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How to wash and iron cross stitch and embroidery before framing

How to wash and iron cross stitch and embroidery before framing

When you stitch, the natural oils on your hands transfer to the fabric. That's why it is important to wash your cross stitch and hand embroidery projects before framing, even if the piece looks clean. Oils that you can't immediately see can become stains over time.

Washing is also an easy way to get out stubborn creases and hoop marks made during stitching.

Fortunately, washing cross stitch and hand embroidery is easy and doesn't require any special equipment. Here is how to do it.

Materials:

  • Mild soap like Soak Scentless or dish soap
  • Large bowl or container
  • 2 or 3 soft cotton bath towels
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Press cloth (optional)

Step 1: Soak in soapy water

Fill a large clean bowl or container with lukewarm (not hot) water and add a drop or two of soap. You don't need much. Stir the soap around with your hand to make sure it is evenly dispersed. A mild scentless soap like Soak wash is a good choice because it's gentle and eco-friendly to boot, but regular dish soap works too.

Soak Scentless soap for washing cross stitch and embroidery

Pre-rinse your stitched piece under cool running water.

Submerge the piece in the soapy water and let it soak for 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. Gently swish it around every so often. If you notice a stain, you can try rubbing gently with a soft toothbrush. Do not scrub.

how to wash cross stitch

Step 2: Rinse and partially dry

Dump out the water and rinse in 3 or 4 changes of cool water until the rinse is soap-free.

Lay out a soft bath or hand towel (depending on how large your piece is), and lay the fabric face-down on the towel. Smooth out any wrinkles and then place another towel on top. Roll the towels up like a jelly roll with the stitched piece in the middle. Press lightly on the rolled towels to remove some of the water. Don't wring the towels.

Step 3: Iron flat

Place a dry towel on your ironing board or other heat-proof surface. Unroll the stitched piece and place it face-down on the towel, gently easing it into shape if needed. The towel underneath the cross stitch will help keep the stitches from getting crushed when you iron.

With a warm iron, press the work from the back. Make sure to keep the iron moving at all times so you don't scorch the fabric. Don't iron from the front of the piece or the stitches will get flattened.

If you have particularly resistant creases, you can use your iron on the steam setting, but cover the stitching with a press cloth first.

When the piece is ironed smooth and mostly dry, lay it flat to air dry completely.

Important notes

This hand wash method can be used for stitching made using standard cotton embroidery floss. Do not hand wash if you have stitched with silk or wool threads.

Be aware that some types of embroidery floss and colored fabric may not be colorfast. We have never had a problem with DMC floss, but particularly if you are using hand-dyed floss or fabric, you should check to make sure the materials are colorfast before washing.

37 Responses

Ruth

Ruth

March 28, 2021

I have never washed any of my pieces and after reading some of these comments, I won’t start now! I was my hands thoroughly before starting a session which keeps the fabric clean and use a frame on a stand. I have several large pieces that are framed professionally and I’ve never had a problem with discoloration over a period of time or facing. The oldest one I have is now over 20 years old and shows no sign of aging.

Lorette

Lorette

February 09, 2021

I just finished a 15×18″ colorful tropical scene in DMC thread. When I read the experience a lady had with red DMC thread running, I nearly had a stroke! I am afraid to take chances with vinegar to set the colors and are planning to fill a clean trash bag with Dawn dish liquid and very lukewarm water, swish it around, let it soak for an hour and rinse it the same way 3 times until water is clear. Roll the piece between 2 soft towels and just let it dry naturally in my bathroom, which is above my furnace.

Mel

Mel

January 25, 2021

Can I put it in the dryer on low or have the fabric dry cleaned?

Ms Leanne Kirk

Ms Leanne Kirk

January 22, 2021

I’ve just finished a large cross stitch with wool threads as a Xmas present. It’s got stains on the corners from the oil in my palms. You say not to wash if you use wool thread, any suggestions to get rid of the marks? TIA

ileana m leyva

ileana m leyva

May 22, 2020

I noticed that one of my 28 ct hand painted and washed linen is so much softer and easier to work with. Do you recommend pre washing linen BEFORE sticthing?

