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  • Writer's pictureRhona Norrie

How to wash your cross stitch

This is the one topic that can give even experienced stitchers heart palpitations. Do you wash your stitching or not?

Even the cleanest-looking stitched piece has some natural oils from your hands transferred to the material. Over time, these oils may become stains that are visible on your finished piece. And if you use a hoop, hoop marks on your fabric can be hard to just iron out, and washing is sometimes the only way to remove them. Washing your stitching can also plump up any stitches that may have become flattened under a hoop, so all in all, washing your stitching is a good idea!

For very small cross stitch pieces such as for greeting cards and tags, you can get away with out washing them - and here I have to confess that for these small pieces I tend not to wash them, not because it's too difficult or anything (after all, everything you need is stuff you have on hand), but because I'm generally not organized enough and am stitching frantically at the last minute... but that's probably a topic for another post!

One thing to note - and this is VERY important: if you have used hand dyed threads or hand dyed fabrics, these may not be suitable to wash as the colors may run. And those cheap off-brand threads are probably a no-no when it comes to washing, too. Always check with the manufacturer about their products' suitability for washing. You certainly don't want all you hard work ruined... hence the line above about heart palpitations when washing your finished stitching!

So how do you wash your stitching?

A cross stitch piece sits in a bucket, ready to be washed!

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You will need:

  • Mild detergent

  • Large bowl or basin

  • 2 clean, soft towels


  • Fill the bowl or basin with lukewarm water and add a few drops of detergent. (This one is recommended by many experienced stitchers, I used this one because it's what I had on hand!)

  • Mix thoroughly. (For larger pieces you can place them into your sink... just make sure it's thoroughly clean!)

  • Place your stitching in the bowl and submerge so that it is evenly wet. Leave to soak for about 5 minutes - longer if you can see any grubby marks on the fabric.

A cross-stiched ice cream cone on aida fabric is submerged in a bowl of water and detergent.

  • Remove from bowl and hold stitching under a tap with cold water running to rinse away the detergent.

  • Lay out the towel and place the wet stitching on top (do NOT wring out the stitching!!!)

After being washed, a wet cross stitch piece lies on a white towel.

  • Place a second towel on top of your wet stitching.

  • Roll the towels with the stitching inside like a swiss roll (jelly roll). This will help the towels to absorb most of the water.

  • Open up towels and lay stitching flat to dry

  • Take stitching and place on ironing board or similar surface. ( I always lay a fluffy towel on my ironing board when I iron my stitching) With the stitching face down, gently iron on the BACK ONLY (you don't want to flatten the stitches by ironing out the front), paying particular attention to where there are creases caused by using a hoop.

An iron goes over the back of a washed cross stitch piece.

Be extra careful when ironing metallic threads... some of them are made from plastic and can melt with the hight temperature from your iron. You can place a pressing cloth over your stitching so that the metallic threads are not coming into direct contact with your iron. Do not use the steam setting on your iron with metallic threads.

If you are in any doubt about washing and/or ironing the fabric and threads you have used, you can always stitch up a small test swatch to see how laundering affects it. How do you do a test swatch? It's super easy! To test if your fabric is colourfast, just take a small scrap of the fabric and do a few rows of stitching using some white thread. Wash the test swatch using the method described above. Any colour from the fabric would then show up on your white stitches. To test the colorfastness of thread, take some plain white fabric and stitch several rows using the thread in question and then wash as before. If any of the thread colors bleed you know that the thread is not colorfast and that you shouldn't wash your finished project.

Please always consult the manufacturers website for specific information about their threads and/or fabrics before washing your stitching! After all, you've spent numerous hours working on your project and don't want to ruin it by doing the wrong thing.

"How to wash your cross stitching" is written in white text on a purple block. Below the text is a basin filled with detergent, a towel, and a cross stitch piece.

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