Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Blocking Board

I have not finished the pincushion but I did finish the crochet and decided to block it before I went any further. I've known for some time that I needed to replace the paper on my blocking boards but just hadn't taken the time to do it. Once I got the big one done, I thought....this might be a helpful post...so I took photos of the smaller one in process.

When I first started tatting, I would iron all my pieces and lightly starch them with spray starch. Well...you CAN do that, but it flattens the threads and on those with a high sheen, like perle cottons, it dulls them. It's also hard to get the picots to lay right, especially if there are a lot of them. I pressed mine between two layers of old men's hankies and a chain here or there would manage to turn without me catching it. So I decided to wet them and start pinning them out. I find I have more control over how they ultimately turn out, even if it does take longer.

In the winter, I set the board by the furnace floor vent and it's dry in no time. In summer, if I'm really in a hurry, I'll use the hair dryer on it.

Here's my smaller board - just a piece of styrofoam. The bigger one is too. They were lids on shipping containers in their previous lives that I confiscated when they were set out for trash at work. They are denser than most of your packing styrofoam and I've had them for several years now. I noticed on the big one that the sides where I stored the pins when not in use are beginning to look a little pocked. It's probably good for another year or two though.

I used to use waxed paper, which held up well, but I decided to go with parchment paper last year on the big one and I like the way it holds up. I usually only have to change the paper once a year. This one is way overdue, as you can see by the holes. I kept pinning below the holes. LOL! The parchment paper doesn't seem as likely to tear as the waxed paper either when it is wet. Sometimes I spray the item with water once it is all pinned out if it didn't seem to get good and wet in the first place - or if I need to adjust something.

I tear off a sheet longer than the board. For this small one, I also had to trim it so it wouldn't hang over the sides. I've folded over the edge that I will pin to the back of the board. Folding it over isn't necessary but it seems to make it easier to pin neatly and I have less trimming to do. The paper is between the styrofoam and the table. It doesn't have a right/wrong side so it doesn't matter which side is facing the board. I've made sure I have enough to pin at the opposite end too.

I'm holding the folded edge in place and sticking the straight pins in. This board is not as thick as the bigger one and I found I needed to put the pins in at an angle so they wouldn't come through the front. That was not an issue with the bigger board.

You can barely see the pin heads but the edge is secured now. On the opposite side, I made sure the paper was snug and smooth and pinned the other edge in the same way.

This one is actually the bigger board. You can see some guidelines through the paper that I drew on the styrofoam. I didn't use them for this pinning, but they come in very handy when you are trying to get something straight and symmetrical.

As I said, you don't have to block your tatting this way (or crochet) but for larger projects, it's easier to make them look even all around. BTW, you should pin from the center out. Start as close to the middle as you can find a securing point and then gradually work your way out, getting each point or round as even with the rest as you can. It's best not to stretch your picots out to pin - they'll end up pointy. Bring them out as far as you can without pulling tight on them. If you want them really rounded, take the pins out before they are completely dry.


  1. Wow, I think we must share a brain. If I were to write a post about my blocking technique, this would be it -- to the letter. That is exactly what I do, right down to setting the blocking board by the heat vent!

  2. Oh that's funny! LOL! I've seen other people's tatting pinned but I don't know what it was on. I've never actually seen anybody else's.

  3. Thank you for a great post Gina.

    I do it slightly different.
    I wrap my board with clear clingwrap. Before wrapping it up totally, I slide a polar graph paper underneath the clingwrap. This polar graph have many concentric circles in it and many spokes or axis. I use the polar graph with the right number of axis according to what I am blocking - 12 axis for snowflakes, 10-axis for stars and 8-axis for squares. Because the clingwrap is seethrough I can arrange and pin the stars/snowflakes following the axis of the graph paper and they turned out eually balanced. I usually wet or starch the tatting before pinning it on the board.

  4. You have said all the essentials! I do not wrap my styrofoam, just use it as it is, as I seldom starch my tatting and they are not symmetrical. But when I do occassionally starch them or need to use a template to block them, I simply use a clear plastic sheet in between the tatting and the stryofoam.

  5. I've wondered what others used to block their pieces on. I use a cork board that originally was for macramé. It has a cover with the horizontal and vertical lines one it, and started out covered in plastic. The paper with the markings is getting pretty messed up. (I took a macramé class when I was 16? I think - a long, long time ago!) I'm going to try the parchment paper like you suggested - I've been looking for what to cover it with. Thanks for the great post!!

  6. What a very cool (FREE!!!) blocking board. I've always used bulletin boards that were on their way to the garbage and stuck a layer of saran wrap on it each time I blocked.

  7. Anonymous11:45 PM

    Nice idea. Maybe I could use the lid of one of those styrofoam coolers for one like that.

  8. I am LOVING the product Best Press by Mary Ellen company. I am working on a collar consisting of rings that was looking like an accordion until I started spraying each spoke with Best Press. You can watch as the tatting smooths out. I simply lay the tatting on a towel and saturate with Best Press and smooth with my fingers. This piece does not have many picots to straighten - but if it did, I would use a piece of ethafoam (very dense unbreakable packing foam)and pin the picots.
    gina Butler in OKC

  9. Hi Gina, Thank you for the very descriptive post. I do the same thing, but I use plsatic wrap. But I think I like your idea better with the parchment paper.

  10. It sounds like many people use the clear plastic wrap. All I have is the press & seal, which wouldn't be appropriate. I tend to be all thumbs with plastic wrap, even the regular kind, but I think it would work well too.

    Ginabea - I hadn't heard of that product. It sounds sort of like hair conditioner - tames the snarls! And I've certainly had some tatting that acted like that - stiff and didn't want to be coaxed into any kind of shape. Thanks for mentioning it. I'll keep my eyes open for it.


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