Acrylic yarn gets a bad rap. Among the other reasons given (“It doesn’t breathe!” “It’s squeaky!” “It’s made of plastic!”) you may hear this one: “Well, you just can’t block it.” While it’s certainly true that trying to block your acrylic the same way you would wool or cotton isn’t going to work, it’s possible to achieve similar results in terms of loosening and evening stitches, opening stitch patterns, and improving drape using a method known to many as ‘killing.’
Some people differentiate between ‘killing’ acrylic and normal blocking, but for the purposes of this tutorial we will refer to killing as any of these methods used to tame unruly artificial fibers.
In standard blocking, water is the magic ingredient that makes the yarn behave. You get a piece wet (or even just damp) stretch it out, open it up, pin it in place, and when it dries it stays where it should – until the next time it gets wet. Acrylic yarn, however, is a man-made fiber and it’s designed to hold its shape, even when wet. It does not respond to the gentle persuasion of water! The good news (if you’re an impatient person, like I am) is that killing acrylic is much faster than waiting for a sweater to dry and – even better – the results are permanent.
The secret? Heat! Since acrylic is a form of plastic, a strategic application of heat will permanently reshape the fibers. For large pieces, like an afghan, a quick tumble through the washer and dryer is the most popular option – usually the dryer produces enough heat to loosen the fibers without damaging the fabric.
For smaller pieces or items such as sweater pieces where precise measurements are desired, killing the acrylic by hand is usually preferable. There are a few different methods that will work, but this is my favorite.
You Will Need:
- An iron with a steam setting OR a plain iron AND a small spray bottle with water
- Ironing board
- Thin towel or pillowcase
IMPORTANT: At no time should you EVER touch your iron directly to your project. We do not want to melt the fibers to the iron!
Set your iron to high or steam setting and allow to heat. If using an iron without a steam setting, lightly spray your project with water.
Lay project out on ironing board and cover with pillowcase. Gently steam and iron for about ten seconds at a time. (Be careful not to apply much pressure to avoid crushing and flattening your stitches.) Remove pillowcase and check on your project. Pull to open stitch patterns, straighten edges, or to reach desired dimensions.
Repeat as needed, spraying lightly with water as in between ironing if necessary.
When your piece has reached the desired dimensions and texture, you’re done (and done for good)!
Give it a try! You may be surprised what a wonderful effect killing your acrylic projects will have.
About the Author
Melissa Mall is an at-home mom with four sons and a new baby girl! They have settled in to a quiet (or “quiet,” if you like) rural life in Missouri and are enjoying doing things like gardening and keeping chickens in the backyard. You can keep up with their ordinary adventures over at her blog, or take a peek at her crochet patterns and tutorials at Inner Child Crochet.
Article Â© Melissa Mall. All rights reserved.
It’s so satisfying to see that piece of scrunched up acrylic relaxing into shape, i tend to pin simple things like scarves to the ironing board and hover the steaming iron above it (as close as i can get without the iron touching) just so that i can watch the yarn relax. For bigger items like shawls i pin out on to childrens foam floor mats and use a clothes steamer to block/kill. I’ve also found that slouch hats that are a bit rigid, drape and slouch so much better after a few of bursts of steam to the back portion 🙂
Just a suggestion, if this is your first time killing acrylic, practice on a swatch made of the same yarn as your project first. This will give you a chance to determine just how much pressure the yarn will tolerate. And will keep you from ruining that sweater you just spent years on!