This post originally appeared at Fat Quarterly.
Thanks to the beautiful patterns by The Frosted Pumpkin my love of cross-stitch has been renewed. For a few years now I’ve seen some small pattern companies pop up in local shops with new cross-stitch designs, but found while cute, they weren’t really to my taste. Then along came Amanda and Ashley with their adorable patterns! I found myself digging through bins in the garage searching for all of my old supplies and getting to work on their Toast BFF’s pattern and was once again hooked. Then I began thinking about how to expand beyond stitching on Aida cloth (the cross-stitch fabric with holes all in a grid) yet still keep my stitches even and neat. Remembering a technique I saw in a Japanese craft book a few years ago, I decided to give it a try. That is what I would like to share with you today!
I realize there may be many of you that have not tried cross-stitching yet, but I assure you it is very easy. You will need just a few supplies: your pattern, Aida cloth (or waste cloth), floss in your desired colors and a cross-stitch/tapestry needle. Cross-stitch/tapestry needles have a blunted end and can make for a better looking stitch. You may find if you are using a needle with a sharp end (like an embroidery needle) that your needle will split the strands of floss as you go up or down through your material where floss has already been stitched, where as the tapestry needle with help to slide next to the strands of floss instead. If you find yourself unhappy with how your stitches look, and you are using an embroidery needle, try switching to a tapestry needle.
Next, you need to know about the basic stitch. Patterns are made up of little x’s to form the overall design. The most important part of cross-stitching is to stitch your x’s all in the same direction. When i’m stitching I like to start off by going from the bottom left corner to the top right, and then coming back over that stitch from the bottom right to top left. If I have a row of the same color, I stitch all of the first part of my x’s (bottom left to top right) first and then come back and complete them all. Why do I do it this way? Because this is how I was taught. You should of course do whatever you are most comfortable with. You can find all sorts of videos and tutorials around the web should you like more detailed explanations.
With a brief overview of the basics out of the way, let’s get to the fun part. I begin by placing my fabric I want the stitching to be on (linen in this case) inside my embroidery hoop. Next I cut a piece of Aida cloth to the right size and stitch it down to the fabric in the hoop with a single strand of floss. I make it something I can easily see, and use it as my center grid to help me begin stitching my pattern. Next I get to work stitching the design, one color at a time.
After the pattern is stitched, I remove the fabric from the hoop and trim away the majority of the excess Aida cloth. Then I begin to pull out the strands of Aida cloth, a few strands at a time. I find if I pull out the strands all in one direction first, it makes removing the strands in the opposite direction quick and easy. When that is complete I like to give the cloth a quick steam press on the back side to help the thread shrink up a little. If I find that some of my stitches are a little loose, I might use my needle on the backside to snug them up. I insert my needle under the bit of floss that is connected to the x, and gently lift if up. I find this technique of removing the Aida cloth is best done on a smaller design and I also try and keep my tension pretty tight as I am initially stitching the pattern.
I find cross-stitching to be very relaxing and loving thinking of new ways to incorporate it into my sewing. Thank you to the Fat Quarterly bunch for having me here in this space and happy stitching to all of you!
Coffee Time Cross-Stitch Pattern (Free PDF Download)