Cross Stitch 101

After I showed off my cross stitching I got lots of comments and questions about it.  Many had been cross stitchers then set it aside.  Many were worried about eye and seeing issues.  Some wanted to try linen and didn’t know how it works.

I am absolutely no expert at all.  I started cross stitching as a teen still living at home with my parents.  I stitched LOTS when the three oldest were little and I was a stay at home mom.  Aida cloth was what I used.

This is what aida cloth looks like.

Image result for aida cloth

You can see that threads are concentrated together with holes in between.  When stitching you need to make diagonal x’s from corner to corner to make the cross of the cross stitch.  It’s really easy to see where to stitch if you are using aida cloth.  The cloth also comes in different sizes.  12 count for example means 12 stitches in the inch.  14 count means 14 stitches.

When I started stitching again, I moved to linen.  I was really scared to use linen as I didn’t think my eyes (that had aged) could do it but I wanted the linen look.

Linen also comes if different sizes….

It doesn’t have obvious hole to put your needle in.  Designers often use 28, 30 and 32 count linen.  What those numbers mean is how many threads are there per inch.  So a 28 count linen would have 28 strand of thread in one inch of space.  Stitching on a larger thread count gives a larger design.  On the small stuff that I am stitching it only makes a tiny difference.  Stitching a big sampler on a smaller count linen would make a difference.

The small design I am working on now is 39w x 50h design.  That means it will 39 threads wide and 50 threads tall.

Linen comes in different colors.  There are lots of different shades from white to tans to creams to actual colors.

For linen you typically cross two strands of thread when making a stitch.  This was super hard for me at first.  I was counting twice and stitching once.

I bought a nice expensive lamp as like many of you, I was afraid my eyes couldn’t do it.  I love it.

Here is an Amazon link for the lamp if you want to check it out.

This is an old picture that Kalissa snapped of me using the lamp.  Cross-stitch-1

The upper light is awesome and bright.  There is a clip to hold my design and I keep what I’m stitching under the magnifier which also has a light.  It’s the perfect light.

I had tried to start up cross stitching about two years before this and couldn’t get it work…I got the light, and cross stitching clicked with me again.  It was well worth the money.

Remember me saying how worried I was that my eyes couldn’t do it.  Well I’ve figured lots of things out since I started.  One, I don’t wear my glasses when I cross stitch.  Two, after awhile my eyes and my brain just “got it”.  I can now cross stitch in the car without extra light.  I would NEVER had thought that possible.  I stitch in the living with my light still but rarely use the magnifier.

I was in a cross stitch shop one day and saw a lady who was cross stitching (I assumed the owner).  She was wearing regular glasses with reading glasses over the top.  I really believe if there’s a will, there’s a way.  There are many things on the market that help with seeing.  There were different light styles when I originally got my light at JoAnn’s.  I also think your eyes and brain eventually do make the connection and what was once hard to see, really isn’t.

Something else regarding eye sight.  The first few stitches are always harder.  Once I start making some of the design I can much more easily see and map the rest of the design.

When stitching it’s recommended to not tie knots.  It’s best to leave a thread tale on the back and stitch over it.  The stitches that make the design on the front will hold the tale in place.  Typing knots is a no-no.  They will make it hard to get your piece to lie flat once it comes time to frame it.  See the red in the photo below?  I’m just starting a new color and am securing the tale….see the blue rectangle.  My tales are hidden in the stitching.   Technically the goal is to make the back look almost as nice as the front…Mine is never wonderful but definitely passable.

Hiding tales is important or a “shadow” of the tales from the back will show up on the front of you framed design.

I stitch in a hoop.  Some don’t.  It’s recommended that if using a hoop that it be a non-slip hoop.  Kelli often doesn’t use a hoop.

I keep my design a magnetic board designed for this.  Here is a link for that.

I don’t use the magnets to make my row by row completion, some people do.  On these small designs I work from motif to motif.

When working a larger design, some mark and map the fabric.  Here’s a photo I stole from Michelle at Michelle’s Romantic Tangle.  She is a big time cross stitcher that is fast and is always working on fun projects.  Hop over to her blog and see what she’s up to.  Here’s the link.  See the dashed “lines” on her fabric.  That is just a running stitch that is put every 10 stitches.  Patterns have a bolder line on ever 10th stitch.  It helps keep a stitcher on track and makes it easier to count the stitches.  The running stitches will be removed when the piece is finished.

Michelle tackles BIG detailed projects…they are gorgeous.  Notice she has a different sytle of frame.  This is better for larger projects.  It also gives the stitcher a square space to work in.

As far as where I get my cross stitch stuff.  I’m pretty loyal to the cross stitch shop in Osage, Iowa.  Going there is wonderful.  The shop is FILLED with finished samples.  Kelli and I were once in there for 2 hours.  There is a great BBQ restaurant about a half block away…making the trip doubly fun.  It’s about an hour from my house….I love going but this last time my schedule was pretty full so I went on the Lizzie Kate website.  They have all the patterns on the site.  They don’t sell them though.  I ended up writing down the pattern names and numbers and then called The Stitchery Nock and placed the order.  3 business days later, I had the goodies.  It was a little bit easier to keep my order and spending under control too!!

