How to Embroider on Canvas?

Canvas has widely been used in painting. But don’t let its sturdiness suppress you from creating spectacular artworks with a needle and thread! This material is a great medium to do a wealth of ornamental projects. Be that home accessories and decorations, bags, garments, and anything you can think of creating.

Many of you might be a fan of unique art. And seeing those personalized pieces hanging on the walls gives you an inexplicable satisfaction, agree? Embroidered canvas also makes a sentimental holiday gift. What you need are some necessary supplies, a visual interest, and a bit of patience.

To know how to hand-embroider canvas in a fun and straightforward way, check out this guide!

How to Embroider on Canvas?


It is pretty easy to embroider on canvas because it is the kind of material that almost has embroidery hoops already. You will find it easy to count the hoops and your stitches on canvas. In terms of how to do it, it depends on the kind of stitches you use because canvas is suitable for all types of embroidery. Your project also dictates your embroidery style, i.e., whether you are putting it on a canvas bag or a blank art canvas.

I have given you earlier a bit of idea about embroidering canvas. And in this section, learn every detail for accomplishing your project. Don’t feel nervous if you have never tried this method before. Just keep practising, and you will eventually get accustomed to it.

So, here’s to start your love for embroidery.

Step 1: Prepare All Your Supplies

It includes a needle, embroidery floss, pencil, canvas, and your design.

Step 2: Transfer Your Design to the Canvas

Trace the drawing when using tracing paper. Then, turn over on the canvas. Brush your finger over the design to leave the pencil mark on the fabric. In case the pencil mark is somewhat pale, redraw the outline again.

Step 3: Get Ready to Start

Thread the needle and get ready to embroider. Do not secure the knot yet. Create a double thread by pulling the needle up to the mid-length.

Step 4: Give the First Stitch


Have your first stitch all through the end, and this is where you tie a knot. Keep on stitching. Just follow the lines of your design.

Step 5: Use Pins

Use a pin to make holes on every stitch you are going to make. It allows your work to be a lot easier and quicker. Otherwise, use the pin to show where you need to insert the needle in a fixated area.

Step 6: Turn the Fabric

Once done sewing all the lines, turn the fabric over. If there are slack threads at the back, pull them carefully. It ensures the stitches are constricted enough to break or create a limp look.

Step 7: Finishing Task

Tie the last knot and remove excess threads. And you’re finally done!

Canvas Embroidery Stitches


There are a number of different types of stitches that you can use for canvas embroidery. Here’s listing out the most popular among them:

1. Satin Stitches

Satin stitches leave a smooth effect and you can put it from right to left or vice versa. For this, bring the thread on the surface and count the number of holes to cover.

Then, take the thread vertically to its underside and get it back on the surface where you started the actual stitch. You can use these stitches to frame a small part or form an outline in a bigger piece of work.

2. Brick Stitches

Brick stitches are equal in their length. So, the first rows have half the length of the second row to form the pattern, while the stitches remain parallel. 

For the first row, put a row of alternative full-length and half-length stitches across your material. For the second row, go to the left while putting full-length stitches. 

3. Florentine Stitches

Florentine stitches, flame stitches, Hungarian points, or bargello are the kinds of stitches that are done using multi-colored thread. When you use closely hued threads, you will get a flame-like impact. 

The pattern works in a zigzag way to create wave effects. The stitches run parallel and you can either use an even thread number or an odd number of holes to complete it.

4. Cross Stitches


Bring the thread on the fabric surface and take it diagonally to one corner. Then, move under the fabric and come up to the surface under your first stitch. Now, repeat the same steps but take the thread diagonally to the left of the fabric to come to the first point.

The number of threads or holes you cross determines the size of this stitch. The size of the stitch is directly proportional to the number of threads or holes.

5. Three Dimensional Stitches

These fun stitches are good to put texture to any work on canvas. The most commonly used ones are oblong and square crosses.

For this, get the thread on the surface and move it diagonally over the preferred thread number on your work. Next, take this thread below your canvas and up on the surface again. Now, go back diagonally to your canvas by entering from a thread below this earlier stitch. This stitch keeps rotating until each hole around the oblong or square gets filled.

