Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Kate's Crow: damp stretching

I mentioned last time the I felt the very bottom spiral wasn't quite circular, but I hoped it would right itself when taken off the frame. And to an extent it did, but not as much as I'd hoped. Further action would be necessary.

For years, I've always ironed my embroidery, always from the back, and always onto a towel, so as not to flatten the stitching. I don't use a steam iron for this, but when required have ironed through a damp tea-towel, to dampen the fabric enough to allow it to be pulled to shape. There's a problem with this, though, in that it's difficult to use the iron and stretch the fabric with one pair of hands, not to mention the difficulty of seeing what you're doing with a tea-towel in the way.

On one of the blogs I read regularly, Contemporary Embroidery, by Karen Ruane, she often mentions damp stretching her work. As her embroidery is always immaculate, it's clearly a method that works well for her, and in a recent post she described in detail how she does it. This seemed like very good timing, so I decided to give it a try.

I equipped myself with a cork board and a jar full of map pins, then following Karen's instructions, I got to work. Here's the embroidery before I started:

As it was worked on a frame it's not too creased or wrinkled, but I'm still not happy with the bottom spiral, plus it has pulled in a bit around the stitching. Definitely room for improvement!

Starting in the centre of the long side, I first placed a couple of pins close together on one edge, then, pulling the fabric taught, on the opposite edge. Working outwards from the centre in both directions, I placed pins in each long edge in turn.

It's starting to look flatter and smoother already. Once both of the long edges had been pinned along their entire length, I did the same with the short edges, again starting in the centre and working out.

When placing each pin, I pulled the fabric as tight as I could, to get it properly stretched. With this design, any deviation from circular is pretty obvious, so some of the pins were in and out a few times to get the shape as good as I could get it, but finally, all edges had been closely pinned, there were no wrinkles, and I was happy with the shape.

Using a plant mister, I sprayed the stretched embroidery with water. The mister gives a very fine spray, and as I used it from a bit of a distance, an even one. I just dampened the fabric rather than soaking it, though I think I was a little over-cautious and could probably have dampened it a bit more than I did. I then left it overnight to dry naturally.

After taking all the pins out and removing the embroidery from the board, this is the result:

I must say I'm very pleased. I think I'd have done well to have got such a good finish with an iron - it's perfectly flat and smooth, and the reshaping I did when pinning has meant that the design is as circular as it's ever going to get. It took quite a bit longer to do than ironing, but I think it was well worth it. I will definitely be damp stretching my work from now on. Thanks Karen!


  1. I have never tried damp stretching but I've never made such exquisite embroideries as Karen's and yours :) !

  2. Thanks for the tutorial, I'll be trying that sometime soon too.=)