I am so happy I went back to cross stitching.  It really has been Lizzie Kate that got me to do it.  I saw this one she had designed.


Mine has since been stitched and framed.  I loved it.  I’ve done the smaller bonus project too.  So many of the sayings “speak to me”.  Right now the one I’m doing says “have faith”.  It’s kind of silly but I really medtiate on the verse as I stitch.  It’s super calming and very meaningful for me.

I hope that answers the questions of the newbie or want to be cross stitchers.  I don’t know everything…but for the most part, it’s an easy craft to learn and for the time it gives of enjoyment, not a terribly expensive craft…that is until it comes to framing.  I’ve been buying cheap frames at thrift stores and having Hubby cut them to size which makes it super reasonable…get them framed at Hobby Lobby…EXPENSIVE.

For any of you who have Craftsy Unlimited, there is a Basic Cross Stitch class there that I’ve been meaning to check out.  I think I know enough but it’s always nice to know if there are any tips I don’t know that would help me.

Cross-Stitch: Basics & Beyond

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15 thoughts on “Cross Stitch 101”

  1. I use to cross-stitch and enjoyed it. The Lizzie Kate patterns that you have shown has me thinking of starting up again. I’m getting my eye problems taken care of right now, so I’ll wait until that’s done. I might go ahead and order one or two patterns in the mean time. Thanks for sharing. The link for lamp didn’t work.

  2. I was a big time cross stitcher. When I got my glasses and found out I needed bifocals, I asked the doctor for more magnification in the lower area. I also read holding the book closer than most and love my new RX for glasses. So basically, the reading glasses are “built in”.

  3. I purchased the Ott light several years ago. I love the magnifier and light for hand applique. I’m not a cross stitcher so I’ve never used the clip. Enjoy your stitching this week!

  4. Jo, I’ve stretched mine after finding out how much it was to have it done professionally. Foam core a bit smaller than the frame space. & weave the back

  5. Jackie Goosen

    I was a cross-stitcher in college and a few years beyond. I have a lot of UFOs! My oldest daughter has picked up that craft and has taken all of my UFOs! One day, maybe she will finish them.

  6. Nance in Reno

    Although most fools probably already know this, maybe it will be helpful for folks new to the hobby. When a pattern calls for 2 strands (or any even number of floss as required), try cutting your floss twice as long, threading both ends in the eye of the needle and for your first stitch, make the first stitch as usual but catch the “loop” in the middle of the thread with your needle and pull taut. Continue stitching as usual. That way you only have half as many threads to weave in!

  7. Nance in Reno

    Acck, “folks,” not fools!!! Sorry. Darn autocorrect!!! Although we can get a little nuts about our hobbies!

  8. When I used to do x stitch and using two strands of thread, I would just loop one long strand and thread my needle. Then with my first stitch I would stitch thru the loop. You didn’t need to have the long end and stitch over it.

  9. I too have been getting back into cross stitch! I recently came across “Flosstube”. It’s you tube channels for stitches, many of them are knitters and quilters also! Check out the Flosstube – ” The real housewives of cross stitch” Priscilla & Chelsea”. They are so fun and Priscilla has very unique ways of finishing her stitching! Also, Vonna, “The Twisted Stitcher” has a lot of finishing ideas and tutorials. So many patterns, so little time. I am an Aida stitcher but want to try linens so thanks for your insights and advice!

  10. Carolyn Hunter

    I love to cross stitch,but after I got burn out,I lost everything so now I have to start all over again!

  11. Jo, you and your daughters are gals with many interests, and you work/have families/do daycare. Question, On an average day how much time do you spend creating? You all are so productive yet nothing seems to be left ignored. Are you a super good time manager or very quick worker, or what?! Do you have any tips to help your readers be more productive? And by readers I mean “me” lol

  12. Hi, I have been cross stitching for well over 30 years now. But I do extensive patterns. Could you send me your email so I can send you pictures of my favorite ones? Thank you.

  13. Thank you for this. I just purchased a cross-stitching kit. I haven’t done this handiwork since I was in my late 20s. My eyes have changed a great deal since then! I have ‘age appropriate’ cataracts and a condition called asteroid hyalosis. I’ve been looking for hands-free, lighted magnification. Your pointers and the lamp recommendation are just what I have needed. Thanks so much.

  14. You did a great job of crosstitching 101 info! Just a couple of thoughts: it helps if you either zigzag the edge of the fabric or encase it in silk tape/ fabric should be at least four inches larger on all sides than the design/ use the smallest needle you can see to thread/ wash your hand before you begin stitching and frequently while stitching if you’ll be at it for a while/ if you use a hoop smaller than the entire design, remove it between stitching sessions/ wash completed work in dish soap (or shampoo) and warm water, rinse well, roll in clean towel, and iron dry on a dry towel design down. Hope I didn’t scare anyone away, but it is a great hobby — not difficult, lots of variety, and wonderful results!

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