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When I began my cross stitch journey, I didn’t do much research. Uh. Any! I just bought 14-count Aida and used some embroidery floss I had from my days of embroidering bugs and flowers (more on that another time).
To be honest, I didn’t even know if I would like it. Growing up I had watched my older sister and grandmother cross stitch. The pictures never appealed to me, and I never thought I would have the patience to sit down and make tiny Xs on fabric. My, how times have changed. I still don’t like huge confetti style pictures. And you may notice that muted tones are not really my thing…
Fast forward to 2014 and a friend and I were hanging out on Pinterest, as one does. I found a cross-stitch I liked and sent it to her. She said, “That’s cute, but I HATE glitter!” We joked back and forth a bit until she had the idea to use “Skittles” instead. I didn’t say much at the time because I still had never even tried cross-stitch. But I ran out and bought the supplies to try to make a cross-stitch gift for her. AND IT TURNED OUT AMAZING.
Beginning in this way helped me to push the boundaries a bit. My first pattern was my own design, and I had no reference for how it should look. I got to use all the bold colors I wanted. I was HOOKED!
Without further adieu, here is the list of things that worked for me!
1: Don’t be shy about switching the color palette on a design you love. You have a favorite color and it’s not in the design? Just use it. I promise you will love your finished thread art so much more if it speaks to YOU and not just someone else’s ideas. And no designer is going to be offended if you change out some colors for something else. We are just happy you like our hard work and artistic expression! So go ahead and tag the artist and let us see the beautiful way you made it your own! This also applies if you have similar colors in your stash and don’t want to shop. I think it can create some fantastic reimagined pieces!
For ideas on what colors work well together, peruse This and see just how many different ways you can level up your color palette game!
2: You can make your Xs face in either direction. Just make sure you have them all facing the same direction! This really helps the designs look refined! How you start your project can determine which way you stitch your Xs.
For instance. If you begin at the top of the design you will want to start your Xs from the Bottom up facing this way: / / / /. On the return pass you will also be working your stitches bottom up this way: \ \ \ \. This sets up the following row to be began in the same way and will create a neat set of corners in your work. You won’t need to come up through a stitch you just finished and the thread will lay flatter!
3: Washing your work when it done not only makes your fiber art pop, but helps to even out any unevenness in your stitches. This elevates the finished work in much the same way that blocking crochet projects does. It basically puts everything where it belongs and makes it all that it should have been!
To wash your projects I recommend slightly warm water with just a drop or two of mild dish soap or laundry detergent. Lightly swirl and soak, but do not bend or twist the fabric to wring it out. Let it drip out and then lay it flat on a thick towel. switch out the towel for a dry one about an hour or two in. Lightly ironing your cross stitches helps to remove any wrinkles that came from the washing or the fabric packaging or stitching hoops.
Hoop Frame: Don’t be scared to frame your piece in the hoop you stitched it in! It’s a whole circular experience, and I think it’s a truly wonderful way to display your stitching the way a fiber artists sees it! Plus there are some really beautiful frames out there! Like the one I use for my “Sea, it’s a small turtle in teal”.
Frame Frame: I love to check my local used store for some really gorgeous frames at killer prices! You will need to buy some sticky cardboard to make sure it is flat and wrinkle-free, but this is well worth it for the finished product!
Scroll Frame: Grab some wooden dowels and make it a scroll! It’s a really fun minimalistic look and it’s SO easy to accomplish! Little glue on the wood on the side of the fabric that is not going to be the front of the wall hanging and BAM done. I like to add a little tassel or something for spice!
5: Fabric counts.
Fabrics come in quite a few options for different sizes of squares. The side of the square determines what size your finished piece will be. A lot of “free patterns” online don’t tell you the proper fabric count or finished sizes, so it can be tricky to plan ahead. This has been so important to me that I actually calculate and give the information for 4 different fabric counts in all my patterns. This allows you to decide which fabric will work best for what you want!
When you are looking at Aida Fabric the packaging will say “12-count, 14-count, 18-count, 21-count” and so on. This means that that is the total number of stitchable squares per inch is equal to the number given. 14 count Aida is probably the most common used today. There will be 14 little squares per inch!
6: Thread Count.
I saved this for last because it’s probably my favorite subject.
I love a lot of thread coverage on my fabric. I know I know. Everyone always wants to talk about not using too much and disrupting the flow of the stitching. But, you guys! I love my rich earthy and jewel tones, and I am not about to make them less noticeable by using techniques that give me too little coverage. So these are the tricks I use to get better coverage and have my colors pop!
A: I use one strand of embroidery floss doubled up on 18-count Aida. This creates a denser look in the thread without making the stitches messy.
B: If I use 14 count fabric I always use one that is lightly colored, not white. If I am designing a green heavy pattern I put it on light green fabric. If I am designing something in cool colors I use light blue. This changes the backdrop just enough to make the stitches look more full, and lets me still use the 2 strand method suggested above! (This is HANDS DOWN my favorite method. I’m never disappointed in the outcome!)
C: When I’m stitching letters that are 2 stitches wide on 14 count fabric I will up the thread count to 3 (don’t tell the cross stitch Overlords on me). This makes the letters bolder even though they are smaller, and since there are no stitches on the outside edges of the letters there is room for them to be a bit bigger and not disrupt the rest of the design!
D: Back stitching helps. If you feel like it could be a bolder look then just pop some backstitch on that baby! It always brings out the designs!
7: Last but definitely not least, NEEDLES. For a long time, I just used regular embroidery needles in my cross-stitching. I am SO glad I changed that though. Do yourself a huge favor and buy you some dull pointed cross-stitching needles. I promise it increases your joy by one million points.
That’s it for now! I hope this helps you feel confident in starting your cross stitching journey!