HELPFUL HINTS AND OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
(For a printable version of this information, click here)
It takes very simple math to determine this (but it helps to have a calculator). If your counted cross stitch chart lists the stitch count (the maximum number of stitches in height and the maximum number in width), you would divide this number by the number of stitches you will be making per inch, and the result will be the finished size.
For example, if you will stitch on 14 count aida, you will make 14 cross stitches per inch. If your design is 140 stitches high by 112 wide, you would divide 140 by 14 to get a finished height of 10", and you would divide 112 by 14 to get a finished width of 8".
If you are stitching "over 2" on linen or another smaller count fabric, you need to understand the difference between fabric count and stitch count. The fabric count may be 28 count, or 28 threads per inch, but when stitches are done over two threads, you will be making 14 stitches per inch (the same number of stitches per inch as on 14 count aida done "over 1"). It is the number of STITCHES per inch that you divide by regardless of fabric type.
If your design does not list a stitch count, you will need to manually count the number of stitches in order to determine a design size.
Reminder: Stitch count of chart divided by stitch count of fabric = finished design size; stitch count of fabric is the number of stitches you will make per inch which may or may not be the same as the actual fabric count
This is a phrase sometimes used in counted cross stitch, when the design is stitched over two fabric threads (that is, two horizontal and two vertical fabric threads are under each cross stitch, see diagram below). That is the "over 2" part of the phrase. The first 2 in the phrase refers to the fact that two strands of embroidery floss (sometimes known as stranded cotton) should be used in the needle at one time.
Assuming you are doing counted cross stitch (or needlepoint), you need to graph out the name or words. There are many wonderful books containing alphabets, or you may wish to create your letters from scratch. You do NOT need to use graph paper the same count as your fabric will be - in fact, it is easier to use larger graph paper with more squares per inch than you would normally stitch on. The important thing to remember is that you probably have a maximum width and maximum height to work within. For example, if you need to fit a name within a border, and you have a total of 80 squares between the left and right inner margin of that border, your name when graphed will have to be less than 80 squares wide, and you should select an appropriate sized alphabet. Remember that you will want to have a little bit of unused space between the name and the border. You also should realize that you should not automatically leave the same number of spaces between every letter - straight letters such as "i" and "l" should have adjacent letters spaced a little more closely than wide letters in order to look good. Once you have graphed out the name, and it looks good to you, you can count up how many squares it takes up. Divide this number by two to determine the center of the name. You can then line this up with the center of your design.
Helpful hint: many people have trouble stitching letters, words or phrases if they have to stitch "backwards" (from the right end or middle of the design toward the left). It is very common for people to make mistakes and omit letters when they have to stitch backward and then have to tear out and redo the words when they realize their mistake. For this reason, I prefer to center my words by matching up the center of the word of phrase with the center of the fabric, but then count left on both the graph and the fabric and begin stitching the word left to right as you normally would read and write (if using aida, you would count left one square for every square on the graph, if using linen or any other fabric where you count over two threads, count left two threads for every one square on the graph).
No, absolutely not. Many people are taught when they learn counted cross stitch that they must begin stitching at the center. But what do you do when there are no stitches at the very center of the design? You have no choice but to start elsewhere. What do you do if the center is very complicated, with many color changes? The longer I cross stitch, the more I prefer to begin at the top of the design, and work down (there are some people who prefer to start in the lower right of a design, or the lower left, so whatever works for you is fine).
Deciding where to start is usually simplified if you study the chart for a little. Is there an area where the stitch pattern and count is very clear? Where you can make enough stitches with the first thread to get a good start? That is where you should begin stitching.
What you DO normally want to do is position your stitching by finding the center of the chart, and the center of the piece of fabric. Then when you have decided where on your chart you wish to begin, count over and up (or down) to that section from the center of the chart. From the middle of the piece of fabric, you would count over and up (or down) the equivalent number of squares (if using aida) or threads (if using linen or other fabric that is counted "over two"), remembering that with the latter, you must count TWO threads for every ONE square on the graph.
If you know you have a generous piece of fabric, you don't even have to bother with counting from the center. If you are absolutely sure that you have (for example), a piece of fabric that is 4" larger all around than your finished design, you could begin stitching in an upper left corner by simply measuring in 4" and down 4" from the top left corner of the fabric.
