After you are finished cross stitching and before you frame your piece it is a good idea to wash your piece in order to get rid of the natural oils left behind from your hands as well as any soiling that may have occurred during your stitching time.
This process is not as frightening as it may sound. In most cases hand washing is the best way to go.
First you want to fill the sink or a basin with cold water. Using cold water will help prevent any bleeding of fabric and threads. Some people also give their needlework an ice bath by emptying a tray of ice cubes into the sink or basin.
Adding the detergent. Many needle workers have come to use Orvus soap in the cleaning care of their needlework and several needle supply shops have begun to carry it. If you do not have this available to you, then you may want to use a mild dish detergent like Ivory or a mild clear laundry detergent. I personally have used All Free & Clear and had no problems with it damaging my needlework or causing bleeding of fibers. You don’t need a lot of detergent just a tiny little bit, think of this as a miniature laundry wash.
Once you have your soapy water ready you are going to place your stitched piece in and let it soak for about one to six hours in the soapy water. If it is soiled around the edges of the fabric you may want to let it soak longer. Every now and then you can give it a gentle swish with your hand or with a spoon. If needed gently rub any extremely heavily soiled areas to remove dirt.
After you are done soaking and washing you will need to rinse. Drain all the soapy water out of the sink or basin and begin rinsing your piece. Again you want to use cold water for this. Rinse until you are sure that no soap remains in the fabric and threads.
Do not wring out the piece, this will cause fabric distortion. Have a towel ready next to the sink to lay your piece out flat on. Roll up the towel and piece as one. Squeeze gently but do not twist or wring. Unroll the towel and allow piece to dry for awhile flat.
After it has dried for awhile you may want to iron your piece to remove any wrinkling that may have occurred. Lay the piece face down on a towel or another smooth fabric instead of placing directly on the ironing board. Do not iron the front face of your stitching as it may distort your stitches. With the stitched piece face down place a layer of cheese cloth or ironing fabric on top of it so that you do not scorch the threads or fabric and iron from the center out using a low setting. You may need to lightly mist the layers of fabric with cold water.
Now, that wasn’t so bad was it? You now have a clean, fresh, crisp finished piece ready for framing or sewing into a pillow, quilt square etc…
There are some things to consider before washing. If you have used over-dyed threads or fabric you want to carefully read the label for color fast information. Some of these are washable and some are not. Be sure yours are washable before proceeding. Some have special care instructions as well. If they are not washable you may want to contact your local needlework shop or needlework framer and ask about cleaning services so that you do not damage your finished piece.