Plastic Canvas Tips
1. When working Continental Stitches, be sure that you are working them properly so that you have stitches on the back that look similar to those on the front side. Not only does it look nicer and give you better coverage, but it also gives you sufficient yarn to weave your end pieces into. Here is a diagram of the correct way to work the Continental Stitch:
Here you can see the correct and incorrect stitches illustrated:
2. A lot of my patterns use continental stitches, backstitch/straight stitches, and french knots. When working pieces that have backstitch/straight stitches, french knots, or any other kind of embroidery type stitch, always work the continental stitches (or whatever your main stitch is) first.
3. If you're on the go a lot, like me, it's handy to have a project ready to go! I'm a mom, but mostly cab service it seems. LOL! I spend a lot of time waiting around when I'm not at home. Whether it be at baseball practice, tae kwon do lessons, or even at the doctor's office. I have a project bag ready to go at all times. An inexpensive tote bag works well. It usually contains the pattern I am working on, plastic canvas, small scissors, yarn, and needles.
Ziploc baggies are extremely handy! They help to keep everything organized in your project bag and they're not too expensive. Put your cut plastic canvas pieces in one (or more if you like to have them sorted), needles in another (always bring a few extra needles), and yarn. If you're like me, I buy large skeins of worsted weight yarn to save money and use in several projects. Cut the yarn colors you need into 18" lengths and store each color in it's own baggie. You can even label each baggie with the color of yarn so you know for sure what color you have in each. This is especially important when you have several shades of the same color. Oh! Also bring an empty baggie or two to put scraps of yarn or any other bits of trash in!
PS: If you haven't cut your canvas yet, bring whole plastic canvas sheets and a few extra baggies to put your cut pieces in. Use the scrap baggie for trash. If you like to mark your canvas before cutting, also include your marking instrument of choice, such as a sharpie marker, in your needle baggie. :) You may even want to include another baggie with a damp paper towel or cloth in it to wipe your marks off with.
A project bag makes whatever project you are working on totally portable. Even when just moving from room to room in your house. :)
Get creative with your project bag! Make it you! You can even use small, zippered make-up bags instead of baggies. Some tote bags have zippered compartments you can use to put things in too. Have fun!
4. Coasters aren't just for putting your drinks on! My favorite things to design are coaster sets. You can use them for more than just coasters though. :) One thing you can do is use them to dress up gift baskets. You can even use the coaster holder fronts and backs to put on the baskets too! You could also group the coaster and coaster holder pieces together in a frame or several small frames with matting to use as cute wall decor. Use your imagination! Coasters don't have to be just coasters. :)
Same thing goes with magnets, tissue box cover sides, tote bag designs, etc. The possibilities are endless!! :)
5. Don't throw away those left over pieces of plastic canvas that remain when you are through cutting out your projects. Not the decent size ones anyway. :o) Save them in a box, small plastic tub or even a bag for future use. You never know when you will be making a project that calls for small pieces or even VERY small pieces (like 3 holes x 3 holes). You don't want to cut into a nice big piece of plastic canvas for that tiny thing do you? LOL! Of course, you don't have to keep saving once you have a good supply of scraps, but if you're like me, I just can't bring myself to throw them out.
6. Did you make a wrong cut in the plastic canvas again?! If you're like me, you tend to make mistakes when you are cutting your plastic canvas. Or maybe one of the threads in the canvas just broke because of a weak spot in the canvas or you pulled the yarn too tight! Eeek! Well, there is hope! You can take a glue gun and mend the canvas where you made the wrong cut or it broke. Just touch the tip of the hot glue gun with a tiny dab of glue to the canvas, try to spread it out a little to be even with the canvas, let it cool, and your done. :) Of course, we all know how messy and...well, hot...hot glue can be, so be really careful when handling it. I find using a hot glue gun with a fine tip makes it easier. Also, practice makes perfect. You will get better each time you try.
7. Did you know there are four sizes of plastic canvas you can use?
* 5-count (5 holes per inch)
* 7-count (7 holes per inch) - the most commonly used
* 10-count (10 holes per inch)
* 14-count (you guessed it, 14 holes per inch)
If you have a pattern for something that calls for 7-count (or mesh) plasic canvas, you can make it larger or smaller by using a different sized canvas. If you want your project larger, use 5-count pc. If you want it smaller, you can use 10-count or 14-count pc. Of course, this works the same way for the other sizes of canvas. If you have a pattern that calls for 14-count pc, you can make it larger by using any of the other sizes of pc. Just depends on how much larger you want it. You will count the holes (or threads) just the same as on the pattern, but because the size of the holes in the canvas are different, your project will come out larger or smaller accordingly.
Since the holes on 14-count pc are much smaller, you will need to use embroidery floss or divide your yarn strand in half for stitching. For instance, if you are using worsted weight yarn, it has 4 strands twisted together. If you divide the yarn in half, you will use two of the four strands instead of the full 4 strands.
8. This is a question I hear a lot:
"What kind of yarn do you use in your plastic canvas projects?"
With all the yarn that is available out there, this is a great question! You want to use a yarn that will cover your plastic canvas well. There is special "plastic canvas" yarn out there, but if you use a lot of yarn, it might not be the most economical. Also, your color choices can be limited. It is important to me that the brand of yarn and the yarn colors I use in my patterns are easy for my customers to find and not so hard on their pocketbooks. :)
In my opinion, worsted weight yarn is the best to use. Specifically, Red Heart worsted weight yarn is what I use. It is readily available at most places you buy yarn, it is economical (you get a ton of yarn for the price), and it is available in a variety of colors!
