Monday, 30 September 2013

Reshaping (Blocking) Needlepoint Canvases

My first great crafting love was, and probably still is needlepoint; though we parted company for a good few years and it's taken the introduction of it to the 12yo to remind me.  I learnt as a very young child and, having taught the 12yo am truly impressed with the patience on my Mother and Grandmother! When caught up in a project, I find it utterly addictive, soothing and satisfying, and especially good (and more sociable than sewing) when curled up on the sofa in the evenings.  With all the big sewing projects the last couple of years, I have not had the time to risk being diverted, but as this year's big sewing project is continuing to prove problematic, a diversion was exactly what I needed.  I have on the long-term "to do" list an idea that one day I will have sofas full of mis-matched, handmade and much loved cushions.  This is the first of the handmades, care of the extremely clever Emily Peacock and Kirsty Allsop's Craft: a tin of Sardines!  Having not had access to the wools recommended, I took liberties both with the colours (Anchor substitutions done by sight) and, as I found out right at the end of the project, the pattern as my printer rendered a third of the sardine's spots invisible!

Back in Hong Kong, where I learnt to love needlepoint, Mum and Nan made cushion tops all the time and off they went to the cushion making man and came back beautifully stretched and sewn into cushions.  A quick Google and I rapidly decided that, as a) I can make cushions and b) stretching a canvas couldn't be that difficult, £52+ was a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a similar service.  One quick read of a couple of Needlepoint Blocking 101 pages later, a scrubble round the draw for some tacks and a beg of the boyf to find me a piece of wood and I took my first stab at stretching a canvas.  It really is very easy to do and a good thing too as my second project is, literally, in hand!

I soaked the canvas lightly (it should be wet through but not utterly drenched) in warm water and rolled it immediately, and quite tightly, in a towel, to draw out the water: being careful not to rub or disturb the wool.  I then left it to rest for 5-10 minutes while I prepared the board.

You can, or course, buy boards but I wasn't going to spend the money on what might be my first and only attempt at this.  I also read suggestions that the board should be covered with fabric but this one was entirely smooth and I could not see the benefit in doing that.  I decided to keep is simple.  On my board I marked out a grid in pencil.  No great thought was put into it, the squares were the width of the ruler, they were simply there as a guide when eyeing everything up.

And then, with the help of the lovely boyf, we pinned.  As all the guides recommend, it is not so much about stretching the canvas to suit a shape, but working it; allowing some areas to ease as others are gently stretched.  It took a couple of goes, the canvas was quite twisted, but I am very pleased with the results.  Now we just have to be patient and wait for it to dry, 3-5 days is recommended.

If the canvas needs further stretching, and it is recommended in severe cases to repeat the process rather than try to force it the first time, then it can be redipped and stretched once completely dry.  I think I will be happy with mine as it is.  Now I just need to brush up on my cushion making techniques as this will be a curved corner, box pillow construction ideally with a zip and I hate zips!  Though the idea of the cushion being steely, sardine tine coloured, grey and a bright red or blue zip for detail does immediately make me smile.  In fact, I think I have just had a good idea... a zip sewn on externally, rather than hidden, with a ribbon detail at either end for neatness.... hmmmm.

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