Stitching FAQs

What is counted cross stitch?

Counted cross stitch is a needlecraft that allows you to create a colourful design on a piece of unmarked evenweave fabric by simply counting stitches as indicated on a pattern which is usually printed on graph paper. Each square on the evenweave fabric matches a square on the graph.

How do I make a basic cross stitch?

In creating a cross stitch, ensure that your top stitch of the crosses all lie in the same direction to give a neat finish. There are two methods of cross-stitching:

"Ladder" Method

Bring the thread through at the lower right-hand side, insert the needle 1 block up and 1 block to the left and bring out 1 block down, thus forming a half cross. Continue in this way to the end of the row, then come back down the ‘ladder, completing the upper stitch of the cross as shown. You can work either from right to left or left to right, but it is important that the upper half of all crosses should lie in the same direction.

"Single Stitch" Method

When working cross stitch on canvas or working very small areas, it’s best to complete one whole stitch at a time, as shown.

Fig 1 - bring the needle through at arrow, insert the needle at A (2 threads up and 2 threads to the left) and bring out at B (2 threads down), thus forming a half cross.

Fig 2 - insert the needle at C (2 threads up and 2 threads to the right) and bring out again at B, thus completing the cross stitch.

Fig 3 - shows the completed cross stitch with the needle shown in position for the next stitch when working the crosses horizontally. The upper half of all crosses should lie in the same direction as shown in Fig. 4.

What are backstitches?

A backstitch creates a continuous line with each stitch touching and can go in any direction. It is used for outlining and defining. When using a single strand for backstitching, catch the tail of your floss by bringing your needle up on opposite sides of the floss until secured.

What size needle should I use?

Aida 11 - #24 tapestry needle

Aida 14 - #24 tapestry needle

Aida 16 - #24 tapestry needle

Aida 18 - #26 tapestry needle

Hardanger 22 - #26 tapestry needle

Evenweave/linen 28 and higher - #26 tapestry needle

How many strands of floss should I use?

Aida 11 - 3 strands for cross stitch, 2 strands for backstitch

Aida 14 - 2 strands for cross stitch, 1 strand for backstitch

Aida 16 - 2 strands for cross stitch, 1 strand for backstitch

Aida 18 - 2 strands for cross stitch, 1 strand for backstitch

Hardanger 22 - 1 strand for cross stitch, 1 strand for backstitch

Should I use a hoop?

There's no need to but you can if you prefer! Unlike tapestry, where the stitches are in one direction and tend to distort the fabric, cross-stitch pulls equally in both directions, and so long as your stitching isn't too tight, your fabric should remain very even. If you do use a hoop, however, be aware that they can sometimes leave marks on fabrics that are nearly impossible to remove. To prevent this, never store your project in the hoop and never force the hoop over the fabric. Use the adjustable ones that can be tightened after they are in place. Tip: Place a paper towel over the area you are going to be stitching and then secure the hoop. Tear away the paper toweling from the fabric surface and what remains in the hoop will provide a cushion to protect the fabric.

Please explain the term "evenweave". Is Aida fabric also an evenweave?

All fabrics made specifically for cross stitch are evenweaves. This means that the threads running both vertically and horizontally are the same in number. Both linen and Aida are also technically evenweaves as they have the same number of threads in both directions. However, stitchers tend to refer to 'evenweave', as distinct from linen and Aida, to refer to a cotton or cotton mix fabric that is stitched over two threads, the commonest size being 28-count. For more on cross-stitch fabrics, see our Guide to Cross Stitch Fabrics.

How do I tell which side of the fabric is the "right" side?

Since cross-stitch fabrics are evenweaves, they are the same on both sides, so they may be stitched on either side and in either direction.

How do I convert my design from a larger size, such as 14 count, to a smaller one like 18?

Look for the stitch count provided with the chart. Divide the fabric count you will be using into the stitch counts given and you will arrive at the size in inches. For example, if your stitch count is 140 x 280, and you are using 14-count aida, your design size will be 140/14 x 280/14 - 10 x 20 inches. To work out what size it would be on 18-count aida, divide the stitch count by 18 - thus 140/18 x 280/18 - 7.8 x 15.5".

NB If you are calculating sizes for evenweaves/linen where you are stitching over two threads, you need to remember to divide by half the fabric-count!! In the example above, if the stitch count is 140 x 280 and your are stitching on 28-count linen, you get the design area by dividing the stitch count by 14 not 28 - giving you the exact same design size as stitching over one 'thread' or block on aida.

How much extra fabric should I allow for framing?

The rule of thumb is three inches all around. In other words, six extra inches in width and in length.

Do I wash my project when it is complete?

It's definitely a good idea for a piece that is going to be framed. This will remove any oils from your hands and any soiling that might have occurred during the stitching process. Additionally, the fabric will shrink slightly which will serve to reduce the holes made larger by the needle and make the fabric surface less pronounced so your stitches will take on more dimension. After washing, you can iron your fabric on the reverse side, using a damp handkerchief or clean tea towel if necessary. The exception to this is if you have used non-colourfast threads In this case, if an area has become dirty, dab with a damp cloth and cold water, taking great care not to spread colour from the threads.

How do I wash my project?

Use a small amount of liquid soap in your wash basin. A few swishes should remove the soil. Do no use any abrasive action such as rubbing or brushing fabric on stubborn stains. Allowing fabric to soak should be all that is necessary.

As a precaution, should I wash my fabric before I begin stitching?

This is not necessary, and washing will tighten up the holes and make stitching on the fabric more difficult as the spaces will become harder to see.

Can I have my project dry cleaned?

Although many stitchers have their projects successfully dry cleaned, it is not recommended. The chemicals used can in time break down the finish on the fabrics.

How do I prevent fabric from fraying?

Some stitchers whip around their fabric edges with zig-zag on a machine, use masking tape or apply a seam sealer. However ... why spend time in all that preparation when you could be stitching? The quickest precaution is simply to deliberately fray the edges by pulling out just a few threads from each side ... and no more will come out while you're stitching! This frayed effect can even give a really nice finish on small pieces that can then be sewn to background fabric as a frame!

How can I apply the look of counted cross stitch to T-shirts and fabrics other than evenweave?

Waste canvas is an evenweave mesh fabric that is tacked over the area to be cross stitched. It is available in 10 and 14 count, the most popular being 14. You stitch through the canvas onto your base fabric, and when stitching is complete the waste canvas threads are removed, leaving only your beautifully-even cross-stitched design!

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