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I want to explore "pattern darning" or "kogin" style embroidery, which looks like this:

enter image description here

The patterns consist of straight lines in a regular grid, like this:

enter image description here

Usually this is done on a fabric with thicker threads and an even weave (like aida). However, I want to embroider a much finer fabric, so I cannot use the threads of the fabric as a grid. In theory I could count several threads, but those threads are too hard to see, so that's not a viable option.

So I used a piece of paper, drew a grid on it and poked holes for the grid with a needle. Then I transferred the grid onto fabric by marking a dot through each hole with a water soluble marker. I tried that approach with a 2 x 2 mm and a 1.5 x 1.5 mm grid. The result worked well, but making and transferring the grids is a lot of work. For a 10 cm sampler I have to mark several hundred dots.

Is there a quicker method of transferring a fine grid onto fine fabric in a way I can erase / dissolve the grid when I'm finished?

Things I considered include:

  • Water soluble embroidery interfacing, but I still need to transfer the grid onto the interfacing first.
  • The historical method of dusting the grid pattern with charcoal powder (each hole in the paper leaves a dot of charcoal on the fabric), but the dots disappear when handling the fabric.
  • Rolling a spike wheel over carbon paper, but that poses the challenge of aligning each new line evenly and the carbon is not water soluble.
  • Pulling threads in regular intervals leaves marks on the finished piece.
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  • A quick fix for the charcoal powder method would be to spray the material with some sort of fixative after transfering the pattern to secure the powder so it doesn't smudge or fade away.
    – rebusB
    Aug 28, 2023 at 18:46
  • Can you use a second piece of the same fabric, transfixing it to the first with a few pins or tape along the edges, and make the markings on that piece? (Admittedly, I don't really get how this works: won't any second layer disalign with your target cloth?)
    – Joachim
    Sep 18, 2023 at 9:52
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    @Elmy it sounds like waste canvas might be an option; I've never used it (I don't do cross stitch or hand embroidery) but based on this blog it sounds like it's actually not that difficult to remove: littlelionstitchery.com/waste-canvas
    – Allison C
    Sep 18, 2023 at 14:53
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    @AllisonC Wow, this is exactly what I need! I didn't know this kind of product exist and the canvas I have is too coarse (almost like burlap) and snags the stitching when you try to pull it out. If you write that as an answer I'll accept it.
    – Elmy
    Sep 18, 2023 at 17:11
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    I'll do my best, like I said I've never used it :) Once I get an opportunity, I'll try to research up a bit more and write up the answer
    – Allison C
    Sep 18, 2023 at 19:18

1 Answer 1

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It sounds like what you're looking for is "Waste Canvas." Waste Canvas is a product designed to allow crafters to work cross stitch (and similar embroidery techniques) on any surface; it's an aida fabric that, instead of being woven, is held together using water-soluble glue. By moistening or soaking the project after completing the embroidery, the glue is removed, allowing the threads to be pulled free and leaving only the embroidery behind.

An image of a corgi and lettering cross-stitched onto jersey knit material over partially removed waste canvas; loose threads are visible, showing how the waste canvas is removed from the project
Image from Little Lion Stitchery

Little Lion Stitchery has a great blog about their experience using waste canvas; their key takeaway points are:

  • Prewash and press your clothing/fabric to remove any sizing; you want to avoid anything that might change the shape or size of the finished product, so making sure it's clean, pre-shrunk, and as flat as possible will help minimize that.
  • Make sure the waste canvas is secure. You can pin, baste, or hoop it onto your fabric, depending on your own preferences; when hooping, the author notes the waste canvas is rather stiff, making it a bit difficult to hoop.
  • Use the appropriate needle; you won't always be able to use a blunt needle as you would for stitching on aida alone. You'll need a needle that can handle stitching through whatever fabric you're using.
  • Be very careful to not stitch through the threads of the waste canvas, so you won't be stuck with a thread that can't be removed later
  • Carefully cut the canvas as close to the design as possible, without cutting either the design or the fabric underneath it. This will give you shorter threads to pull free, making the process much easier
  • Removal can be done using a spray bottle, soaking, or placing the finished item under running water to soften the glue
  • Start removal by pulling the threads parallel to the blue marker threads, one at a time. Once these are all removed, the remaining threads should pull free easily, and may be possible to remove in small groups. Be careful to not distort your design or fabric in the process
  • Some sizes of waste canvas may be difficult to find, and may take some hunting around online if not carried by your local shops

You might also find good luck with Water Soluble Canvas. Like Waste Canvas, this is designed to allow cross stitch/needlepoint work to be done on any fabric, however, rather than a woven material, it's a single sheet of soluble plastic. Thread-Bare.com describes it as feeling "like a thin flexible plastic canvas" in their write-up on using it.

Image showing a piece of water soluble canvas on top of a regular fabric, with stitching in place, demonstrating the usage
Image from Carina's Craft Blog

The process of using water soluble canvas is very similar to waste canvas, though based on descriptions, it sounds like hooping it is unlikely to be practical due to the texture of the material. Advantages given on the Thread-Bare writeup include that the water soluble canvas is easier to see and remove than waste canvas, with the disadvantages that it benefits from adding interfacing for additional support (not necessary with the waste canvas), and is more expensive.

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