How to Block Thread Work
by Megan Mills
Hello fellow crafty people. :)
Blocking your thread work evens it out and reveals the full beauty of the design.
If the article has just been made weave in the tails but do not trim them off yet.
After washing your article (it is surprising how grubby it can become as you make it) rinse it thoroughly. Squeeze out the excess moisture with a towel (do not wring or rub, just hold in the towel and squeeeeeze).
Put a plain pillowslip or other smooth fabric over a thick, padded surface that you will be able to pin into (the ironing board works well) and pin it in place - with rustless pins, of course! It helps if the pillowslip is a different colour to your thread work (I like pale blue).
If you do not have a suitable surface you can make one by padding two or three layers of corrugated cardboard with a towel and clamping it with bulldog clips (or clothes pegs) around the outside so the towel and pillowcase are flat and smooth and won't shift as you work.
Push a pin straight down through the very middle of your article and into the padded surface, this anchors the middle. I never pierce the thread with the pin, I go between the stitches.
Now pull and tug one outer edge as far as it will go (keeping the centre anchored) and pin it in place. Don't try to pin straight down here, the work is under tension and will pull the pin out. Instead pin at an angle so the pin is leaning away from the item. Now do the same on the opposite side.
If the article is square or has obvious corners start with those. Now pull out and pin the edge half way between and do the same on the opposite side. Continue around pulling and pinning first one side and then the opposite side until the whole article is evenly pinned all around at intervals that keep the article nicely in shape.
Now refine the blocking by evening up any scallops or picot points and double check with a measure that your piece is true to the shape it should be (so your square is square and a circle is equidistant from the centre all around, for example). Adjust any pins as required.
If there are raised areas like petals pull and tug those so that they are well-shaped also, while they are damp the cotton is strong enough to hold the shape and will remember this 'training' when it is dry.
Look at the article and tug or push any areas in the design that seem not quite right (elements that are off-centre or bumpy instead of flat, for example). If necessary you can pin inner areas of the article, perhaps to keep picots open and in position.
If the article is large or it is a warm day the piece may be drying too quickly for you to complete all this pinning and prodding. If so just dampen it with a mister or by dabbing it with a (clean) damp cloth.
Now leave the article to dry naturally or hasten the process by aiming a fan at it. As it dries you will probably be able to stretch it a little more all around - unless you have used starch in which case it is probably best just to leave it to dry.
Once dry unpin the article, trim the tails if this is the first time it has been washed and admire! It may seem a little 'stiff' at this stage (which might be just what you want for a doily). If you want it to soften up a little handle it (gently scrunch it in your hand and smooth it out again a few times), the drape will return rapidly.
Ordinary dressmaker's pins will give you very sore fingers if you do a lot of pinning. It helps to use pins that have a ball head on them. I prefer glass-headed pins because I can also iron over them if I like. Yes, in a pinch you can carefully use the iron to thoroughly dry your item if it is taking too long.
Sometimes the areas you need to tug and pull into shape are too small for your fingers to do easily. For those areas I use a pair of tweezers.
Happy blocking! Megan