If you’re new to cross stitch – Welcome! You’ll find some great patterns on my site and here you’ll find some great information to help you along in your new passion.
If you’ve been doing it for years like I have – you’ll enjoy the more complex patterns available here and you just might find some tips or tricks that you hadn’t run across before.
So…let’s begin and the best place to begin is with what you’ll need to actually cross stitch. Here are the basics.
Although this one seems obvious, there are several different types of needles out there and not just for cross stitching.
I find that depending on the fabric and floss you are going to use (and yes we’ll talk to that later), depends on what size needle you are going to use. the larger the holes on the fabric, the more floss on your needle and thus you will need a needle with a larger hole to accommodate that floss (or yarn as the case may be.) So bear that in mind.
For cross stitching, you want to go with a blunt end needle. So this is not your typical sewing needle that has a sharpened end. Sewing needles need the sharp end because they are piercing through multiple layers of fabric in order to bind them all together. In cross stitching, you aren’t piercing fabric, you are using the needle to enter the space between the fabric fibers. In Aida and Evenweave fabrics, the “holes” are better defined and easier to find where to set your needle through. In fabrics like linen and Jobelan, its a bit harder to determine since the threads in the fabric are thinner and tighter together. On these fabrics, you may need to gentle push the threads with your needle in order to easily pull it through.
Typical needle sizes for cross stitching range from 20 to 28 in even numbers. While the most common seem to be 24 and 26, you may find that you prefer either larger or smaller.
You’ll find over time that you will find a brand that will “speak” to you and becomes your favorite go to needle. And if you don’t, that’s OK too. I am still trying to find a new favorite needle since the one I had that was incredible is no longer being manufactured.
Hoops and Frames
Some stitchers prefer one over the other and being someone who used both, I’ll tell you right now I favor the frame over the hoop.
So as far as hoops go, there tend to be two types – ones that are manually adjusted and ones that are spring loaded.
Spring loaded hoops are just what they sound like, there’s an outer frame and the inner frame is a piece of metal with two “handles” near each other that you will squeeze together to get the inner frame to release from the outer. Once you release the handles, it springs back to its normal form. You will then place your stitching fabric over the outer frame. Then squeeze those handles and position it within the outer frame and lower it in. Once you have it position, gently release the handles so it can seat itself within the outer frame. You may need to do a little massaging of the fabric and the inner frame to get a nice taut work space for your stitching.
The manually adjusted hoops also have an inner and outer ring but the outer ring has a screw that you use to tighten and loosen the frames. Unscrew it and remove the inner ring from the outer and then, as with the spring loaded hoops, you position in your fabric over the outer ring then place the inner hoop back in. adjust the screw until the fabric is nice and taut. You may have to do some minor adjusting of the fabric as you tighten it…a little pull and tug to keep it taut and in place.
There is some debate about how to stitch one you do have in in the hoop. Some prefer stitching in the depression (where the frame is actually more or a ledge around the fabric) or on the flat side (where the fabric is equal to the frame). I prefer the flat side but try both and see what works best for you.
After all, this is a crafting experience that you will enjoy so don’t make it any harder on yourself by doing things the way others say you need to do it. Do what feels right for you so you can always enjoy your crafting.
Scissors and Seam Rippers
You do need a nice pair of embroidery scissors. It helps a lot to have the smaller blades to help trim down the floss tails. They come reasonably priced to more expensive but if the blades are sharp, you’re good.
You may be wondering why I included seam rippers. Well…I hate to be the one that tells you this but…everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully you’ll catch it early and be able to backtrack your stitches to fix it but every once in a while, you find it after you’ve already finished off that thread. A seam ripper comes in handy when that happens. You do need to be careful when you use it to start off the floss that needs to be pulled out but it’s not that hard. You can also do this with the embroidery scissors but I find that the seam ripper gives a bit more control over that. I’ll have a video up shortly that will show you how I manage that.
I know…obvious right? there are a few of varieties of floss brands out there but the major one is DMC. (https://www.dmc.com) This brand is widely available and seems to be the predominate one used in patterns.
Anchor is another brand and you can find conversion charts for swapping in Anchor for DMC colors.
Then there are smaller companies that are releasing their own special colors of floss. I’ve just recently discovered these and I’ll have a post on each of them as I work with their flosses and tell you what I think of them.
If you’re starting out, go with the floss designated in the pattern. If it’s not possible to, contact the company that the pattern is from. They just may be able to help you by giving you similar colors in brands that are available to you.
Smaller companies and individual designers (like me 😀 ) may help you swap out colors to another if that’s what you are trying to do.
Simple text patterns are probably the easiest to swap out colors for ones that appeal more to you. I have several that can have that done and with some of the variegated floss colors out there, they can truly be made unique with that simple change.
Where would you be without the fabric to stitch upon? There are a variety of fabrics designed to be used for cross stitch such as Aida, Evenweave, Laguna and even linen. The you can use what is called “waste canvas” or soluble canvas to stitch on fabrics that normally aren’t designed for cross stitch. Some examples of this are tote bags, sweatshirts, caps, etc.
The fabrics designed for cross stitch specifically will give you a “count.” This count defines how many little squares represent an inch of fabric. So a 14 count has 14 squares to the inch both horizontally and vertically. A 25 count has 25 squares per inch and so on. The larger the count number, the smaller the finished piece will be. This comes into play with patterns and the dimension stitch count to help you determine what fabric count you want to work with and how large a piece you need.
