waste canvas, 8.5ct, 12" x 18"
Waste canvas makes it possible to do counted cross-stitch on pretty much any fabric, even if the fabric is too fine or uneven for you to see and count threads. This is the perfect way to add a design to any garment or plain woven fabric.
What Waste Canvas Is
Most of the time for cross-stitch you need a special, very evenly woven base cloth that allows you to count the thread so you know where to stitch. But those base cloth options don’t really lend themselves to apparel. They’re often too coarsely woven and don’t have much drape.
Waste canvas allows you to embroider onto almost anything even if the threads are too fine or uneven to count, as is the case with most apparel fabrics. Waste canvas is a heavily starched fabric that you baste to the fabric onto which you want to cross-stitch. You then use the waste canvas to stitch onto a garment that you’ve purchased or sewn, including knits. You can also embroider fabric before you sew it.
How to Use Waste Canvas
Cut a piece of waste canvas to be slightly larger than the stitching pattern itself and baste it to the fabric where you want to stitch.
Use the grid on the waste canvas to do your cross-stitch, stitching through both the waste canvas and the fabric itself. When you're finished, wet the waste canvas to relax the fibers. Then pull out the threads of the waste canvas one at a time, leaving your cross-stitching behind on the cloth.
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What You’ll Need
Pick a garment or a fabric that you want to sew into a garment. For this example, I used a white shirting cotton, but you could use almost anything: linen, quilting cotton, corduroy, denim, jersey, chambray. Pick whatever catches your fancy. You’ll also need a sharp embroidery needle, waste canvas, and embroidery floss or perle cotton. Most cross-stitch patterns call for two strands of embroidery floss, which comes in skeins of six strands, but because this waste canvas has about eight squares to the inch, it’s large enough that you could also use perle cotton and get great results, too. I used two strands of floss for my stitching, so feel free to try either type and see what you prefer.
And you’ll need a cross-stitch pattern, which you can design yourself on graph paper or you can use the one I designed, which can be found here.
How to Cross-Stitch with Waste Canvas
1. To get started, cut a piece of waste canvas, keeping in mind that you’ll need at least the same number of squares on your waste canvas as you have on your cross-stitch pattern, and it’s always a good idea to cut the waste canvas a bit larger than the pattern itself. If you’re planning to sew the dress or garment after you’ve embroidered it, cut your base fabric larger than the pattern piece itself. You’ll finish cutting it to match the pattern piece after you’ve embroidered it.
I like to trace any sewing pattern pieces I’ll be using onto sheer tracing paper, and I mark the seam allowances so I can easily line up the pattern piece and still see my stitching through the paper. That way I can be sure I stitch enough to cover the area that will show when the pattern is sewn. Also, it helps me to center the pattern when I’m finished stitching and ready to cut out the pattern piece.
I should also point out that it’s sometimes a good idea to fuse a lightweight interfacing to the wrong side of fabrics where you plan to embroider. This is especially a good idea if you’re working with knits, since they stretch, as well as any other fabric that can’t easily support embroidery: silk, gauze, etc.
2. Determine approximately where you’ll want your stitching to go on the fabric. Then find the grain on the fabric and mark it with chalk or a fabric pen so you can baste the waste canvas in place. You can see two grain lines drawn in water-soluble fabric pen at the top of this photo, with waste canvas basted to the fabric along one of the grain lines.
With waste canvas, the “holes” for stitching are the points where four canvas thread intersect, as shown here where I’m stitching the first X to show you.
Don’t make a knot at the end of your embroidery thread when you start stitching. Instead, leave a tail several inches long. We’ll go back and weave the tails into the back of the stitching when it’s finished.
3. Cross-stitch always starts by stitching the first section of the X from the bottom left to the top right. Then you stitch the other side, starting at the bottom right and moving to the top left. If you’re stitching just one or two stitches in a row, you can stitch each X individually, but sometimes you’ll stitch only the first half of the X and then come back to finish it later. Here are some illustrations I worked up to show you what I mean. This is how I stitched the border on the blouse.
Here are some diagrams, so it’s clear:
Here is one repeat of the border pattern stitched on the waste canvas:
Here are some illustrations I worked up to show you how to stitch this border.
And here are a few photos, just so you can see it in action:
So you can see that some of the X’s remain un-crossed for part of the pattern, and you’ll cross them on your way back down to the bottom row of stitching. You’ll work your way up the chart on one side, and then come back down on the other, crossing the X’s at the center on your way back. If you crossed those X’s on the way up, you’d be coming back out the same spots you just entered, which wouldn’t work very well. (Try it and it will make sense.) But feel free to experiment and do whatever works best for you, too.
Repeat the border as many times as needed. It’s OK if your stitching is a little longer than the area that you need, as long as the stitches are within the cut line on the pattern piece.
4. When you’re finished stitching the border or you run out of thread, use your needle to weave the thread tails into the back of the stitches. The back will look sort of like this:
Weave the ends in, changing direction at least once to help hold the tail in place. Start a new thread if you need it, weaving the thread tails into the back of the stitching when you’re finished.
Then trim off the extra tails, and you’re finished.
5. Then you can immerse the entire piece in cool water. I like to add a little vinegar to the water, just in case the embroidery thread colors bleed. The vinegar will prevent colors from running and ruining your stitching and your fabric. And the starch in the canvas will soften in the water.
6. Blot the fabric a bit, remove the basing stitching, and you can gently and carefully pull the threads of the waste canvas out of the stitches. If you’ve accidentally stitched through any canvas threads (it happens to everyone!), clip the canvas thread near the stitched spot and that will make it easier to remove.
7. When you’re all finished, let the fabric dry and then you can line up your pattern piece over the cross stitching to center it and cut it out. It’s nice to see the embroidery through the pattern piece so you can get it lined up just so. And don’t forget to keep your seam allowances in mind! You can see mine marked here.
Then you can sew the pattern the way you normally would.