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Blocking cloth

DONNAKAYE | Posted in General Discussion on

Folks, I have found the blocking cloth(s) I use in my sewing studio (I have a large table and sewed two together).  At one time someone in the forum had requested a resource for this sewing room gem.  Here is the link:




  1. jjgg | | #1

    what do you use this for??

    1. DONNAKAYE | | #2

      Block fabric back to straight grain (the block are one inch apart, so you can lay it out and press it back to straight grain); cutting.  That's why they call it the "cutting" unit.  I constantly use it to measure various things (this is very handy).  Lay out and cut, say, bias strips during the construction of a garment, etc.

      1. sewelegant | | #3

        Do you lay this over your table and then your fabric over it?  You do not cut this, do you?  I am thinking it is a guide for you to use like I use the cutting mat on my sewing table, is that right?  If that is so, please tell me if you think this is a better method and why.  I'm always open for new ways of doing things.

        1. DONNAKAYE | | #4

          Oh, my heavens, I couldn't live without the cutting unit.  It's so easy, so convenient, and pressing on it is a dream.

          Layer on top of plywood cut to dimensions shown on blocking cloth the following:

          Two layers of heavy-weight army blanket (available at your neighborhood army surplus store) (they come in a myriad of colors.  Color does not matter.)

          Then a layer of heavy muslin or lightweight canvas

          Then blocking cloth.

          Secure at edges of plywood and underneath.

          This makes a fantastic cutting surface, and the wool makes for a wonderful pressing surface.  It also is pinnable.  I have never been without one.



          1. rekha | | #8

            I still don't understand its function. Please elaborate

          2. DONNAKAYE | | #9

            I'll try to elaborate as best I can.  When we sew, we need a surface to lay our fabric out, first, in order to straighten the grain with heat and/or steam.  A good example is when you straighten the edges of the fabric and fold on the lengthwise grain (selvage edges together) as if ready to cut, and the fabric is off-grain diagonally.  All fabric must be "blocked" back to the correct grain prior to cutting.  So let me ask you this question first:  Do you block all of your fabrics prior to cutting to correct the off grain?

          3. rekha | | #10

            I do, but more often than not it's never quite 'trued'

          4. DONNAKAYE | | #11

            When you block, what surface are you using to lay out your fabric and press?

          5. rekha | | #12

            Felt under cotton.

          6. DONNAKAYE | | #13

            Are the felt and cotton mounted onto something such as plywood, or what are they mounted on?  Is it wool felt or craft felt?

          7. rekha | | #14

            metal grid on an iron stand

          8. DONNAKAYE | | #15

            Well, the best explanation I can give you is that I use the table for everything you use yours for.  The cutting board has two thick layers of 100 percent wool.  100 percent wool is an ideal surface for pressing.  Also, because you have a blocking cloth, with 1" increments lengthwise and crosswise, you have a guide to lay your fabric out perfectly during the blocking process.  I also use the blocking cloth to do quick measures at the cutting table while I'm in the process of doing some kind of project; in other words, I don't have to get a yardstick or a tape measure.

            The thickness of the pad, plus the fact that it's mounted onto plywood, means very stable pinning as well -- the pins won't move unless you really tug on them.  In addition, I frequently use a pounder to pound seams in difficult to press fabrics and in tailoring suits.  The surface has somewhat of a give, with the wool padding, so that I can do the vast majority of my heavy pressing without having to move the project onto some other surface, such as an ironing board.

            I certainly can see the advantage of using a metal grid under your fabrics, as the steam would pass through (much like an ironing board), but with the wool, pressing has never been an issue for me.

            Let me just say that regardless of what kind of padding you're using, you still need a blocking cloth -- or, at the very least, 1-inch-square gingham cloth, to properly block and cut your garment, where the lengthwise and crosswise meet at a perfect 90-degree angle, and the rest of your fabric lays exactly on grain during the cutting operation.  I should mention, I suppose, that I consider blocking and cutting the most important processes in any garment I make.  Cutting must be as nearly 100 percent accurate as it can possibly be and the fabric as straight of grain as it can possibly be in order for the garment to fit and to hang on the body properly.

