Blocking and stiffening
When crocheting or knitting, you will often be instructed to block the piece/pieces.
Blocking is basically a way of stretching and shaping a piece to a certain shape or size. It helps it to look better, to be more uniform in shape and sets the design.
With some items, all that is needed is plain water. You will also need rust-proof pins; a ruler or measuring tape, or patterns or grids; a blocking board, carpeted floor, or any flat surface padded well. A steam iron is optional.
Just dampen the piece with water until wet, but not dripping, squeeze gently in a towel. Spread out on towel or blocking board. Gently stretch and pin to desired shape and size. Allow to dry.
Another option is steam; this can be very useful for things that shouldn’t be allowed to get too wet. But you need to be careful with man-made fibres that can melt, or be affected by heat.
Steaming can be done one of two ways.
One way is to shape and stretch the item as you pin it. Then hold a steam iron about half an inch above the item. Avoid actually touching the item. Allow to dry thoroughly.
The other option is to steam it this way first, then pin it into shape on the blocking board or prepared place.
Sometimes some things need to be stiffened as well as blocked. You need to do this for ornaments that need to be hung up, for crocheting or knitting that needs to hold a three dimensional shape, and even for some doilies, when you want it to be a little firmer. There are quite a few ways to stiffen items. I tested three different ways on my crocheted earrings.
White glue(PVA): this is a basic wood glue.
Mix well with an equal quantity of water. Soak the item in the mixture, soak up excess moisture with a towel. Pin on blocking board as required.
Sugar: this seems to be the traditional method of stiffening, especially useful for doilies shaped into baskets and bowls.
Mix 2 parts sugar with 1 part water in saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil, just till all the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Soak the item in the mixture, soak up excess moisture with a towel.
Pin on blocking board as required.
Cornflour: Also called corn-starch in some Countries. This seems to be a great idea, because it’s something that’s often in the pantry at home.
Mix 1 tablespoon cornflour and half a cup of water in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat till translucent and thickened. Allow to cool. Soak the item in the mixture; soak up excess moisture with a towel.
Pin on blocking board as required.
There are many other stiffeners that I haven’t tried. I’ve heard of gelatine being used, hairspray, commercial starches, and wallpaper paste.
White glue: I was able to shape these fairly well even without the pins. It was a little stiffer already, but easily manoeuvred and stretched. I liked using it.
These gave a fairly stiff homemade cardboard feel.
Sugar: This again was easy to shape as soon as I started. I liked working with it as well, but it was very sticky.
These were quite stiff, almost hard. The crosses made with mercerised cotton were even stiffer than the rest.
Cornflour: This stiffener didn’t stiffen up as I worked it, it definitely needed quite a lot of pinning and stretching.
This stiffener only gave a very light stiffening.
THE BOTTOM LINE
For three dimensional objects I think the sugar stiffener would be needed, but if it doesn’t need to be really hard, the glue solution would probably work.
The cornflour felt so nice to use, but it wouldn’t hold a three dimensional object, and it needed lots of pinning.
I’m thinking for 3d baskets and bowls, sugar solution would be needed, for doilies that need to be fairly firm, but not stiff, glue would be great. But for two dimensional earrings and doilies cornflour would suffice.