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Cross Stitch Basics - Before you Start to Stitch


In the past 30 years, Cross Stitch has turned into an embroidery technique all it’s own.

Pieces range from simple to the incredibly complex designs of Teresa Wentzler.

When you consider that cross stitch pieces tend to use 2 basic stitches – the cross stich and the back stitch, the sheer artistry and genius of the designers becomes apparent.

Like any embroidery, though, the most beautiful design can be ruined if some simple basic rules aren’t followed. In this article, I’ll be looking at these basics and how you can use them to ensure a great result every time.

Basic Equipment

Needles A good needle is essential – in fact, would go so far as to say that 2 good needles are essential.

You can buy special needles for cross stitch – these have a point, but not a sharp one, that is designed to separate the fabric weave and slip into the holes.

However, as anybody who has done cross stitch will tell you, half and quarter stitches need to have the needle and thread pierce the fabric. For this, use a good crewel needle. My own preference is a size 10 crewel needle – it’s got the point and is a nice size for the thread you’ll need.

Hoop or Frame Don’t let anybody tell you that you can do good embroidery without a hoop or frame – no matter what the technique.

Using a hoop or frame to hold the fabric whilst you stitch ensures that you keep an even tension with your stitching – eliminating loose threads.

For most things you work, a hoop is all that is needed. Personally – I have quite a few hoops, ranging from 2 “ across (for very small pieces) to one that is 1 foot in diameter. The one I use most is about 8” diameter, however, I do prefer to mount my pieces in a frame for stitching.

Before you start stitching, you must prepare your hoop. To do that, wrap bias binding around the inner hoop (the one without the split and screw). Start by gluing the end of the bias to the hoop, and finish it with a couple of stitches. This helps to provide some padding between the hoop and your fabric – which is essential when you have to move the hoop to cover stitching.

You should also wrap bias around the outer hoop as well – even more essential as when you move the hoop, it is the outer hoop that will touch the front of your stitching.

Why do I like to use the frame? Well, it’s often big enough to be able to have the whole design and it doesn't leave marks in the fabric like a hoop does. It’s also easier to do the back stitching and attach any charms or beads to the design when you can see the whole picture. I also find a frame, properly dressed (laced) gives a more even tension.

Scissors and Thread Snips The scissors are self-explainatory – but many people don’t see the need to have thread snips as well.

Scissors – even embroidery scissors - don’t lie flat to the fabric, so there is a limit to how close you can cut the end of the thread at the back of the fabric for finishing.
Thread snips lie flat, so you have greater control about how and where and when to snip thread.

Pencil, pen, paper The pencil should be a nice darker pencil to keep a tab on where you are on the chart. I always take a photocopy of my chart, and then use my pencil to colour in the areas I’ve stitched as I go.

The pen and paper allows you to take notes as you stitch as to any problems, or even anything you’ve noticed about the design. For example, if you are stitching a series of motifs, make a note as to how far apart they are. It saves a lot of time counting each time you move to the next motif!

If you do find a mistake in the chart (and it does happen) do make a note of where it was, and what it was. When you’ve finished, write to the company and let them know. It means that they can then rectify it in the next printing, and also are able to issue notifications of the mistakes. Trust me – they do appreciate it. Mistakes can happen in printing and often people think that “they won’t listen to me” when they come across an error.

Feedback is always appreciated, whether or not you enjoyed stitching the design (perhaps you could enclose a photo of it) and any difficulties you encountered (perhaps the instructions for making it up or some of the speciality stitch instructions weren’t as clear as they might be). This all helps the companies producing these designs (and the designers) improve.

Chart Markers If you don’t have any of those nifty little chart markers that stick to your chart and show you where you are, use a post-it flag or something similar. To make sure I don’t get completely confused, I also put a pin in my stitching (with the coloured head where I’ve finished stitching) so that with the marked chart and the marked fabric, I know exactly where I am when I start working again.

Stitch Converter LoRan puts out a nifty stitch converter for under $10 that will tell you how big a design will be based on the number of stitches across and down, as well as the type of fabric you are using. I couldn't do without mine!

Ruler or Tape Measure Again, it helps to ensure that you have enough fabric to stitch your design on. For good measure, always have an extra 3” or so of extra fabric around your design to allow for framing later.

So – now you have the basic equipment. Next, comes the different types of fabric and thread, which I will be covering in the next article in this series.

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please e-mail me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching


Happy Stitching from Megan


© 2006 Megan McConnell

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Content copyright © 2014 by Megan McConnell. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Megan McConnell. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Megan McConnell for details.

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