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Cross Stitch - the Stitch that became a Technique

Crossed Stitches have been used in embroidery since the earliest examples that have been found. In fact, that are quite a number of variations on the cross stitch.

Cross stitch

Double Cross

Italian Cross

Herringbone stitch

Long armed Cross

Star Stitch

Rice Stitch

These stitches were used in conjunction with many others in surface embroidery, however the only time you tended to find crossed stitches used solely in a design was in the technique of Assissi Work (or voided work).

In the 19th Century, counted thread embroidery, worked on an evenweave fabric or openweave canvas (such as Berlin work). In 1980, the Zweigart company invented Aida cloth for use specifically in counted thread embroidery.

And still, the modern form of the cross stitch technique was some way off.

It was not, in fact, until the 1960’s that what we think of as “modern” cross stitch as a technique emerged.

There are two forms of the cross stitch technique – printed and counted.

Printed Cross Stitch involves the design being marked out in crosses and printed on fabric. Essentially, this is a form of surface embroidery.

In counted cross stitch, you start with blank fabric – usually Aida cloth, however over the years, various other evenweave fabrics, including evenweave linen, has been used.

Stitching both of these forms is similar – you are provided with a chart that has either symbols or coloured crosses to show what colours to use where.

The big difference is that with counted cross stitch, you count your stitches relative to a reference point on the fabric – in most cases the centre of the design. I must admit – I find it easier to find the left hand corner and start stitching there; most stitchers do find their own preferred method of stitching.

In the beginning of the cross stitch technique the designs were fairly simple, using only whole or half cross stitches with back stitches for definition. However by the late 1980’s quarter cross stitches were included and designs had become more intricate.

Intricacy was achieved by the use of many different colours and subtle shading, as well as the use of back stitching to provide definition. Some designs would use up to 50 different colours – sometimes using up to 10 different shades of the same colour!

It was not until the late 1990’s and the emergence of designers such as Teresa Wentzler that Counted Cross Stitch began to become a full blown and rich technique.

Beads, charms and the use of different numbers of strands of threads to give dimension have taken counted cross stitch into a very rich technique.

Aida cloth is still the most popular form of cloth for counted cross stitch, however more and more designers are designing for evenweave linen.

Counted cross stitch is a technique that demands great attention to detail, and yet the stitches used are ideal for beginner stitches to learn embroidery.

Recommended Reading

New Cross Stitcher's Bible (Cross Stitch (David & Charles))

The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine

Reader's Digest Complete Book of Cross Stitch

Some of my favourite Cross Stitch designs

These are some of my favourites. I own the charts and have stitched at least one design from them.

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

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2010 Megan McConnell

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Content copyright © 2015 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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