Despite the fact that I did quite a bit of knitting, I knew nothing about the process of blocking. My mother, who was a prolific knitter, never blocked anything. I remember her pressing pieces before sewing them together and her sweaters were always beautiful. She only knit with acrylic yarn however, and I think she missed out on the beauty of real wool yarn.
Thank goodness for the internet, because knitting magazines are sorely lacking on how to block your knitted pieces before sewing them together.
The last few sweaters I have knit, I have pinned in place onto a styrofoam board which I covered with 1/4" gingham. I figured that the gingham would help me to line things up and it works very well for this. You still require a tape measure to get the finished dimensions correct, but then you can just use the squares to pin everything where it should be. After pinning the pieces to the board, I then misted them thoroughly with a plant mister until they were damp all over and then I left them to dry. This took several days.
But another visit to the internet and an alternate method was discovered on YouTube. Soak the sweater pieces in the sink in cool water, squeeze out the water, roll the piece up in a towel and squeeze out the excess water. Using wool, this works beautifully - the piece will be damp but not soaking and then you simply pin it in place to the measurements given in the pattern for the size you knit. And wait for it to dry. This latest sweater has taken about one day to dry.
This sweater is far from perfect; some mistakes I undid and corrected; others I just let them go, thinking that if anyone is close enough to see the mistakes, they will have to be someone I know very well. And they will also have to be a knitter. The chances of both of those happening are extremely slim.
The essential tools for blocking: your pattern with the finished measurements (stretch the sweater out to measure to those numbers), tape measure and pins.
And yes, so original, I made the sweater in the same colour as the one in the pattern book. The yarn I used was Cascade 220, 100% wool, I love this yarn and it knits easily without splitting and shows stitch definition well. I have already cast on another Aran pattern, I really love cables.