How To Embroider Canvas Tote Bags?

Embroidering means putting in thousands of stitches. So, if you don’t decide on the design first, you’ll end up pulling out the stitches later. Also, if you are a beginner at embroidering, try simple designs like letters, flowers, and plants.

Step 1: Start By Creating Your Own Design

Draw the design on a sheet. For this, you can use tracing papers for outlining motifs and getting them on a drawing paper. Additionally, make sure that the size of your chosen design is right for the bag’s size.

Cover your drawing with tracing paper to get the outline. Of course, you don’t need to outline all the details, like shadows, shading, and light. You have your embroidery thread to fill it all up colorfully. Also, draw this outline with a pencil so that there is scope for correction. 

Step 2: Get The Design On Your Bag

After you take the outline of the design, transfer it to a water-soluble paper meant for embroidery. It is the kind of paper that comes with adhesive backing that keeps the design intact on canvas bags.

In addition, you can directly draw the design on water-soluble papers or use a printer for that purpose. Then, trim the extra paper around the design, while leaving only an inch around it.

After this, remove the backing gently and put the design on the bag. Now, gently press the paper and use a ruler to smoothen it and remove air bubbles.

Step 3: Sewing The Design On The Canvas Bag


Your design has to remain firmly in one place. If the paper starts wiggling as you stitch, the results won’t be too pretty. Now, in case you need to move the paper, gently pull on it without affecting the fabric. All high-end embroidery papers are removable, though the sticky glue tends to stay behind.

Put an embroidery hoop all around the design if you’re hand-stitching. Also, go for a hoop that’s the right size for the design. It’s best if there is at least two inches around the design. Finally, tighten the hoop to get a taut surface to embroider.

Step 4: Final Steps Of The Embroidery

Secure the last stitch with a knot at the back of the design. The final result should look like a colorful painting. Then, soak the bags in lukewarm water to dissolve the embroidery paper and leave a nice design. Remember not to put your canvas bag in your washing machine straightway. 

You need to air dry the bag first, and then, get it in your washing machine. Finally, iron out the wrinkles in your bag and you’re done!

How To Mount Embroidery On Canvas?

Start by deciding whether you want to take off the canvas from its frame or keep it there. If the canvas is badly stapled, it will leave loads of creases on its sides. In such cases, remove that canvas and put a felt or fabric layer for covering the edges. The splints on the frames of bad canvases need to be covered so that the embroidery doesn’t get holes and snags.

Let the canvas be if it’s laying smooth. Also, a felt or fabric cover is good for canvases with color or picture on them. A sheet of paper would also work as a covering.

Step 1: Place The Embroidery On Your Frame

Center the embroidered art on your frame and use your hands for smoothing out that fabric. Also, ensure that the design lies exactly at the center. After this, fold the extra fabric to the frame’s back and flip it with the fabric on.

Step 2: Tack Down All Around The Frame

After flipping the frame, you need to tack down at least two to three points on every side on its back. Next, turn the frame and note whether the motif remains in place. If it’s not centered, try again by removing the tacks. 

Is the embroidery moving each time you flip the frame? Tack down at least three points on the sides, instead of the back, before flipping it over. Tacking down the sides is also a good idea for the larger pieces. Next, tighten every side gradually by including more thumb tacks. 

Start tacking down the longest sides before the shorter sides. Also, do the opposing sides first before doing the other pair. In this way, the fabric gets straightened in all the directions. 

Also, ensure that the fabric does not appear distorted on its front. Keep checking from time to time to ensure that things are looking good. 

Step 3: Start Tacking Down All The Fabric Edges


It can be a bit fiddly to tack the edges. So, fold in the fabric nicely to prevent bulking up. At times, soft fabrics misbehave at this stage, but stiff fabrics will keep holding their shape. 

Don’t worry if it fails to work at first because you aren’t doing anything wrong – it’s the fabric that is hard to tack down.

Tips For Embroidering On Canvas

All of us dream of accomplishing flawless embroidery projects. No one’s perfect, though, but you can still make your design clean and near-perfect with these tips.