            I do not own, nor do I use, an ironing board.  If I must press tops or pants, or even dresses, I use my pants board instead.

            I am hoping that my explanation is proving sufficient.  I just don't imagine I'm doing much more than you're doing with your table; it's just that I insist on having blocked squares as a guide for grain perfection and 100 percent wool for first-rate pressing.

          9. rekha | | #16

            The mystery for me is why call it a blocking board. I only visualise this as a tool for  abattoirs

            I switch between the cutting  mat grid and the ironing board and am happy with that


            Edited 7/29/2008 4:17 pm ET by rekha

          10. DONNAKAYE | | #17

            A tool for what?

          11. rekha | | #20

            Abattoirs, where butchers cut meat.

            Thinking about the name it could have had its derivation from the quilting fraternity. Is that so?

          12. DONNAKAYE | | #21

            The mystery for me is why call it a blocking board. I only visualise this as a tool for  abattoirs -- I'm thinking you may be confusing this with a butcher's block?

            I switch between the cutting  mat grid and the ironing board and am happy with that  That's fine.  I was simply giving an explanation as you requested.

            You mentioned that you do block but that you never really true it (or words to that effect -- I forgot exactly how you said it).  Can you explain why not with some examples?

          13. rekha | | #22

            Most of my starting point is 2m fabric.

            I pick up the fabric at the selvedges (joined together) and hold it up somewhere in the middle.

            If while holding the fabric up the centre fold appears smooth, I am in business to proceed with the next step.

            More often than not, the centre fold is kinked.

            While still holding the fabric up at selvedges I manouvre the two edges of the selvedges till the centre fold appears smooth.

            I then lay this on the ironing board and iron the centre fold.

            For more slippy and difficult fabric I lay this on the cutting mat and tack somewhere in the centre between selvedges and centre fold.

            Then I iron the centre fold flat for proceeding further.


          14. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #18

            I am so jealous right now. I have been using those fold up cardboard cutting mats to square my fabrics. They are good for that, but I don't yet have space for anything like what you and Rekha have for pinning and Ironing. Not yet anyhow. Will be looking into a system like that for sure tho. Cathy

          15. rekha | | #19

            If you can get hold of acetate sheets (transparent, A4) you could print a grid using your word/excel package, in cm or inches

            You could make these as big as you like

          16. sewelegant | | #23

            Wow, the closest I've ever gotten to "blocking my fabric" was to stretch it by hand diagonally, or joined the selvedges together and let the fabric hang and moved it until it fell straight then laid it out on the cutting table.  I've always had the 1" grid mat to cut on so would line one edge up with that.  Maybe I was "trueing" my fabric, but not making much of a deal of it?  But then I have never been a serious tailor or used fabric that was costly enough to be concerned (or been Bishop Method trained).  I never had the feeling my finished garments were not hanging properly though.  I have seen articles discussing making an ironing surface like the board you are using, but I have never noticed the blocking cloth.  This must be one of the professional's "secrets".  And... I can see it could make the difference in looking homemade vs. hand made.

          17. DONNAKAYE | | #24

            Check out the thread, "1959 BISHOP preparing fabric for cutting."  It's a real education.  I think you'll see a huge difference -- it really is the difference between looking "homemade" and "custom made."

  2. zuwena | | #5

    Hi DonnaKaye and All other interested parties,

    I think it was I who asked about blocking cloths a while back.  At that time you had a different link (needleworkercorner, which I am no longer able to link to but I've since found another one.  It may serve your purposes/suggestions better as you can just buy the blocking cloth and then use it with the padding you have indicated.  See link below.  Z



    1. DONNAKAYE | | #6

      I don't think I referred you to the link you referenced.  It was not recognizable to me.  I can't emphasize strongly enough how much you will LOVE this as a pressing unit.  It's the 100% wool....There isn't anything like it for a pressing surface....d.

      I'm going to be posting a new thread on a fabulous use for wool army blankets....d.

      1. zuwena | | #7

        Hi DonnaKaye,

        Checking Gatherings 7340.1.  It took a while for me to find it but like others, I find your wisdom invaluable and try to hold on to references you provide.  Z

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