When deciding whether to block or not, the fiber of the finished project is key in deciding your methods.
The doilies I showed in my previous post are 100% cotton. Cotton blocks well, especially in a lacy pattern. In most circumstances, you would soak in plain water. But, if you have a variety of bright colors in one project, you might want to consider adding some vinegar and/or salt to your soaking solution to help set the dyes and prevent colors from bleeding. Nothing is more heartbreaking than soaking a finished project and seeing your red thread has turned all the white threads an irregular shade of pink. I use about a half cup of vinegar and a couple teaspoons of salt in my bathroom sink full of cool water.
The downside of blocking cotton is that you will need to do it every time you wash your project. Cotton will revert back to its original shape when wet, so in order to open those stitches back up, they need to be stretched out again.
But, what about wool? Wool behaves very uniquely when soaked and blocked. It has memory, so the placement of stitches during your blocking locks them in place during the blocking process, and depending on the fiber, will withstand machine or hand washing and retain that shape. Pretty cool! Follow the fiber instructions before washing though, as not all wool can be machine washed.
Wool feels and performs better after washing if you soak in a lanolin no rinse washing solution. I like Eucalan. And as someone sensitive to scents, I prefer unscented Eucalan. Like this one.
I add one capful of Eucalan to my sink of cool water. I normally let it soak for at least 30 minutes, but sometimes I get distracted and left something soaking as long as overnight with no adverse effects.
Acrylic, or other synthetic fibers don’t necessarily *require* blocking, but in my opinion, everything looks better after blocking. I would treat any synthetic fiber much the same as I would cotton. Check for color fastness and add vinegar and salt if needed.
After I remove anything from soaking, whether it’s cotton, wool, or a synthetic, I use the same method. I have two thick beach towels reserved just for this. Make sure they’re clean and dry. You don’t want to contaminate your project with anything unplanned!
Remove your project from the soaking liquid and gently squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can without wringing. If it’s something small, I normally squish it against the side of the sink until I can lift it without it dripping too much.
I then lay it out flat on my already spread out beach towel. If it’s bigger than your beach towel, go ahead and use the second towel. Or more if you need them! Then, I fold the towel over if I can, or lay a fresh towel on top. When the top and bottom are covered by dry towels I gently roll up the towels, keeping my project flat inside, kind of like a cinnamon roll. Once your have your towel cinnamon roll, you can press down on the towels as hard as you can. The project is well protected inside your roll so just go to town! Don’t wring though, because that places undue pressure on your stitches. The more water you can remove at this stage, the less time the next step will take.
Once you’re confident you’ve done your work, you can unroll your project and set to pinning it on your blocking surface. If you have blocking boards, that’s my preference, but I also will block directly on a mattress (over a sheet).
Depending on the size and fiber of a project, drying can take just a few hours, to a few days sometimes! I have a ceiling fan in the room that I use for blocking, so I turn it on high and shut the door to keep my kitties away. (And lock it to keep out my naughty Percy who’s long enough to open my doors!)
You can check periodically and see how the drying is coming along. I encourage you to not unpin the whole thing until you are 100% sure that is completely dry. Pinning for blocking is even more tedious than sewing in ends, in my opinion, and you don’t want to do it more than once!
Once it’s dry, you’re ready to go! Admire your work, you deserve it!