How to Cross Stitch
Equipment you will need includes:
- small scissors
- DMC floss
- size 24 John James tapestry needle, one for each DMC color (other brands OK)
- 14 count aida cloth
- Stitching hoop, scroll frame or Q-snap (explained later)
- Velcro (for if you pick a scroll frame only)
- Floss bobbins, floss spinner, storage box or snack ziplock bags, cardboard phone cards, tupperware
- Project bag
- printed pattern
- needle-minder (a magnetic pretty that you attach to your fabric or have by your side to hold needles that are not in use)
The Pattern Print Out
1. First, you will need your pattern. Have a look at the front cover. This will give you all the information you need to know. Because we are going to work with 14 count first, which is the best count for a beginner get your 14 count pattern printed and ready.
The first page of the pattern will include:
- An image of what the finished work will look like
- How big it is in stitches. The square that includes 4 holes is considered 1 stitch (step 4 in the image above)
- How big it is in cm and inches
2. Your fabric must be at least 10cm or 3 inches bigger than the measurements of the piece around (so 6 inches or 20cm extra total). This is because measurements are shown only for your stitched area. You need additional for framing and if you get your start mark wrong. The more you can afford to give room around your pattern the better.
3. Your pattern then goes into the pattern itself. It is presented as a grid, with bold lines at each 10 stitch interval. On every page at the bottom left will be what is called a 'page map'. Each square represents an A4 page of the pattern. The greyed out square is the page you are on now. Please go through all the pages and look for the page that has on each side of the pattern a black triangle pointing in towards the pattern. The one with 4 represents the center of the pattern. Follow all 4 arrows in to the middle and mark, this is the absolute center of your pattern and where traditionally you should start stitching.
Not everyone stitches from the middle. Like myself, I prefer to stitch from the top left of the pattern. This means more counting on fabric to ensure I am in the exact top left of the fabric so I don't run out of fabric. I recommend for your first pattern, you start from the center to minimize errors.
Every square on the pattern represents a potential stitch X. You will see where there are symbols in a square, this is a stitched area. The symbols each correspond to their own DMC color.
Some pages will have 3 columns greyed out. These are repeats of the previous adjoining page and should not be stitched. They are there simply to help in joining the pattern together when stitching and if you like to tape your pattern together into one big page.
Not every page will have stitching on it (exception to the rule being full coverage pieces). Don't be surprised when you have a page that has no symbols, but do not ignore it, you must include it to ensure you get your stitching on the right pages. For blank pages, count across on your fabric the equivalent blanks on the pattern.
4. You will have a 'key' page. This page will repeat the fabric, stitches and sizing. It will also have some handy information about the key. There are 4 columns on a key. 'Col' represents the DMC color (it is not identical, but close enough for easy referencing), 'sym' represents the symbol that belongs to that color, and 'no' represents the DMC number. This is the number you will look for when buying your floss. There is also a 'colour name' column, but I have learned over time that not every shop seems to use the same color name, so it is best to rely on the 'no' when buying your threads (also sometimes called floss).
5. You will have a floss usage summary called 'thread lengths'. The usage is done in meters, but if you want to measure floss usage in another unit, please use the excel sheet provided (instructions for use are on the file itself). The floss usage will be shown in stitches, backstitches, length in meters, backs and then total meters used. We calculate an extra 30% of floss into the calculation so you have enough. Use this as your guide on how many skeins to buy. Skeins is the term used for one unit of floss. Each skein has 8 meters.
6. Every pattern comes with an UXS FAQ to help further with guiding you through the pattern.
All About Frames
In the shopping list, was made mention of a number of different frames and ways to hold your fabric. These are important. Whilst you can hold the fabric without any frame, it makes it hard to stitch and you might not get the right tension which leaves you with sloppy Xs.
Hoops are a good beginners choice. They are simply to set up. Simply undo, place the bottom under your fabric, and then push the top over. Make sure your fabric is smooth without kinks, and then tighten the hoop. You are ready to stitch. You can stitch one handed, but putting your pattern page on the hoop at the same time can be problematic. It also isn't a method you want to use if you have to move the hoop around, as I've found that if you have your hoop over already stitched areas, it can squash the stitches and fluff them.
If you go with the hoop option, ensure you purchase one big enough to allow for stitching your project comfortably and keep in mind you don't want to be stitching too close to the edge, it can be fiddly when you're needle is against the wood and your fingers are trying to work up against a 'wall' so to speak.
