I frequently wash and block something I am knitting while it is still on the needles. I do this when I am concerned about how my project is coming out. Something doesn't look right, and I don't want to go farther until I am reassured that all is OK. 

My Catkin Shawl was a good example. The 'corners' of this shawl use lots of slip stitches to create the graphic stripes. The 3 corners looked a bit weird on the needles, but once I started binding off, I realized that they were curling and twisting oddly. The image below shows the shawl unblocked, still on the needles (see them on the right?).

Catkin corner curled 

Here is a closeup. At this point, there were 545 stitches on my needles, and binding off was taking forever. If I had to redo that bottom section, the two-colored part at the bottom (the trickiest part of the pattern), I wanted to know before I finished binding off.

Closeup of curly tip

So I decided to wash and block part of the shawl while it was still on the needles. Here is how I do it: I put the part of the shawl I wanted to block in a basin of water, taking care to keep the needles out of the water. In other projects, I have put the cable part of a circular needle in the water, but I keep the needle tips, especially wooden ones out. I position the knitting bag in such a way that it helps hold the needle tips out of the water. I have used a ziplock bag on the needle tips for added protection, but didn't need to this time. You can see the needles on the right in the image below. 

Soaking the shawl while still on the needles

I used cold water with no detergent (I don't want to rinse) and left it to soak for ~15 minutes. I then removed the shawl, gently squeezed out the excess water and then rolled the wet part in a towel.

roll shawl in towel

Then I laid the shawl out to dry on my guest bed. I did not pin it, because I didn't plan to pin this shawl when it was complete. If it had been a lace shawl, I would have pinned the wet part. At this point I was encouraged because when wet, the curly corner had relaxed and lay flat. But what would happen when it dried?

drying

Fortunately, it is very dry where I live, and shawls dry quickly.  I was VERY pleased to see a nice flat corner on my dry shawl, below. Note: it is important to make sure your piece dries completely. Wet and damp wool behave differently than dry wool.

dry

And the corner remained flat when I held it up so it hung loose. I was amazed because I was pretty certain that I would have to redo that bottom section, hours and hours worth of knitting. I was so glad that I took the time to go through the blocking-on-the-needles step because it ended up saving my lots of time and aggravation in the end.

shawl hanging naturally

The first time that I tried this was with a bottom-up seamless vest with a complex cable pattern. On the needles the cables looked messy, and I was unhappy with them. I was about 6 inches up the vest and was ready to rip it out, when I decided to try blocking it on the needles. The washed and blocked cables looked terrific, and I completed the vest. As I was knitting, I enjoyed looking back at the washed and blocked 6".

 

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