Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finishing a Flat Ornament I

I'm going to do this in stages. This first stage doesn't have many pictures but I promise more with the next stage.

Making a flat ornament (or door hanger or scissors fob) with a design on canvas
A. Getting started, washing and blocking the needlepoint

First, and most important, think about your finishing before you begin the piece, if possible. As you stitch, begin planning the finishing. Some needlepoint designs are easier to finish if you stitch a couple of rows of basketweave around the outer edge. It’s also more difficult to finish a complex outer edge-perhaps it would be better to fill in and smooth the edge with some background stitches (or basketweave).

The Santa is a largish design for an ornament so I decided to finish it fairly flat, to minimize it’s size when hanging on a tree. The outline is fairly smooth so I didn’t do any extra stitching for this project.

(1) Inspect your finished piece. Hold it up to the light to find any missed stitches. Check the back (and front, as the case may be) for loose threads.

(2) Wash the piece, if necessary and if you’re sure the fibers you used will not bleed or run. (To check, lightly rub each color area (on the back) with a damp white paper towel to see if you pick up any color.)

I used a large lasagna pan filled with tepid water and one drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash Santa because he’d been hanging around a long time, part of it in the basement. I mixed the soap into the water and then set the needlepoint piece in it, pressing down gently with my fingers. I used my fingers to swish the water around a bit, but didn’t agitate the piece itself. I rinsed it many times with more tepid water (tip the water out of the pan and then add more slowly) and then blocked it.

It’s often not necessary to wash a piece, if care is taken while stitching. It’s also often not possible, due to the fiber content. If I don’t wash it, if I think it’s at all possible, I spray it with a mist of water, especially on the excess canvas around the edge, to soften it a bit before blocking.

I have a needlepoint blocking board, which is handy but not necessary. You can also use a board large enough to hold your piece flat, covered with some batting you can pin into and then fabric. (One-inch gingham can come in handy but you have to be careful making the cover to keep it very square.) You can pull the cover fabric around to the back of the board and staple it evenly. (This type of board also works for blocking all types of embroidery.)

You want something stable and firm you can pin into. I’ve pinned small projects onto my ironing board. My blocking board looks like pegboard and that might work, too. I use aluminum nails to block the canvas, they will fit into the holes and won’t rust.

More care needs to be taken in blocking a piece that will be framed, especially with a mat. That will showcase any distortion. If you know you’re going to frame your piece, your best bet is to work it on a frame or stretcher bars to minimize any possible distortion from the stitching. Certain needlepoint stitches distort more than others, too. This Santa design doesn’t have any square edges so blocking is more to make the piece look good and flatten it a bit.

Block the piece square by pinning the center top, pulling and pinning the center bottom, then pulling and pinning each center side. Check that the threads are square and you’re not pulling at an angle. Then pin one pin out from each center pin, placing your pin in the same canvas row and pulling the canvas evenly. Continue pinning going around and around until you reach the corners. Check again to make sure the canvas threads are square. They may be distorted a bit right at the pins but should be fine as you move into the piece. A t-square, right-angle triangle, or ruler can help. If it’s not right, repin it.

If I haven’t washed the piece, I spritz it again with a mist of water. Then I let it dry, at least overnight.

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