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How to cross stitch on clothes and tote bags

Fancy upping your style to the next level with cross stitch on clothes? It’s a great way to show off your cross stitch skills for everyone to see!


Adding cross stitch on clothes is a popular way to freshen up your wardrobe or create on-trend statement pieces to wear and be the envy of all your friends! If you’ve found the perfect pattern you’d like to cross stitch on clothes or other textile items, or looking for inspiration to try it for the first time, then we have the ultimate guide to getting started.

Whilst cross stitch is traditionally worked on evenly woven fabrics, such as aida or evenweave, did you know you can actually cross stitch on any type of fabric with the right knowhow? This opens up a host of possibilities to cross stitch on t-shirts, jeans, skirts, jackets, bags and a whole lot more – you just need a method of gridding the fabric to create the evenly spaced holes you find on the usual cross stitch fabrics.

There are two different methods you can use explained below. For this project to create your tote bag, we will be using soluble canvas.

How to use soluble canvas

This is where DMC Soluble Canvas comes in! This water-soluble canvas is gridded in 14-count holes, making it the exact same size as stitching on 14-count Aida or 28-count evenweave fabrics.

Using soluble canvas is easy – it works like a template to create the correctly positioned holes on any fabric. Stitch exactly as you would normally through the holes in the canvas, right through to the fabric beneath. Once you are finished stitching place the finished design in a bowl of warm water and the canvas disappears!

Top tip: You should try to only work in whole stitches and backstitch however, no fractionals or French knots, to avoid ‘piercing’ the plastic guide, so remember to look for fractional-free designs when choosing your cross stitch pattern.

How to use soluble canvas video tutorial

What is waste canvas?

DMC Waste Canvas is another material you can use to cross stitch on clothes, which works in a similar way to the soluble canvas by creating a grid over your garment fabric when tacked on top. It’s available in a couple of different counts and is removed by wetting and very carefully pulling the strands of fabric weave out from the edges of the stitched motif one at a time. It’s a more time-consuming method than using soluble canvas, but you could give it a try and decide which you prefer.

Cross stitch your own tote bag step-by-step using soluble canvas

We’ll show you just how easy it is to cross stitch on clothes and other textile items by making your very own customisable floral tote bag with these fabulous free charts designed by Jenny Barton. For this project you will need soluble canvas and a cotton tote bag to begin, then follow our step-by-step guide to make your floral cross stitched bag that you could use to carry your stitching with you wherever you go.

We recommend when cross stitching on clothes always use an embroidery hoop, as it’s important to keep the tension of your garment or bag material flat and even.

Fact box:

  • Stitching Time – Approx. 2-5 hoursper motif
  • Type of Stitches – Cross stitch, backstitch
  • Ease of Stitching – Intermediate

Tote bag cross stitch pattern

Click the link to download the free tote bag cross stitch pattern. The download is an A4 PDF and an accompanying key.

This cross stitch tote bag design was created by Jenny Barton, originally published in The World of Cross Stitching issue 243.

If you’re new to cross stitch, check out our complete guide to cross stitch for beginners and you can also find out more about how to choose the best fabric.


You Will Need

  • DMC 14-count Soluble Canvas
  • Stranded cotton
  • Chenille needle (size 24)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Cotton tote bag
  • Ric rac (Green)
  • Ribbons (Green)
  • Bowl of water
  • Iron

Total time:

Step 1

Once you’ve picked which flowers and leaves to include, sketch out your composition to make sure you like the arrangement. Then use running stitch to tack your soluble canvas securely in place onto the front of your tote bag. Cross stitch the motifs following the charts as shown, making sure the soluble canvas doesn’t move and that you’re only stitching through the front of your bag (you may find it easier to pop the side seams open and restitch them back up again after you’ve finished.)

cross stitch on tote bag step 1

Step 2

Once you’ve finished stitching all your chosen patterns onto the tote bag, use fabric scissors to carefully snip the tacking stitches holding the soluble canvas in place. Gently remove the loose threads.

cross stitch on tote bag step 2

Step 3

Soak your tote bag in warm water as directed on the instructions, gently rubbing away the soluble canvas. It won’t take long to dissolve, leaving your stitching standing out on your bag. Once the soluble canvas is fully dissolved, leave your bag to dry completely. When it’s dry, gently press from the reverse with a cool iron.

cross stitch on tote bag step 3

Step 4

Measure out lengths of green ribbon and ric rac to run from the bottom of your bag to the base of your flowers. Pin these in place to look like flower stems and hand-sew with matching thread. Give a final press with an iron. If you fancy, personalise your bag with buttons or other embellishments. Now you’re ready to show off your stitching wherever you go!

cross stitch on tote bag step 4

Use these patterns again to cross stitch on t-shirts, jackets, blouse collars and more to create matching ensembles. To keep the stitches protected at the back, make sure to secure all loose thread ends under completed stitches and snip off as close to the fabric as possible. For added protection consider backing the stitched areas with iron-on interfacing, especially if the garment is likely to be washed often. See our full guide for more on how to wash cross stitch.

Cross stitch on clothes kits and patterns

1. A fabulous special edition Alphabet Collection

Brought to you by the makers of The World of Cross Stitching magazine, contains a sweet baby ABC set, designed by Jane Henderson, to stitch onto a baby grow for a new arrival.

Get your copy of The World of Cross Stitching Alphabet Collection 2022

cross stitch on a baby grow

2. Wedding cross stitch patterns by Durene Jones

Special occasions are popular reasons to cross stitch something extra special. Have a go at adding one of these free wedding cross stitch patterns to cotton napkin corners for wedding table favours.

Get the wedding cross stitch pattern

wedding cross stitch square

3. Cross stitch poppy by Lesley Teare

Add a beautiful cross stitched poppy directly onto a t-shirt or jacket to mark Remembrance Day in November.

Get the poppy cross stitch pattern

Poppy cross stitch pattern

4. Bobbin cross stitch by Susan Bates

Stitch a fitting motif onto your sewing bag or craft stash pouch using this cute bobbin designed by Susan Bates.

Get the free bobbin cross stitch pattern

Free cotton thread cross stitch pattern

5. Tshirt cross stitch kit

Check out this Idyllic Iris T Shirt Cross Stitch Kit which includes everything you need to stitch on your choice of a small–extra-large tshirt.

cross stitch on clothes