15 Things Every Cross Stitcher Wish They Knew At The Beginning
We've all been beginners at some point and when it comes to cross stitch its safe to assume that we probably all made the same mistakes starting out.
If you're just starting your cross stitch journey, here's what you need to know to avoid frustration and heartache (the heartache is not an exaggeration).
1 - Measure your aida carefully
The most common types of aida are 14, 16 and 18 count, this refers to the number of stitches per inch of fabric, meaning the same pattern stitched on 14 count aida will be larger than if stitched on 18 count.
Most patterns will tell you the size of the finished stitching for a specific fabric type, what they don't include is extra fabric for framing.
For every pattern you should leave at least two inches each side of the pattern, this means if your pattern is 4x6 inches, your fabric should be at least 8x10 inches to allow for spacing when framing.
Its better to have a little extra fabric to trim off than to not have enough fabric to fit your frame.
2 - Start stitching from the middle of your fabric
Once you've measured out your fabric, fold it in half twice to find the middle point, this is where you should begin stitching from.
If you start stitching from the corner of the fabric you risk not positioning the pattern central in your fabric and make framing difficult.
3 - Don't leave your WIPs in the hoop
We can't stitch all day, every day (we wish we could though), so when you're not stitching it is important to take the fabric out of the hoop and lay it flat until you're ready to stitch again.
If you leave the fabric in the hoop too long you may find hoop marks on your fabric which are very difficult to get out, especially on white or cream fabric.
4 - The direction of your stitches absolutely matters
There's two reasons you want your stitches to point in the same direction; the first is appearance, the second is to maximise thread usage.
When you start stitching your stitching should go \\\\\\\\\ and then go back over the same line with //////////, do not stitch \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/.
It's so satisfying to look at your finished piece and the stitches all go neatly in the same direction.
This is a mistake I see EVERY new stitcher make, I certainly made it when I started too.
5 - Use the right number of threads
A strand of floss is actually made up of six thinner strands, do not attempt to stitch with the full six strands.
Too separate the threads, cut a length of floss and then gently tap your finger on the end of the floss, this will naturally separate the six strands. Take one of the smaller strands between your finger tips and pull directly up, not out.
You will want to stitch with either one, two or three strands, depending on your fabric type and coverage preference but definitely not six strands at once.
6 - Make a copy of your paper patterns
When using a paper pattern, it is a good idea to make a copy which you can mark your finished stitches on.
Paper patterns can easily get lost, torn, eaten by pets and once you've lost the pattern you're unlikely to be able to get another copy without purchasing it again.
A copy allows you to keep a clean backup pattern in case you need it.
7 - It's OK to customise
If you're not liking the looks of your finished stitches, or wish the pattern came in different colours, it is completely OK to make your own customisations and change the colours your using from those recommended in the pattern.
Artists are generally very happy for you to make your own customisations as long as you don't then sell on the pattern with your changes.
8 - When stitching on dark fabrics, use a back light or a piece of paper
Stitching on dark fabric can be nightmare, it's so difficult to see the gaps in the fabric for stitching.
If you're struggling you could place a back light, or a plain piece of paper behind the fabric, this will shine through the spaces and help you see where to stitch.
9 - Make things for you, not other people
We cross stitch because we love to.
We know the time (hours and hours), cost (materials and time) and determination to finish a cross stitch, non-stitchers don't always understand this.
It's heart breaking but sometimes you stitch for a gift that then isn't appreciated, this doesn't mean your stitching isn't good, just that the recipient doesn't understand the work that goes into it.
And that's OK, focus on stitching for you and stitch what makes you happy.
10 - Stitch for a gift, but never for profit
If you really must stitch as a gift for someone, never offer to stitch for profit.
For the same reasons in the last point, the amount of time that goes into stitching it will never be profitable and stitching for a deadline always takes the fun out of stitching.
11 - When framing, sign your initials with a date
Personally I don't initial my stitches on the front like some stitchers do, I feel it can take away from the art.
When I frame a piece I always make a note on the back of the frame with the date and my initials.
In years to come, when you look back on your stitching its nice to know what year you stitched the piece, and if you ever pass the art on to someone else it's nice to know who and where the art came from.
12 - The back doesn't matter
Don't worry about making the back of your fabric neat, because frankly no one looks at it.
If you end up with the occasional knots, loose threads, carrying over threads, it's completely fine.
Don't let other stitchers shame you for the back of your stitching, remember no one can see the back once it's framed.
13 - Avoid unofficial kits and stolen patterns
It's tempting to purchase cheap kits when you're new to the hobby, but purchasing from certain online stores can guarantee a sub-standard product.
Stores such as ebay, aliexpress and sometimes even amazon (be careful with this one), should be avoided.
The patterns are often stolen art from other artists and its not uncommon for kits to have threads missing, poor quality fabric and the finish piece to look unprofessional, no matter how experienced you are at stitching.
14 - Don't be intimidated by large patterns
Beginners should start with a nice small pattern to learn how to stitch before investing in a larger pattern, but some of them can be intimidating.
Remember that cross stitch patterns that are 30x30 stitches and patterns that are 200x200 stitches are simply just that, stitches.
Start with one stitch, keep stitching and that's it.
15 - Count Twice, Stitch Once
And to finish, the most important of all...
Count twice, stitch once.
Look at your pattern, count how many stitches you need of that colour in a row, count again to be sure and then stitch.
This minimises mistakes and reduces the amount of stitches you have to unpick to correct your piece.