Monday, 7 March 2016

Rolling out the mental block

Pin It now!
Roll away mental block
Don't pin me down !

It changed my life – well my tatting life!
It may not have improved my tatting, but it absolutely improved the finished look.
I heard of blocking finished lace only in 2014. Before that I simply ironed the lace.
I detested, therefore procrastinated the pinning of each element – too much work !
Around the middle of 2015, Ignes posted a photo of  her doily on Craftree, with a rolling pin beside it. My mental block towards blocking tatted lace vanished !!! Now I am eager & ready to block before photographing, using the trusty rolling pin. 

Of the many ways to block lace, I have done the following  :
  1. Place a muslin cloth over the lace & iron over it on medium to high setting. (very good results, flat but not crisp)
  2. Place the smaller pieces under/within a book & weigh it down with more books. (limited to small pieces & fine thread & does not always work)
  3. Dampen the lace & pin the lace at regular intervals or chosen points to shape . (very good results, flat & crisp, but too much bother).
  4. For appliquéd or sewn lace, when the fabric & lace is still damp after a spin-dry from the washing machine, gently pull the tatting into shape on the clothes line. (This is very effective for long/broad edgings on sari or bed-sheet & makes for easy ironing later. I continue to follow this).
  5. Rolling pin !!! (I’ve become a convert & die-hard fan! Simple, quick, effective). 
Due to recent interest in this last method along with a request for pictures, Ignes has graciously allowed me to share the rolling pin method. I have prepared a step-wise pictorial & converted to pdf file for convenience. It can be downloaded here : How to Block Lace using a Rolling Pin

Here I will share a few of those pics & others of my past tatting Before & After blocking with a rolling pin, some of which you may remember.

* click to download complete pictorial
For the pictorial I added a 7th arm to Georgia Seitz’s SuperBowl Sunday Snowflake & allowed it to ruffle with fairly tight chains (my apologies).
Anchor size 20 thread was used for the snowflake. I have tried this method on size 10, 20, & 40 threads ; on small snowflakes, coasters to the 22” Snow Doily. I think it gives the quickest & crispiest results with size 40 for obvious reasons.
Dunk in water till core thread is wet. Adjust with fingers. Then roll over it. I like to place the item wrong-side up, in contact with the rolling pin. Rolling the pin just 2-3 times over the lace, with even pressure, is sufficient to remove excess water.
After excess water is removed, place over/under dry towel & gently roll again. (the water mark can be seen on the right in above pic)
In case of larger pieces, one may need to change the towel once.
One can do spot blocking if that portion or picot misbehaves.
Download complete pictorial here

  • Cannot be used if there are beads in the tatted lace.
  • Each individual picot is not addressed. If the picots behave during tatting, then they will block fine. An odd picot here & there can be adjusted with fingers or spot-treated later with blocking pins. But this rolling pin method will not produce very sharp picot points.
  • And, of course, 3D pieces cannot  be blocked (although layered tatting can see heart pic below).
  • Personal preferences as well as thread characteristics. What works for/on one may not work for/on another.

  • No advance preparation. Simply walk into the kitchen & block on counter, board or any floor tile.
  • Materials. All one requires is a rolling pin & dry towel. No need to gather a blocking board/foam, iron, blocking pins, stiffener, etc. Consequently, no storage & space issues. No waiting for the iron to hot up.
  • Instead of a rolling pin, one can use any cylindrical object to roll, including a baton.
  • Very Quick & easy. Dries fast & crisp. Ironing does not give as crisp a result as the rolling pin.
  • It is possible to apply even pressure to the entire tatting with the rolling pin.
  • Layered rings/tatting can also be blocked with this method.

I have not used, nor needed to use, any fabric stiffener or starch so far (I prefer drape). But if one wants a stiff piece at the end, Ignes uses hair gel in a spray bottle. In her own words :

‘ "Concrete gel" i.e. super strong. It's my go-to blocking help, after just drying fast. I wouldn't use it on articles that should be worn, but it keeps my motifs and smaller doilies nicely stiff. The more gel, the stiffer. On the big doily in the picture I just used a little bit, per surface area, so it stayed quite soft.’

Who would’ve thought that the quintessential rolling pin used to straighten an errant spouse, 
could be used to straighten delicate lace as well ;-p

What is your preferred way to block tatted lace ?


  1. Interesting! I have never heard of using a rolling pin for blocking. I'll have to give it a try!

    1. I'm so glad Ignes shared that pic & answered our queries. I enjoy this method, Diane. Joletta started a thread on Craftree recently asking about details & requested a few pics, which led to this pictorial.

  2. Interesting, I'm game although I love ironing in general.

    1. From ironing, I've switched to this enter-and-complete method. Getting the iron & laying the mat for a single piece of tatting .. or waiting till I have more ironing to do.
      I hope you share experience & opinion, Michelle,, when you give it a try :-)

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I'll have to try the rolling pin. I usually dampen the piece and lay it out on a folded fabric baby diaper (still have a supply of those from long ago). I adjust all of the picots if necessary and lay another diaper on top, press with my hands and lift the top diaper. I then leave it to air dry. I rarely have to do more than that unless I need to stiffen a piece.

    1. What a multi-functional way to use diapers, Eliz! Love your idea & thanks for sharing :-)

  4. Great tutorial! I may have to go and buy a rolling pin after all... ;-)

    1. Grace, I added the baton option specially for you ;-)))

  5. I've heard that very delicate lace, bobbin lace, has to be put between linen or cotton and wound round a bottle or a rolling pin, for washing without messing it. I haven't thought seriously to use it in the way you described, that's definitely something to try. I don't like stiffening. I usually iron (always on the back side, mum says), sometimes I pin the lace overnight. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I didn't know that about delicate lace, Ninetta, but then I don't possess any ;-) I don't like stiffening/starching, either {including my cotton saris & dresses - I like the drape) & that's why the crispy feel of this method is sufficient for me.
      Your Mum is a wise person :-)

  6. Great idea 👍...thanks 🙏❤

    1. All thanks to Ignes 😍 For a long time now I place a cloth (flipping it over a couple of times) over the wet piece and roll over it, instead of directly on the lace.
      Thank you for your comment 💖