This week I would like to talk about blocking your embroidery. This is not something I have always done in the past but lately I have found that it is the only way to remove those pesky puckers, wrinkles and hoop marks from our completed embroidery.
Why does my fabric pucker?
Firstly, lets look at what causes puckering and the different types of fabric. Linen is more resilient than cotton, the fibres tend to bounce back into shape more easily than cotton fibres, which are slightly more tense. When choosing a cotton or linen for embroidery it is important that the weft and warp are evenly distributed – so when you pull it lengthways and widthways it does not stretch too much, this will help prevent puckering.
It is also important to choose a fabric with a very close weave (200 ct or more) as this tends to support your embroidery better. Recommended linen and cotton fabric can be found in the shop. If the fabric is too light or has a loose weave it may not support the embroidery adequately, so the fabric will crumple under the weight.
Tension in the hoop
Slack tension in the hoop is also one of the causes of puckering. Your fabric should be stretched drum tight – horizontally and vertically whilst stitching.
Hoop marks are often caused by dust/dirt settling around the hoop edge whilst stitching, and also a deep crease/indent line can result from where it has been stretched in the hoop for long periods. To prevent this you can make a cover for your embroidery, and bind the inner hoop which is explained more fully in my Handbook. However, despite every effort to avoid this happening, there may still be a slight mark that is difficult to remove.
Blocking Your Embroidery
Please note that I have used this method for pure fibres like linen and cotton. I don’t have experience with synthetci/silk fabrics, so perhaps do a test sample first.
Blocking your completed stitching will remove all these marks and creases. I am going to show you how to do this step by step. I have chosen a small piece of of embroidery stitched on cotton fabric, with quite bad puckering and a hoop mark as an example so you can see the results.
One of the reasons that this piece has puckers is because there are little gaps between elements of the stitching – these tend to cause the worst areas of puckering. You can see in this close up here.
You will Need
A cork board/polystyrene board and Map pins
Wash the piece of embroidery in a mild soap powder in tepid/warm water. I like to leave it to soak for a while and then get a soft toothbrush and scrub the areas where dirt/dust has marked the fabric. Rinse thoroughly and wrap in a fluffy towel to remove excess moisture.
If you have used silk/rayon thread in your embroidery it is not recommended that you wash it as the colours may run. Some good quality silks can be washed, be sure to read the manufacturers instructions to ensure they are colorfast. If you are at all unsure about the threads you have used (sometimes the very dark reds can run in the DMC/Anchor range) then rather use this method:
Lightly spray the fabric around the embroidery (not on the embroidery itself) and block as outlined.
Try to line up your embroidery fabric with the straight edge of your cork board. Put a pin in the corner – stretch across the length and place another pin in the opposite corner. Repeat this for each corner.
Place pins along one side as shown. Whilst stretching the fabric across place pins on the opposite side. Repeat for all sides.
Adjust any areas that are not completely stretched. The piece should look like this in the photo.
Allow to dry. You can hurry this up by placing in the sun for about an hour or using a hairdryer. Remove the pins and give a light press on the back of the work if necessary. The result is a pucker/wrinkle free piece of embroidery. The stitches tend to settle nicely into place and it is now ready to mount for framing or to make up into an item of your choice. It really works – MAGIC!
Before and After.
Blocking your fabric before you stitch
A picture framer on Instagram told me that she blocked her customer’s fabric before they stitched and it saved all sorts of problems when framing. This makes total sense to me and I am going to adopt this idea in future. However, I would not recommend blocking fabric that you purchase with a print on it – as the fabric may shrink and cause the image to distort. If you are tracing your own outline or using one of my transfers it would be ideal.
New items in the shop
Next time we will discuss how to mount your finished embroidery. Meanwhile, wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful weekend and happy stitching.