Scroll frames are my method of choice. They carefully roll away stitched areas as you work protecting the fabric and project from getting dirty. You can attach these to lap frames or frame stands which mean you can stitch two handed and also generally are big enough that you can use an additional needle-minder to hold the pattern page on so you can see it more easily as you stitch. This is where the velcro comes in. I highly recommend removing the staples and fabric from the scroll frame and using velcro instead to attach it to the scroll frame. It is both time saving and gives you better tension on the project.
Q-snaps have excellent tension, and look much like PVC piping. They cannot be rolled so are much like hoops in their rigidity. Many experienced stitchers go for a Q-snap or the scroll frame.
Your Storage Choices
There are two major methods used to store your floss. One is the bobbin method, and the other is the zip-lock. Both have their own merits and downfalls.
Bobbins take up less room, and look very pretty and neat. You can fit up to 50 or sometimes more into a single storage container, and because you can see the color, it makes finding them easier. You will need bobbins (available in cardboard or plastic, I recommend plastic for durability), and a floss winder which will attach to your floss box and allow you to place in your bobbin and wind the floss from the skein onto the bobbin. The dowfall to this is the time it takes to wind, and when you unwind to use them after they've been in storage a long time you get 'kinks' in the floss.
Ziplock is my method of choice. I have a zip-lock bag for every DMC color available. Each zip-lock bag has a phone card to give the bag rigidity and I write in big black marker the DMC number. I then pop in my skeins without any winding, just the skein as it is. The ones I am using on my project go into open top tupperware and the ones not in use are stored in larger higher capacity tupperware. This enables me to have multiple skeins on hand, saves time because I'm not winding, and I don't get kinks in my floss either. It is bulkier, but for a gal who is time poor, it works best for me.
Time To Stitch!
You have been to the shops and collected all your materials, you've waded through the terminology and complexity and fought your floss and fabric, so it is now time to get stitching! Let us begin on what will become your addictive journey!
You will notice your skein seems to fray. This is meant to happen. There are 6 threads wound into the one in every skein. You will split these to use while stitching. I like to work with a piece around 20cm long (8 inches). I cut and then I'll use that piece to split into the right number. You always end up with an even number.
You are in your center of your fabric, and your needle is ready. 14 count ( 16 and 18 count as well) go 2 over 1. This means two of those threads over 1 X. So for that one 20cm piece you've cut, you can split it into 3 lots of 2. Thread through the eye of your needle and let us begin. From here on out we refer to the top image!
1. This is the point where you begin your X. Come from under the fabric, and push up through the hole. If you are holding a hoop you will be able to watch as you pull through. On a scroll frame, use your 'underneath' hand to feel. It will take you time for it to become second nature to instinctively feel the right length. You want to leave a tail behind so you don't accidentally pull your floss right through and ruin the X. This tail will end up being stitched into the back as you go. Once you have pulled through and have a tail of 2-3cm (0.78-1.18 inches) and you have good tension, push it down through the diagonal hole in 2. Come up through 3 and then down through 4. You have just completed your first X! The first diagonal line is your bottom, and the second is your top. They must all match, the top must always be the same diagonal direction.
If you have a number of the same color going say horizontal or vertical, you may want to do 1 & 2 all the way through that horizontal or vertical line and then come back doing 3 & 4. If you are not comfortable doing this yet, just go 1 through to 4 until you are. Use your highlighter to mark where you have stitched on your pattern.
Over time, you will be able to look at your fabric and see it as a grid and easily navigate around a pattern. Being frustrated, and errors are totally normally and even experienced stitchers make mistakes. This is called 'frogging' and you have to undo your mistakes and redo! We are all victims of the frog.
When you are ready to tie off, finish your 4 and let the needle dangle. Turn your project over, and with needle and thread, gently push it under existing X's being careful not to let the needle go through the top (if it goes through the top you'll have a nightmare on your piece!). This will anchor your thread. Then take the thread off the needle, and trim any excess. At what length of thread you decide to tie off is up to the individual. Tying off will happen either because you are finished with that color and you are not using the thread parking method, or you've run out of thread to continue with that color. If you have left over thread enough to stitch with again, don't release it from the needle, keep it for the next round.
Carry on until you have finished the middle page. Then decide how you would like to do it, top to bottom, left to right, or maybe bottom to top or right to left! It is totally up to you.
This concludes our info session. I hope the information and links prove useful to you.