© 2013 Susan Lowman (http://www.TheCrochetArchitect.com)
Update (11/25/20): I have a YouTube video for learning to stiffen crochet snowflakes visually. You can find that video here.
Stiffening crocheted snowflakes isn’t as hard as it may seem, but it can be a little messy! I’ve stiffened snowflakes in the past and always got a lot of the stiffening solution on my hands. But I’ve gotten a little wiser about stiffening them lately so I don’t get as much on my hands. Here’s what you’ll need to stiffen your snowflakes:
1. CROCHETED SNOWFLAKES.
These can be made with any size of crochet thread you choose. I used size 10 cotton crochet thread with a shiny strand in it (Aunt Lydia’s Metallic crochet thread, size 10 in #1P White/Pearl) for my snowflakes. I think the shiny pearl strand makes the snowflakes look a little nicer, but you probably can’t tell the difference in these photos! Keep in mind that the thicker the crochet thread, the larger your snowflakes will be. So if you want small snowflakes, you’ll want to use size 20 or 30 crochet thread instead of size 10. Or if you want large snowflakes, you’ll want to use size 3 or 5 crochet thread instead. My snowflakes came out to be 3.5” – 4” in diameter with the size 10 thread.
2. RUST-PROOF PINS.
You’ll need some rust-proof pins to pin your snowflakes into shape. Make sure your pins are rust-proof or you’ll end up with rust marks on your snowflakes and that’s not very attractive at all! I use some stainless steel pins with a plastic head on them so they don’t hurt my fingers when I insert them into my blocking board. My pins are 1 1/16” long and are general purpose sewing pins that I bought at my local fabric/craft store. You can use longer or shorter pins, as long as they’re rust-proof. You’re going to need lots of pins, so don’t skimp on them. I have 4 boxes of pins (100 pins per box) because I don’t want to run out of pins when I’m blocking several projects at once. My snowflakes took an average of 60 pins each. When you’re blocking or stiffening snowflakes, the pins can add up very quickly!
3. BLOCKING BOARD.
You don’t need a large blocking board to stiffen snowflakes. But you’re going to need a surface that’s big enough to stiffen at least one snowflake, if not 4 or more of them at once. I use a foam board that connects to other foam boards (I bought my set during the summertime in the seasonal section of Walmart). I also have a 4 foot square blocking board that I use for blocking doilies and large crochet projects (it’s the pink board you can see in many of these photos). But my large blocking board is “overkill” for stiffening or blocking small projects!
4. TEMPLATES & PLASTIC WRAP.
I made a circular template in Adobe Illustrator for pinning the snowflakes out to dry. I arranged 4 circles on an 8.5” x 11” page, printed it out and placed it on my blocking board. Then I covered it with plastic wrap to keep the page from getting wet with the stiffening solution. I pinned the edges of this template page and plastic wrap to my blocking board so it wouldn’t move around. Each template has 6 intersecting lines so I can pin out 6-pointed snowflakes with ease. You can download the free PDF template here for stiffening your snowflakes.
5. STIFFENING SOLUTION.
I use 2 brands of stiffening solution: Aleene’s Fabric Stiffener & Draping Liquid and API’s Crafter’s Pick Fabric Stiffener. They both work well for stiffening snowflakes. They’re about the consistency of white glue, but they’re a little thicker. If you find the solution you’re using is too thick, you can thin it by adding a little water and stirring it up. In the past, I stiffened crocheted ornaments by pouring the solution into a plastic container. But it’s a little easier for me to use a plastic zippered bag instead (and I can zip the bag closed so the solution doesn’t dry out too quickly, which is a big problem here in Arizona!).
You don’t want to rush your snowflake stiffening. You’ll need some time to do a good job, so allow 15-20 minutes per snowflake. And the snowflakes will take up to 24 hours to dry, so don’t plan to give them as gifts the same day as you stiffen them!
Now that you have your 1) crocheted snowflakes, 2) rust-proof pins, 3) blocking board, 4) templates & plastic wrap, 5) stiffening solution and 6) time, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Of course, you want to make sure your crocheted snowflakes are clean and the ends have been woven in. So if they look dirty, you’ll need to wash them first and let them dry. I use my kitchen sink with a few drops of liquid laundry detergent added to the cold or luke-warm water. I let my pieces soak for 10-15 minutes in the water, then remove them and squeeze out the excess water (don’t twist or wring them). Since these snowflakes will be stiffened, there’s no need to block them first, but you do need to let them dry completely before stiffening them.
