Working With Waste Canvas


Waste canvas is a grid that is held together with a water soluble glue. Waste canvas resembles the canvas used for needlepoint. It is available in various fabric counts, typically 8.5, 10, 14, and 18 squares per inch. A blue thread is often woven every 10 stitches to help with counting. This gridded canvas is called waste canvas because the fibers are temporary and are pulled out after the stitched design is complete.

Why to Use Waste Canvas:

Waste canvas is used to stitch on non-evenweave fabric. Stitchers use it to aid in stitching on clothing, tote bags, quilts, and other non-evenweave material. The grid guides stitch placement. After a design is completed, the grid is moistened and removed, leaving the finished design in place.

How to Use Waste Canvas:

  1. The canvas should be cut slightly larger than the finished design size of the design to be stitched.
  2. Mark the center of the waste canvas with a small piece of floss or a permanent marker.
  3. Attach the waste canvas by basting it onto the pre-washed fabric.
  4. Stitch the design.
  5. When the design is complete, remove the basting. Moisten the waste canvas grid and remove it, pulling each strand with tweezers or by hand.

Tips for Using Waste Canvas:

  • Use a crewel needle instead of a tapestry needle.
  • You may want to baste or iron a self adhesive piece of interfacing on the back of the fabric for additional support.
  • Stitches should “hold hands.” There should be no gaps.
  • Stitch into the middle of the square formed by the grid of the waste canvas.
  • Take time to position your stitches carefully when working with waste canvas.
  • The canvas should be moistened, not doused with water. Too much water may actually make it more difficult to remove the waste canvas grids.

My personal techniques: (with images)

  • wc1Cut the fabric half an inch, to a full inch larger than the completed pattern design will be. This will allow you enough length to tug on when wasting the canvas at the end.
  • wc2Mark the center lines of the canvas with a water erasable fabric pen and then baste stitch the outer perimeter of the canvas onto your fabric. Add more basting diagonally through the center as an X depending on your concern of movement or the size of the overall project.
  • wc5Work in one overall direction, either top to bottom, or left to right, etc. Do not work like you normally would on a pattern if the fabric you’re stitching onto is highly flexible to prevent the primary fabric shifting away from the waste canvas. Depending on the pattern, try working with one color as long as possible, and do not “jump” stitches by more than 3 away.
  • If the size of the project requires multiple movements of the hoop, complete all stitching within it before moving, this includes backstitching.
  • Iron between each movement.
  • wc4Knot and secure thread, either by a twisted french styled knot or pulling through a few stitches in the back, and looping through a second time.
  • wc7If your fabric does shift away and the canvas starts to “bubble” (vaguely demonstrated on the right hand side of the photo), continue working in the one direction as much as possible by diligently tamping it down as you go. Try repositioning the hand that’s holding the hoop to also stabilize the fabric as well.
  • wc11 wc10When finished stitching, cut and remove the baste stitching first. Remove each individual strand of waste canvas separately, it helps removing all “excess” canvas first, using your needle to help grab hold.
  • wc13Use a combination of the needle to help gain access to the strands, your fingers (the canvas will hurt, so I often prepare bandages to wrap around my fingers as a cushion against the strands) or a pair of tweezers or needlenose pliers to grab hold and pull each strand out.
  • wc12If the canvas is brittle and tearing apart when you tug (usually caused by the iron having been too hot), carefully fold the fabric and with your needle, gently pull each strand up every 5-10 stitches apart and work it out of the project slowly.
  • Finish, clean up, and enjoy your finished project!