Cross-Stitching Using Waste Canvas

Waste Canvas Helps Maintain Structure in the Fabric

Person cross-stitching a design with a needle, hoop, and thread.

Yasser Chalid / Getty Images

Aida fabric and linen are among the most popular fabrics for cross-stitching. However, waste canvas—a gridded canvas fabric that resembles the one used for needlepoint—offers a versatile option for fabrics that are hard to stitch on. For instance, a knit or tightly woven cotton fabric isn't stiff enough to maintain its shape on the frame. Also, the weave may be uneven, causing mistakes and constant repositioning. By using waste canvas, the process becomes much easier, as the crafter can follow a gridded pattern to yield a beautiful design.

What Is Waste Canvas?

Waste canvas is a gridded fabric that is held together with water-soluble glue, similar to starch. It is available in various fabric counts (squares per inch) which typically amount to 8.5, 10, 14, and 18 squares per inch. Blue thread is often woven into the canvas every 10 stitches to assist with counting stitches. This gridded crafting canvas is called "waste canvas" because the fibers are temporary and pulled out after the stitched design is complete. Some waste canvases are designed to dissolve completely in warm water, leaving nothing but an intricately-stitched pattern behind.

Why Use Waste Canvas

Waste canvas comes in handy when working with hard-to-manage fabrics. The gridded pattern allows for the easy placement of stitches and removal is a breeze, requiring only a damp cloth and tweezers. Some versions of waste canvas press directly onto the fabric with a sticky backing, avoiding the need to anchor it in place. This type of canvas allows you to stitch on all different kinds of fabric, including knits and silks.

Waste canvas is a great way to take cross-stitching to another level. You can use it to decorate clothing, sheets, pillowcases, tote bags, quilts, and tablecloths. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get in the groove, it's easy to manage.

How to Use Waste Canvas

To begin using the fabric, first, cut your canvas slightly larger than your finished design size. Next, mark the center of the waste canvas with a small piece of floss or a permanent marker and attach it to your pre-washed fabric by basting or pressing it on. After that, begin stitching your design. When the design is complete, gently remove the basting with a seam ripper or moisten the waste canvas with a damp cloth and pull each strand out with tweezers or by hand.

Tips for Using Waste Canvas

Care should be taken when basting the waste canvas onto an item that will be worn. Use pins to help mark the center of the area you will stitch, matching it to the center of the canvas. Then, assure it's positioned for a straight design. For additional support, baste a piece of interfacing on the back of the finished fabric. And, when using silk or other fine fabrics, eliminate the basting process by purchasing waste canvas that presses directly onto the fabric.

When cross-stitching, remember that stitches should "hold hands" (meaning each stitch directly touches the next), leaving no gaps on the fabric. Make sure to stitch into the middle of the square formed by the grid of the waste canvas. And take time to position your stitches carefully to keep your canvas from moving and so your stitches lay flat.

When removing the canvas, don't douse it with water; just moisten it slightly. Too much water may make it more difficult to remove. And, always test your floss before stitching it onto waste canvas to make sure that it does not bleed onto the fabric when wet.