You probably only need to read this if you are new to cross stitch!
Things you need to get started:
· Threads – divides into 6 strands
· Fabric – aida or evenweave
· Chart and Key
These should all be in a kit if not you need to complain! If you have only bought a chart then you will need to buy the fabric, threads and the needle. You will also need scissors or snippers.
Preparing the fabric, if you are using a kit the fabric has probably been folded so I would advise ironing it first. Most fabric can take a decent heat but I find it best to iron on a towel and under a damp t-towel. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the creases out but it does help if you start with a relatively flat piece.
For small projects you don’t really need a frame, if you want to stop fraying you can stitch round the edge but I don’t think it is actually necessary if you are careful. Larger projects do need a frame, personally I don’t like hoop frames as I find it is more likely to distort the fabric. I always use rotating frames. For very large projects, especially needlepoint, standing frames are probably best.
You will need to find the centre of the fabric, if you are using a large frame you may want to do this before you attach to the frame so the fabric is flat when you find it. So you don’t lose the centre just put a loose stitch in the centre. Then you will nearly be ready to start!
Most instructions suggest starting in the middle whilst that is easier in the short term I prefer starting at the top, if you do this though it is best to double check you have counted right so you make sure you won’t run out of fabric. You don’t want to do 10,000 stitches only to discover the picture won’t fit at the bottom. Another way of checking is to use a tape measure to check the dimensions will fit from where you will start at the top. This is quite a good method for evenweave because it is quite hard to count a large area and if you start at the top you simply work down the design using finished stitches as your guide.
You should have a colour key which indicates which colour thread to use and how many strands you need. Usually it is 2 for cross-stitch and one for backstitch, but occasionally it varies so it is best to check or you may run out of thread. Then just follow the symbols on the chart and watch your design grow.
Most advice says bring the needle up at the bottom left and back through at the top right but you could go in any diagonal as long as you are consistent. Then bring up the needle at the bottom right and back down top left. You should then have a single cross stitch, for the best finish check your thread lies neatly on the fabric.
If you have a row of cross stitches of the same colour it is best to do all the underneath half stitches and then come back with the top stitch.
Half Stitch – following the instructions above just don’t bother with the top cross stitch, these could go in either direction so make sure you check first.
Three Quarter cross-stitch and quarter stitch - follow the basic idea of a full cross-stitch but depending on the direction of the stitch. These stitches are much easier on evenweave, on aida you will need to make the centre hole yourself, so make sure you have a sharp needle.
Once you have done the cross stitch you can start the backstitch, which is illustrated by black or coloured lines, don’t do it first or you will cover it up! Although if you have finished an area of cross stitch you could do some so you don’t end up with so much to do at the end. Following the chart bring the needle up where a line starts and down when it next hits a hole.
First advice with French knots is don’t panic! Practice will help. If you don’t feel confident doing them it is always best to start with a new length of thread, this way if it doesn’t look right you can get rid of it without losing other stitches. Bring your needle up in the place you want the knot, twist the thread twice round your needle. Here’s the hard part bring the needle back through the aida close to but not in the actual hole you brought it up in. Keep the thread as taut as possible and when you pull the thread all the way through the knot should lie neatly on the fabric.
Other useful tips and advice.
Try not to have knots on the underneath of your fabric, as the neater the back the neater the front, especially when framed. When starting off use your first few stitches to secure the thread to begin with and finish off by pulling it back through the stitches on the back.
Most advice says stitch dark colours first so the light colours don’t get dirty. However, I prefer to do the light colours first particularly if say white is next to black or a bright red because if you do the white last it tends to pick up coloured fluff and if you are careful it shouldn’t get dirty.