The word evenweave has become very much misused - it may be hopeless to try to get stitchers to use this word correctly, but here goes. The word evenweave should mean nothing more than that there are the same number of warp and weft threads per inch of fabric. In other words, in one inch you will have the same number of horizontal and vertical threads. Almost all fabric used for counted cross stitch is evenweave, whether the fabric is made of linen, cotton, or a blend of fabrics. Most needlepoint canvas is also evenly woven, although this term is not often used for canvas.
Fabric that is made "evenweave" for counted thread embroidery is woven that way so that designs will be "square" when stitched, and it takes extra expense to weave these fabrics this precisely, so evenweave fabrics will be more expensive than fabrics that are woven for uses where it is not important that the threads have the same count in both directions.
In rare cases, people will do counted thread embroidery such as counted cross stitch on fabric that is not evenweave, either because that is the only fabric they have, or in some cases because they wish to duplicate some old sampler designs that may have been stitched on fabric that was not evenweave. In such instances, the design will be "stretched" in one direction (if you were to stitch a shape that was square on the graph, it would end up a rectangle when stitched on an unevenweave fabric).
The incorrect usage of the word evenweave happens when people wish to distinguish between an evenweave fabric that is made of linen, or simulates linen, from evenweave fabrics made of cotton or blends of cotton and synthetic, such as Jubilee, Jobelan, and Lugana (to name a few common brand names). It is a natural characteristic of linen to have fabric threads that vary somewhat in diameter (i.e. they will be slightly thinner and thicker along the length of the thread). Many people find this unevenness in thread diameter to be very attractive, but others dislike it and prefer the regular evenness of, for example, an all cotton fabric. Rather than ask for a cotton or synthetic fabric by name, they will often request an "evenweave" to indicate that they want fabric other than linen. However, this is not the correct word to use when making this request. Unfortunately, there is not a single word I can think of to express the phrase "I want a fabric other than linen on which I will count over two" or "I want a fabric with threads of the same diameter" - but please, let's try to remember that almost any fabric you would buy that is made for counted cross stitch is by definition, an evenweave fabric, and consider asking for a fabric by name.
There is more than one way to attach beads to evenweave fabric or canvas. My preferred method is as follows.
Beads may be sewn over a single canvas intersection (more common on needlepoint canvas, also on aida-weave cross stitch fabrics) or over two fabric threads (two vertical and two horizontal). They are usually sewn on with a half cross stitch. Because most beads used in needlework are not perfectly spherical like a globe but are more doughnut-shaped, if you sew them on with a stitch that slants as follows, from bottom left to upper right
|Underlying stitch that attaches a bead over a single canvas intersection
|Underlying stitch that attaches a bead over two fabric threads
the bead itself will slant in the opposite direction, from bottom right to top left:
|Stitched bead over single intersection
|Stitched bead over two threads
If for some reason you wanted the bead to slant in the opposite direction, you would need to reverse the slant of the stitch that attaches the bead so that you would get these results:
To have the bead sewn more securely in place, and to help prevent it from "flopping around" I prefer to sew through each bead twice, using the same holes.
Some people prefer to sew beads on with a double thread, sewing the bead on in the regular fashion, then coming up again in the first hole, splitting the doubled thread so that it wraps around the bead, then going down in the second hole.
Cross-stitchers often ask if they should make a full cross stitch when sewing on a bead, attaching the bead on the second half of the cross. This is unnecessary. There IS a method of sewing beads on with a cross stitch that involves going through the bead when making the first half of the cross, and going through it again when making the second half. This method pulls the bead first in one direction, and then in the opposite direction. In theory you should end up with a bead that does not slant, but is vertical:
This latter method does not work well for me as the beads do not seem to lay in place as well as they do when they are sewn on to lay in a diagonal direction.
Some people prefer to match the thread to the bead color. I generally prefer to match the thread to the background color, for two reasons. The first is that the stitch seems to me to sink into the background fabric color and be more invisible. The second is that when you have many different colors of beads, you don't have to constantly switch thread colors, but can stitch all the different colored beads with the same thread.
What type of thread should I use to sew on beads?
Many cross stitchers use cotton embroidery floss (stranded cotton) to sew on beads. This comes in a very large range of colors. It is not the strongest thread in the world if the work is to be subjected to stress, but that is not normally the case. Another good choice is a nylon beading thread, such as the brand "Nymo." This is not available in a large range of colors, but the white color on light fabrics and black on dark fabrics will often work well. Another option would be to use a silk thread of appropriate weight, as silk is a very strong fiber. Rarely do people use a clear or transparent synthetic thread to sew on beads, although it can be a good choice if you have widely scattered beads to sew onto a sheer fabric, or a loosely woven or open fabric such as some linens.
