Ultimate Guide To Cross Stitching
1. Choosing Your Chart
Cross-stitch designs have evolved from simple geometric designs in the early days to complex photo-realistic charts of today. This means you have so many choices but you have to consider some things first before you start. Cross stitch is a hobby that takes time and is a bit expensive so choose a design that you are willing to invest time and money into. A lot of stitchers end up starting several projects without ever finishing one. One reason is because they lose interest while stitching and get enamored by another design. This is common but don't get discouraged. Just make sure that you keep you project properly stored because there will be a time when you will want to finish a project after a long break.
2. Reading Your Chart
Chart designers have various ways of presenting charts but there will always be key information common to all.
- Recommended Fabric - This is the fabric used in the model photo. The recommended fabric will indicate a fabric count and fabric color. Eg. 14 count Antique White. The count refers to the number of squares in one inch so 14 count fabric will contain 14 squares to an inch and 25 count will contain 25 squares to an inch. The color is important because the fabric will be the background color for the design. For designs with stitches on every square, fabric color may be less important. If a filled-out design has a dominant background color, you may choose a similar fabric color to avoid the fabric showing through. (Eg. a black background stitched on white fabric.
- Stitch Count - This is the size of the chart stated in terms of number of stitches. You will find this in the chart stated as width x height. Eg. 224w x 336h or 224 x 336
- Number of Colors - Some of the charts have this information to indicate the number of colors in the chart.
- Design Size - This is the size of the chart in inches. This will be dependent on the fabric count you are going to choose. A chart will usually show the design size for several fabric counts. For example a stitch count of 224 x 336 will be 16 x 24 inches on 14 count fabric and 22.4 x 33.6 inches on 10 count fabric.
- Symbol - Each square on the chart has a corresponding color and the symbol the unique identifier to that color.
- Color - This the thread color corresponding to each symbol. The colors refer to the colors of specific brand of threads. The most popular ones are DMC, which are made in France, and Anchor, a German brand manufactured worldwide.
- Chart Connection - This is how the pages are arranged to form the design. It is important to arrange the chart prior to starting so you know you have the complete chart. Note that some designs have overlaps. This are several rows or columns repeated in the following page. They help ensure that you follow the chart connection properly. Overlaps are grayed-out and are not to be stitched.
3. Choosing Your Materials
- Fabric - Cross stitch fabric comes in various colors and sizes. All cross stitch fabric are evenweave, meaning the warp and weft are of the same width. The most common one is Aida fabric. For a more challenging project, linen is used. The size of the fabric must be bigger than the design size. At least 3 inches per side is recommended so a design with a stitch count of 224 x 336 should have at least 22 x 30 inches of fabric if using 14 count Aida. If using linen, you choose to stitch over one or over two. Stitching over one means one chart block is equal to one fabric block. Stitching over two means one chart block is equal to four fabric blocks. So on a 32 count linen, a stitch count of 224 x 336 would need 13 x 16.5 inches of linen if stitched over one and at least 20 x 27 inches if stitched over two. You may also use a waste canvass over regular fabric like when you want to stitch on a regular shirt.
- Threads - Cross stitch uses embroidery thread. High-quality embroidery thread is made of 100% long-staple Egpytian cotton. The most popular threads are DMC and Anchor threads. Both are of high quality and have over 400 colors in their range. Not all colors have counterparts in both brands so charts with conversions for both may have duplicates for the alternate color. Other brands include Cosmo, Sullivans, Venus. Cheaper brands manufactured in China contain polyester which may be an advantage or a disadvantage for some. Some charts indicate the estimated thread usage so you would have an idea how much you need to buy. Threads usually come in 8 meter skeins and have six strands. Some designs call for specialty threads like metallic threads, over-dyed flosses, rayon and silk threads.
- Beads - Certain designs will call for the used of beads. The most popular brand is Mill Hill Beads.
4. Cross Stitch Tools
- Needle - For some projects, a needle is all you need to start. The needle used for cross stitch is called a Tapestry needle. This may be confusing for some. Why not use an Embroidery needle. The main reason is that Tapestry needles have blunt points. The needle doesn't have to be sharp because holes are already present in evenweave fabrics. The needle simply has be pushed and pulled through these holes. Tapestry needles are available in several sizes and the sizes correspond to the fabric count used. Beading needles are used to stitch beads. They're very long and very thin needles. Regular sewing needles of the smallest size can be used as an alternative to beading needles.
|Needle Size||Fabric Count|
- Hoops - Some stitches use hoops to make fabric taut and therefore easier to stitch on to. Be careful though as hoops may distort the fabric or leave unsightly hoop marks. It is recommended to use a paper napkin over a hop and just tear away the part you are going to stitch over. Also, never leave the hoop on for prolonged periods of time.
- Scrolls - Scrolls are more recent and the most popular ones are called Q-Snaps. They like hoops but rectangular in shape. The are better than hoops because you have entire design inside the scrolls.
- Frames and Stands - Frame and stands are for the serious stitchers. The frames are big and bulky and are held by a stand. Stitching with frames and stands is actually faster because both hands are free to stitch instead of just one like when using hoops and scrolls.