Ask Jo: A Cross Stitch Question from Pam

Today I have a cross-stitch question from Pam.

Pam asked:
Jo, I am really enjoying the stitch along. I decided to start in the middle as I am never quite sure how to measure to start upper left as you do. That is a question, how do you measure for your stitch starting point?

This one is one of those questions that have many ways to answer.  I’ll answer the best I can.

In the 80s and 90s when some of us started stitching, we bought little kits.  The kits had the thread in them along with a piece of very stiff Aida cloth.  The kit didn’t list the stitch count so we weren’t able to stitch starting anywhere except the middle.

We would fold our fabric in half and then fold out fabric in half again and find the middle.  On the chart, the designer would put an arrow along the top of the chart in the middle and one of the side of the chart.  We would follow those arrows to the center and find the center of the design.  That is where we would start stitching.  Our piece would be centered and it turned out lovely.

Fast forward to charts today…and fast forward to buying something that is not in a kit.

I stitch starting in the upper left corner.  I’ve had blog readers tell me am wrong for doing that and I must start in the middle.  That’s not true.  You can start anywhere.  I have listened to many floss tubes and many start in the bottom right.  It’s their preference.

You can start your design anywhere as long as you can do some math…not hard math, but math.

I know for me I want to stitch this design from Barbara Ana Designs.  I love this and it’s in my top five things I want to start.  For this, I plan to start on the bottom.  The whole design is based on the bottom decorative diamonds.  The diamond row is something I can easily cross-reference to make sure my other stitches are placed in the correct spot.  For this piece, starting and working bottom-up makes sense.  I’ll stitch that row and then the people.  The other motifs will be stitched around them.

If I started from the top, I can easily see myself counting wrong and being off when I start stitching one of the people and then needed to make an adjustment and the person being too short.  I know me.  It would likely happen.

So…I want to start on the bottom.

So…how can I do that??  Do the math.  Let me show you how…On the back of my chart it says my stitch count is 275 x 180.

That means the design on the chart is going to be 275 “X’s” across and 180 “X’s” tall.

The chart says that the model was stitched on 32 count Dirty Linen from Zweigart.  I don’t want to stitch it on 32 count.  I want to stitch it on 40 count.

So how big of a piece of fabric do I need?

We need to go back to the stitch count…275 x 180.

Being I am stitching on 40 count, that means there will be 40 threads in every inch.  Being I will be stitching over two linen threads when I made my “X’s”, I will take up two of those 40 linen threads in each stitch I made.  That means I will make 20 “X’s” in each inch of fabric.

I take the first number in the stitch count, 275.  I divide that by 20 because that’s how many stitches will be in each inch.  The answer is 13 3/4″.  That is how much space width-wise that my design will take up.

I take the next number, 180.  I again divide that by 20 because again, that’s how many stitches will be in each inch.  The answer is 9″.  That is how much space my design will take up height-wise.

So if I am stitching on 40 count linen, this project will take up a space of 13 3/4″ by 9″.

Now we need some of the border and some to turn over for purposes of framing.  Some people like more but it’s totally doable to add a border of 2″ to each side of the design if you only want a 1/2″ of unstitched linen to show on your piece after it is framed.  Some people what to play it really safe and want 3″ of linen added to each side of the stitched design.

If you want to be extra safe, you can add 3″ to each side.

So the formula is:
Amount of extra added border + design width + Amount of extra added border = the width measurement you need of linen.

For me that would be 2″ + 13 3/4″ + 2″ = 17 3/4″

Amount of extra added border + design height + Amount of extra added border = the width measurement you need of linen.

For me that would be 2″ + 9″ + 2″ = 13″

So I could stitch my piece on a piece of linen that is 17 3/4″ x 13″.

The tip of that arrow is pointing to the corner 2″ in from the side and 2″ in from the top.  If I start here, my design will be centered in the middle.

If you added 3″ to your sides, then you start 3″ in from the side and 3″ from the top.

So now some of you are saying that’s great for you Jo but I don’t stitch on 40 count linen.

The first thing you always need to know is stitch count.  Most every pattern has the stitch count on it.  The second thing you need to know is your linen count.
28 count means 14 stitches in every inch
30 count means 15 stitches in every inch
32 count means 16 stitches in every inch
36 count means 18 stitches in every inch
40 count means 20 stitches in every inch
46 count means 23 stitches in every inch
56 count means 28 stitches in every inch

14 count Aida means 14 stitches in every inch
16 count Aida means 16 stitches in every inch
18 count Aida means 18 stitches in every inch

The formula to figure out your design size is:
stitch count width divided by the number of X’s in each inch = the design width

stitch count height divided by the number of X’s in each inch = the design height

The formula to figure out linen size is:
The width you want for extra + design width + the width you want for extra = the width you need for your linen.

The width you want for extra+ design height + the width you want for extra = the height you need for your linen.

You can start on any corner you like.  Just measure in the width and height measurements of the extra you added when measuring.

Nowadays, linen is often sold in fat quarters or fat halves.  Many people don’t even bother formally measuring.

For example, I have a tiny start on We Live in Hope by Blackbird Designs.

It says the design size is 199 x 199.  I know on 40 count that means that I divide those numbers by 20 as that is how many stitches I will make in one inch.

So…round 199 up to 200.  Take 200 divided by 20 and I get 10.  The design size for this is 10″ x 10″.   Yep, that will fit on a fat quarter as they are 17 x 25ish.  So I just start in my typical 2″ from the top and 2″ from the side.  I already know my design will fit.

I know this was a LONG explanation.  I hope you were able to stick with me.  Initially, this math sounded like a lot to me when I first heard it but now I hardly even think when I need to do it.

I hope you will become comfortable and more confident each time you do the math.  Doing it can save a lot of money as then you’re using the correct size of linen.  It is also super handy in that you can start stitching from anywhere in the chart…even at the bottom as I will be once I start stitching on my Love Never Fails by Barbara Ana.

Thanks so much for the question…and I will like this in the Stitch Along tab at the top of the blog.

15 thoughts on “Ask Jo: A Cross Stitch Question from Pam”

  1. That was a great explanation, Jo. I’m sure the more Pam gets comfortable w/using linen, the easier it will get. And yes, you can start anywhere that’s comfortable for you to start. My sweet grandmother taught me to x-stitch when I was 8 yrs old & she taught me to stitch “backwards”. It’s really not backwards, just different from most everyone else (it’s called Danish x-stitch) so I always start in the upper right-hand corner. The only “rule” is to make sure all your x’s go the same way. A designer friend of mine always says “there are no x-stitch police, so just have fun & enjoy what you’re stitching”.

  2. Jo, I use a stitch count calculator on the website. It does the math for you. This may be helpful for someone fairly new like me.

  3. Thanks for the explanation it was very helpful. As a beginner I only knew to start in the middle. Some of the charts it would be much easier to start in a corner. You really have helped lots of us who just started cross stitching because of your SAL.

  4. Angela J Short

    ✂️ :-) Thank you for the “long” explanation. I really like how you explained it so nicely. Enjoy your day! :-) ✂️

  5. Your explanation really helped me a lot. I will be sharing with daughter and granddaughters. Thank you.

  6. Jo, please consider writing a short reference book with charts. This is amazing information and it would be great to have a book to reference. Thanks! Cheryl

  7. Judith Fairchild

    Thank you Jo, you explained throughly. I’m a beginner and I needed this explanation. I can see from that chart you used why you’re starting at the bottom. So glad I’ll be able to do the Blessings piece now. I have extremely fine linen that I’ll be using. Looking forward to getting the chart.

  8. Great explanation Jo. Denyse made a good point that all x’s should end in the same direction. Another point is that to move up or down in your design, you should only turn your fabric 180 degrees, never 90 degrees as your x’s top thread will not be in the same direction. Hope this doesn’t confuse anyone…maybe you can explain better.

    1. Hi
      was confused, until i imagined the bottom stitch / red and the top stitch yellow, turned it 180 degrees and stitched again , then held the piece in the upright position, and YES the red was on the bottom facing the correct way, YAY. Now I realised why NOT 90 degrees. Thanks Nancy

  9. This was SO HELPFUL to me! I’ve been wondering the same thing! Thanks so much, Jo. I’m enjoying stitching Anniversaries of the Heart this year!

  10. Thank you for this explanation. I did order the Blessings pattern and linen, wanting to try it. But not the thread. My church has stacks of floss that is donated to us. I figure there may be DMC floss selections or I’ll just have a friend help me pick them. Thanks for all your help.

  11. Beautifully explained. Just one note … some of us actually stitch one over one on high count linen. In that case, 40 count equals 40 stitches. Minor addendum

  12. Thank you for the very clear tutorial. It’s good to have a backup way to calculate linen sizes, especially when a shop doesn’t have what you want, but does have a good substitute in a different count, and the internet access isn’t cooperating.

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