So, you’ve decided to knit a beret. There are so many beautiful beret patterns available and you’ve searched through them all and chosen the perfect one. You purchased and downloaded it, used the suggested yarn, and followed the pattern instructions exactly. When you finish, you are disappointed to see that your beret looks nothing like the beautiful beret in the pattern photos. What’s going on? Hopefully your pattern clearly stated that your beret would need to be blocked. And it might even give you some instructions on how to block a beret. If not, here’s some help.
A beret is defined as a “visorless usually woolen cap with a tight headband and a soft full flat top” (merriam-webster.com). In order to get that ‘tight headband and soft full flat top’, a few things are necessary. First off, notice that the definition mentioned wool. Wool will conform to any shape you choose when it is wet. And it will stay that way after it dries (until it becomes wet again). So wet-blocking is the preferred method here. That means you must wet your beret, shape it accordingly, and let it dry. Wet-blocking changes the fabric and the gauge. (You noticed that when you blocked your gauge swatch, right?)
So, this is what my Lacy Lady Beret looks like once the knitting is complete. Not very beret-like at all.
Let’s get ready to block it. Gather the necessary equipment. You will need a sink or bowl, water, and some wool wash to soak it in. I like Soak or Eucalan (both Canadian companies!). You will also need a towel to remove as much moisture as possible. And most importantly, you will need a dinner plate to stretch the beret over to achieve the flat top shape.
Soak the beret for several minutes in cool water and wool wash. You want the wool to be thoroughly wet.
Lift the beret from the water and gently squeeze the water out of it. Lay it flat on a towel and roll the beret in the towel, gently squeezing more moisture out.
Now, stretch the beret over the bottom of a dinner plate. I use a few different sizes of plates, depending on the final size of the beret. In this example, I am blocking a fairly slouchy beret so I am using a large 12 inch dinner plate. I also have an 11 inch plate for regular size berets and a 10 inch plate for small berets. (You can usually find a variety of plates at the dollar store – hard plastic outdoor/picnic plates are great!)
The brim is the tricky part. Stretching it over the plate widens it and you don’t want it to dry that way. You want it to fit the circumference of your head. I like to thread a piece of contrasting-coloured yarn through the top of the brim. In this example, the beret has eyelets at the top of the brim that are perfect for this. Carefully thread the yarn through and gently cinch it to the required size.
Now, balance it on a jar or something similar while it dries for maximum air circulation. Make sure it dries completely. You can speed up the process by placing a fan nearby, or my favourite trick is to leave it in the bathroom with the bathroom fan or dehumidifier running.
Once it is completely dry, carefully remove the yarn that was cinching the brim. Carefully remove the beret from the plate. And there it is – a perfectly shaped beret!
Of course, this is not the only blocking method out there. But this is the one I like to use. To learn more about blocking, check out these links:
“Knit.101: Beginner Basics: Blocking” – http://www.vogueknitting.com/pattern_help/how-to/learn_to_knit/finishing/blocking.aspx
“How to Block Knitting” – http://knitting.about.com/od/learntoknit/a/blocking_knits.htm
“To Block or Not to Block” - http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter02/FEATdiyknitter.html