Cross-Stitch Tips & Hints

General information

Cross-stitch is a simple type of needlework, well suited to the fabrics available to stitchers today. A finished cross-stitch is a X shape, and is an easily repeated stitch. It is easily adaptable to intricate designs, where a multitude of colors will be used to create the detailed pattern.

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Sizes 24 and 26 blunt-end tapestry needles are used for stitching on evenweave fabric and Aida cloth. The ideal needle size is just small enough to slip easily through your fabric. When stitching on waste canvas, use a sharp needle.

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Hoops & Scissors

An embroidery hoop is recommended for cross-stitch, and a pair of small, sharp embroidery scissors is very helpful.

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Most cross-stitch is done using two strands of embroidery floss. Floss comes in skeins or on spools and is typically sold in six-ply or six-strand packaging.

Before you thread your needle, it is necessary to separate all six strands.

To separate the six-strands of floss for stitching, hold the entire strand near the top with one hand allowing the bottom to hang freely. Slowly pull each individual ply upward with the other hand, one at a time. Recombine the necessary number of strands to thread you needle and save the remaining strands for the next threading.

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Most counted cross-stitch projects are worked on evenweave fabrics made especially for counted thread embroidery. These fabrics have vertical and horizontal threads of uniform thickness and spacing.

Aida cloth is a favorite of beginning stitchers because its weave forms distinctive squares in the fabric, which makes placing stitches easy.

To determine a fabric's thread count, count the number of threads per inch of fabric.

In addition to evenweave fabrics, many stitchers enjoy using waste canvas and perforated paper. Waste canvas is basted to clothing or other fabric, forming a grid for stitching which is later removed. Perforated paper has holes evenly spaced for 14 stitches per inch.

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Mounting Aida

Cut cardboard or foam core board to desired size. Center stitched Aida on top of cardboard or foam core board with right side facing out. Trim Aida edges to 1 1/2" larger than cardboard or foam core board; fold edges back and secure.

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When you shop for a frame for your new cross-stitch piece, take the stitchery along with you and compare several styles and colors.

Try several mats over your stitched piece to decide if you want to mat it or not. Keep in mind the feeling of your stitched piece when choosing a frame.

You might want to try an antique, time-worn frame. Whether you choose an old or new frame, a wooden frame with simple lines is usually best.

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Working from Graphs

Graphs or charts are made up of colors and symbols to tell you the exact color, type and placement of each stitch. Each square represents the area for one complete cross-stitch. Next to each graph, there is a key with information about stitches and floss colors represented by the graph's colors and symbols.

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Getting Started

1. Choosing and preparing fabric To determine the dimensions of a stitched design on any fabric, use this formula: number of stitches across design area / number of threads per inch of fabric = size of fabric in inches.

Add at least 3" to all outside edges of design area measurements, or cut fabric to measurements listed in the Materials section. For example, if your design area is 6"x 8", fabric should be cut at least 12"x 14". Cut fabric evenly along horizontal and vertical threads. To prevent raveling, hand overcast or machine zigzag the edges of fabric.

To find the center of the fabric, fold in half vertically and horizontally. Mark center with a pin. Find the center of the graph by following the arrows to the center point. Most stitchers prefer starting at or near the center point.

2. Preparing floss
The six strands of floss are easily separated, and the number of strands used is given in instructions. Cut strands in 14"- 18" lengths. When separating floss, always separate all six strands, then recombine the number of strands needed. To colorfast red floss tones, which sometimes bleed, hold floss under running water until water runs clear. Allow to air dry.

3. Starting, stitching and stopping
Begin stitching by bringing your needle up from the underside of fabric at starting point. Hold about 1" of thread behind fabric and stitch over it, securing it with the first few stitches. For even stitches, keep a consistent tension on your thread and pull thread and needle completely through fabric with each stab of the needle. Make all the top crosses on your cross-stitches face the same direction. To finish a thread, run the needle under the back side of several stitches and clip. Threads carried across the back of unworked areas may show through to the front, so do not carry threads. Finish off and start again in the next section.

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