However, every now and then, it seems you just can't find that one shade of color that you need. In these cases, I will go searching through the colors of yarn at the store. If I find the right color and the yarn looks similar to that of the worsted weight yarn, I will buy it just for the color. These are rare occasions though since Red Heart has a fabulous selection of colors. :)
9. To make the edges of your projects look REALLY nice, consider doing a Double Overcast or Double Whipstitch. When making my projects, I always Double Overcast or Double Whipstitch to be sure that all the plastic canvas is covered on the edges of each item. All this means is you are going through each hole on the edges of your project twice instead of once when you are doing your overcast stitches or whipstitches.
On the corners, I might even go through the hole three or four times (no more than that though) to cover the plastic canvas. If you go through the hole too many times on the corners, you will likely break the plastic canvas thread. Try it! It will make your projects look extra nice and even makes them a little sturdier when you join pieces of plastic canvas together.
10. Are you tired of making those pesky mistakes in cutting your plastic canvas?!! It can be a real pain breaking out the glue gun to fix it (as described in Plastic Canvas Tip #6). I know most of you have heard this, but for those of you that haven't...you can use a dry-erase marker, or similar writing instrument, to mark your canvas before cutting. It's really easy! Just mark your plastic canvas by following the cutting lines on the pattern, cut your plastic canvas shape out, and then wipe off the dry-erase marker with a rag when you are done! Voila! You have cut your piece of plastic canvas out perfectly! While it may take a little more time to mark your canvas, you will save time when you are cutting. You won't have to stop and figure out where to cut next, and you won't have to start all over again if you make the wrong cut!
11. Since I do a lot of coaster makin' around here, I thought I would address a coaster related issue in today's tip. :) In my patterns, I like to leave the choice of what to put on the back of the coasters up to the stitcher. I try to make the coaster holders large enough for the stitcher to add their own choice of backing to their coasters or just extra coasters. Since there are several materials you can use for the backing, I thought it would be nice for everyone to know what choices they have. Also, maybe someone out there has used something I haven't thought of! :) So, here we go! The following is a list of things you can use on the back of your coasters to protect your furniture from damage:
* Plastic Canvas - cut an extra piece of canvas for each coaster (use the same graph as the coaster, but leave unstitched), hold it to the back of your coaster and whipstitch the two pieces together around the edges. This would be the perfect time to use some colored plastic canvas! Use a color that complements the coaster well.
* Felt - You can find felt squares (actually more like rectangles, I guess) at most craft stores and Wal-Mart in a variety of colors and very economically priced. Again, choose a color that complements your coaster. I have seen this done two ways. You can use your coaster as a template for cutting the felt and then gluing it to the back of the coaster OR you can cut a rough square large enough to cover the back of your coaster, glue it on, and then trim the excess. You can use craft glue or hot glue, whatever works best for you. I like to use hot glue.
* Craft Foam - Like felt, you can find craft foam at most craft stores and Wal-Mart in a variety of colors and economically priced. You basically do the same thing as in using felt. However, you can also find self-adhesive craft foam (I just did a search and there is also self-adhesive felt...LOL!). So instead of gluing, you could peel the backing and stick it on. :) Just a note though, I have never tried this, so I'm not sure how well it would actually stick. Anyone out there tried this? If not, I may have to conduct an experiment! LOL!
* Craft Cork - Cork comes in rolls, but you can also find it online in self-adhesive sheets and in pre-cut circles and squares (the circles and squares are more expensive though and probably thicker). You should be able to find the rolls in most craft stores. With cork, I would recommend using the coaster pattern as a template and gluing afterwords. Don't think it would work too well gluing first and then trimming the excess. I guess it all depends on how thick your cork is.
Extra note for using felt, craft foam, and cork - whether you are using your coaster cut-out as a template or cutting the excess material after you have glued it on, be sure to trim back the material about a quarter of an inch from the coaster edge all the way around so that your backing doesn't show when your coaster is lying on the table.
Also, you don't necessarily have to put a backing on your coasters, but a lot of people like to have that extra protection.
12. A customer recently asked me how to make some of the seams on her projects smoother and more rounded when whipstitching so the edges won't look so squared. Of course, this applies when you are whipstitching two pieces together that aren't in a straight line. This is a trick I learned long ago, and I know many of you probably already know it too. However, there may be some that haven't heard it yet, so here it is. When cutting out your plastic canvas shapes, cut the edges on a diagonal. Just be sure not to cut too close to the hole. :) This has become a habit for me when cutting, unless I am making something that is square or rectangle such as a tissue box cover, trinket box, or tote bag. Hope that helps some others out there.
13. There are a few methods you can use to keep your plastic canvas projects clean. First, I would recommend using Scotchgard on your projects. Before using them or giving them as gifts, spray your items with Scotchgard to prevent stains. Spray an even coat, let dry, and spray again to be sure you have covered everything. Then, if you spill so mething on it, it should clean right up. It is best to spray your it ems outdoors for proper ventilation. :)
If you do get stains on your projects, a popular method of cleaning is to soak your item in the sink or tub with cold water and Woolite (or another mild detergent), then air dry. I have even heard of people washing their items in the top rack of a dishwasher or in the washing machine on cold. Be sure not to use high heat or dry cleaning as these can melt the plastic canvas.
I hope that gives you some ideas on keeping your projects clean. If you have another favorite method, please share it with us on our Facebook page! :)