Beginners Cross Stitch Guide
Cross Stitch is an easy craft once you get the hang of it but it always helps to start with a few handy hints.
To help you, I have outlined the basic steps for learning cross stitch and some hints I have learned over many years of stitching.
Prepare your weapon (your needle)!
Embroidery floss typically consists of six strands, and you will stitch with two strands on your needle. Cut your thread to 50cm lengths (you'll get about 16 lengths from one skein of floss) and gently pull apart the floss to separate the strands. Go slowly to avoid tangling!
It is recommended to start in the middle of the pattern and work your way out. Find the centre of your fabric by folding lengthways and widthways and applying a small amount of pressure to 'crease' the fabric. All SpruceXstitch patterns are marked with red intersecting lines, so you can easily identify the centre point of each chart.
Now start your first stitch, but threading the needle through the centre hold (Point A), from the back through to the front.
Once you have threaded your needle through Point A, be sure to leave a 2-3 cm length of thread (the 'tail') at the back of the fabric. Gently thread the needle through Point B (from front to back), ensuring you don't pull the tail through.
When you thread through Point C (from back to front), 'trap' the tail under the new stitch (on the back of the fabric) so it holds steady as you continue stitching. As you stitch, continue to trap the tail along the row of stitch so it stays neat and tidy, and extra secure.
Continue stitching along the row (you will be counting the number of stitches you need from the pattern you are working from - this is called 'counted' cross stitch). When you have finished the row, turn back and stitch in the opposite direction, creating a row of 'x's on the front of the design. Don't pull the thread too tightly of you will distort the fabric - a gentle tug after each stitch is sufficient. Now keep going! Once you have successfully completed a cross stitch 20 or 30 thousand times, you will definitely start to feel quite competent (trust me!)
When you have finished the required number of stitched or come to the end of your length of thread, you will need to finish of that thread. Pass the needle through 4-5 completed stitches at the back of the fabric. This will secure the thread and allow you to cut off the end. See how simple cross stitch is! No knots required!
Cross Stitch Tips
An embroidery hoop is a fantastic tool to use if you are a beginner (although cross stitch can be done without one, and indeed some people prefer not using one!). Hoops will help pull the fabric taut as you stitch, resulting in neater, more even stitches. If leaving your stitching for an extended period of time, be sure to remove your work from the hoop to allow the fabric to relax (perhaps make it a margarita?)
Aida fabric can unravel at the edges when handled frequently. Before you start a project, finish the edges of your fabric with masking tape, or even hem the edges with a sewing machine.
If you are having trouble seeing the holes in your fabric (especially when using small count or dark fabric), try lying a contrasting coloured towel on your lap as you stitch. This can make the holes stand out. Remember, daylight is your friend, so be sure to stitch in lots of lovely natural light (bulldoze a hole in your wall if you think it will help!)
As you stitch merrily along, the strands of floss can become twisted. If you notice this, simply move your needle down to the fabric and separate the threads by hand. The less twisted the strands are, the neater the stitched will look.
Before framing or making your finished design into a little pillow or 'whatsit-holder' as I like to call it, it's a good idea to roll a lint roller over the design first (cat owners will be well aware!). To remove creases, iron the back of the design on a low-heat setting. You can also wash your fabric once the stitching is complete - be sure to do this by hand. I've always found finished cross stitch designs to be very durable, but you should always be on the safe side considering all that hard work you put into it!
Got any tips of your own? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your tips with the cross stitch community.