Recently I stitched a couple of pieces on overdyed canvas. Although this kind of canvas may not become hugely popular (although Fireside Stitchery just started carrying dozens of colors of dyed canvas in several mesh sizes) dyeing your canvas is a fantastic way to add background color to your needlepoint.
It’s also something you can easily do yourself, creating even more effects.
But there’s a problem: all dyed canvas is soft.
That’s because once you get needlepoint canvas wet, the sizing that keeps it stiff dissolves. You’re left with a soft, very loosely woven canvas. Sure, the color is great but can you stitch on it?
You might be thinking why don’t I just spray sizing (i.e. spray starch) on it? That could be extremely harmful to your threads, may not wash out, and attracts moths. It also may not make the canvas stiff enough.
The solution is simple. Always, always use a frame or stretcher bars when using dyed canvas or any canvas that is soft. When stretching your canvas you will need to pull the edge hard before placing a tack. You will also need to use more tacks than with undyed canvas. Finally you may have to restretch more often.
This problem doesn’t occur with colored canvas from Zweigart because the sizing is added after the canvas is woven. The new dyed and overdyed canvases take white or colored canvas and dye them. Exposing canvas to water dissolves the starch. Computer-printed and hand-painted canvases do not have this problem because they are not submerged in water as is done when dyeing.
The soft canvas problem can be solved with proper stretching and the exciting world of color dyed canvases open to us is worth it.