The correct size of needle to use is one that has an eye large enough to hold the thread, and is not so large overall that it leaves a large hole when pulled through fabric. If you use a needle with an eye that is too small, the thread will be frayed. The thread will also fray if the needle is too small to open up a large enough hole in the fabric.
Needles come in many different types:
Tapestry needles have blunt tips and long eyes. They are most commonly used for counted cross stitch, hardanger, other counted thread embroidery, and for needlepoint. In needlepoint, size 18 needles are used for 10 mesh canvas, size 20 needles for 12, 13 and 14 mesh canvas, size 22 needles for 18 mesh canvas, and size 24 needles for size 24 congress cloth.
The tapestry needles that are most commonly used for counted cross stitch are size 24 and 26. For working on very small fabrics, or for cross stitching over one on very small fabrics (25 count or smaller) many people prefer the relatively new size 28 tapestry needle.
Chenille needles are identical to tapestry needles, except that they are sharp at the tip instead of blunt. They are often used by quilters who wish to use a relatively heavy thread such as pearl cotton to applique or embellish quilts.
Milliner needles are also known as straw needles. They are often recommended to make bullion stitches, as it is easier to slip a milliner needle through the wound thread of a bullion stitch. However, even the largest milliner needle has a relatively small eye, so you cannot use very heavy threads with milliner needles. Milliner needles are also very long (this is an advantage if you wish to make very long bullion stitches).
Crewel needles are also sometimes called embroidery needles. They are used primarily for embroidery that is not counted, such as crewel embroidery (hence the needles' name).
Beading needles are specially designed for sewing on beads. Traditional beading needles are very long and bend easily. We now have available short beading needles that are less flimsy, and some of them even come in a choice of sharp or blunt tip.
Some people prefer to use a smaller than normal needle, or larger than normal needle. Some people prefer to use a sharp needle when other people would use a blunt needle. Whatever works for you and is comfortable is fine.
There are some exceptions, but in general knots are not good choices to anchor your thread. Knots can come undone, can be bumpy, and on loosely woven fabrics, can pop right through from the back of the fabric to the front. For this reason, it is better to use other methods to secure thread ends. Waste knots/away waste knots, weaving and even pin stitches or backstitches are better choices. Another choice when using threads in your needle that are two strands or multiples of two is the loop stitch (see below).
Starting your thread with a loop has some advantages: it is impossible for this to come undone, and it reduces bulk on the back of your work. People who insist that thread has a grain and strands that are put together must be put together with the grain in alignment will not use this method as it requires that the thread be folded in half.
The loop method can only be used if you are using at least two strands in your needle at one time, and the number of strands you wish to stitch with must be a multiple of two (2, 4, 6...). If you need to stitch with an odd number of strands in your needle, such as 3 strands, you cannot use this method.
To start your thread with a loop, first fold the thread in half, and thread the cut ends in the needle, keeping the cut ends relatively close to the eye of the needle. At the other end of the thread, you will have a bend or a fold. Bring your needle up through the fabric at the desired starting point, but do not pull it all the way through. Put the needle down into the fabric at the desired point and turn your work to the back. You will now insert the needle in the loop that you have at the end of the length of thread, and gently tug it firm. Voila, your thread is now secure and you can continue stitching as you normally would.
This depends both on personal preference, and also on the needlework technique you are doing. For people doing needlepoint (canvas embroidery), I think it is always best to work on a frame. This will keep the work cleaner and less distortion will creep into the work. For projects that are not terribly tall, stretcher bars are best because they are relatively inexpensive, and the canvas is stretched tight on stretcher bars in all four directions. Sometimes needlepoint is best put on a scroll frame, to keep the size manageable (Christmas stockings are a perfect example of this, they are often more than 20" high and this is just too far for you to be able to reach to the top if put on a stretcher bar).
For counted cross stitch, in my opinion far more people use frames (usually embroidery hoops, Q-snap frames, or scroll frames) than is really necessary. This is because, unlike needlepoint, cross stitch is not a stitch that by its very nature causes distortion in the ground fabric. Also, it is normally safe to wash and press counted cross stitch (an exception would be if you have used a fabric or thread that is not colorfast). It is perfectly possible to do exquisite cross stitch with no frame whatsoever, by simply holding the fabric in your hands. Many people find this hard to believe, because they have always been told that they should work in a hoop or a frame.
