There are a variety of different and unusual materials that you can use for your cross stitch projects. These include plastic canvas, perforated paper, waste canvas and silk gauze.
Working with Plastic Canvas
Plastic canvas opens up the possibility of working three dimensional projects in cross stitch. A relatively recent innovation, it consists of a rigid but flexible material which can be cut into any pattern, will not fray and can be assembled into a wide variety of shaped objects.
It is readily available in a variety of counts and pre-formed shaped with holes spaced at regular intervals to form a mesh. Stitches are worked over intersections of the mesh which cannot distort and therefore it is not necessary for you to use an embroidery hoop or frame when working on plastic canvas.
Working With Perforated Paper
Perforated paper, sometimes known as stitching paper, enjoyed great popularity during the Vistorian era. The vogue was to use the paper to stitch all manner of small items - bookmarks, needle cases, alphabets, as well as larger mottoes to frame and hang on the wall.
In spite of its apparent fragility it is quite durable, allowing the edges to be cut into any shape without fraying. The revival of interest in Victorian crafts means that supplies are now available again. It can be bought in many colours including gold and silver, and has a count of 14 holes to 1 inch (2.5 cm).
Using a cross stitch frame or hoop is not essential when working with perforated paper, but nevertheless if the paper is put into an embroidery frame it is less likely to be effected from constant handling. Always ensure that you have clean, dry hands before handling perforated paper. Be warned that hand cream can stain the paper thus rendering it useless.
If any small tears do appear in the paper, they can be fixed invisibly with clear sticking tape on the back. You will need to apply the adhesive tape to the area that is torn, smoothing it down over the tear to repair the surface and then you can continue to stitch through the adhesive tape.
Working With Silk Gauze
For those of you who think that small is beautiful, working with silk gauze gives stitchers the opportunity to work on a very tiny scale. Silk gauze, an even count mono canvas made with raw silk fibres, is ideal for jewellery, doll's house projects and miniature framed pictures.
It holds its shape whilst work is in progress, so no hoop is required, and it will not fray or need stretching after work is completed. It can be purchased in rolls if you plan to do a lot of this work, or in small squares which are conveniently mounted into a cardboard frame.
You do need to be able to see the holes clearly if you are going to enjoy working on silk gauze and there are many aids on the market to help - from spectacles to special magnifiers.
Using Waste Canvas
All of the materials listed above have been specifically designed for counted thread embroidery, but the good news is that you are not limited to working only on specialist fabrics. Counted cross stitch can be worked on any fabric which can be pierced with a needle if waste canvas is first applied to the surface of that fabric.
The waste canvas provides the missing holes which act as guidelines for the stitching. It is available in a variety of counts and consists of threads which are woven into an even grid which is held rigidly in place with starch. When work is complete, the waste canvas threads are removed, leaving the stitched design on the surface of your chosen fabric.
Because you are not working on an Aida or evenweave fabric, you will have to form the holes for the stitches yourself, using the holes in the waste canvas as guides. The needle must pierce the exact centre of each hole or the threads will be difficult to remove later.
When two or more stitches share the same hole, check they enter or emerge through the same hole. Working on waste canvas seems simple but it is easy to end up with an untidy result, so you should work with particular care.
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