Washing cross stitch and embroidery projects is sometimes seen as a difficult, or unnecessary task at the end of a stitching project. So why should you wash your projects? Washing cross stitch removes the oils that have accumulated in the floss and fabric from your hands. No matter how clean your hands are and how many times you wash your hands while stitching, they will still leave invisible oils on the floss and fabric. If you don’t remove these oils, then eventually that will contribute to your stitching deteriorating and going yellow far faster than it otherwise would. That’s why museums use gloves when handling archival products like old artwork — any extra oils from their hands would accelerate the artwork’s degeneration and brittleness. So not only is washing cross stitch really important to extend the life of your finished piece, it’s also very quick and easy to do as the video below will show. The video shows the samples of my Blackwork Heart free cross stitch pattern — if you’d like to access this pattern and the rest of the other free cross stitch patterns from Peacock & Fig, click the image below!
Washing cross stitch and embroidery
- Use lukewarm water – hot water may leach colour out of cheaper floss (DMC, Anchor are colorfast)
- Clear shampoo works well to wash, Woolite can be harsh sometimes
- Let soak 10-15 minutes in the water
- Carefully swish through the water releasing any loosened dirt and oils, rinse in clean water
- Roll in a light colored towel and squeeze gently to remove excess water
- Gently iron face down on a towel, lay it flat to dry, or pin to an ironing board or other flat surface to “block” it and let dry
Hi. I am a beginner .. I did some embroidery work on off white cotton cloth to gift it to someone. When I washed it, colors bled. Should I wash floss before starting the project?
Hi Ruchi! Where did you get the floss from? If it’s Anchor, DMC, Madeira, etc, they are all colourfast and do not need to be washed first — they won’t bleed (unless they are very very old threads). Other brands (like no-name brands you get from Amazon or the dollar shop, or cheap brands from China) very often will bleed, they’re not high quality. Also hand dyed flosses will bleed, and shouldn’t be washed at all. Hope that helps! 🙂
Hi Dana, I have cross stitched in what feels like my whole life, lol. I just thought I would toss another idea to add to all your great ones. I like to buy white tissue paper in the gift depts. & put it over the part I am going to work on & then the hoop. After I have my hoop the desired tightness, I tear off the paper on the front to show the part I want to work on. I do this in case my hoop has some dust on it or the soap I use before I start didn’t get all the oil or dirt off my arms or wrists. I do scrub but I just like to be safe. Thank you for helping so many! This is just an awesome craft & I hope everyone loves to love it as much as I do!
Yeah that’s a great tip Joyce, that’s actually what a lot of people do with goldwork projects as you really don’t want to touch the metal threads more than you have to (as they 100% will tarnish, and the more you touch them the faster they’ll start to blacken on you). It also helps protect delicate areas of stitching or beading. Your hands will always have oils on them, it’s natural, it’s what keeps your skin from hardening into a giant callous, so try not to stress toooo much about getting your hands perfectly clean (because you simply can’t remove all the oils). 🙂 <3
Amy E Davis
Do I iron directly onto the back of the piece or put a towel between the iron and cloth?
Hi Amy! If you’re using anything like beads or French knots, etc, you could protect them with a towel. Otherwise you can carefully iron on the back (and put the stitching face down onto a towel to cushion it if you like). Just keep an eye on your iron temperature, be careful it’s not so hot it scorches your fabric. 🙂
Nice piece. The only thing I’d add is that you can add a Shout Color Catcher sheet to your water to help prevent the dye from running. Personally, I like to use soak wash for my cross-stitch projects.
Good ideas Cara, I’ve never seen those color catcher sheets but I have heard of them. Thanks for the tips! 🙂
Hi Dana. A very helpful tutorial! Just wondering how you might wash/dry a piece that had beads in it, especially if they’re likely to lose colour? Thanks!
Hi Diana! You can get sheets of colour catchers that you could add to your water (which should absorb any dye that leaches and not the fabric), but you’ll have to be careful. I’d test a few beads just on their own and see if they leach dye out of them. 🙂
Hi, I was wondering if I should use a bath tub to wash a 20 x 24 Aida 14 count project? Or do I wash it in the washing machine on gentle cycle?
What would you recommend for such a large piece?
Hi Connie! Yes a bathtub would be fine. I have heard of people putting stitching in the washing, but I’d always be worried about thread ends coming loose. 🙂
Hi Dana, thank you for all the tips! Would Eucalan be good to use to hand wash a finished cross stitch?
