12 Jul 2015

10 things about stitching with plastic canvas (30)

Okay so that is a ridiculously long title, not catchy at all, but I wanted to be clear...hehehe...

**I changed the name of the post! lol Nothing lasts forever...but trust me...it was really long!**

So this is it! My final list post...yes, yes, I took my time but its here!

Its actually a combination post, because whilst stitching this weekend my brain was whirring away and thinking about the task in hand and I made some notes in my mind as to what I would write in my next blog post. Well, after I had been mentally wittering away it did occur to me that I was liable to be accused of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs unless I made a point of stating that it really is aimed at beginners. However, those cross stitch lifers who so very kindly comment on my posts may have some extra tips too and feel free to add them.

So less of the waffling....but before I start the list...a little more waffling....

My last blog post was about the Christmas Ornie SAL that I have joined and will be participating in. It starts in August and I used my huge brain to calculate that I would have five months in which to stitch anything that I wanted for this Christmas and then promptly found a set of ornaments of which there are SIX!

So in my infinite wisdom...I decided to try stitching one of them to see a) how long it would take - as the ornaments I chose have about 1500 stitches each which is quite large for a small and b) what it would be like stitching it on plastic canvas instead of fabric.

Here is a reminder of the six ornaments...

I opted to stitch Mrs Claus (top left). And here is my list of ten tips or observations to consider when stitching a Christmas ornament on plastic canvas.

1. Fabric or Plastic Canvas.
These ornaments are stitched on plastic canvas but could be stitched easily on a fabric of your choosing. They do come out quite large, or at least I think they are large, but I guess it depends on the size of your tree and whether you have an artificial tree or a real one, but I think that if I did stitch them on a fabric I would choose a higher count, such as 18 instead of the recommended 14. 

I can't even imagine how big they would have been on 11. Saying that if you did opt for 11 count plastic canvas then they wouldn't necessarily be tree ornaments and also, I would reduce the colours (see point to follow) and use a wool and use tent stitch, I think they would still look fab.

I chose 14 count plastic canvas, the pattern said you would need half a sheet (they come in A4 sheets generally) for each ornament. This is obviously an over estimate but with plastic canvas you don't need an edging as it doesn't fray. I cut a square and did allow a couple of rows extra on each side but this was to allow for me messing up my counting. I wouldnt recommend using half a sheet and then cutting out, it will be too much, and a smaller piece will sit better in your hand - as you won't be using a frame or hoop for this. Doing it this way would mean you could get all six ornaments out of one and a half sheets instead of three.

2. Threads

I used DMC and Madeira threads in mine. The chart gives both DMC and anchor numbers. I used Madeira as a replacement for Kreinik which was needed.

I love Joan Elliotts designs and a big reason is her use of colour and her palette selection for each design. She paints the pictures first (in watercolour I think?!) and then charts them and her designs have a lot of shading and thus colour changes. These subtlety's can really make the design but with a Christmas piece I don't think its entirely necessary.

Now, I know that some people can be quite particular about a design, but as long as you aren't selling it as your own and such things and its purely for yourself or a gift then I don't see any harm in making a few tweaks.

The Mrs Claus design uses 17....YES!! 17 colours. Here is a pic of all the thread I used except the three I forgot to add...the missing three are two peaches for the face and a pink for the cheeks.

You could quite easily not shade, you might be on a budget or a beginner who has yet to accumulate every colour in the DMC spectrum, and if you are using the 11 count plastic canvas and wool (as I suggest above) then keeping it simple with colours is the way to go.

So, one red, one green, white, black, golden brown and a yellow instead of the metallics. So that is just six colours - if you do use wool then you will still need the backstitch colours in the DMC/Anchor.  

Another benefit is that it would save you some time as you wouldn't be constantly colour changing.

3. The chart
This chart is in the book Christmas Cross-Stitch Treasures by Joan Elliott. The book is in colour as are the patterns, the patterns are scaled to 14 count and you could almost lay your plastic canvas perfectly over the picture and it matched up, but the book is not so sturdy.

