Monday, November 28, 2011

Kaleidoscope Needlepoint Coasters Tutorial


Plastic canvas, yarn, and kids…a match made in heaven!   Needlepoint is an easy skill to learn, encourages manual dexterity, and offers some sensory input---this is a great thing to keep their hands occupied when they have the fidgets. 

Plus, they love to watch patterns emerge as they try different stitch combinations---it’s a great hands-on way to demonstrate geometric concepts like symmetry. 

And if Mom needs to keep her own fingers occupied (while watching a movie or even while talking on the phone), needlepoint is an easy, inexpensive project.

Children as young as 6 or 7 can make these Kaleidoscope Needlepoint Coasters---the finished product is useful, beautiful, and durable (I’ve even thrown needlepoint coasters in the washer and dryer, really!).

The winner of the Handmade Holidays Challenge Giveaway will receive a set of 6 Kaleidoscope Coasters PLUS a Kaleidoscope Bookmark as part of the prize package.  See the Handmade Holidays Giveaway post for more details.  This and all other Handmade Holidays Tutorials will be linked to the Handmade Holidays Linkup as they go live.


So, let’s learn how to work with plastic canvas.  Once you have mastered the basics, you can use this as a springboard to other projects:  ornaments, boxes, pencil cups, placemats, whatever floats your boat.  After the coaster tutorial, I’ve added a little bonus:  a needlepoint bookmark.

This project uses 7 count plastic canvas (that’s 7 holes to the inch and the most common size).  One sheet is approximately 10” x 13” and will make a set of 6 coasters, plus leave you extra to make some bookmarks or other little doodads.  You can buy precut squares, but the standard sheets are more economical…they usually sell for under a buck regular price, and can be found on sale for as little as 4/$1!

Materials for 6 needlpoint coasters (you’ll have extra to make bookmarks):

  • 1 sheet of 7 count plastic canvas
  • tapestry or plastic canvas needle (around $2 for a set of 4)
  • yarn  (cheap RedHeart works well for about $3 a skein):   I used a variegated yarn, because I like the effect, but you can use a solid.

This is what your plastic canvas will look like.


Cutting the Canvas

When cutting it, you want to count the lines, not the holes.  For each coaster, you will cut a square that is 24 lines by 24 lines.


So, count over 24 from the edge (including the edge), and cut right next to the 24th line, all the way across the piece (length-wise or widthwise, doesn’t matter).


Then count 24 over from one end of that strip (including the edge).


Cut straight across and you will have a square.


The end of your strip will have little plastic sticky-outy doobers on the end.


Cut them off to have a clean edge(over the trash can!).


Now that you have a clean edge, you can use your first square as a template to cut more (no more counting!).


You will get 2 squares width-wise, or 3 length-wise.  Repeat, cutting more strips (don’t forget to trim the doobers), and squares, until you have 6.  And some excess.  Save the excess for other projects, like the bookmark that follows.


Ok, let’s take a look at the pattern, again.


This pattern was created using a basic needlepoint stitch and a 5x5 square.  The squares mirror each other to create the kaleidoscope effect.

I stitched it in this order: 

  1. single stitched border
  2. 4 rows of squares
  3. overcast the edge

The Border

Thread your needle with an approximately 4 foot long piece of yarn.  Do not put a knot in it.

Starting at the far left edge, second hole down, push your needle up through the hole, while holding the end of the yarn on the back of the canvas with your finger.



Pull the yarn all the way through, but don’t let go of the end.  Put the needle tip down through the hole to the right and up one row.


Again, don’t let go of your end.  Pull the yarn all the way through.

Now, come up in the hole immediately below that hole.


Let’s look at the back.


As you can see, you will be stitching over the end to keep it from pulling out.

Back to the front.  Stitch one to the right and up like before.


You are making little half Xs.  Here’s a few stitches later:


And back:


The end is totally covered now, with no funky lump from a knot.

Stitch to the end of the row.


Turn 90 degrees counter-clockwise, and continue to stitch, so all your stitches go in the same direction.



Notice that the half Xs go in the opposite direction from you perspective (since you turned it).  Continue your border all the way around.


When you get back to where you started, turn it over to the wrong side.

To finish it off, you will slide your needle under several stitches.


Pull it through and trim close to the stitching.



The 5x5 Squares

Next is the first row of 5x5 squares.  Cut another length of yarn about 4-5 feet long and thread your needle.

Start right next to the border on the left, one row down from the top border, holding your end behind like before.




This first stitch is like the ones you made in the border, you go one the the right and up one.  For the next stitch, you come up one immediately below where you came up for the first stitch.


