Blocking or dressing lace

In order to emphasise the pattern in the lace it is often desirable to block or dress the lace. The term dress is still used in the UK, but is being replaced by the US term blocking, in this article the term blocking will be used throughout.

1. What is blocking?
Blocking is where lace items are pinned out (or for larger items such as human sized shawls, stretched on blocking wires or poles.)
In miniature work the lace is usually pinned to a board as shown below:

blocking lace knitting
© F H Powell 2016

2. Which yarns can be blocked?
Both cotton and wool yarns can be blocked, acrylic is more complex to block and will not be covered in this article.

3. Why do I need to block my work?
Blocking will open up the lace pattern and allow the design to be pulled into shape. This is best illustrated by the before and after photos shown below.

Before blocking the lace will look like this:

unblocked lace
© F H Powell 2016

After blocking the same lace sample looks like this:

blocked lace
© F H Powell 2016

4. How do I block?
The easiest way to block a piece of lace is to wet the lace using COLD water. Wring out any excess water and gently pull into shape. Using dressmaking pins and a ruler (to keep the work straight) pin along one straight edge of the lace, repeat on the other sides gently stretching the work as you go. Leave in a warm place to dry completely, but do not leave the pins in longer than 36 hours or rust patches may develop.

If you have a miniature garment, it is best to block the individual pieces before sewing them up:

blacking miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2016

The pink dress shows how natural looking gathers can be added to the garment at this stage, although cotton or woollen items will hold their shape better.

5. What happens if I want a more natural drape, such as on a tablecloth?
See this article on our blog pages for more information about blocking work directly onto furniture