I used the chart in the book as is, and had the book open on the page that I was using, but the page started to fall out! Eek! 

So, when I do the remaining set I will photocopy the page - the only problem with this is if you use the chart for the backstitch (I'll explain soon!) as you won't have it in colour...unless you have a colour copier in which case Yay! 

Also, some people like to highlight the area on the chart when then have stitched it. For a small like this I wouldn't tend to do that and I didn't this time and of course I wouldn't colour in the book. So if you find you need to do that then a copy is best.

4. Working with plastic canvas

So, you have cut out your square, you have your supplies ready, the chart has been copied for your use and you are all set to go.

My method was to start at the top of the design and work down, changing the colour as I went, this can mean a lot of colour changes if you keep to the shading from the original design. I know some people use the park method on fabric but I wouldn't recommend it on plastic canvas as the plastic is clear and any colour behind it will obscure the holes - but each to their own and feel free to do whatever you are comfortable with. 

I was surprised actually as I really did enjoy using plastic canvas this time and I found it much harder to make any mistakes! Although I did make one...which you will see soon enough!

As with fabric you can work either by doing tent stitch first and then crossing back over once you have marked the area in that colour or by doing a stitch at a time. You do need to be wary when stitching at the edges because you need to make sure that ...hmm...how do I explain this...you keep inside the edge when bringing the thread down...does that make sense? Because you can see through the plastic you will see that thread and when you are trimming the edges there is a risk of cutting the thread and those nearest stitches coming out. You don't want all your good work to literally come undone. I have made that mistake on this ornament...and its almost as if i did it on purpose to demonstrate to you...but I didn't. 

So after several hours spread over a few days or weeks or just the one day (as I did) you may end up with something looking like this..

As you can see, the size of my plastic canvas is not much bigger than the design. Now the mistake regarding bringing the thread down is on the hat (I know it looks like it may be on the left shoulder but that is just stray strands that had not yet been trimmed).

Can you see it? I should have gone in a straight line to the bottom left corner of the square and  then  up to the top right.

The one chart mistake I made was that my gingerbread man has only three buttons and in the original design he has four. I don't think its the end of the world though and I think I got away with it. 

The Madeira thread is used in three places where the pattern called for using Kreinik in citron. A thread I don't have. So I used a gold for the trim of the coat, a red for the coat (citron spots in the original)  - scroll up and have a look...I'll wait...and a silver for the rim of the glasses. For the coat and the trim I did not split the thread but used the full thickness, for the silver spectacles in the back stitch I used two strands. It isn't that easy to see, but when this is hanging on the tree, lit up by the twinkling fairy lights then you will appreciate the sparkle.

5. Back stitch

Back stitch! Lots of people hate back stitch but love its effect and Joan Elliotts designs literally spring to life when the back stitch is added. It takes longer than you think when back stitching and I am sure many stitchers have their own little methods. 

Remember when I mentioned needing a colour chart for the back stitch? I don't use the chart when doing my back stitch. I look at the finished picture and work from that. If you look closely at the finished image above (what I am aiming for) you will see that the back stitch has been done square by square. I, personally, don't back stitch this way. I will do 1 by 1, but for longer stretches I will stitch 2 by 2 and on occasion as many as three. I do this because I like the look more than the other but again its all about preference.

Something else I do and learnt by trial and error was to leave the black back stitch till last, for example, the fur trim has red back stitch on it.  If I was to stitch the black first then there is a chance the red would go over the black edge and it would look less clean. So, that's what I do...all other colours and then the black. Oh! I also changed a bit of the back stitch by not stitching the black all the way across the gingerbread mans head, I just felt that it wasn't needed, but again feel free to follow the design! lol

6. French knots

In general, I avoid french knots, they never turn out how I would like them to and I would rather use an alternative such as a bead. I have never had to do french knots on plastic canvas...until today! 

