You've stitched it. Now you need to block your needlepoint design. What should you use for a needlepoint blocking board?
1. Homemade needlepoint blocking board option
If you have a smooth piece of wood at home you can make a needlepoint blocking board. All you really need is a board that will hold pins or tacks securely.
The board will also need to be clean and smooth, so as not to soil or abrade your needlepoint canvas and threads. Cover it with a cloth if it is neither of those things.
2. Inexpensive commercial needlepoint blocking board option.
We use these blocking mats to block our stitched needlepoint canvases.
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Place the tacks as close as you can to the stitched needlepoint. This provides more leverage to stretch the canvas back into shape. Also, re-shape the dampened canvas by hand as much as you can before you place the tacks.
Pro Tip: When blocking a needlepoint canvas start by placing the tacks in the middle of each side, rather than the corners. For example, place the first tack in the top middle, second tack in the bottom middle, then left middle, right middle, and work toward the corners as you move around the canvas, stretching it to right angles as you go. If you start in the corners you will apply too much angular tension and the canvas will buckle and likely pull the tacks out.
NB: Although you can dampen your needlepoint on these needlepoint blocking boards, please test your yarn for color-fastness first. Even if the label says the thread is color-fast, some colors have a habit of bleeding - we're looking at you, "red".
All you need to do to test the fibers is dampen some leftover pieces and blot them firmly with a paper towel. If you're not seeing any color on the towel then you're good to go. If the color comes off on the towel you should consider dry-blocking.
Whichever option you choose to block your needlepoint canvas it's important to know when you need to block a canvas.
If you are sending your stitched needlepoint canvas to a professional finisher they will block it for you.
If you are self-finishing a project, always block it first, even if it looks straight. This is especially important if you are framing your needlepoint design. When even a slightly-skewed needlework is placed into a perfectly square frame, the irregularity becomes obvious.
We use the framing services of Framebridge a lot—and we love them— but we always block the pieces before sending them off. Your local framer may block for you but it would pay to ask.
If you are shopping on Amazon, the other thing we always pick up when we're there is 3/4" artist tape to edge the needlepoint canvases that don't come taped, or that need re-taping. Artist tape sticks better than masking tape and doesn't leave that sticky yellowish residue.