If you wish to do counted cross stitch in a frame, by all means you may (some people feel they can see the fabric better or make more perfect stitches if the fabric is stretched tight). Remember that if you work in an embroidery hoop or Q-snap frame you will need to press your work when done, and you may run into trouble if stitching beads, buttons and charms.
Some types of embroidery, such as traditional crewel embroidery, do usually benefit from the fabric being stretched in a frame, as some embroidery stitches will distort fabric. You need to be careful not to stretch it too tightly, however, because the fabric can pucker when released from the tension it was under in a frame.
This can be a very complicated process. However, the general method you would use is to try to match the value of the original thread colors. It helps if you have access to the original thread colors so that you can see what they look like. For example, if you wish to change 5 shades of blue-green that range from very light, light, medium, medium dark to dark, and you wish to change this to olive green, you will want five shades of olive green, with the lightest shade being about as light as the original lightest shade, the darkest shade being as dark as the darkest original shade, and the remaining colors matching value for value the original colors.
If you want to change more than one color family in a design, it gets much more complicated because of the way colors interact with each other.
The general rule of thumb is that you want between 2" and 3" all around your design. There are exceptions to this. If you are not going to frame a piece, but sew it into something such as a pillow, or if you are going to frame it very simply, with no mat, and very little fabric showing around the design, you can get away with a smaller margin (this assumes you can properly center your design on the fabric). If it is a large design that you will frame with a wide mat, you would probably want to add a larger than normal margin. Please remember that if you want a fabric margin of 3" PER SIDE, you must remember to add 6" to the design size (I don't know why, but people often forget this, and think that with a 3" margin, they only have to add 3").
This is a very complex subject, but here are a few general rules. You want to use materials that are "acid-free." This refers to the mounting board (generally acid-free foam core board) and any mats that will be used. You may choose to frame with or without glass, but if you use glass, it should not rest directly on the needlework. Mats will help to keep the glass directly off the needlework, but if mats are not used, framers can add a product called "spacers" to keep the glass off the work. If glass is used, it is possible to buy very expensive conservation quality glass that reduces fading by preventing ultraviolet rays from penetrating the glass.
When it comes to how to mount the needlework, the old tried-and-true method is called lacing. This is shown in the back of many British needlework books. It does not require the use of any adhesives that could harm fabric. We may add more detailed directions on how to lace needlework at some point in the future.
This is not a good practice. Counted cross stitch looks best when the work is very even and consistent. You may not realize it, but when you stitch, there is a small amount of tension from one stitch to the next, and a "pull" that is exerted on the fabric. If you cross stitch in horizontal rows, this pull is vertical (the top and bottom of stitches pull toward each other). If you cross stitch in vertical rows (for some reason, this is common practice in the Netherlands, while in nearby Denmark, they stitch in horizontal rows), the pull is horizontal (the left and right pull toward each other). See the diagrams below, the direction of the pull is indicaated by the arrows):
If you are about to say, "wait a minute, my chart shows a vertical line of one color, and you just told me I shouldn't cross stitch vertical rows if the rest of my design is done in horizontal rows, now what do I do?" do not despair. Rather than stitch this row as shown in the diagram immediately above this, you will cross each stitch one at a time as shown in the following diagram. Pay careful attention to the numbers. In essence, you are treating each cross stitch as a single horizontal row, and you are therefore still stitching in horizontal rows, each consisting of a single cross stitch.
What happens if you need to start a vertical row at the bottom of the row, and work your way up? If you followed the normal stitching sequence:
you would be going down in 4 into the same hole that you would need to come up in to make the first part of your next stitch; thus you would be undoing your stitch. The simple (and correct) solution to this is to realize that if you are reversing the direction in which you will stitch your ROW (from bottom to top instead of top to bottom), you should also reverse which holes you come up and go down into. Instead of coming up in the bottom left hole, and going down in the top right hole to make the first half of the cross, you would come up in the top right and go down into the bottom left hole. To complete the cross, instead of coming up in the bottom right and going down in the top left, you would come up in the top left and go down in the bottom right:
Information on this page is provided to help answer some common stitching questions and dilemmas; no guarantees are offered. If you would like other questions answered, e-mail us and we will consider posting more helpful hints. Please note that this page is covered by copyright and you do not have permission to copy it without permission.
Diagrams and text copyright 2005, Denise Davis, Threadneedle Street