I posted a six weeks back about some knitting tools that are worth spending the bit of extra for to ensure long-lasting quality. I have since upgraded my yarn-swift to a lovely wooden one from KnitPicks ... it was on sale and does a spectacular job while also looking lovely (a win-win, yes?)
But there are times when there are less expensive alternatives than buying the official, knitting-company made tools. Case in point: blocking mats. For $20, I can get nine 12-inch square "blocking mats" that are 3/8" thick and white. This would give me a 3x3 square of block-ability. Sounds great and not a bad plan. For another $3, I can get 60 t-pins to use with the blocking mats. Not too bad a deal and KnitPicks is always a good resource for these tools.
That said, I did an Amazon search (my go-to spot for online shopping) and found that I could get a set of four 24-inch square playmats that are 3/4" thick and blue. This gives me a 4x4 square of blockability (with an individual size of 2x2) for $23. I can also get 100 t-pins for $3. So, economically and usefulness dictated that I go with the Amazon one. And the mats/pins work like a charm:
Mary C. Gildersleeve
By Hand, With Heart -- hand-knit designs