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Plastic Canvas - Making it 3D!

Updated on January 20, 2014
Finished toy butter.
Finished toy butter. | Source

In my last Hub, I promised to follow up with instructions on how to connect pieces of plastic canvas to create three dimensional items. This is super easy once you learn the basic technique of a whip stitch, and can connect pieces, you'll be able to make all kinds of three dimensional objects, such as keepsake boxes, tissue box covers, home d├ęcor items and of course, toys.

Getting Started

Firstly, if you don't have a pattern handy to tell you the size your pieces need to be, my advice is to draw out a rough draft of your project on graph paper. I print my own graph paper, and make the holes 7 per inch (or 8 lines per inch), so that it looks like 7-mesh canvas, the most commonly used size. Per my rough sketch to the right (please forgive the poor handwriting), draw out your 3 dimensional figure using one point perspective.

For those that have never heard that term before, one point perspective is when all of the line shooting away from your original shape meet at one point on the horizon line. The dotted lines in the photograph are where the invisible lines in the back of the object, what your brain tells you the back side should look like. For a cube, for instance, you'll want six equal sized pieces. In my butter project, I needed four long pieces and two small ones for the end.

Once you have your rough draft, decide how large you want your project to be, keeping in mind that on 7-mesh canvas, 7 holes is equal to one inch. A 7 hole by 7 hole square is going to be a little larger than a playing die. My end pieces were 5 holes by 5 holes.

Now, you've decided how large you want your box to be, start sketching out the four sides, the top and the bottom. If you want it to be square, make all the sides the same size. If you want to be long and thin (like a yellow stick of butter), make the sizes long and skinny, and the ends small and square. If you want to be short and squat, like a catch-all for your pocket change, make the sides long and thin, and the bottom square. (A catch-all would either have no top or a lid, which will be covered later in this hub.)

Rough draft of a box using one-point perspective.
Rough draft of a box using one-point perspective.

Now you know what you want to make, and you know what size your pieces need to be, so lets get started! First, you'll need to cut all of your pieces out of your canvas. I generally use a pair of craft scissors. I've had others tell me that they use an exacto-blade, but I don't care much for those, as I've cut my thumb several times using one. I tend to keep my scraps from larger projects in a Ziploc bag, and for smaller projects like this one, I will cut my pieces out of larger scraps so that I'm not trying to wield a large, awkward piece of canvas. If I don't have any scraps handy, I like to cut the larger pieces in halves or quarters to make them easier to handle.

Boxes will always be seven or eight pieces. Seven pieces if the top is going to be open, and eight if it's going to be closed in, like my butter toy. If you're going to leave the top open, as in for a catchall or a jewelry box, overcast the top edges after you've connected all of your pieces. (Overcasting was covered in my previous plastic canvas Hub.)

Below is a picture I took of all of my butter pieces cut out, and stacked neatly by size so that I'll know what I need to stitch before connecting pieces. Fill in all of your pieces with whatever stitch you desire (I used the Reverse Continental, or "r-tent" stitch. The more practice you get, the more stitches you can learn or create. Craft stores have all kinds of books that have lots and lots of stitches in them.)

Pieces to my butter toy, stacked neatly and by size.  The extra four square pieces were for the pats of butter on the end.
Pieces to my butter toy, stacked neatly and by size. The extra four square pieces were for the pats of butter on the end. | Source

Now that you have your pieces cut and filled in, you are ready to start connecting them. My way of doing this is certainly not the be all and end all of stitchery, I just find that it works the best for me. I connect my sides first (in this case, all four long pieces), then connect the top and bottom all at once. This keeps me from having to constantly start and end my yarn. When I get to the end of one of the edges, I run my yarn behind the stitches and I'm set to start the next edge.

The connecting stitch in plastic canvas is called a whip stitch. (The overcast stitch is used to cover a sharp edge, whereas a whip stitch is used to connect two pieces.) The stitches are basically the same, except that a whip stitch is made through two or more layers of canvas because you are connecting them. Start your yarn the usual way, pulling it through the first hole on one end (I'm right handed, so I always start on the right end, ending on the left, running my stitches behind, then starting the next set of whip stitches on the left, et cetera) and leaving about an inch of yarn on the back side. Hold the back with the index finger of your free hand, and make your first few whip stitches on the corner (I generally put three stitches in each corner for coverage), over your end. It's hard to get used to and awkward to hold both the canvas and the yarn all at once at first, but it's easy to get to used to after a few tries.

If you run out of yarn, end your stitches the usual way (running them behind your previous stitches on the reverse side of the canvas), and cut and start another yarn, making sure to start from the same end that you were working, so your stitches all face the same direction.

Whip stitching two long sides of my butter toy together.  The corner gets three stitches for coverage, then move on to the next hole, then the next until the end of the row.
Whip stitching two long sides of my butter toy together. The corner gets three stitches for coverage, then move on to the next hole, then the next until the end of the row. | Source

Finishing Up

So you have your four sides connected, and are ready to add your bottom (and optionally, your top.) Squish your sides open, so that they make the shape you want, and use the index finger of your free hand (left in my case, since I hold my needle with my right), and either continue whip stitching around all four edges, or start a new strand of yarn the usual way, and connect all four sides to your shape. When you get to the end of your last side, run your needle inside of your shape, behind your previous stitches to end your yarn. A corner is the best place to do this, as the stitches are the tightest there and it is the easiest to hide your ends if you trim it off. Then, if your are leaving your shape open, overcast the top edges.

If you have an enclosed shape, like my toy: If possible, run your yarn behind the stitches to the other end. Don't worry about it looking bad, as it will be enclosed and no one will see it. The yarn will also ensure that the ends don't come popping off during handling or playtime. If your yarn isn't long enough to do that, end it off the usual way and start another with your top piece. Go around all four sides (or possibly more, if you're feeling adventurous enough to try a multi-sided figure), and here is how you end your yarn without it poking out or losing your needle.

A lot of times enclosed figure and toys will have the bottoms not worked so that they will lay down flat (In my case, I connected my butter to a butter dish, so the bottom did need to be worked, in the interest of saving yarn.) If this is the case, you can run your needle down the corner of the unworked side, behind your stitches, and pull your needle out through one of the holes, per the picture below.

However, if all four sides are worked, you end your yarn the same way, but be sure to do it in a corner, and only push your needle down a few stitches. The tightness of the stitches in the front will keep your end in place. Pull your needle off of you yarn and put it somewhere safe, and using a sharp pair of craft scissors, trim your end as close to the canvas as you can, without fraying your stitches. Then rub your thumb across the corner, or work it back and forth a few time (plastic canvas has a lot of give and can be bent a bit) and your end will pop back to the reverse side.

How to end a box that has a non worked bottom. If your needle sticks, use a pair of pliers to work it loose.
How to end a box that has a non worked bottom. If your needle sticks, use a pair of pliers to work it loose. | Source

The End!

Now smile, you have a finished project to keep on your dresser, play with or give to a friend!


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