The larger count sizes (think 20 count and above) can be worked one of two ways. They can be stitched “over 1.” This means each square on the pattern means one square on the fabric. Or they can be stitched “over 2.” This means that for every square on the pattern you will be stitching over 4 squares on the fabric. Now I know that sounds confusing but what 4 squares really means is that on your fabric, you are stitching over 2 squares high by 2 squares wide. So you are now doubling the size of the finished piece.
So if you say have a 20 count Aida fabric and you want to stitch “over 2”, you are basically stitching on a 10 count fabric rather than a 20 count so make sure you adjust your math correctly. If you want to make sure your math is correct, you can find websites and apps that will help you with converting your stitch counts to actual fabric dimensions.
One such app is the Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator app for Android phones and tablets. (Shameless plug I know.) The app allows you to input the stitch dimensions and how much of a selvage you want and then gives you a list of commonly available fabric counts and determines what the final dimensions of fabric you will need for the pattern.
Selvage you ask? Well a selvage is extra fabric that you will need to ensure that your pattern fits AND have enough room left over to finish your artwork. I recommend three inches PER SIDE – so a total of 6 inches to the length and 6 inches to the width of the fabric so that whether you are getting it framed or making a pillow or whatever medium you want it created into, you can without issue. You can do 2 inches per side but I find that it tends to be a bit short when moving your hoop or frame to work on edges of the pattern.
And that’s the other reason to add a selvage. You don’t want your pattern to end at the very edge of your fabric. Fabric frays no matter what you do and you don’t want all that time and effort going into something that can’t be finished off. I wish I had a picture of my first finished pattern that wasn’t from a kit. Because I did not think of that when I was a teen first teaching myself to cross stitch. If it wasn’t for my stubbornness, I may have quit then but I knew in my heart that this was a craft I would end up loving the rest of my life.
Once you start exploring the wonderful world of fabrics for cross stitch, you’ll discover some amazing hand dyed fabrics too. These are amazing backdrops for partial cross stitch patterns. It gives you the ability to make your finish work pop even more.
Patterns are the blueprint to your design. Some can be complex and very beautiful to behold. Some are simple and quick but just as satisfying knowing that you stitched it by yourself. Patterns range from small to tapestry size so you just need to know what you’re getting into before you run off and get that next pattern…and trust me, there will always be another pattern you want.
Well designed patterns will tell you the stitch dimensions for the finished product. You’ll need to keep your eyes out for information like “200 stitches W X 150 stitches H”. This is to help you figure out what size fabric you will need. as well as what fabric size
There are two types of pattern types – full coverage and partial coverage. You may find you prefer one over the other but I love them equally.
Full coverage is exactly what it sounds like. Every square on the fabric will be filled with an X of floss. For full coverage works, you just need a solid color base fabric – typically white – but if your pattern tends to the darker colors, you may want to consider using a black fabric so you don’t get any possible white showing through.
Partial coverage will only cover certain squares on the fabric and allows the background fabric to show through. This is where you can get creative too. You can find hand dyed or screen printed fabrics to use to compliment the pattern. You can even dye some fabric yourself. I’ll have a blog on that later as well so you can see just how easy it can be.
There are always new and interesting products coming out for stitchers to get creative with. In the past few years things like commuter mugs, mouse pads, keepsake boxes and even stuffed animals with bibs or blankets attached have been released. So it’s always good to meander through the cross stitch area of your local craft shop or even search the internet for such novelty items.
Some people swear by them. I’m on the fence about these. I have had several different kinds and I do use them on occasion, mostly when I’m working on larger count fabrics. (Larger counts mean smaller stitches.) They come in clip ons to frames, the kind that hang from your neck, etc. You can also consider getting an inexpensive set of reader glasses from your local drugstore. These have worked for many people who cross stitch and are easier to handle.
There are also magnifiers for the patterns. This is mainly in the form of a ruler type magnifier on a metal sheet. You place your pattern on the metal sheet, then slide the magnifier ruler as needed to enlarge the area you are working on.
Trust me when I tell you good lighting is essential. It helps you see the pattern clearer but it is the most needed when it comes to the fabric. It will help illuminate the holes on the cross stitch fabric and the threads in linen. This will help you in being able to move with a better flow in stitching. If you have to stop and adjust the fabric to see where the next stitch goes, it will only slow you down and frustrate you to the point where you just may not want to continue. Or you’ll end up squinting and that could lead to eye strain and headaches. I know…been there and done that.
You don’t have to buy any new lighting if you have great lighting already available to you. There are several types of lighting out there that can help you. there are free standing lights, desk/table lights as well as more portable lights and depending on your situation, you may want to look at various ones to find what will suit you best.
I actually have several different lights that help me depending on where I am. I have a nice Ottlite freestanding light with an iPad holder, multiple brightness settings and multiple light color settings in my living room. I also have a small portable light that I can attach to my frame when I’m working in bed before sleep.
My freestanding light has an iPad holder with the ability to charge it, three light color settings and four different lighting strengths. My small portable light has three brightness settings but only one color mode which is a pure daylight color.
I did look at several models and over quite a bit of time before getting these. I have other lights I’ve tried but just wasn’t happy with any of them. So don’t get discouraged and keep your eyes open for sales.
Now that you’ve gone over supplies for cross stitching, now let’s go over how to cross stitch.