So I looked at the back of the book where it shows you how to do all the stitches, I read the instructions on how to do this but it never mentioned what to do when using plastic canvas, how exactly am I bringing the needle down at least a thread away from where I brought it up? Beads again befuddled me and so I had an alternative....I put a knot in the end of the thread and that was my french knot, I then trimmed any excess thread off, and tadaa a fudged french knot for plastic canvas. Its not perfect but it looks ok to me.

7. Trimming the canvas

I used my sewing scissors which were ideal, as they are small and sharp with a long blade. The canvas itself is quite soft ad easy to cut. The holes in 14 count are round (square in 11 count) and so when you trim, remember to cut as close to the edge as you can, unless you want a crinkly edge (like a stamp) which you may well want, but I have gone for a straight edged finish. 

8. Finishing the ornament.

What I did like about this ornament being on plastic canvas was the ease at which you can have a finished finish, simply by putting some ribbon through the top and sticking the design onto some self-adhesive felt (then trimming the excess off).

Alas, I have no self-adhesive felt and so I haven't completely finished, but I did add a loop to the top. I didn't use the ribbon but some of the green floss. I chose this because my existing ornaments have floss loops and I liked how it looked.

9. Take time to admire the final design.

So, after the back stitch Mrs Claus came to life! I popped outside between the rain showers to get a snap in natural light.

10. Take a photo of your pet with almost finished ornament and think about whats next on your stitch list...

My plan was to stitch on Faery 66 and hopefully have finished half of it by the end of today....but what were we saying about best laid plans...anyhoo...I have some time left today to stitch on her and will show you my progress on her since last Monday. But for now.....here is a picture of Musey with the ornament....

So, I am all set for starting on Father Christmas in August! My first blogging challenge is done. I did check over my first post and honestly...I had like two things on the list! Both done. So my next challenge will be.....Coming up with a new challenge!

Feel free to add your own tips and tricks for working with plastic canvas, or stitching ornaments :)


  1. Mrs. Claus looks great! I'm going to enjoy watching the rest of the set come to life. I use an exacto/utility knife for cutting my canvas - I think it makes a much smoother edge than scissors.

    1. A great tip Bea, I don't have the space for a table - its complicated, lol! - hence the scissors. But a sharp craft knife is a great idea.

  2. Love it!!! Congrats on the finish. What a fun list to read. I love when you are finished it's finished. No sewing required haha. I also like working on perforated paper.

    1. I've often wondered about performed paper but am worried about tearing it. How sturdy is it?

    2. I meant perforated! ugh!

  3. I haven't had any issues with perforated paper, even on a 5"x5" Mill Hill kit. Great list and great description of plastic canvas. It's definitely in its own category.

    1. I my give it a try in the new year then :)

  4. I've only ever done plastic canvas once when I was much younger (and it was ironically coasters of Looney Toons characters, not the Disney you would expect). I don't remember hating it, but I never did it again either, so I must not of liked something about it. The ones I did used yarn and that would be a problem for me since I have none on stock. Luckily it was a kit, so I didn't have to worry about supplying my own.

    I actually usually like backstitch and I love the effect it gives on certain projects. Before the days of HAED, it was my favorite part of stitching a project because I knew it was close to done and it "completed" everything. But the last two projects I've done that have backstitching have a total pain and it bumped quite a few of my stash back down notches because they all have backstitch. My how we change with age and knowledge!

    1. Hehe. Yes we do! The back stitching on your castle does work though so definitely was worth persevering.

  5. Oh, and I already miss Tiffany's posts but counteracted that with the fact that you still had one more...now I'm SOL and I want more from the both of you! It was so cool to read your top 10s and how alike and how different we are!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Maybe we need to start a new challenge! But I think Tiffany is busy busy busy sadly.

  6. I've used perforated paper several times and no problem. It's fun to work with and much simpler to finish than regular XS.

    1. I think I may try it if I stitch any Christmas Cards - I wonder what the count size is..I'm gonna go look! Thanks Bea :)


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