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Things I wish I knew when I started Cross Stitching:

Small Simple Easy Green and Teal Cross stitch sea turtle pattern

Quick disclosure! There are affiliate links in the post below! This means if you choose to purchase a product from my link I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you! I only link to products I love and use from brands I trust!

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

I love you I lava you cross stitch pattern in pink and brown I lava you in cursive black lettering

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.

Cross Stitch pattern from Ila Quinn Designs

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!

Small Simple Easy Green and Teal Cross stitch sea turtle pattern

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.

4: Framing.

Green and teal cross stitch pattern collection large Turtle wall hanging small turtle framed in hoop turtle bookmark

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!

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How to price Custom Orders so you aren’t even mad about it.

Ila Quinn Designs Crochet and Cross stitch desiger Accessible beginner and intermediate level crochet cross stitch patterns Easy to read beginner friendly

We’ve all been there, right. Someone asks for a special order and you are left feeling a combination of proud, scared to really say the number you think it will be, and stressed out because “How much time is this really going to take?”. Let me walk you through a list of things to check to ease the stress of taking custom orders. This can help you find new revenue and grow your business. All without stealing your peace of mind!

I am going to walk you through the processes that help kick those feelings and set you up for success when you are getting ready to say yes to making that dress (Get it. Yes to the dress. I entertain myself).

Crochet costume Halloween comicon dragoncon Game of thrones costumes handmade costume ideas halloween decor
How I look at everything I’ve made!

First of all. You should be proud! Look at that beautiful piece of fiber art goodness you made! Someone thinks it’s so amazing THEY want one! It IS that good. Believe it. Advertising doesn’t just happen on your shop or website. You can get customers just walking around out in the world with your amazing creation. So when someone says “I love that” Tell them “Me too! It took me a long time to make, but I love it SO much. It was worth it.”

I’m pretty proud of my work, and I don’t blame others for wanting to have something this beautiful!

A huge part of this is you acknowledging your own craftsmanship. Don’t downplay how hard it was to create it. Don’t hide how long it’s going to take you to make another. I respond with an immediate warning shot “Ooo, I will have to think about that for a minute. This takes a long time to make. I will have to see if I can even fit it in.” If they want to pay for it and they can, they will. If not you can either change something about it to make it more affordable (the size, intricacies, and supplies are where I start), or just stick to your guns and say it with all the intensity of feelings you have “I would have to charge $— to even think about it.”

Crochet hand bag orange bobble stitch handmade hand bag free pattern on blog purse yarn bag
This beautifully textured bag will be available as a free pattern on my blog later on this year!

Next thing to consider. Are they using a pattern or guide you already have in place, or are they asking you to create a new thing. This changes your initial time investment IMMENSELY. Creating a new design can take time. What is that going to look like? This is often a one time benefit as it’s not very often that a special order is going to turn into a regular item in your shop. So you must get paid for this time from this one custom order.

Solve for X crochet cube toy retro baby toy rattle baby shower gift ideas Christmas birthday baby gifts easy crochet pattern
Crochet cube baby toy “Solve for X” designed by Ila Quinn Designs and made with Lion Brand Cupcake in the colorway “Clown car” For some serious 90’s retro vibes!

This is where the heavy lifting begins. You have to do research to be able to respond accurately and with confidence. Don’t just say “$40 or $50”. You need to know how much it’s going to costs. Because most people will just hand you the $40 and expect that to be enough. It’s often not the customer being willing to pay us, but our willingness to really SAY what we know it’s going to cost. SO be sure before you say it. Do the colors they want need to be sourced elsewhere? Will you need to order product in? Allow me to walk you through this cheat sheet of information you need to gather before you say “yes”:

1: What is it being made out of. If it’s yarn make sure you have access to the colors and quantities they are looking for. If it’s thread make sure of the fabric and thread used. Ask a series of questions “What color do you want it in?” “How big are you thinking?” etcetera. Stitching a 6 inch circle framed cross stitch is a lot different cost to you in time and product than an 8 x 10 framed with a mat and stretched onto sticky board. Don’t go in blind.

2: My next point is very important and is really a part of the first point. YOU be very specific. If the customer doesn’t have an idea then you tell them what you are thinking. If not at some point you are going to tell them “I decided to do this” and they might have a very different idea. Their ideas can cost a lot more time and effort, and those surprises can be infinitely more stressful for you. Don’t be scared to up the price if THEY change the parameters. But set YOUR parameters beforehand so none of that can come back on you.

3: Know you worth, and the actual time. We all hear about how we need to charge for our labor so I’m not going to lecture you on that. Those numbers vary widely depending on what we are doing and how deeply it cuts into our time. But an oversight can be forgetting just how much time it really takes to make that. Perhaps the stitching was accounted for. But are there extras? The finishing, weaving in ends, blocking, framing, assembling, and the cost to YOU for those items can take a lot more time and finances than we remember. Perhaps you made yours from some yarn you found on clearance 2 years ago. But this is going to have to be purchased at a store tomorrow. That is not even close to the same financial impact. So remember to add those things into your hourly wage.

Smaller parts and more assembly effect the price too!

4: The Shipping! Lets be real. That can be the biggest hit if you aren’t prepared for it. I do a couple of different things to make sure I have this in hand. The first is to check shipping from the USPS website. The second is to use an Etsy listing. If you go into a listing to edit it you can mess around with the shipping and set specific destinations. They will tell you how much it costs to ship from any carrier you choose. A very helpful tool if you need to come up with an answer on the fly! It can be off by a few dollars, but it’s generally pretty close and will give you an idea of the area of cost you are looking at.

5: The packaging. Specialized and curated packaging is a must in todays market. People are ordering from small companies and sole proprietors because they want it to show up pretty and feel special. So if you are mailing it you have to account for those costs too. Perhaps a little gift wrapping and a sticker is enough. But if you also have a box to ship, a ribbon, a card, etc. It all adds up and should be included in your cost, otherwise it will eat away at your bottom line.

6: Lastly before you say the number. Add in a little wiggle room. There will always be something that comes up, and an extra 6-12% of breathing room helps a TON in creating peace of mind.

I lava you lava lamp retro home decor cursive writing I love you Pun baby gift nursery decor easy cross stitch quick beginner friendly
I Lava you is a fun and easy cross stitch pattern that will make you want to make more! Perfect gifts for people who love puns! But also a beautiful retro 70’s vibe along with gorgeous cursive lettering! Available for sale as a PDF pattern or as a full kit soon!

Ok. Last point. And this one is huge. If you are strapped and you have to take this special order for less than you really want to and there is nothing you can do about it right now because you need that cash flow. Be kind to yourself. Know that having to make that choice does not devalue your work. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist if you have to get the power bill paid. It is true that more people will order when the cost is less. Do your best to protect your time and sanity in as many ways as you can. Only buy the yarn on sale. Offer things you know you can make inexpensively so you get the lions share of the profits. Do a minimum amount of work for the product offered. Do all you can to look out for yourself. And when you can up the price, DO. It will feel so good to start getting paid what you are worth.

Leave me a comment below about the hardest custom order you have taken? What went wrong? Let us commiserate with you!

I will start. Look at the caption under the photo below!

I once made this beautiful costume for $40. It was awful and I cried from frustration and anxiety.

Here is a handy infographic you can Pin to reference back to!