Hi Gina! I’ve never heard of Eucalan before so I don’t know. I just use clear shampoo, it works well. 🙂
Hello, I am wondering if you have any tips to reviving the look of a satin stitched area after hand washing the embroidery piece? It doesn’t seem to be as nice and puffy as it looked before washing it. It looks sort of flat and even a bit wrinkly (even after ironing the fabric from the backside). Thanks!
Hi Melissa! I’m not sure, you could try dragging your fingernails across the surface to get all the stitches to lie parallel and smoothly. Or even dragging something like a piece of velvet (which is soft but has a bit of texture) across the surface in the direction of the stitches may help pull them all smoothly into alignment. 🙂
Hi, I am doing my first ever large cross stitch and using a rotating frame.
Where I have had to move the fabric to do a lower part I have a dirty line across the white fabric. Should I wash the material now before I finish to prevent the dirty getting ground in or will it all come out at the end?
By the way the end is about 6mths away still, based on my time planning to have it finished in time for a birthday in November.
Many thanks in advance
Hi Dawn! It should come out at the end, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. What you can do is roll your fabric the other way around the scroll bars (if it’s the type of frame I’m thinking of). Instead of having your fabric roll across the top of the bars and then under, if you put the top side of your fabric “under” your bars then roll it, then your hands will be touching the underside of the fabric at the edges and not the top. I hope that makes sense. 🙂
Thank you so much for your quick response. I will give that a try.
You’re welcome Dawn, good luck! 🙂
Thank you for your tutorials and videos. They are very well done and I have picked up some good tips.
I have just gotten back into cross stitch after about 30 years and I am working on a very large project ( 21″ X 30″) I have always gotten my pieces dry cleaned in the past and have never had any problems, however, with this piece being so large with hundreds of hours poured into it, I’m a little nervous to do either washing or dry cleaning. Obviously I need to do one or the other and was wondering what your thoughts are on dry cleaning verses washing.
Hi Sandie! I wouldn’t dry clean — they use nasty chemicals, you don’t want them affecting the longevity of your fabric or floss. I always just hand wash my pieces, it’s really easy to do. Just be careful if you’re using hand-dyed fabric or floss, or using floss you’re not sure is colourfast. 🙂 https://peacockandfig.com/2016/09/washing-cross-stitch-embroidery/
I would like to know if washing my gramdmothers needlepoints after 40 or so years is a good idea. They are very dirty and sppted from years of being on walls and stored in attic. I do not know if they thread will bleed. Any suggestions or if i should just leave them as they are.
Hi Tammy! You could try dampening a small section of the pieces and see if any dye will bleed. Or you could also use colour catcher sheets in the water when you wash them, that should prevent any dye leaching onto the pieces. Here is an article talking specifically about preventing colour from running, hopefully some of the tips will help! 🙂 http://www.dimensionalembroidery.com/the-conversation/how-to-keep-your-thread-color-from-running
Do you do this for large pieces as well? I am working on one (the largest I have done) that will be about 8.5 x 11 finished and about 40 colors. 2/3 of the pattern is reds (DMC floss). I’m nervous to wash it at the end and have the reds bleed or otherwise ruin the piece. Thank you!
Hi Jenni! Yes, you should wash any project when you finish it, the exception is hand-dyed fabrics and floss may run (or if you’re using unknown floss like from a Chinese kit). DMC floss is colourfast, it won’t run. If you want to test that before washing your whole piece, get a scrap of fabric, stitch a few stitches in the same red on it, and soak it for 10-15 minutes. If it doesn’t run, your bigger piece will be ok too. 🙂 You can also use things like a colour catcher when you wash your fabric, then any dye that does run gets caught in that and not into your fabric and other floss.
loved this tutorial! Thanks! Just wondering what you recommend for hand dyed floss such as Weeks Dye Works etc. I have had them bleed quite badly and been very disappointed after working so long on a piece.
Hi Jennifer, thanks for your question! I create all my patterns with brands such as DMC and Kreinik, I have customers all over the world so I want them to be able to readily get the floss for their projects. I haven’t used hand-dyed floss yet, but what I would suggest is washing your floss before you start using it if you think it may bleed. You could group similar tones together and wash them in the same way I describe in the video, and obviously you’ll just have to let them air dry rather than iron them dry. If needed, you could wash them twice to really make sure any loose dye gets out of the floss. Does that help? 🙂
Thanks for the tutorial. It’s exactly what I needed, right when I needed it!
Ahahahah that’s so awesome, I’m so glad it helped you Christine! 😀