plastic canvas with yellow stitches and title.

Getting Started Embroidering with Plastic Canvas

Plastic canvas is a great form of embroidery for both beginners and experienced stitchers. There are only a few basic things you need to know to get started.

What is plastic canvas?

Plastic canvas is a grid of plastic with holes for stitching, just like regular embroidery canvas. It comes in sheets that can be easily cut to the size that you need. 

It can be embroidered and used for many different projects. It is often used for three-dimensional projects like boxes and containers.


Why embroider on plastic canvas?

Some embroidery snobs treat plastic canvas as second-class embroidery. But there are a lot of reasons to use it.

1. Because it is rigid, there is no need for a hoop or frame while you are stitching.

2. It is easy to stitch. Because of the size of the holes, it is easy to see. This makes it a good choice for anyone with vision or dexterity problems. 

3. It is versatile. There are many different things you can make with it.

4. It is inexpensive and doesn’t require fancy tools.


What you need to get started

Canvas

The first thing you need for a project is canvas itself. Plastic canvas is most commonly sold in sheets, about 10-1/2” x 13-1/2”.

It comes in many different colours, but the most popular is clear opaque. This will blend in with the stitching to be most invisible.

There are different grid sizes available, but the most common is 7-count. That means that there are seven holes to an inch. Check that your canvas size matches your pattern!

plastic canvas laid beside a ruler for reference.

If you need more than one sheet for a project, be sure they are made by the same manufacturer. Sometimes there are small differences that might result in size differences.

As well as sheets, there are many different shapes available. You can get circles, squares, stars, hearts and more.

sheet and circle of plastic canvas.

Needle

A basic yarn needle is all you will need. These are available in either plastic or metal.

Look for a needle with a dull tip. It doesn’t have to pierce fabric, so it doesn’t need to be sharp.

yarn needle with thread.

The eye of the needle needs to be long to hold the thread, but still thin enough to go through the canvas easily.


Thread

One of the things that makes plastic canvas embroider economical is that it doesn’t require any specialty embroidery thread. Worsted weight (medium weight) yarn is usually what is used.

If you know a knitter, ask them if they have some odds and ends of yarn they don’t need. You will probably get a lot. This is a great way to build a collection of colours.

partial balls of worsted weight yarn.

Medium weight yarn is the best, but lightweight yarn can also be used if you double it. If you’re not sure, just try a few stitches and see how it looks. It is easy to take out and adjust.


Scissors

No specialty scissors are needed. The canvas can be cut with any craft or paper scissors. (Don’t use fabric scissors!)

It is nice to have a small pair of scissors for cutting the thread when you are stitching, but they aren’t required.


That’s all you need. It doesn’t require an expensive investment into tools and supplies, so it’s a good technique to try. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you haven’t lost anything.

Getting started

Usually you will not stitch the entire sheet of plastic canvas. The pieces you need will be cut out of the sheet.

There are two different approaches for cutting the canvas pieces.

You can stitch first, then cut out the pieces or cut out the pieces first and then stitch.

Either is fine, just be careful of these issues:

If you stitch first, be sure to leave enough space between the pieces. You need a full bar for the edge of your piece.

If you cut first, triple check the size. A mistake in cutting is difficult and sometimes impossible to compensate for. Cut the number of holes that you need for the pieces. Don’t measure and cut based on inches.

Once you’ve gathered your few supplies and prepared the canvas, you are ready to begin stitching.

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Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos

designer, teacher, speaker

Elizabeth enjoys doing all types of sewing and needlework and teaching others new techniques. For more information or to have her speak to your group click HERE.

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