If you're anything like me, when you've finished tatting a doily, it isn't pretty! You'll have loose ends to hide, twisted picots to straighten out, and possibly a mistake or two to fix. The red arrows in Photo #1 point out a join I forgot to do, and some twisted picots. You'll need to block the doily, too. Blocking accomplishes the final shaping of the piece.
When I first started tatting, I decided I didn't like doing this routine to finish my doilies. It was a lot easier to tie a knot, put a drop of Fray-Check on it, then clip the ends right up against the knot. My tatting looked great. However, I learned that this is a BIG mistake! After a number of years, Fray-Check will turn brown, and there will be nothing you can do to get it out. So now the only time I use Fray-Check is if I'm making an item I don't anticipate will be kept for a long period of time. For anything else, I follow this procedure.
Hide thread ends
If you haven't tied off using the magic thread trick (instructions are near the bottom of the page), you will have thread ends to hide. Thread one of the ends through the smallest tapestry needle you can put the thread through. Weave the thread end in and out of the top of the double-stitches for four or more stitches as in Photo #2. When you're satisfied the ends are secure, clip the thread end close to the tatting, then move on to the next thread end. Only hide one thread end at a time, and try not to run two thread ends along the same section of double-stitches.
At this time, fix any mistakes you need to correct. 99% of the time when I forget a join, I will undo the tatting or remove the tatting and redo it. However, with this particular piece, I discovered the mistake long after I'd done it, and when I was done with the row. I decided to fix it later, even though that's not the best way to handle it. It never looks as good as if it were done right in the first place.
Once the thread ends are hidden, you need to wash the doily. Even if you have been meticulous about washing your hands before you tat, you still need to wash the doily. Oils from your hands build up on it as you work, and need to be washed out. Fill a sink with cold water and add a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid (NOT the liquid you'd use in the dishwasher). Swish it gently through the water for a minute, then let it sit in the water for a few more minutes. Rinse it gently in cold water, then blot it with a towel.
You will need a blocking board and lots of dressmaker pins. Be sure your pins are rust-proof, or it will ruin your tatting. Most dressmaker pins are fine. I buy the cheap ones from the local discount store and I've never had any trouble with them.
Start with the centermost section of the doily. Place the center of the doily at the center of the blocking board. Pin inside rings and inside picots without pinning through the work itself, shaping the doily as you go. Pin any unruly picots into place. Once you've finished pinning the centermost section, move to the next section out. Keep pinning it in place and shaping as you go until the entire piece is done. Leave it on the blocking board until it is fully dry.
This step isn't necessary, but I like to do it. It adds more body to the piece.
Set your iron on the appropriate setting for the fibers in the doily. Place the doily right side down on a clean, white cloth. Spray lightly with spray starch. Hold the iron so that it just barely touches the doily. Don't press down. It mashes your doily and it won't look as nice. Steam the doily well and let it cool and dry before you take it off the board.
Here is a close-up of the final product. It looks much better, doesn't it? Blocking a doily is a lot of work, but the results are certainly worth it.