Alternate "Fabrics"

Have you ever been gathering materials for a new stitching project and wanted to try something a little bit different? Or maybe you decided to try stitching on a piece of clothing or a purse, but you didn’t want to freehand the stitches. Luckily, there are alternate “fabrics” out there that could be perfect for your next project. Whether you’re a stitching beginner or an expert looking for something different, try one of these options for a new twist!


Vinyl-Weave, also known as vinyl aida (due to the similar look and weave), is a durable, flexible material made of vinyl strands woven together. It is sturdy, won’t unravel, and works well for place mats, bookmarks, bags, and other useable items.

Available in 13, 14, and 18-ct., it is most easily found in white, though it is also made in a few other colors. When stitching with Vinyl-Weave, keep in mind that it can’t be ironed, so be careful not to fold or bend it. Try using three or more strands of floss for extra coverage (experiment before you begin), and be careful not to drag threads on the back, as they will be easily seen. When trimming upon completion, leave at least one unstitched row around all sides to prevent the stitches from slipping out of place (overcast the edges if necessary).


Plastic Canvas and Perforated Plastic

These materials are similar to each other and to Vinyl-Weave. They are flexible yet rigid, will not unravel, and can be used to create needlepoint designs, boxes, jewelry, and other three-dimensional projects. Plastic canvas has square holes and is easily found in translucent white and a few other colors. It is available in 7, 10, and 14-mesh and can also be purchased in a variety of shapes. Perforated plastic has round holes and is available in 14-mesh translucent white and limited colors.

These products cannot be ironed, so do not fold or bend the plastic while stitching. Also, choose designs without fractional stitches, as you cannot stitch between the holes as with aida or evenweave fabrics. Be careful not to drag threads, or back the design with felt or another material to help hide them. Because these products do not stretch like fabric threads do, use a smaller needle, as this will allow you to easily pass through the same hole more than once. Use additional strands of floss as necessary for full coverage, trim to within at least one unstitched row, and overcast the edges for a finished look.

Perforated Paper

A popular stitching surface in the 19th century due to affordability and availability, perforated paper has made a comeback in recent years. It is ideal for framed pieces, greeting cards, gift tags, and more. It is somewhat fragile, so it should not be chosen for heavy-use items.

Like perforated plastic, perforated paper also has round holes. When stitching, be careful not to pull the thread too tightly, as it can break through and tear the paper. As with the plastic products mentioned, choose designs without fractional stitches and be careful not to drag threads. Available in many colors and prints, the 9" x 12" sheets have obvious right and wrong sides—the smooth, evenly colored surface is the right side. Perforated paper cannot be ironed or washed, so take care to prevent wrinkles and smudges or stains. Stitch with several strands to give full coverage, and leave a minimum of one unstitched row when trimming.

Waste Canvas

Personalize or customize a piece of clothing or other fabric item with waste canvas. Although it looks similar to needlepoint canvas, it should not be used as anything but a guide for stitching on other fabrics or items. Also called blue line canvas, it is available in a wide range of counts from 6.5 to 16-ct.

Cut the canvas 4" larger than the design you wish to stitch, baste it to the fabric or item, and begin stitching through the canvas holes and the fabric or item below it. When the stitching is complete, remove the basting stitches and carefully pull the canvas threads out from below the stitching (some waste canvas is designed to be moistened and then removed, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions).

Water Soluble Canvas

Another option to customize fashion and home décor items is water soluble canvas. Like waste canvas, it is used as a guide for stitching on other fabrics or items and is meant to be removed after stitching. Available in 14-ct. 8" x 8." sheets, it looks similar to perforated plastic with its round holes.

Choose designs without fractional stitches, and stitch over it on a fabric or item that can be exposed to hot, soapy water. Baste a piece of canvas to the item or fabric (be sure the canvas is 4" larger than the design), cross-stitch through the canvas holes and the item or fabric, remove the basting stitches, soak it in hot, soapy water, and let dry (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Do not iron the fabric or item until after the water soluble canvas has been removed.