I have always been a fan of blocking knitted items even though it takes time at the end when you just can't wait to wear the item or to give it to someone special. However, wet blocking an item in no rinse wool wash (I use Eucalan for moth prevention), especially when it is made of wool, can do wonders for it.
In the past, I always finished the entire piece before blocking it, but lately, I have been tempted to block it in pieces as I see many knitters do. There are advantages to each method. When you block the whole sweater at once, you are completely finished with it once it is dry. If it is a cardigan, you have already picked up and knit the button band since all of the pieces were already seamed before blocking. This means you only have to wet the item once. The down side is that when seaming the pieces, they can sometimes be a bit tricky to work with since they are still curled up more than they would be after blocking. This is where seaming in pieces can really be great and it is why I decided to do it this time. Once the pieces are blocked, seaming it is so much easier! The edges of the pieces are almost flat and the stitch definition is sharp, so it is a lot more clear which stitch to use for mattress stitch as you work up the sides of each piece.
Here are some photos of the cardigan I designed for myself in the process of blocking (they are a little dark since I block them in my basement):
As you can see, I lay out a large lawn tarp on the basement floor and cover it with towels. I then lay out each of the pieces, measuring them as I lay them out to be sure they meet the desired dimensions. I don't usually pin sweater pieces, but the two fronts of this cardigan appeared unusually small to me. I wanted to be sure they reached the dimensions, so I pinned them in a few key spots to be sure they stretched out a bit. I put on a fan and let these pieces dry for over day.
I was so happy with the results. Each of the pieces seems to be exactly the widths I desired. Unfortunately, the lengths are slightly longer than I had planned, but not too much so that it will be a problem. I am not sure why this happened since I was extremely careful during the blocking process not to let the wool pieces hand down as I picked them up and moved them around. My only theory is that it has something to do with the lace pattern. I will admit that I didn't pay as much attention to my row gauge as I should have.
I am working on seaming the pieces now and hoping to have an FO soon.