And go back down one to the right of where you went down for the last stitch.


Hold your yarn end kinda of a diagonal so it will be caught in the square.


Next stitch:



Continue in this way until you have 5  progressively longer stitches:


Here’s the back:


Now you will stitch the other half of the square.  Come up immediately to the right of where you came up for the last stitch.


And go down immediately below where you went down for the last stitch.


“And so on, until you complete the square.


The back:


This is the basic unit of this pattern.  To achieve the kaleidoscope, you will mirror the pattern for subsequent squares, like so:





To finish the row, run the yarn under the stitches in the back, like before (you can do this under your square or under the border).


Each subsequent row will be a mirror image of the previous one.






The Overcast Edge

You can do this one of two ways, with your yarn doubled or with it single.  I chose to finish this set with the yarn doubled because:

  • It’s quicker.
  • It gives a thicker edge.

If you use a single length of yarn, you will go through each hole twice (corners 3 or 4 times).  With the yarn doubled, you will go through each hole once (corners 2 times).

Either cut one length 4-5 feet long and thread your needle, or cut your yarn 8-10 feet long, threading your needle to the halfway mark and folding the yarn in half. 

You can stitch over the end of the yarn (just like before) when you overcast, but I prefer to start the yarn by running under the back of existing stitches (it avoids an awkward lump). 


Put the needle up through one of the edge holes (not at a corner).


Pull it through, wrap the yarn over the edge.  If you are using your yarn singly, come back up through the same hole.  If you are using doubled yarn, come back up through the hole immediately to the right.


Pull it through, wrap it over the edge, and continue in the same way until you reach the corner.  Remember, if you are using your yarn singly, you will go through each hole 2x, 1x if you are using doubled yarn.





The yarn will tend to twist up.  Try to keep it as smooth as you can.

When you get to the corner, go through that hole 2x (3x if you are using your yarn singly), and then continue on to the next side.  After you have overcast all 4 sides,wrap the yarn once more over the edge and run your needle under 5-6 border stitches on the back to finish.



Here’s what the completed coaster looks like on the back.


You can hand sew a square of felt onto the back to cover your stitches, but I don’t really think it’s necessary with this pattern.

Time to complete one coaster (once you get the hang of it) 30-45 minutes.  Just right for TV viewing.

For a shorter project, try the Kaleidoscope Bookmark:


For each bookmark, you will need:

  • 2 squares of 7 count plastic canvas 12 lines by 12 lines
  • tapestry or plastic canvas needle
  • yarn

Cut your plastic canvas squares 12 lines by 12 lines.  These are small, so I didn’t bother will a border.  Simply stitch 4 5x5 squares that mirror each other.  You can see that I made the God’s eye pattern on one and the cross pattern on the other.  Here’s how to finish:

Cut a 5 foot length of yarn and thread your needle.  Starting in the center of one edge of one square, start your overcast stitch (stitch over your yarn end to catch it):


We are using the yarn singly, so you will want to go through each hole 2x, 3x for the corner.  Continue around until you reach the halfway mark of the opposite side.


Now, grab your other square and line it up about 12” or so from the first one, like so:


Insert you needle through the center hole on the side facing the first square.  Overcast over the edge of the right half of the 2nd square.


Run the end of the yarn under stitches on the back to finish it off. 
Cut another piece of year 4-5 feet long.  Repeat to finish off and connect the squares on the other side.  Make sure both connecting strands are the same length.



To finish, tie an overhand knot close to each square.





Stayed tuned this week for more tutorials of easy crafts appropriate for holiday gift giving.  Be sure to check out the Handmade Holidays Linkup post where you can link up your own handmade gift tips and ideas.

And one lucky reader will receive a box full of handmade holiday gifts!  See the Handmade Holidays Giveaway post for details on how you can enter.


  1. Fabulous tutorial and a very cute handmade gift! This would be a great craft for my oldest, thanks! Following from Share the Memories FB group :)

  2. I love this project! So nice to do while watching tv. I was wondering if you think it'd be possible to put some finished ones together to make a pot holder? I think four of them together would be a good size. I just didn't know how to connect them. I was thinking using a thread that would blend in. Thanks for sharing! The bookmark is next on my list to do!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I'm glad you like this project---thank you for commenting. Yes, you could definitely make a potholder. I think that instead of connecting the coasters, what I might do is make it larger. You could still do the pattern the same way (basically just repeat it 4 times (2 across and 2 down), or you could make a larger continuous kaleidoscope part with just the one border around, or make a bigger border---so many possibilities. I was just thinking about making some of these myself, so I may play around with it. :) -Susan


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