Lisa Rupert

Lisa Rupert

April 13, 2020

I purchased a baby quilt for cross stitching but it’s white and I’ve learned that my daughter prefers ecru or light gray. can I very lightly color it with tea or other color before cross stitching without removing the pre-stamped pattern? I want to preserve the thread colors. I’m a beginner.

NANCY LITTLE

NANCY LITTLE

April 12, 2020

Thank you for the wonderful suggestions to get the grid line off my projects. It worked very well. Vinegar – cold water, Soapy Dawn dish soap and warm water for 30 Min, Rinse 3 times and Hurrah! Will let dry naturally. Great resource for people stuck at home during the virus. Nancy

Enita

Enita

March 01, 2020

I am in the middle of a large cross stitch sampler and have noticed that the Aida cloth needs washing. Would it be best to continue the project and wash it once it is completed?

Louise

Louise

February 11, 2020

I finished a no count cross stitch and followed the instructions for removing the background colour.
Most of the colours came away but the grid marks are still faint.
Does anyone have a suggestion how to remove them?

Louise

Louise

February 11, 2020

I finished a no count cross stitch and followed the instructions for removing the background colour.
Most of the colours came away but the grid marks are still faint.
Does anyone have a suggestion how to remove them?

Barbara Mcgloin

Barbara Mcgloin

December 29, 2019

I recently completed a piece on Aida that I couldn’t get hoop marks out of. I even tried freezing it which several people suggested. As a last resort I purchased some stuff called ‘Flatter’ from a quilt shop. It removed every trace if the mark like magic.

Megan Gardiner

Megan Gardiner

December 16, 2019

I have a cross stitch that I have soaked and dried/pressed, and there are still creases/stains. I thought it was just a crease, but I’m guessing the oils from my fingers and the over 100+ hours of gripping it left some marks. Suggestions?

Barbara Larsen

Barbara Larsen

December 04, 2019

Hi, I washed my black cross stitch project as per Cross My Heart instructions and the black faded my light stitches!! Help!!

Lydian

Lydian

November 24, 2019

My mom spilled red wine on an in process cross stitch project, any tips on getting it out?

Kitty Gladu

Kitty Gladu

November 05, 2019

I have had a problem with DMC thread.
The red ran and ruined the entire work putting me off forever!

Susie

Susie

September 30, 2019

Just stumbled across this thread – fairly new to cross-stitching, just the past few years. I never wash my pieces as I rarely touch the portion that I’m stitching on and am careful to have clean hands (I’m sure we all are of course!) and typically stitch fairly small pieces. I am wondering now if I should be concerned about my pieces discoloring over time. They’ve all been gifts, and I hate to think of them out in the world looking dingy. Any thoughts or experience from others on this who maybe haven’t washed all pieces? Do they discolor fairly quickly or any idea on how long it usually takes?

Donna

Donna

September 22, 2019

Try a little white vinegar in cold water to set the dyes before washing.

Nanette

Nanette

September 06, 2019

I have just finished Mirabilia “Angel Proclamation” on opalescent linen which has a lot of beading as well as Rainbow Thread’s Wisper for the angel’s wings. Will your recommendation for washing then ironing on a towel be okay?

Susan Fitgerald

Susan Fitgerald

May 28, 2019

@Nancy – Avoiding water and steam is your best bet if the threads are bleeding. I would put the piece front-side down on a soft towel, and then iron the back without a pressing cloth using a low heat setting. You can also try a higher heat setting with a pressing cloth. Hopefully with patience and persistence the wrinkles will come out. You can also try consulting a local dry cleaner, although my understanding is chemicals in the dry cleaning process may also cause threads to bleed. Good luck!

