Tips for Beginners – If you are new to cross stitch, follow these tips to get
you off to a good start.
do I start?
attempt to tackle a large project! Start off with a small design, preferably one
using whole stitches and backstitch.
stitching the largest area of colour first.
your top stitches facing in the same direction \ or / but not both. This
ensures a neat finish to your work.
- Backstitches should be worked last.
- If your
thread gets twisted during stitching, simply let the needle hang down loosely so
that the twist unravels itself.
count, COUNT!!! Mistakes are easier to fix if spotted early.
leave the needle in your work when putting it away – this may mark or distort
- Top Tip from Maureen of Nottingham - Try to work in good light - daylight is best, and causes least strain on the eyes.
But NEVER leave your stitching or threads in direct sunlight as this can bleach the colours out very quickly!
best to buy a small kit that you really like for your first project. That way
you will finish it fairly quickly and not get disheartened. Also a kit will
contain everything you need – the fabric, the threads, the chart, instructions
and a needle.
thing you might want to buy extra is an embroidery hoop or ring to keep your
fabric stretched to an even tension. Make sure you buy one that is about an
inch larger around the edge than the design. (Don’t forget that most embroidery
rings or hoops are circular whereas most designs are rectangular. Measure the
DIAGONAL of the design to find the size you need.) See ‘Using an embroidery
hoop or tapestry frame’ below for more details.
Preparing your fabric
ensure that your cross stitch is correctly positioned when you are stitching it,
you need to be certain that it is in the right place on your fabric. It
is therefore important to know where to work the first stitch, and because one
of the golden rules of cross-stitch is that you begin close to the centre of the
design, you need a simple way of determining where the centre of the design
your project states otherwise, the centre of the design will be at the centre of
the fabric, and if this is so, then just follow these steps to find your
your fabric in half along one side, and pinch gently to mark the central thread
some brightly coloured sewing cotton across the fabric following the line of
this thread. This cotton is referred to as a 'guide-line'.
Repeat this process along the second side of the fabric, so that you have a
cross of coloured thread on the fabric. This will be easy to remove when you
point where your 'guide-lines' cross will mark the centre of the fabric, and the
point where your centre stitch should be positioned.
the same cross on your chart in a clear pencil line. Usually there are arrows
on two sides of the design to help you draw these.
project calls for you to position the centre of the design away from the centre
of the fabric there will be specific instructions to follow and you will need to
tack guidelines along the threads indicated by the instructions rather than
along central threads.
stitching your guidelines, always press the fabric carefully before you start
the project, and, especially if you are using an even-weave material, it is
advisable to hem around the edges so that they do not fray. Hint: Never remove your tacking until the project is finished, because you can
use the guide-lines as helpful reference points when you are working. Here
is a useful tip from one of our customers. “Thanks for a wonderful newsletter.
I have another tip to help when doing a large project, tack your centre lines as
you say, but also tack lines in at every 10 holes so you can keep track, all the
charts are in blocks of 10 so that way you can’t go wrong and wont have to
an embroidery hoop or tapestry frame
possible to stitch many projects without using either an embroidery hoop or a
tapestry frame, but it will be much easier to keep your stitches even and result
in a neater finished piece if one is used.
come in many sizes and are suitable for smaller designs, ensure that the design
fits completely inside the hoop without having to alter its position.
Traditional hoops are wooden and consist of two rings, one inside the other,
with an adjustable screw attachment on the outer ring, which is tightened to
hold the fabric in place. Plastic hoops are also available, which clip together
to secure the fabric.
your fabric in a wooden hoop:
1. Loosen the tension screw
and separate the ring into two rings.
2. After tacking the
guidelines, place the fabric over the inner ring so that the centre of the
design is in the centre of the ring, and with the tension screw loosened press
the outer ring over it.
2. Smooth the fabric and
straighten the weave before tightening the screw.
3. Fix your fabric securely
enough to keep it taut but do not stretch it too much as it will easily distort
should be used if the design is too big for a hoop. There are many different
types available including hand-held and floor-standing variations. Frames
usually comprise two rollers, with tapes attached, and two flat pieces, which
hold the rollers at a set distance apart.
tapestry frame: -
1. After making the
guidelines, fix your fabric to the tapes on both rollers with tack-ing stitches
and then oversew the tapes and fabric together, keeping the fabric flat but
2. Hem the sides of your
fabric to stop them fraying on the rollers.
3. Don’t leave worked fabric
wound tightly on to a frame for long periods as the stitching will become
flattened and lifeless.
4. If your piece of material
is too small to fit the frame, you can make it larger by tacking off-cuts of the
same type of fabric to the top and bottom of your material and then fixing these
to the frame.
embroidery cotton is the thread most commonly used in cross stitch embroidery.
It is supplied in skeins, normally 8 metres long, and there are several ranges
readily obtainable including DMC, Anchor and many others. Cotton is made up of
six strands. You will almost always have to separate out these strands to use a
smaller number when you are stitching. Most embroidery is worked with only two
strands of cotton in the needle, but some projects may use one or three strands,
particularly for back-stitching. It is very important that you are sure of how
many strands you should be using. One of the most common errors made by
beginners is to use the wrong number of strands when stitching.
Separating the strands
threads are not already cut to length, take a piece which is about the length
from your fingertips to just above your elbow. This will give you a comfortable
length to sew with.
separate the threads, hold the threads near one end, separate out ONE strand.
Pull it gently while pinching the remaining threads hard to stop them tangling.
Repeat this for the second strand. Do not try to do two strands at once; it
doesn’t work. (I know someone will email me to say this is how they do it! All
I can say is it never works for me, but if it works for you – fine!) Hint - Store your unused working lengths of cotton on an organizer card, which
you can also use for easy reference while you are stitching. Many kits come
with an organiser card but if yours doesn’t, get a piece of fairly stiff card
and punch some circular holes which are large enough to hold the thread
comfortably. It is useful to label the threads with the symbols used on the
chart. Do this at the start and you will save hours searching!
use blunt-ended tapestry needles for cross stitching. Size 24 is suitable for
most projects, but you will need the smaller size 26 on finer fabrics and for
detailed work such as outlining. Hint - if the thread becomes very twisted when you are stitching, allow the
needle to hang freely from the underside of the fabric to untwist it naturally.
What is stitch count?
Stitch count is the number of stitches from one side of a design to the other
and from top to bottom. If you are buying a pattern in the form of a chart or
book, it may well talk about stitch count but not tell you how large the
finished design will be.
work out the size of the finished design is very easy. All you do is divide the
stitch count of the design by the count of the fabric. For example
stitch count is 280 x 140 and you are using a 14 count fabric, then the finished
design will be 20” by 10”.