How to Block a Needlepoint Canvas

Restore Needlepoint to its Original Shape after Stitching

Learn how to use needlepoint blocking to straighten out needlepoint canvases and make them lie flat to look their best.

Needlepoint blocking is an essential finishing step for almost any needlepoint project. This is because the act of stitching tends to pull the needlepoint canvas out of shape. Blocking involves dampening and stretching the canvas to pull it back to its original form.

Prepare for Blocking Before You Start Stitching

Straightening out a needlepoint canvas is easier if you have a guide to show what the original shape was. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Fold the canvas in half vertically, then mark the folded spot with a waterproof pen at the top and bottom edges. This shows the center point of the canvas. Make sure the ink you use is waterproof because you will be dampening the paper later.
  2. Unfold, then refold the canvas horizontally to mark the center points on the left and right edges.
  3. Trace the outline of the whole canvas onto a heavy piece of paper with waterproof ink before you begin to stitch. Mark the paper with the name of the project and keep it until the stitching is finished.

How to Block a Small Canvas with Minor Distortions

If your canvas is small and not too badly pulled out of shape, it may be possible to block it with a steam iron set on the wool setting. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Cover the needlepoint with a damp cloth.
  2. Steam the canvas, holding the iron, so it doesn’t quite touch the surface. Pull the canvas into shape while steaming it.

How to Block a Larger or More Distorted Needlepoint Canvas

Start with a clean, flat piece of pine board, ½” plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) larger than the canvas. Use a quilting ruler or carpenter’s square to make sure the board’s edges are square.

Mark the Needlepoint Blocking Board

Marking the blocking board will help with alignment. There are several options for this:

  • If you have the paper outline of the canvas before it was stitched, tack it down on the blocking board and use it to align the canvas.
  • Cover the blocking board with checked gingham fabric and use the lines to align the canvas grid.
  • Draw a one-inch grid on the board with a waterproof marking pen. Make sure the ink is waterproof!

Dampen the Needlepoint Canvas

There are also several different ways to dampen the canvas. Whichever method you use, the yarn should feel damp on both sides, but not soaked.

  • Sprinkle the canvas with water or wrapping it in a damp towel
  • Roll the canvas in a wet, wrung-out towel and leave it for several hours.
  • Tack it on the blocking board as described below while it is still dry, then wet it with a sponge.

Tack the Canvas onto the Blocking Board

With the canvas face down, start at one corner and place tacks every inch along the edges, stretching and straightening the canvas to align with the drawing on the paper or the grid marks on the blocking board. Continue pulling the canvas taut and tacking it along the edges until you reach the opposite corner of the canvas.

Re-Dampen the Needlepoint Canvas

When everything looks straight, sprinkle the canvas with water again and let it dry in a warm spot for at 24-48 hours, until it is completely dry.

Remove the canvas from the blocking board only when you are sure it is dry.

Some Needlepoint Needs More Blocking

Some needlepoint stitches, such as the continental stitch, can distort a needlepoint canvas so badly that one round of blocking isn’t enough. You may need to block those projects several times to completely straighten them out. It may even make sense to take a misshapen canvas to a needlepoint store for a professional to block it

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