1. Make a Rough Draft of Your Embroidery Design

We can compare embroidery to a drawing. The only difference is that you are using fabric, needle, and thread instead of paper and pen. Artists commonly brainstorm their preferred image and write down every detail on a piece of paper. The same applies to embroidery. Outline your design first either on a piece of paper or directly onto the fabric. Determine the spacing and sizing. Modify some areas if needed.

It doesn’t matter here what type of design you want. Canvas can carry light to massive structures, and they will appear lovely and bright. Just have fun and experiment.

2. Pay Attention to the Embroidery Holes

Canvas is not your average fabric material. It is durable and tearable. Therefore, you should watch your hole spacing. Putting them too adjacent could tear the canvas due to the oversize hole it can create. Although, you can still put the holes near together. Just practice extra caution.

Inserting several threads into a single hole is not advisable too. It puts stress on the material and therefore, resulting in rip off. Another thing, you cannot pull the needle out once you make a hole. That’s because of its little feature. It won’t return to its original shape. So, you have no other suitable option but to stick with those holes and bear with them.

But the good news, you have multiple ways to ‘cover-up’ the mistake. Put some paint over the canvas to hide the mistaken hole. You can additionally use the embroidery thread to cover it.

3. Use Stabilizer

While canvas is robust on its own, it is not exclusively made for embroidery. A right quality stabilizer could be your companion for getting the desired result. Please attach it to the fabric’s back along with spray adhesive. Mostly ideal if you’re embroidering canvas by machine.

If you are working on multiple layers, use tape and clips. They keep the fabric accurately in position, especially on massive, rigid canvases.

4. Avoid Pulling the Thread Too Hard

Be careful about how you pull the thread to the canvas. It might easily tear since (again) it is rigid. Maintain a straight and nice thread to prevent knots. Be sure there are no tangles. The longer the thread is, the higher chances of getting it tousled.

5. Ironing and Storage

Spritz your fabric with water and allow it to soak in a few seconds. It smoothes out minor folds and creases. Press the iron firmly over the fold. Move it often to avoid messing up with the fabric. And when storing, keep it rolled. Do not fold. Otherwise, it will create another set of creases which you may have a hard time removing later.

Cotton canvas needs to pre-shrink before embroidering as it tends to shrink a little bit. It ensures your patterns or images stay gorgeous and smooth even after washing them.

Good luck on this and have fun experimenting with your newly discovered talent!

How to Embroider Letters on Canvas?

Letters may be meek, but they provide a “kick” to help you become motivated and more productive. That’s why you typically see them in the office and even in your own workstation. Similar to images, sewing letters on canvas also involves creating your design, transferring it on the canvas, and sewing. But with a little distinctiveness, of course.

To start, draw letters on the canvas with a pencil. Thread the needle with a string of floss and start sewing following the lines. Easy peasy! Either handwrite letters or let the machine provide you with the outline. There are also free letter patterns you can download online.

Want to make your art more unique? I recommend adding a roll of cord or rope above the letters you have sketched. Then, stitch over the trim. Be sure to hide the border under the thread. It is a bit tricky, though, but don’t worry, you will sail through it.

Beginners can opt for shorter phrases or words. And while this project does consume plenty of time, the final output’s attractive dimension is exceptional. Explore different colors to please your eyes.

What Needle and Thread Should I Use for Canvas?

Note that canvas comes in an assortment of weights. So, the needle and thread you should use will also depend on this. Lightweight canvas requires 60/8 needle size and powerful threads like upholstery and wool. Heavy fabrics need 90/14 & 100/16 needle size and durable thread made from cotton or polyester. For medium-weight and heavy materials, you will need up to 80/10 and 120/19 needle sizes respectively.

What Can I Make With Canvas Fabric?

Canvas is one of the most versatile fabric materials available. Its application is not only restricted from fashion objects like home decorations, clothes, and handbags. You can also use it for making designs on shoes, mobile cases, and camping supplies such as tents. Hang those pieces on the wall or create your own fashion signature with embroidered canvas. Your options are limitless!



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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