Saturday, May 7, 2011

From Stitches to Masterpiece: Step 1- Cleaning

There has been a lot of talk about what to do with a piece of cross stitch once you've finished it on forums I frequent. And considering I had my Tiger still needing to be dealt with, I thought I'd pass along what I know about how to make something that could just look like it was thrown together into something that truly shows off all the work done- well.

The standard way is, of course, to frame the piece which conveniently was my plan for my Tiger anyway! But even if you choose another way to display your project like turning it into a pillow or part of a quilt, there are some steps you really should take.

I will admit to being a bit of a stitchery snob. I think every piece of stitching, whether its embroidery, cross stitch, knitting, lace, and even quilts, are not complete if you cut corners on your finishing. This includes everything from blocking and ironing, to buying good quality frames, and even tidying up my loose threads on the backside.

After all, you don't want to spend a year of your life working on something only to have all its flaws shown off because you couldn't be bothered to go to a little bit more effort, do you?
Lesson 1: Cleaning

But before I can get into the nitty gritty of blocking, a word about cleaning your piece. Personally, this is the most nerve racking part of ANY project for me. I always worry about things bleeding and ruining my work, not that its ever happened, but I worry. I'm a worry wart. This is why I always pre-wash fabric before I start sewing something- aside from the rat poop business. Long before I knew about that, I pre-washed fabric so that my finished project was much less likely to bleed when I had to wash it. I pre-wash just about everything- from fat quarters to Aida- although no longer jelly rolls. Grr.

But you can't pre-wash your embroidery or cross stitch! So, I worry. Even when I know my threads are designed not to bleed.

Before you consider either blocking or ironing your work, you need to clean it. Even if you think you always had clean hands when you worked it, the oils from your fingers will have rubbed into it and can discolor your project in time.

The How-To
The best way to wash your stitching is to let it soak in cold water- not lukewarm, cold. Get a large enough bowl to hold your project and allow enough depth that the water will be able to fully cover the project. If you don't have a large enough bowl, a sink or the bathtub will work, but I highly suggest cleaning it very well before you do so.

You want to use a non-fragranced, non-bleach, simple soap. You should avoid anything that says "optical brighteners" or any sort of "bleaching agent." I prefer dishwashing soap such as Fairy. And you only need the tiniest amount.
Put the soap in and swish the water slowly, so as not to actually create suds, while still managing to get the soap distributed evenly through the water. You do not want a blob visible in the water as that will just end up on your project and be a pain to get out. Those blobs above? They need to get distributed through the water before the project goes in.

Put your project in. Make sure your entire project is under the water. Then let it stand in the water for 15-20 minutes.

When the time is up pour out the water. Then refill and gently swish your project in the clean water. Repeat this a couple of times until you feel there's no soap left. Empty the water a final time.

Take a look at your project. If there were any trouble spots you thought needed fixing before, see if they're gone (and I don't mean, where you stitched funny. I mean, where it looked like you could see your fingerprint cause you held it so tightly for so long). If you feel the need to, repeat the above process again to give it a bit more of a clean. But remember, you need to get all of the soap out of it or that, too, will make things look funny.

When your project comes out of the water, resist the urge to ring the hell out of it- you'll only put more creases into it that you'll have to get out later. I tend to gently press each side against the bowl to get out the excess water, but if you're blocking it, leaving the water in is fine.

No comments:

Post a Comment