Washing, Drying & Ironing

Having mastered the art of cross stitch you’re now looking to display it, however there is often an over looked step.
When you’ve been stitching a while you’ll find out exactly why washing is important. But even I would admit I never really gave it credit when I started, and I’ve seen the problems first hand.

Its all about finger juice. Yeh, you heard me. More specifically the thin layer of oil around your fingers to help you grip things. This oil is fairly innocuous, and doesn’t do any damage on its own, however it bonds with the thread. When it bonds the thread takes on the same characteristics and can grip to things. Specifically dirt.
To make things worse, if you leave your thread out in the sun it will brown (quite considerably). Even worse if you’ve ironed without washing!

Unless you have yourself a house trained raccoon, you have to do the washing yourself. And its not obvious as you might think, but don’t worry, its easy. So lets jump in.
how to wash cross stitch

Washing

The problem with washing cross stitch is that the threads and aida aren’t treated dyes like your clothes. As a result they bleed heavily. In addition if you use special threads like metalics or glow in the dark threads they have metals or plastics in them which react differently. But there is a tried and tested way you can clean ANY cross stitch. This is even what you need to do if you’ve got dirt on your ironed piece.

There are two things you need. Ones a bowl, big enough to hold your piece (it can be rolled to fit, but don’t fold it). The second can be slightly harder to find; non-colored, non-bleached, non-abrasive dish soap. This is actually easy to find, but its always in an obscure place to see in the super market, so you might have to nose around a little bit.

Once you have everything, fill the bowl with water. COLD water. The colder the better in fact. This is the thing that stops the threads loosing their color.
Add 1 drop of dish soap per 5 liters (a normal washing up bowl is about 10). Then very slowly pass your hand through the bowl to mix it, making sure no bubbles form.
Then place the cross stitch on top and let it sink. Wait 15 minutes.

Drying

That was washing. Simple as letting it sit for 15 minutes. All it does it wash the oils through so they are more dilute so won’t bond to the thread. As a result you don’t need to rub it off the cross stitch.
However all that water has left the threads weak, and the aida very pliable. Drying the correct way is the only way to make sure the finished piece is flat. You often pull the aida out of shape slightly when stitching, and the washing will release all of that stretch, leaving your piece warped. As a result we dry in two stages.

Firstly, its VERY wet, so we need to take the bulk of water off. Get a towel large enough to place the cross stitch on, and roll from one edge to the other. Leave this for 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece (the larger pieces need longer, but if you’ve used plastic canvas it needs at least 20 minutes).

Pinning

Once the time is up unroll. This stage could have a whole entry devoted to itself, there are a lot of different ways to do it, and people have come up with some creative ideas. However I’ll tell you two ways. The idea here is to stretch the canvas out again.

Most people call this pinning as, you guessed it, there are pins involved. The first way does involve pins, but if you don’t have any to hand, move to the second option. You want to have a flat surface you can pin. I know that might be unlikely in some houses, so you can also use a flat bit of aida left over (or even a bed sheet). If your backing is fabric, stretch that out first to make sure its flat. Then take your cross stitch and place it on top. Put a pin in a corner. Then in the opposite corner pull it as far as possible, and pin it. Do this all they way around the cross stitch. You should put a pin every inch/2 cm around the edge. Then let it dry some more! It’s likely to take about 2 days to dry fully.

No pins? No problem. Get two pegs and roll your project on its longest side. Do it tightly so there is 1 cm gap in the center. Then pin the edges down so the roll holds. This method uses the aida against itself, meaning it can’t warp. But it also means it takes AGES to dry. I would give it at least a week before you unroll. I would also make sure you put it somewhere dry and breezy instead of damp and humid.

Ironing

So its washed, great. Now it won’t get dirty in the sun. However what happens if you accidentally spill something on it? If its something like fruit juice it will stain. However there is a super easy way to stop this. Ironing. Basically it heats the threads up enough that they secrete their own natural oils, which seal the threads (this is how sheep stay dry if you’ve ever wondered). But if you throw the iron on top of your cross stitch its going to flatten it, so lets go about this the right way.

Get a towel and dampen it slightly. You could do this under the tap, but make sure its not dripping if you pull it taught. Its only meant to be JUST damp. I tend to iron before the washing is fully dry, so I use a towel in the washing. Heat the iron up to the highest level, and remove the steam.
Cross stitch face up on the ironing board, towel on top. Then iron, using a large amount of pressure.

Remember I was talking about getting dirt on your finished piece? Well now any dirt should just wash away!
Not too hard, was it? Just need to frame it now or if you have too many like me; you’ll need to store it somewhere.

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