Tips for washing cross stitch projects

Is it essential to consider washing cross stitch projects when they are finished?

Start by answering the following questions.

  • Did you stitch without washing your hands first?
  • Did you wear hand cream while stitching?
  • Did you use a hoop?
  • Do you have a coal fire in the room where you stitch?

If you answered yes to any of the above then its likely that your work would benefit from being washed before you frame it.

Let me guide you through the easy way to do this.

When NOT to wash!

It is best not to wash a piece of work if....

  • You have used silk thread
  • You have used hand painted threads (such as Caron Waterlilies)
  • You have attached embellishments
  • You have stitched in wool on canvas

Another thing to keep in mind is that the dye used to produce colored threads may not always be colorfast.

Some of the chemicals that were previously used to "set" colors are now prohibited due to environmental issues, and it is possible that some colors could now run. This is mostly a problem with red threads.

However, I have never experienced a problem with dyes running in my own work. If you use quality threads and fabric the chance of such an accident occurring is reduced.


What do you need?

  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild soap such as Fairy Liquid (UK) or Orvus (USA)
  • Two bowls

My method of washing cross stitch

  1. Fill one bowl with cold water, the other with lukewarm water.
  2. Dip your project in the first bowl and leave it to soak through while you add your soap to the second bowl. Use your hand to disperse the soap and create bubbles.
  3. Transfer the wet cloth to the second bowl. Do not scrub the fabric, as you may damage the work and possibly loosen any fastened off ends of thread. Instead just "sluice" it up and down a few times, and agitate it through the water.
  4. If the work is visibly dirty, you can leave it in the bowl to soak for up to an hour. Just give it a swirl every now and then.
  5. If you have a mark on the work that needs extra attention you could try my little trick. I use an old badger hair shaving brush to gently, GENTLY mind, rub over the area. Work the soap suds into the mark and then sluice the work up and down again.
  6. When you are happy that the piece is clean, rinse it at least 3 to 4 times to ensure all the soap is removed.
  7. Squeeze the work gently and lay it, face down, onto a thick, fluffy white towel. Roll the towel up around the stitched piece like a jelly roll. Then comes the fun part!

Happy dance time!

I lay the rolled up towel on the floor, take off my shoes and socks and tread on it. Just walk up and down the length of the towel a few times to press the water into the towel. I call this my happy dance.

Place a clean, dry towel onto your ironing board.

Unwrap the stitched piece and lay it, face down, onto the dry towel and gently ease into shape.

Taking a warm iron, press the work from the back, to help it to dry. Do not use steam and make sure to keep the iron moving at all times. You don't want to scorch it!

When the piece is ironed smooth leave it laying flat to air dry thoroughly.


Hopefully this article has taken the worry out of washing cross stitch, hardanger and blackwork pieces for you.

If you are going to frame your work, then you may find my page on stretching the fabric before framing helpful.

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