Top tips for cross stitching (part 1)

Hi all. How’s it going?

Today is going good for me so far. Got the day off, after a crazy manic week of deadlines and more. Phew – time to breathe.
The weekend’s going to be a busy one for us and I hardly think my feet will touch the ground. Still, I’ve been thinking about my sketch card for tomorrow already, so I hope you’ll stop by for that.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share a bit of something different today – on a stitchy theme.

I’ve always loved cross stitch… it was one of my very first crafty loves. I learnt at school – did everyone learn cross stitch at school back when? Not sure if they do it ‘these days’…
Anyhoo, but it was my mum’s next door neighbour Thelma who really kicked me off as she gave me a cute kit of a little fawn for my birthday when I was about eight or nine (I think?). It may even be still on a wall at my mum’s house.

Along with a gazillion other cross stitches I have done over the years. And even one done by my brother and one done by my mum too. I guess I was a trend-setter at the time, even if they didn’t stick with it 😉

So here’s my latest project – a definite WIP (work-in-progress), so excuse my blue spring tension hoop:

I’m a bit of a nut for pandas. Frankly, if you can’t tell what’s lush about pandas then I’m not even going to bother wasting my breath explaining.
C’mon… It’s a bit pretty obvious dudes – just take a look at one, ok?

So I will kick off with a few of my best tips for cross stitching… I always think there’s something to be learnt from other crafters, as you can pick up some great advice and ideas even if you’ve been doing something “forever” .
I’ve often been know to get one of those ‘now why didn’t I think of that?!’ moments 😉
Hope you might find something here that’s useful anyhoo.

1, OK, it may be super-boring but it is *soooo* worth doing some decent preparation before you dive into stitching a design.
I know the best part is doing the actual stitching, but a bit of effort up front will save you a ton of time and trouble later. And that means more time to stitch and less time unpicking etc. Win, win?

So I always take the trouble to pre-wash my fabric. It just helps to soften it up and get rid of any ‘dressing’ or starch that is residual from the manufacturing. It’ll be nice to handle for your stitching and your thread will glide more easily through the holes. See how ‘handleable’ my evenweave linen is. (AKA Scrunched up).
Don’t worry those scrunches will disappear when it’s finished – come back for
part 2 tips!


Take a bit of time to sort your threads carefully too, making sure the labels are secure so there’ll be no colour confusion etc. And always stick to the same brand of threads throughout a project.
It was designed with those threads in mind so the shading and the colour contrasts will look at their very best if you use those recommended threads.

And then I mark out a grid of every 10 stitches, both horizontally and vertically. Warning: this could take a while and you’ll have to count carefully for each row, but it will be worth it. Big-time.
Counting stitches is now a breeze.
When you have a mega-load of colours in your thread palette and a large design, then having a base grid is the best tip I ever learnt for cross stitching, so I do this for *every* design now.


I use an ordinary sewing thread for this and use long-ish tacking (sometimes called basting) stitches. Not too tight, just enough to act as a marker to help when counting. (You can see my stitches aren’t very tight because I took my fabric out of the tension hoop, and they have ‘relaxed’ rather! When it’s in the hoop they are nice and taut and easily countable!)
Don’t be tempted to use enormous long lengths of thread as your tacking will end up in a tangle. Just use a new length every few rows. It’s going to all come out at the end anyway so as long as your initial counting for each 10 stitch row is even then the ‘ tacking ends’ can be loosely stitched in, don’t bother knotting.

2,  Always start stitching your design from the centre.
It can be tempting to start elsewhere, especially if there’s a more interesting part of the design in another area, but you run the risk of not positioning correctly, and worse… if you start off-centre, there’s the danger that when you reach the edge of your design it will be too close to mount in a frame, or that it won’t even fit on your fabric! Argh! this would be a disaster.


The centre of this design is in the middle there somewhere 😉

Most patterns have a marker to indicate the centre of the design so you can just work from there, using the in half-and-in half method of folding/ measuring your fabric.

3, Work outwards from the central area and changing colours as you go rather than hopping around to stitch all of one colour before going onto the next shade. A few reasons why I think it’s worth doing this –
The surface of your finished stitching will be much more even, as opposed to slight differences in tension that would result in stitching different colours and nestling different stitches in between each other…
You’ll get a better sense of achievement as you can see your design progressing. Bits and bobs of a dirty green shade all over the design don’t look like anything encouraging, but if you can watch a leaf shape with its shading developing as you stitch, then that is much more positive.
Less risk of ‘snagging’ threads and stitches – both on the back of your fabric and the front – as you’ll be more efficiently using your thread, and again keeping a more even tension for the finished design.

And I saved my best tip for last:
4,  Make sure you stitch all your cross stitches in the same direction.
That is the bottom ‘arm’ of every cross stitch should face the same way (which ever diagonal direction you prefer) and then every top ‘arm’ will also face the same way (the opposite diagonal to all your bottom arms.)
It will soon be second nature, and you won’t even think about it. Auto-pilot stitching.
But the odd errant armed stitch will seriously stand out like a sore thumb as the light will be reflected slightly differently off the natural sheen of the thread.
Seriously, it’s really worth nailing this tip whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been stitching for yonks. How to make your finished stitching look like a pro.

OK, hope you appreciate these tips for cross stitchers! I have plenty more stitchy tips but I’ve stuck to my most important for now. Hopefully I can share the rest in another post or two, so look out for those another time.

And if you have any stitchy questions, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer for everyone’s benefit!

I still love to settle down with some cross stitching as it is totally relaxing – the repetitive nature is very therapeutic.
BTW, this panda design is one from a pattern which was featured in a UK cross stitch magazine, called Cross Stitch Collection. It was a while ago now (issue 184, June 2010) but I had to have it. Here’s how the finished cutie will look:


The mag is really good and is aimed at experienced stitchers so I love all the fine details that are included in the designs, plenty of shading, sometimes beadwork and metallic accents like using gold or silver threads…..
cross stitch collection_mag(You can find it in high street newsagents and some bookshops if you are overseas I think… Or order online. Shipping internationally.)

Back tomorrow then with a card sketch for you 😉
Hugs, Ruth S


About justsomestuffimade

I'm a crafty type and always have been. Forever. All kinds of crafting goodness. I'm married to a very special man. For one thing, he puts up with all the crafty nonsense.
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