Needlework Blocking, Care, Quick Tips & More

These tips were initially published on their own pages and moved here to make one handy reference sheet.

You’ll find info for cleaning & care of needlework, transferring patterns, a clever idea for a thread organizer and more. Enjoy!

Quick Tips

  • Photocopy the pattern page and insert into a plastic sheet protector. No more ratty patterns!
  • Store threads and yarn in ziploc bags when travelling or picking up while your waiting during errands and appointments. You can open a corner of the bag to let the thread through when your doing your needlework. This helps keep your threads clean and everything stored neatly in the bag so you can get up quickly without having to rush and put everything back in your bag.
  • Use a sticky note to mark your place on the pattern, moving down as needed. When the sticky note loses its stickiness or gets too worn, just replace with another.
  • Place a white cloth on your lap before starting a project. This will help to keep track of dark threads underneath your project’s fabric.

Care of Work

  • Use warm water and pure soap flakes. Do not use detergents or bleaches. Wash by squeezing gently.
  • Rinse thoroughly in warm water, squeeze by hand and leave until half dry.
  • Iron on the wrong side, placing the work face down on an extra thick blanket so that design is not flattened out by the iron. Use a moderately hot iron and press heavily.
  • A damp cloth placed over the work will prevent any possibility of singeing.
  • On right side iron the hems only.

Source: Coats & Clark’s Book No. 144; Learn How to Embroider (1963)

Tipnut’s Notes

I’ve had good success with washing embroidered tablecloths and dishtowels with a good splash of color safe bleach in the washing machine.

I wash them separately from the rest of the household laundry and use regular laundry detergent.

I wouldn’t be brave enough to try machine washing precious linens or using color safe bleach, but for dishtowels and everyday tablecloths, I’ll chance it to clean the textiles from germs and bacteria picked up in the kitchen.

Beginnings & Finishings

When starting a new project, make a few small running stitches along the line to be embroidered, then make one back stitch. (No knots should appear on the wrong side of fabric.)

When the thread becomes too short, acquires a fuzz or untwists, finish it off as follows:

  • Draw thread to wrong side of work, weave needle in and out of the stitches of the completed embroidery, then cut the thread close to work.

The wrong side should be as neat as the right side, therefore do not carry thread from one design to another.

Source: Coats & Clark’s Book No. 144; Learn How to Embroider (1963)

How To Clean & Block Needlework

If you love to display cross stitch, embroidery and crewel, here are step-by-step instructions for cleaning pieces that are in dire need of freshening up. No matter how carefully we display our projects, they can get grungy with smoke, grease and handling stains.

As always, first test a small area before trying a cleaning method. Watch for dye transfer. Some reds are notorious for bleeding when washing, using a cooler temperature of water can help.

How To Clean:

  • Remove piece from frame and make sure all edges are finished before immersing in water. You can do a zigzag finish or use a serger (being careful not to cut piece smaller).
  • Measure item and note the exact size on all sides, you’ll need to block the piece to this size while it’s drying.
  • Fill a large basin with lukewarm water and add a bit of gentle liquid dish detergent. Do not use a soap with added bleach or degreasing agent.
  • Using your fingers, swirl and agitate the linen in the soapy water. You want it to be saturated completely with water. Soak item for about an hour, gently agitating occasionally. If it is heavily stained, you can soak longer if needed (even days), just make sure to replace soapy water with fresh each day (if the water is very dirty or murky at first, change to a fresh batch for longer soaking).
  • Dab spot stains with your fingers or a very soft toothbrush, gently dabbing soap into discolored area. You need to be careful and watch that you don’t damage the fibers while doing this.
  • Once the item is clean, drain the water and fill the basin with cool, clear water. Rinse the soap out of the linen. You will need to do this a few times until water runs clear, you want all traces of soap to be removed from the fabric as soap residue can cause the item to yellow.
  • After rinsing thoroughly and all traces of soap removed, lay out the piece onto a clean white towel then top with another clean white towel. Roll like a jelly roll (with needlework inside) squeezing the towels gently to remove as much of the water as you can (do not wring out needlework). Do not allow the needlework to touch itself when rolling, keep the towels between rolled layers of the piece. Unroll the towels and remove the linen to block.

How To Block:

  • You’ll need a piece of plywood with a large enough area to lay the linen on top (with at least an inch or two margin on all sides for easier handling).
  • Take a piece of muslin large enough to cover the plywood with a few inches overlap and lay it flat.
  • Place the plywood on top of the muslin and bring the edges of the muslin up and over the plywood, stapling the edges securely along the back of the plywood.
  • Flip the board over and you should have a tight, clean muslin surface.
  • Take the wet needlework piece and lay on top of muslin surface.
  • Start pinning the needlework along the edges to the muslin, measuring all sides of needlework so that it matches the original measurements you took before washing.
  • As the piece dries, the original measurements will hold. If you don’t block the wet linen before it dries, it will likely shrink and warp.
  • Once dry, take the linen off the blocking board and press gently if needed.


  • When immersed in water, thread colors may bleed through fabric. If you’re not sure how the dyes will hold, take a clean white cloth, soak in soapy water solution you plan on using, and dab gently on design to see if any dye transfer happens. If so, do not wash.
  • If the piece is very old, the fibers may not hold up during the washing process. Your best bet is to have a professional clean the item, especially if this a treasured family heirloom.
  • Watch the fibers from both the fabric and the threads, do not treat piece roughly or you could damage the fibers with holes developing and fibers unraveling. Always use a dabbing motion rather than rubbing.

Free Video Library: Hand Embroidery Stitches

Here’s a fantastic resource for those who do hand embroidery or wish to learn how – Video Library of Stitches:

Hand embroidery is easier if you have someone around to show you how to do it. You can certainly find just about any embroidery stitch illustrated in a book, but it’s not quite the same as sitting down next to a friend who can walk you through the stitches.

There are quite a few videos available on embroidery stitches, but what I’ve noticed about them is that they go into techniques that are either specialized or beyond what the beginning embroiderer wants to know.

So I thought I’d see if I could manage a video stitch library…and if I could put it online! I’ve arranged the stitches according to type, and have begun with the most basic stitches, useful for embroidery for all levels of needleworkers.

A sampling of the videos available:

  • Running Stitch
  • Whipped Running Stitch
  • Backstitch
  • Whipped Backstitch
  • Cable Chain
  • Rope Stitch
  • Rosette Chain
  • Wheat Stitch
  • Lazy Daisy
  • Seed Stitch
  • Spider Web – Ribbed
  • Bullion Knots

There are dozens more so make sure to check them out, these are great reference resources!

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *