Back to Basics

Monday, January 3, 2011

The New Year is a time when we all tend to make resolutions. Some we keep. Others, well… fly out the the window.

This year I have two resoltions – and both are doable!

The first is to finish the ever-expanding basket of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) in my studio, and the other is to share my love of stitching with as many people as possible – starting from the beginning.

So, I am going to begin by posting “back-to-basics” material regularly to help those who are just beginning to stitch.  We’ll start with basic cross stitch.

Cross stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which “X-shaped” stitches are used to form a picture. Cross stitch is usually worked on easily countable evenweave fabric called aida cloth. The stitcher counts the threads in each direction and makes a stitch to form a picture, following a pattern.

This form of cross stitch is also called counted cross stitch in order to distinguish it from stamped cross stitch, where designs are printed on the fabric and the stitcher simply stitches over the printed pattern.

Thread: For most projects you will use 100% Cotton DMC Embroidery Floss. Often referred to as stranded floss or 6-strand floss, each length of floss is made up of six individual strands, which can be easily separated.

The Key in your Design Chart will tell you the thread colors needed, and number of strands you will need to work with for your project. You will generally use two strands to create cross stitch.

Fabric: 100% cotton Aida Cloth is the ideal fabric for a beginning cross stitcher. Its precise, square-patterned weave with visible stitching holes makes this fabric easy to use. Aida is available in many counts, with the squares being larger or smaller. The count of the fabric refers to the number of holes per inch. So, for example, 11-count Aida will have 11 holes per inch, and 16-count Aida will have 16 holes per inch.

Beginner projects will usually recommend 11-count or 14-count Aida cloth.

Other Fabrics used in cross stitch include Evenweave and Linen in various counts, with each stitch crossing 2 intersections of thread in the fabric (more on this at a later time).

Needles: A size 24 Tapestry Needle is generally recommended for cross stitch projects. It has an elongated eye for easy threading, and the blunt point glides smoothly through the holes in the Aida Cloth. Sharp-tipped needles tend to catch the fibers of the fabric, resulting in mishapen stitches.

TIP: I often have several needles going at once, each one threaded with a different color floss. This way, the next color needed is always ready, or I can have 2 or more colors being worked alternately as needed, with the needle tucked into the fabric waiting for use. This is called Needle Parking.

For more information on selecting needles for a project, refer to the DMC Needle Guide. You can also print out the guide and tuck it into your work bag so it’s handy.

Scissors: For cutting thread and trimming ends off the back of your project, you’ll want to use a small pair of embroidery scissors, which are often available in decorative shapes, like storks. These fits nicely in your work bag, or can be attached to a chatelaine or scissor keeper, so you can keep them handy while stitching. Use all-purpose shears for cutting fabric.

Pattern or Chart: The Pattern or Design Chart contains all the information you will need to stitch a design including, a Floss color key with corresponding symbols, number of strands of thread to use, and tips for working the design.

The charts are easy to follow. Every square on the Design Chart that requires a stitch will contain a symbol or separate color – each of these squares is equal to one stitch.

Cross Stitch design charts are easy to find and come in a wide variety of subjects and skill levels. A good place to start for free patterns suitable for beginners is the DMC Free Cross Stitch Designs page, where you can find projects with various themes and skill levels.

You can also check your local DMC needlework or craft store, which will have leaflets, books, as well as stitchery and craft magazines. These options offer a variety of different projects.

To help get you started today, I’ve included the pattern for the Peace Label here!

Embroidery Hoop: Use an optional embroidery hoop to keep the fabric stretched tight.  This will help you keep an even tension while stitching, so that your stitches are not too tight or too loose. However, remove the hoop when you are not stitching to prevent the fabric from getting “hoop marks.”

Happy Stitching – and join me for more stitching basics in upcoming blogs! ~Emma


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Categories: Cross Stitch, Embroidery, Helpful Hints, Needlework Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Back to BasicsComment RSS feed

  • Marian
    January 3rd, 2011 1:35 pm

    Hi Emma, I am so with you on the UFO’s project. Four days into the New Year & one is nearly done. this is a do-over of a sampler I bought in an online auction. I didn’t like parts of it, so I unpicked & redid how I want it.

  • Mosaic Magpie
    January 5th, 2011 10:38 am

    I love that embroidery hoop. I will have to look for one! Too many ufo’s at my house.

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