Make sure you have clean hands, too! If your hands are dirty, you’ll transfer that dirt onto your snowflakes and that would be a shame after all of your hard work to crochet the snowflakes!!!
Now it’s time to start stiffening the snowflakes, one by one. After dipping the snowflake in the stiffening solution, I squish the snowflake around in my hand so the solution gets into all the parts of the snowflake and squeeze out any extra solution into the bag. If there’s still some visibly wetter areas, you can blot the snowflake on a clean paper towel to remove the excess solution (you’ll want all parts of the snowflake wet, but not sopping wet, if you know what I mean). If there’s a small area of the snowflake that doesn’t have the solution on it, you can dip your finger into the bag of solution and wet that small area (this lessens the chance that you’ll get too much solution all over the snowflake, making a big mess!).
If you see any fluff, lint or bits of anything undesirable on your snowflake, it’s time to remove it at this stage (you won’t be able to remove it once the snowflake hardens).
After you’ve gotten your snowflake satisfactorily wet with the stiffening solution, you’ll want to wash off your hands. If you skip this step, the excess solution on your hands will dry and come off on your other snowflakes (believe me, I’ve learned this one the hard way!).
Now it’s time to pin out your snowflake. Pick a template circle and lay the wet snowflake in the center of the circle with the right side of the snowflake facing up.
Next, it’s time to start pinning the snowflake out so it will take on the final shape that you desire when it dries. I start by pinning the center in place. Then I pin the longest points of the snowflake to 6 of the straight lines on the template, making sure the 6 points are the same distance from the center by using the circle lines. Next, I pin the 6 shorter points of the snowflake to the straight lines between the 6 longer points; again, making sure these 6 points are the same distance from the center by using the appropriate circle lines. The center pin can be removed at this point or after all the pins have been inserted.
This is where the fun begins!!! You’ll be using lots of pins now (and lots of time)! I start pinning out the tips of all the arms on the points of the snowflake. The concentric circles on the template come in really handy at this time. You can see in the photo how I pinned the longest points on the outermost circle and the 2 arms nearest the longest points on the circle just inside that outermost circle. This ensures that the arms are all approximately the same length and angled the same on all the points of the snowflake for a more symmetrical snowflake. This particular snowflake required 9 pins for each of the 6 points (and shorter points between the longer points) for a total of 54 pins used. The straight lines and circles of the template really help to create better looking snowflakes! You’ll have plenty of time to pin the snowflake the way you like it, so take your time!
If you’re going to hang your snowflakes, you’ll want to make sure the tip of at least one point on the snowflake has a big enough hole to insert a hanging thread (I use the same thread that I use to crochet the snowflake, but you could use sewing thread, clear fishing line, narrow ribbon, etc).
After the snowflake dries and hardens (in about 24 hours, depending on the weather), you can carefully remove all the pins. Now it’s time to enjoy your snowflakes!!!
I LOVE the variety of snowflake patterns that are available. Here is a photo of the 9 snowflakes I just stiffened:
Aren’t they pretty? I really like them. They came from a book called “White Christmas in Thread Crochet”, designed by Kathryn A. Clark and published by Leisure Arts in 2001. This book has patterns for several sizes of snowflakes, some tree toppers, icicles, garlands and 2 tree skirts. In my opinion, it’s one of those “classic” crochet books!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Snowflake Stiffening tutorial and that you’ll take the plunge to create some stiffened crochet snowflakes very soon (you could even get a head-start on next year’s Christmas decorations by starting now!).
By the way, if your snowflakes get smashed or misshapen at any time, you can fix them quite easily. Just boil water to make some steam. Hold the stiffened snowflake over the steam to soften the stiffening solution. Then reshape the snowflake until it cools and hardens (you might need that blocking board and pins for this or it might be a small fix of just a bent tip or point). It’s helpful to carefully pack your snowflakes in a box or tin so they don’t get smashed during the year. And don’t store them in a warm place during the summer because the stiffening solution can soften from the heat and warp the snowflakes in the box or tin!
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