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How I wash and iron my cross stitch pictures

Let's face it, cross stitch projects are not quick projects! We spend days, weeks, months, even years completing our project, so after all that effort, we want it to look it's best. Washing and ironing your finished project before framing can do just that as it removes any hoop marks and creases, brightens the threads, perks up any squashed stitches, and makes sure all those natural oils from your hands, that may discolour the fabric and threads in years to come, are washed clean away.

Do you always need to wash your project? Personally, my answer to this is no. I only wash them if I feel they really need it. I actually actively try to avoid it, for example by washing my hands before and regularly during stitching, cleaning my project bag regularly and keeping the project clean and protected between stitchy sessions. That's because, even though all TSK projects use colourfast fabric and threads, I've heard the odd horror story of dye bleeding out of one colour and into another, despite using DMC threads.... so the risk is clearly still there, you've just got to decide yourself if the risk is worth the benefits you may get from washing it.

If you do decide the risk is worth it, there are a few rules you should follow to make sure you're most likely to get the best outcome. To show you how I wash and iron my projects, I will be washing and ironing my brand new Spring At Whitby Abbey Cross Stitch because there is lots of white in it and I wanted to brighten this up a little. So let's go!

1. gather your materials!

As well as your beautifully stitched project you will need...

pink and white striped towel, whitby abbey cross stitch, almat detergent bottle, pyrex casserole dish

For washing:

  • A large clean bowl/container (the biggest I have is this Pyrex dish usually used for lasagne!)

  • Two clean, light-coloured towels

  • Some mild soap (Don't be fooled by the bottle in the picture. I just use the bottle and refill it at a local refill shop, Replenish By The Bay, and what I'm actually using is Miniml Eco Friendly Non-Bio Laundry Liquid).

pink and white striped towel with whitby abbey laid face down on it, both on a kitchen counter with an iron plugged in and tea, coffee, sugar jars

For ironing:

  • A clean, light-coloured bath towel

  • An iron

  • An ironing board (or if you're not quite grown up yet like me... a kitchen bench with another clean bath towel on top!)

2. Wash it!

  • Fill your clean bowl with lukewarm water and add a small amount of soap. Literally just a couple of drops will do.

  • Stir the soapy water with your clean hands to ensure the soap is evenly dispersed, then pop your project into the soapy water.

  • I like to then push the project through the water a few times so that the soapy water really permeates through it, and also work it gently with my fingers in any area that I feel need a more thorough clean, then let it soak!

  • You can leave it as little as 15mins, but for the best results I like to leave it for 1 hour, checking it half way through. If at the mid point there are still some marks on the fabric, I will use a Vanish Stain Remover bar gently on those areas but NOT on the threads (no real reasoning except 'just in case'). I then put it straight back in the water and feel like the diluted vanish will make its way via the water to the threads to lift any marks on them.

  • When it's ready to come out it's bath, rinse it gently with cool water to remove any soapy residue, and give it a gentle little shake to remove any excess water.

  • Place your clean, wet project between two clean, light coloured towels. Press gently then roll the towels and give the roll a squeeze all the way along to remove even more water.

  • You can then leave it lying on a towel face up or hang it up somewhere to dry (inside... you don't want birds doing their business on it after all this!). What I tend to do (because I have nowhere to hang it and a cat that would love to lie on it) is put a tea towel over one of the double radiators and lay the project on top of that. In winter this means it dries super fast too!

Then, once it's almost dry....

3. iron it!

  • Lay your project face down on a clean, dry towel on your ironing board. This helps to make sure you can really apply pressure with the iron to get stubborn creases out, without crushing and flattening your stitches.

  • Your iron should be warm, not too hot, and always test it first on a corner of your fabric that won't be seen when framed.

  • Use the iron firmly over the project and constantly keep it moving to avoid build up of heat and potential damage from that. I tend to work on the fabric around the stitching first, then the stitched part. You can iron directly onto the back of stitches, I hear, but if you're extra cautious like me, you can also use a clean tea towel as a barrier!

  • Lastly, lay it on a towel again face up to fully dry for as long as needed.

whitby abbey cross stitch picture on white zweigart aida lying face up on pink and white towel on wooden table
Washed and ironed Spring At Whitby Abbey cross stitch project air drying

Once it's dry, it's ready for framing! You can check out my blog about how I frame my projects HERE!

If you have any further questions, please send me a message

and I will be happy to help!

Couple of quick notes about this process... the below advice is only suitable for projects completed with cotton threads (which all TSK projects use), not silk or wool threads. It's also not suitable for projects that use threads or fabric that are NOT colourfast (cheaper or hand-dyed threads and fabrics often aren't colourfast). DMC thread should be colourfast according to DMC themselves, so it shouldn't be a problem with TSK kits. Lastly, if you have chosen to add beading to your project, add your beads after washing and ironing as the beads won't like the process!


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