Sunday, March 9, 2014

Damp Stretching Embroidery

In my last post I set out to find a cork board to use to damp stretch or block my embroidery. The embroidery I wanted to stretch is a working sampler I have been using to test out stitches for a small project I want to do. I wanted to see if the wrinkles between the rows of stitched blocks will be smoothed out with the stretching.

I started in the middle and pinned outwards along each side, alternating sides as I went, and stretching between each pin I placed.  
You can see how each side of the linen is slightly distorted at the top and the bottom. That should even out when the fabric is stretched on the other two sides as well. The thimble came in handy when my fingers started to complain. I had to push quite hard to get the little round headed map pins firmly into the cork so that the tension on the fabric would not dislodge them as I pulled and stretched. 
At this stage I ran out of map pins. There were still a few wrinkles on the top half especially on the right so I went back and stretched out the linen a bit more. I had no idea just how hard I should pull.
There was also a bit of a bulge at the top right and bottom left of the fabric.

The second lot of map pins I tried have a flat head which is much easier on the fingers if you are going to be using a lot of them to pin a large piece of embroidery. I found that the actual pin part is quite thick compared to the white-headed pins I started with and I will be extra careful when I try them out on a finer fabric.

This part to me was like magic. Once all the pins were in and I sprayed the fabric, the wrinkles started to disappear! I thought they would vanish as the fabric dried, but immediately the linen started to get wet the wrinkles started to flatten out before my eyes.

I must admit I did rather get carried away with using my new spray bottle and in the end I wet the linen quite thoroughly, more than I intended to do.
Next morning it was all dry and when I removed the pins the linen looked and felt like new. The other nice thing I observed was that the stitching remained all rounded and fresh looking, a definite advantage over the steam ironing I have tried in the past. 

I could see along the edge that I had stretched it a bit more in some places than others and the edge was not perfectly straight. 
I put the pins in just inside the edges that I had zigzagged. None of them frayed out the side threads of the linen, something I had wondered about.

This is the area that was originally the most wrinkled. I didn't know how much to stretch out the linen but I think I can pull a bit harder next time I stretch it and try to get rid of those feint wrinkles that are still there. You can only see them if you look for them but they need to come out next time.
Thanks again to Karen Ruane for sharing how to stretch an embroidery on her the blog and for answering all my questions.  I will definitely stretch my embroideries in future rather than trying to iron them.


  1. Hi Lyn, Thanks for sharing. After the few pieces I've done and all my daughter's pieces, we have washed them and pressed, but also noticed the flattening of the stitches. So my thinking now is to let them dry after washing, and then block and spray (it may some time before getting to try!). Karen.

    1. Hi Karen. Thanks for stopping by. After seeing the results of my stretching experiment I will only block my pieces in future. It gives a really good finish. It took years of trying this and that but after finding something suitable to stretch the work on I am converted. It was nice to find your blog too and I have added it to my blog roll.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Lyn. It is really helpful - and your piece looks great. I have blocked knitting - especially shawls, using a similar method on a carpet, but will try this now for embroidery.

    1. Hi Jillian. Thanks for your comments. With the cork sealed I know that putting wet fabric on it will be safe and no colour will be transferred. Its also a nice firm surface and you can put quite a lot of tension on the pins when you stretch the linen. Good luck with your damp stretching.