Plastic Canvas 101

Plastic canvas is a wonderfully diverse form of needlework that allows you to stitch both two-dimensional objects, such as wall hangings and coasters, and three-dimensional creations like tissue box covers and napkin rings.
Designs use yarn stitched on a plastic mesh canvas, though cotton embroidery floss can be used for backstitching and other accent details. Like counted cross-stitch fabric, plastic canvas is categorized by the number of stitches per inch, referred to as the “mesh.” The most common sizes are 7-mesh, 10-mesh, and 14-mesh, and the canvas can either be clear plastic or a rainbow of colors.

Getting Started

Designs are stitched from a gridded chart, much like in counted cross-stitch. Each symbol represents a specific color to be used. The symbols lie on the intersection of the two lines. The chart should indicate where to begin stitching. All stitches begin on the back of your work. With a threaded needle, come up from the back of your work, hold a 1" section of the yarn against the back of the canvas and stitch over the 1" section. This will eliminate the need for a knot on the end of your yarn and will keep the back side of your work clean and flat.


Stitching the Design

Following the chart, make a half cross-stitch for each symbol on the chart. Except where otherwise indicated, half cross-stitches are used for all main areas. They are stitched in either rows or columns, and they slant up from left to right. Always bring the needle up on odd numbers and down on even numbers as shown in the diagram.

Switching Colors

To finish off a color, run the needle under 4 or 5 stitches on the back and clip off. The tension of the stitches will hold the yarn in place and knots will not be necessary. Then start the new color as you started the first color, holding a section against the back and stitching over the end.


Specialty Stitches

Specialty stitches can be used to add accents and details to a design using either yarn or floss, depending on the design. These should be stitched after the main design has been completed.
A backstitch is made in any direction with multiple continuous stitches crossing one bar at a time.

A straight stitch is formed by bringing the needle up through the canvas and down to the back as shown in the diagram. The stitch can be of any length and worked in any direction.

To work a running stitch, pass the needle over the yarn stitches on the right side and under the back side of the canvas. Continue working these stitches of equal length in an even line, skipping every other space.

To make a French knot, bring the threaded needle through the canvas and wrap the floss around the needle as shown. Tighten the twists and return the needle through the canvas at the same place. The yarn will slide through the wrapped thread to make the knot.

Finishing Your Project

Once all stitching has been completed, cut away the surplus canvas. Always cut your canvas between the bars, making sure to leave one plastic bar between the stitches and cutting line (see diagram). By cutting between the bars, you will be assured an adequate amount of plastic for overcasting the edges when finishing.

The overcast and joining stitch is used for finishing your edges or joining two pieces of canvas after the canvas has already been cut. The stitch comes up in one hole, over the border bar and up in the next hole, over the border bar and up in the next hole. For joining, make sure the holes and edges are aligned before stitching.

Finishing Techniques

Some plastic canvas projects require additional finishing techniques, such as adding a felt backing to coasters or a hanger to a wall hanging or ornament. These techniques are really quite simple.

  • Felt backing (for most projects): Cut felt slightly smaller than the trimmed plastic canvas project. Secure with felt glue or hot glue.
  • Felt backing (for lollipop covers): Glue felt to the back of the project, placing glue around the outer edges and leaving the bottom open to insert a lollipop. The width of the opening may vary due to the size of the lollipop.
  • Wall hanging hangers: Place a plastic ring at the center of the piece—as close to the top as possible—so that the piece hangs evenly. Stitch in place using sewing thread or floss. If two rings are included in your kit, place one at the top right and one at the top left so that the piece hangs evenly. Stitch in place using sewing thread or floss. Or, cut a 9" length of yarn that matches the top of the project. Thread the yarn through the hole at the center top of the project and tie the ends together.
  • Ornament hangers: Cut a 9" length of yarn from the desired color. Thread a needle with the yarn and insert it through the first row of the plastic canvas ornament on the back side at the center top. Tie the two ends together to form a knot.
  • Greeting cards: Center the design inside the card opening. Affix in place with double-sided tape.

Helpful Tips

  • Prior to beginning a project, look over the requirements and directions carefully.
  • Mark your plastic canvas with a marker as you carefully count and lay out each motif before stitching, leaving at least two squares between motifs.
  • Begin stitching on an uncut piece of plastic canvas to avoid snagging yarn or floss on ragged edges, starting with the upper-left stitch. If necessary, cover the plastic canvas edges with masking tape to avoid snags.
  • For a finished look, trim the rough edges and cut off corners at an angle.