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Plastic needlepoint canvas is a type of mesh canvas used to create needlework designs that require more structure or shape than fabric canvas. It is made from thin, flexible plastic or vinyl, and comes in a variety of shapes, as well as sheets that can be cut into any shape or size needed for the project. Plastic canvas is often used as a first step in teaching children needlepoint; the holes are easy to see and the rigidity of the canvas means no hoop is required. It comes in a variety of colors, including clear, which does not show through the stitches on the completed project. Plastic canvas can be shaped to form 3-dimensional objects such as boxes, and offers a larger variety of possible projects than conventional fabric canvas.
Plastic canvas is available in several standard sizes in the United States: 5-count, 7-count, 10-count, and 14-count. Similar to cross stitch fabric, count size describes how many holes per inch the mesh contains, so 10-count canvas has 10 holes per inch. Most widely available patterns call for 7-count canvas. Plastic needlepoint canvas is available in a wide variety of colors and can be purchased in sheets, standard pre-cut shapes such as circles, or special shapes such as hearts, birds, stars, and many more. The most common color is clear, but with many novelty colors to choose from, the color of the canvas is often incorporated into the project.
Working on plastic needlepoint canvas requires a thicker yarn and larger needles than working on fabric. Plastic canvas yarn is available in a wide variety of colors, as is worsted weight knitting yarn. Since many patterns require small amounts of yarn in several colors, it is a great way to use up scraps of yarn from knitting or crochet projects. A large tapestry needle should be used, because the eye of the needle will have to accommodate thicker yarns. Normally a #16 needle is used on 7-count projects, and #20 or #24 needles on the smaller 10- and 14-count canvasses.
Plastic needlepoint canvas projects are often used to teach children the basics of needlepoint. The canvas is rigid and the holes are larger, making counting and stitching fairly easy. The larger tapestry needles have blunt tips that are less likely to injure a child, and also slide more easily over the plastic threads of the canvas. The wide variety of colors and shapes available mean that plastic canvas also gives a child the opportunity to explore his or her creativity. Projects can also be customized with a child's favorite colors, name, or school colors.
Patterns are widely available for plastic needlepoint canvas, including many three-dimensional designs. Some of the more common patterns found are for tissue box covers, coasters, picture frames, and refrigerator magnets. Plastic canvas is also used in a seemingly endless variety of ornaments for many different holidays. Patterns can be found anywhere plastic canvas supplies are available, and hundreds of free patterns are available online. Once someone learns the basics of cutting and working with plastic canvas, he or she can be more creative and come up original designs and projects.