We've talked about blocking techniques before, and about how magically it transforms your hunched and lumpy work into something smooth and beautifully professional, with practically no effort at all. That neat and orderly finish is what you want for knitted and crocheted gifts, and since time is getting on and a lot of hats are being made for Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about how to block them. The trouble with hats, put simply, is that they're very rarely flat. You can't pin just them out like a scarf or a shawl. But help's at hand, and the picture below shows all you need. After you've soaked your hat well and blotted out most of the moisture in a towel, take a moment to consider: is it flat, like a beret or a tam, or is it round like a beanie? If it's flat, like this wonderful Neep Heid by Kate Davies, simply pop a plate inside it, one large enough to smooth out the knitting. Since our Neep Heid is adult-sized, we used a dinner plate, but smaller hats would need smaller plates. Let the hat dry, and slip the plate out. If your hat is curved, like our own Thistle pattern, then you need the balloon. Soak your hat and blot it as before, and then blow up the balloon to the size you need (smaller for a child, larger for an adult. Crown it with the uniformly damp hat. Wait for it to dry completely and remove the balloon (it can then find a deserving home!). Ta da! Perfectly blocked hats, with even stitches, smooth fabric and impressed recipients. And another thing crossed off the To Do list!