Blocking a Needlepoint, Crewel, Embroidery, or Cross Stitch Piece
When working with any of the needlework types mentioned above, even a small and quickly done piece can be pulled out of shape while it is being stitched. The "best" way to work on a canvas or fabric is to have it stretched in a frame or hoop.
Some pieces are more comfortable when simply held to work on, such as the "Pretty Rose" piece shown below.
I started using a hoop with this piece, but as I worked on the piece, I decided to hold the canvas without a hoop. The piece only took a day and a half to complete (working on it as I could), but even that short amount of time can distort the canvas. The blocking notes below may be used with any of the stitch types; crewel, embroidery, cross stitch, etc., as well as the needlepoint example shown.
Below is the piece after washing it briefly in warm soapy water and rinsing it. You can see the distortion in the "grain" of the weave of the canvas.
Below is a photo of the piece after I have started to block it. I have used some linen pressing cloths under it, and have pinned it to an old corkboard, making the shape as square as possible. I've used both pins and tacks for this initial pinning down. Over the day, I will check it and re-pin it as it dries, to obtain the shape closest to a square grain line.
Below is a photo of the piece after I have re-pinned it and moved it to a second, smaller blocking board. Re-pinning to tighten the piece as it dries may be necessary.
And below is a photo that looks very similar, but if you look closely you will see I have re-dampened the piece so that it is further pulled into shape as it dries again.
The final step in blocking a needlework piece is to press it. Using an iron set on low to medium heat and steam, gently press the piece on the back side, using a pressing cloth in between the piece and the iron to prevent scorching.
This piece isn't perfectly square, but it is much more square than it was, and I am finished with blocking it.
Of course, it is much easier to keep a piece mounted on a frame or stretcher bars while completing it, so that blocking isn't necessary, but blocking any completed piece gives it an extra look of being "finished".
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