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tower of london in cross stitch


by cross stitch centre

dolphins in cross stitch

The reason for setting up Hints and Things in the first place was to provide basic information on many different subjects as I felt this was often overlooked and was extremely hard to find elsewhere.

When embarking on something for the first time, whether it be a new hobby, setting-up home, or buying a secondhand car, you need to know how to get started.

Cross stitch is no exception. You decide to give it a try so you find a simple kit or a chart - now that is your first dilemma - what is the difference between a kit and a chart?  Cross stitch kits contain everything you need to make the picture or item in question i.e. fabric, threads, chart and even the needle whereas a chart just provides the stitching instructions:  the fabric, threads etc., have to be purchased separately.

Right, you have acquired the kit so you are ready to go - open up the chart and you are faced with little squares all containing funny little signs or blocks of different colours - now what do you do?  Well help is at hand, the following explains each step clearly and concisely and even have helpful diagrams alongside.


Some Cross Stitch Guidelines

Cross stitch is fun, and the range of kits available is now huge. It is best to follow the instructions in the kit, as the designer will know best how to work it, to do justice to his or her original concept. It is helpful however to have some general guidelines on the basics, and that is what we are hoping to provide for you here.

With stamped cross stitch the design is printed on the fabric for you to follow. However the vast majority of cross stitch is "counted" cross stitch. Here the fabric is blank, and you work the design by following a chart which shows you where to put the stitches.

The chart is normally divided up into a grid of squares. Each colour is represented by a symbol, and there is a "colour key" which shows you which symbol represents each colour.

Let us assume that the symbol for black is 'x' and the symbol for green is 'o'. If you see a line of 7 squares on the chart containing the symbols 'xxxxooo', you should make 4 stitches in black and 3 stitches in green.

To Start

It is best to centre the cross stitch design by starting in the middle so that your stitching fits onto the piece of fabric without going off to one side. An easy way to do this is to lightly fold the fabric in four to find the centre point. This point should coincide with the centre of the chart, which is normally marked with arrows at the top, bottom and sides. The centre of the design is normally the best place to start stitching.

Most stranded cotton threads (floss) are made up of six strands. Separate these out into the correct number of strands (as indicated on the chart instructions) for stitching. The colour key shows which shade of cotton to use for each symbol on the chart.

Start Stitching

To begin the cross stitch, thread your needle and bring it up through the fabric, leaving a short end of cotton at the back, and work over this with your first few stitches to secure it. When there are enough stitches in place you can start off a new colour by first running it through the back of the existing stitches. To finish a colour, run your cotton under several stitches at the back to secure it.

Working a single cross stitch

The fabric shown in the diagram on the left is aida, and it is very popular for cross stitch. This is a block weave fabric, with a hole at the corners of each block, which is nice and easy to work. Imagine that each block is represented by one square on the chart.

To make one cross stitch: bring the needle up through hole 1, down through hole 2, then up through hole 3, and finally down through hole 4.

Working a row of cross stitch

To make a row of cross stitches: work across the fabric in the order shown on the top part of the diagram on the right, and then back to complete the crosses as shown on the bottom part. Always cross over in the same direction. It is quicker to work cross stitches in rows wherever possible.

Try not to join up separate areas of the same colour with long runs of thread at the back of the work. This is not only untidy and may show through the fabric at the front, but will probably mean you will run out of the thread supplied in the cross stitch kit. It is better to cut and fasten off your thread at the back of the needle work as normal, and start again at the new area of the design.


Half Cross Stitch

Many projects now have areas worked in half cross stitch, for example to give a "soft focus" background. This stitch is literally half of a cross stitch (up through 1 and down through 2 etc.), as shown on the top half of the illustration above.

Work a row of Back Stitch

To make a row of back stitches: bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, and down at 4, and so on, as shown on the diagram on the left. Notice that 1 and 4 use the same hole.

Back stitch is used to great effect on many designs to delineate and bring out areas of stitching, adding drama and sharpness to the needle work. It is basically a row of stitches, marked on the chart by a row of lines. The back stitch is not normally worked until the cross stitch has been completed.

Back stitch is often worked with just a single strand of thread.

Working Part Stitches

It is sometimes necessary to have more than one colour on a single block of fabric. Imagine a cross stitch design with a dark grey sloping roof and a blue sky above it. If the roof slopes from the right up to the left the designer will often make a part stitch of blue in the top right of the fabric block and a grey part stitch in the bottom left of the same block.

Where two colours share one square on the chart, work a 3/4 stitch in the more prominent shade, and complete the block with a 1/4 stitch of the other shade, as shown in the diagram on the right. Make your own hole with the needle in the centre of the block.

The combination of 1/4 stitch and 3/4 stitch often looks better than two 3/4 stitches, where you end up with a bulky four strands across the middle of a block of fabric.

Now you are ready to get started - but be warned it is addictive!  There is nothing like the feeling of starting with a blank piece of fabric and watching a picture come alive in front of you.  It must be similar for artists and even authors but, as you have no doubt realised, cross stitch is my particular passion.

Cross stitch tips and techniques




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