How to wash and iron your cross-stitch

00Ask ten stitchers how to wash and iron a piece and you’ll get ten slightly different answers. None will be wrong and you’ll settle on your preferred method in time.

Here’s what I do…

1. (Optional) Test your colour-fastness

If you’re using genuine big-brand threads (DMC, Anchor, etc), they’re colour-fast to high temperatures.

Plain, light-coloured aida and evenweave should be fine too (I’ve had a bit of colour come out of a dark navy aida before, but not enough to stain my stitching). Hand-dyed fabrics are trickier – make sure you follow any advice the maker gave you.

Metallic threads and beads are often safe to wash, but check the manufacturer care instructions first.

Bottom line: If you’re in any doubt at all – or just have first-time fears! – do a few stitches on a small scrap of fabric and give it a test-wash. 

2. Bowl of soapy water


I simply use warm water with a sprinkling of my normal washing machine powder. You could use handwash detergent if you have any (I don’t tend to), but machine detergent works fine – just needs a bit of a sloosh around to get it bubbly.

3. The scary bit…

05Put your piece in the water! The first time you do this, it’s terrifying. What you’re feeling is normal. Take a deep breath, and dunk it in. It’ll be fine!

Leave to soak for a few minutes.

4. Lay out a towel


While it’s soaking, lay a towel (or a couple of tea-towels on top of each other) out flat. You’ll need it in a minute.

5. Sloosh your piece around

03Give you piece a bit of a sloosh around in the water. If you have any particularly grubby marks (eg where you’ve held it), rub gently.

If your piece has metallic threads and/or beads, be careful not to knock them too much.

6. Rinse

06Run it under the tap for a couple of minutes, rinsing well (any residual detergent will make the fabric stiff when it dries).

7. Shake and lay on the towel

07Don’t wring it out – just give it a gentle shake to remove some of the excess water and lay on your towel(s).

8. Roll like a swiss roll, and squeeze

08a08bRoll the towel up with the stitching inside and give it a squeeze all the way along. This will get a lot of the water out.

9. Unroll and hang over an airer

If your piece has metallic threads and/or beads, be careful when you take it off the towel, just in case anything’s catching.

Leave to dry for a couple of hours.

10. Iron

10a10bHere’s where I diverge from other stitchers. I just put the piece face-down on my ironing board, and iron the reverse with a fairly hot iron (wool setting)!

Others prefer to put a towel over the top and iron through that, which is meant to stop the iron flattening the stitches too much. I have to say, I can’t see the difference so I don’t bother with this but you may well like to try it.

11. Et voila!

Washed and pressed piece, all ready for framing.