Nancy

Nancy

May 20, 2019

Have a tan linen cross-stitch (as gift) with hand-dyed variegated threads – I did not wash as I think the threads would bleed. Any hints as I iron with “towel pressing”? I’ve lightly sprayed the back of the linen piece, with iron on cotton/linen setting – but some of the edges of the threads do seem to be ‘bleeding’ into the linen. Perhaps I should not have sprayed/steamed, but otherwise the wrinkles would not come out. HELP please :)

Susan

Susan

April 11, 2019

Hi @Kaye – What a great project! I’m afraid I don’t have any special secrets. It depends on the ink used and on the fabric. Sounds like soaking did the trick, so I would go that route. Good luck!

Kaye

Kaye

April 04, 2019

I have cross-stitched/embroidered 30 quilt blocks. I am quilting each block individually so have my batting & backing attached as I quilt. Now to get the ink out before I put it together. Any suggestions? I put one block in the sink with warm water & it did ok. When it dries, I plan to press it. Thought someone might know a secret. Thanks

Gayvalyn Moll

Gayvalyn Moll

March 25, 2019

@SARA – I use a marker called “TRICKMARKER” by “Prym”. The lines will disappear in a day or two. This marker is well-known to the dressmakers. Hope this help.

Gayvalyn Moll

Gayvalyn Moll

March 25, 2019

SARA. I use a marker called “TRICKMARKER” by “Prym”. The lines will disappear in a day or two. This marker is well-known to the dressmakers. Hope this help.

Susan Carlone

Susan Carlone

March 17, 2019

How would you wash a counted cross stitch project that uses DMC floss, Marlitt, Balger, and beads? (Lavender and Lace “Ice Angel”)

Sara

Sara

March 10, 2019

Will the Soak soap be able to remove pencil lines placed on the aida for the gridding? Just curious. I watched a few tutorials about making grids and various erasers were suggested, none of which are actually working to remove the lines. Sigh. I would really be bummed if I had to start over. Live and learn…! Heheh. Thank you!

Donna Schaefer

Donna Schaefer

February 22, 2019

DO NOT use Tide, especially as a spot treater on ivory cross stitch fabric. It will remove color from the fabric (and I would assume the thread).

Joyce

Joyce

February 21, 2019

Do I iron while still damp after washing? I can’t seem to get all the wrinkles out but I’m trying to iron dry, Thank you for your help

DeAnn

DeAnn

January 05, 2019

Try putting a Shout Color Catcher sheet in the contsiner of water. Usually it will grab the dyes before they settle back on the fabric.

Vicki

Vicki

January 04, 2019

I cross stitch alot, so this article on washing my completed project was very helpful.

Kim

Kim

January 03, 2019

Hi there, I’m looking for suggestions please… I inherited a georgeous cross stitched quilt. Very sad right now because I think I’ve ruined it. I was advised I could machine wash it. I did…and the colors ran!!😢😢😢 Is there anyway to save it?

Kim

Kim

January 03, 2019

Hi there, I’m looking for suggestions please… I inherited a georgeous cross stitched quilt. Very sad right now because I think I’ve ruined it. I was advised I could machine wash it. I did…and the colors ran!!😢😢😢 Is there anyway to save it?

Christina

Christina

December 03, 2018

I’m doing a dimensions cross stitch. It’s huge and I’ve been at it since LAST June.. I’m hoping to finally finish it as a Christmas gift for my husband. The trouble is the back is pretty dirty from how long I’ve been working it. Will my colors run? I normally take less than a month to finish a project so I’ve never noticed this happening and so haven’t worried about it before now..

Rebecca

Rebecca

May 08, 2018

Thankfully, the colors are fine and didn’t run. Whew!

Rebecca

Rebecca

May 08, 2018

Oh no. I used DMC floss and I have it in the water as I type. It had better not run. This cross stitch is a gift and I worked 95-100 hours on it.

Susan (Stitched Modern)

Susan (Stitched Modern)

March 20, 2018

@Jene – How frustrating! I have never had a problem with DMC colors bleeding. I wonder if switching to a gentler detergent or reducing the amount of detergent would help? The other thing you can do is wash your threads before stitching with them in hopes of making them colorfast. Best of luck!

Jene

Jene

March 17, 2018

I use dmc floss and anytime I wash after or sport remove, the color always runs… what can I do?

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