A quick guide to washing your Stitch People portraits

In Uncategorized by Theresa8 Comments

Contrary to belief, it’s not always necessary to wash your Stitch People portraits. Was that a sigh of relief I hear?? It’s true. If you’ve been careful to stitch with clean hands and your portrait isn’t a gift to the Queen, it’s perfectly fine to simply give your portrait a quick iron and frame your piece immediately!

However, there are some circumstances where you might want to wash your piece such as:

  • It actually is a gift to the Queen
  • There is oil or grime visible on your portrait
  • At any point there was a bag of cheesy puffs within 2 feet of your portrait
  • You have stitch curious children under the age of 10 (they have permanently dirty hands, it’s the law of the universe)
  • You used transfer pen or pencil to draw your design on your fabric

If any of these are true, it’s probably a safer choice to wash your portrait.

If this is the case for you, there are some things you need to know before you proceed. Unfortunately you can’t simply throw the portrait in the wash cycle with your clothes, wouldn’t that be a treat! Hand-stitched pieces can be fussy and require delicate treatment. Here is the process for washing your Stitch People portraits:

1. What type of floss or thread did you use?

Some threads are not ‘color safe’. This means that if you wash your portrait, some ink may run from your thread and bleed onto your fabric. This is no fun and is hard to reverse.

Most modern made floss or threads are color safe but if your thread is old or from a not very well known supplier, it may be a good idea to color test your floss before washing your work.

To do this, take a scrap of the thread you used and wet it. Lay the thread on a white sheet of paper and leave it for a few minutes. If you see any color transfer onto the paper, your thread is NOT color safe and you should not wash your portrait.

2. Think Japanese Onsen not Russian Spa

No beating with branches! You’ll want to treat your portrait gently with mild everything and no rough treatment. Your Stitch People portrait will want a shallow, tepid bath with only a few drops of soap. Use a gentle soap specific for delicate fabrics such as Woolite.

While in the bath, just let the portrait rest. Don’t swish it around or rub it. Just let the warm water and soap do its job.

After a few minutes remove the portrait from the bath and run a gentle stream of warm water over it to remove the remaining soap.

3. Patience is key

When your piece is nice and clean, place it on a clean towel and cover with another clean towel. Gently press down to remove excess water. Remove the top towel and let the piece dry naturally. This may take around 30 minutes so be patient.

4. Lastly, iron but carefully!

While your Stitch People portrait is still very slightly damp, you will want to run a clean iron over the fabric. Use the heat setting that is best for your fabric (probably cotton but do check). Try to avoid any stitching but if you can’t, iron from the back and make sure that you cover your stitching with a pillow case or a towel so you don’t burn your threads.

And then you’re done and ready to prepare your piece for framing!

We’re curious, do you wash your stitching every time or not at all? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy stitching!


  1. I always gently wash; roll up in a white towel to remove excess water and then dry flat on a dry towel.
    I think Because of Covid19 it’s very necessary now to wash needlework; especially if gifting it to someone.

    1. I always wash my stitching. There is always natural oils on your hands that will discolor fabric over time. It’s not just residue from eating that you have to worry about. That’s how I was taught many years ago in a class.

      Washing also makes your stitches fluff up. However, I always soak in cold saltwater first. Doing so “sets” the color and it will not run when washed in tepid water. I have never had a problem when following this practice.

  2. I wash mine every time. Same as the instructions you gave. But I do roll my work when i get it out of the water, to squeeze out excess water. Then spread out flat upside down, after fabric is dry, then iron.
    I was taught that we all have oils on our fingers that discolor the fabric over time, if not washed. I have never had floss color bleed onto my work.

  3. I am a washing convert. I never used to wash until I spilled coffee on a piece – yikes! It came out easily with washing. My project looked so crisp and fabulous that I now wash (almost) everything! I follow pretty much as described in this blog post.

  4. I wash all of my FOs. When I use hand-dyed threads I will only buy they from companies like Weeks Dye Works or Colour and Cotton because they guarantee their threads are colorfast.

  5. I normally wash my pieces even if they look clean. The lighting in the stores are always different than at home and dirt marks show up in the stores.

  6. I was not washing them all of the time at first, but I like how clean and crisp they look after I do, so I will now do it all of the time. I use a gentle dishwashing soap as I have scent sensitivities. Like Sue, I roll it in a towel, too. I learned the hard way not to use a hanger with clips one time. :(. I used a white plastic skirt hanger to hang a piece to try and it left marks. They were not hugely noticeable, but it still bothered me. There was a lot of excess fabric so likely it would have been cut away or folded over when it was framed. But, I still won’t do that again!

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