depth sizing info.