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Canvas Work Tutorial

Canvas work tutorial

This canvas work tutorial was written and designed by Little Miss Fancy Frocks, the dynamic mother and daughter duo who lovingly create handcrafted clothing for adults and children. Visit their Facebook page here.

The series is sponsored by Minerva Crafts, suppliers of all your embroidery requirements.

Ideas for stitching canvas work

Canvas embroidery was widely used on vestments and furnishings during the 15th century. Traditionally designs were taken from nature and tapestry wools were used to completely cover the canvas.

Contemporary canvas embroidery incorporates all sorts of yarns including knitting yarns, tapestry wools, metal threads, ribbons and cords, and the canvas is sometimes left bare in places as part of the design.

Due to the nature of the canvas and the stitching it also comes under the heading of ‘Counted Thread Embroidery’ because the stitches are counted over the holes or threads in the canvas.

Today canvas embroidery is still popular as a form of embroidery.  Our canvas work tutorial will teach you the basic stitches.

You will need…

Materials for hand embroidery

25cm canvas or use any small pieces you may have (we used 16 point canvas for our samples)*

A selection of tapestry wools and/or knitting yarns

A canvas needle(a large eye for yarn and a blunt point)

A pair of embroidery scissors

*Canvas is sold by the mesh count or the number of holes per inch. Thicker threads are used for lower counts whilst finer threads are used for higher counts. The most popular thread count for general canvas work is 13-18.

Canvas Work Instructions

Here are some popular stitches for canvas embroidery. 

Satin Stitch

Satin stitch gives a smooth satin effect and can be worked from left to right or right to left.

Bring your thread onto the surface and count the number of threads or the number of holes you wish to cover (this will determine the length of the satin stitch). Take your thread vertically to the underside and bring back onto the surface next to where your original stitch started. Satin stitch can be used to create an outline or frame a small section within a large piece of work.

Satin stitch can be worked in blocks to create a basket effect. Try using one colour or two contrasting colours to achieve a check effect.


Brick Stitch

Brick stitch on canvas

Brick stitch is so called because it creates a brick effect. The stitches are equal in length (the first row will have some half length stitches in order to commence the pattern) and the stitches are all parallel.

1st row – work a row of alternate half length and full length stitches across the canvas.

2nd row – work from right to left continue working full length stitches.


Florentine Stitch

Florentine stitch

Florentine stitch is sometimes referred to as Bargello, Hungarian Point or Flame Stitch. The patterns can be multi coloured or give a flame effect when using closely coloured threads. The pattern is worked in a zig zag manner creating a wave effect. The stitches are parallel and worked over an odd number of holes or an even number of threads.

Learn to do canvas work

Cross Stitch

Cross stitch on canvas

Bring your thread onto the surface of the fabric and take the thread diagonally across to the corner, go under the fabric and back onto the surface below the first stitch. Take the thread diagonally over the canvas to the left and return to the starting point for the next cross.

The size of the cross stitch will be determined by the number of holes/threads you cross. The more holes/threads the bigger the stitch.

Cross stitches can be worked over one or more threads. The first stitch of each cross must always face the same direction i.e. to the right.  The second stitch of each cross must always face the same direction i.e. to the left. A double cross stitch can be worked in one colour or two contrasting colours.


Three Dimensional Crosses

Canvas work stitches

These are fun and add texture to canvas work and they can be any size. We have used square and oblong crosses. Bring your thread onto the surface and take it across your work diagonally over the desired number of threads. Take the thread underneath the canvas and back onto the surface one thread above where you started. Go back into the canvas diagonally one thread below the previous stitch. The stitches will rotate until every hole around the square or oblong has been filled.


Canvas Embroidery Samples

Samples of canvas work stitches

Why not stitch a small sample(s) using the stitches shown here to practice your technique? We have used three colours to show how different effects can be created.

What to make with canvas work

You can create lovely accessories with small pieces of canvas embroidery. We created a sunglasses case, a travel tissue holder and a make-up bag.


Find other stitch tutorials from Little Miss Fancy Frocks in our techniques section.