Before you can begin a new embroidery project, or cast on, you must prep your fabric. This is done in a four step phase: washing, ironing, masking, and gridding. Each step is important to assure that your end piece will as perfect as possible.
Embroidery linens need to be washed before you begin. It helps to soften and dewrinkle the fabric, and it helps to make it more resistant to the oils of your hands. Start by prepping your basin and hands, making sure that both are clean and sterlized. I use a very ultra gentle soap like woolite so it won’t damage the delicate threads of the linen and I use cold water to wash and rinse. Hand wash it in a cool, clean basin, making sure that you rinse all the soap out. Do not wring the fabric. Place on a soft cloth and roll tightly keeping the fabric smooth and taut to gently squeeze out the excess water. For those that bake or make sushi, the process is similar. Lay it flat on a drying rack such as a sweater rack to dry. Make sure your rack is clean, and if need be,place a soft cloth underneath to avoid ridges forming. You will be able to remove most by ironing, the key is making sure no major ridges set in.
Once your fabric is dry, it is time to iron. This will ensure a smooth, even surface for your work. It’s important for wrinkles not to set as you want for your work to lie flat and keep the proper tension in the fabric. Wrinkles will place raised ridges into your piece, making it difficult for proper taut framing. To iron properly, make sure your iron is on the lowest setting possible with no steam. Place a clean towel on the ironing board, lay your piece of linen, then place another towel. Iron in a gentle left to right motion, never letting the iron come into direct contact with the linen. Press down and glide slowly, working from top to bottom and left to right. This will prevent the fabric from scorching and not stress the fabric . It may take a few times.
Masking will keep the ends of your fabric from raveling and fraying. This can be done byone of two methods: taping or basting. I prefer taping simply as its a bit less time consuming, but some like to baste the ends by sewing. To mask the edges, measure the dimensions of your piece and cut one inch more than needed. Make sure to remove any fraying bits. Wrap the tape tightly around the edge of the fabric like wrapping a package, till the fabric is covered on each side.
For large, lengthy projects, I recommend gridding your fabric by placing running stitches every ten stitches vertically and horizontally, starting with pinning your center axises. From there you can work left to right,then up and down to where your pattern will be centered successfully and much easier to follow your large project. For a smaller project just the center pinnings might be needed. Running stitches can easily unworked and removed as you progress.
Now you are ready to cast on!