Saturday, 22 October 2011

How to Cross Stitch

I thought that I would take the mystery out of cross stitching. I know that people can think its very complicated well its really its not.

There are two types of cross stitch:

  • Stamped cross stitch - this is where the design has been printed onto the fabric and you follow this as guide to position and colours. Think of it as a paint by numbers but with threat. These kit are great for children. In fact my love of stitching started when I was young with stamped long stitch tapestry kits. 

  • Counted cross stitch - this is the type that I do. You have a pattern with a key (each colour is represented by a symbol) and you recreate that patten on a blank piece of fabric.

There are different types of stitching fabric - I wont go into these now.
For the purpose of learning Aida is the one to go for - its stiffer and has regular uniform holes.

For starting I recommend either buying a small kit - these come with everything that you need and clear instructions, look out for simple clear designs to start. Another good option is to buy a magazine with a cover kit - again these will come with what you need to start, clear instructions and good hints and tips.

For the purpose of this I have used a charming Margaret Sherry design that came as a cover kit on The World of Cross Stitching Magazine:

Just add scissors

Here's the pattern in a bit clearer detail:

Preparation is key:
First using the thread key on the chart you need to separate your bundle of threads into their separate colours - if you have colours that are similar you will need to do this in good natural light (I use a craft lamp with a daylight bulb, but a window during the day works just as well).

Once sorted keep them separated - for small designs I tend to line them up next to me

The next step is to find the centre of the fabric:
Cross stitch is always worked from the centre - this ensures that will wont run out of fabric at an edge.

Fold the Aida in half and half again:

As you can see this marks the centre
Now we get onto the more technical bit:

Each square on the design represents a square on the fabric and one whole cross stitch.

First part of the stitch also know as half cross stitch

top row shows whole cross stitch, bottom half cross stitch

The important thing is to make sure that all your stitches go the same way.

Starting off:

Most charts are worked in 2 strands (check your key to find out how many strands you need). Ok so I am guessing that might sound a little complicated! Really its not - if you look at the thread you will see that its made up of 6 strands. Separate these and work with the number that the pattern says.

Now there are two ways to start off.
The first involves securing the tail of your thread:

This method is best if you are working with an odd number of threads.

The next option is the loop start:
You will need to be working with an even number of strands to use this method.

As you can see this is a very neat method for starting off

Ok so you can start, what about finishing:
 You need to make sure that the threat is secured at the back of your stitching

Be careful to cut the excess thread
Working the design:

I tend to work in blocks of colour - the important thing to remember is to keep counting. For large designs and if you are just starting out its a good idea to mark on the pattern each stitch as you do it. That way you are less likely to lose your place.

A key tip is to make sure that you keep the back neat:

Stitch the whole design:

Time for the back stitch:

Or as I like to think of it - time for the magic.

So the back stitching is the lines that you see on the pattern. You either love it or hate it. Some designs are back stitch free, but for some you cant avoid it.

A top tip to take the pain out of back stitching is to switch from your blunt tapestry needle to a sharp one. This will help it to slip through the design and fabric. There really is no mystery to back stitching just follow the design. Think of it as drawing the outline with the thread.

As you can see the back stitching really is important so its worth spending a little bit of time on this to ensure its nice and clear.

And its finished:

Well that's the basics. I hope that you have enjoyed it and found it useful.

I will look at other fabrics and stitches latter :)

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