What is cross stitch

    Cross Stitch is one of the easiest stitches to learn.  It starts with a simple X shaped stitch that is commonly stitched with Mouliné thread on an evenweave fabric.  The cross stitch is repeated numerous times to create a design.  Counted cross stitch designs are made by following a grid or chart where each square that contains a symbol represents 1 stitch.


    6 BASIC STITCHES USED IN CROSS STITCH EMBROIDERY

    Cross Stitch – A Cross Stitch is an x-shaped embroidery stitch

    Half Stitch - The Half Stitch is a diagonal stitch that goes from one corner of the fabric square to the opposite corner. Some designs use the half stitch to add interest and texture to backgrounds and shadows.

    Quarter Stitch – A quarter stitch resembles a half stitch but is half its length and only extends into the centre of the stitching square.   Quarter stitches are often used to create details or to complete a three quarter stitch that has been stitched in a different colour.

    Three Quarter Stitch –Three Quarter stitches are used to create curved design lines.  This fractional stitch makes it possible to add detail to the otherwise “blocky” look of traditional cross stitch.

     NOTE:  Half stitches, quarter stitches and three-quarter stitches are commonly called fractional stitches because they are divisions of the cross stitch.  Fractional stitches are considered advanced stitches and are recommended for more experienced stitchers.

    Back Stitch – A backstitch is a straight stitch used for outlining or lettering. These stitches form lines and are used to outline shapes or to add fine detail to your design.

    French Knot – The French Knot is a popular decorative stitch used in cross stitch to add detail.  French knots look great clustered together to create texture, or individually to serve as a centre of a flower, or eyes to an animal on your design.

    You are going to need some basic items to get started. DMC manufactures premium quality supplies at a great value, for any type of needlework project. The following items are recommended:

    Essentials

    - DMC Mouline Stranded Thread

    - A piece of DMC or Charles Craft  Aida, linen or Monaco fabric

    - A pair of DMC Embroidery Scissors

    - DMC Cross stitch needles

    - DMC Needle Threader

    - An Embroidery Hoop, scroll frame or stretcher bars


    Additional supplies to make your stitching experience even more enjoyable

    - DMC Stitchbow System & products

    - Lighting and Magnification
     

    CHOOSE YOUR THREAD
     



     

    For most cross stitch projects you will use DMC Mouline Stranded Thread. DMC Mouline Stranded Thread is the highest quality and most widely used thread in the world.  It is made from long staple 100% Egyptian cotton and mercerised to give a beautiful sheen.  There are over 450 colours of DMC Mouline Stranded Thread.

    Each length of thread is composed of six individual strands, allowing you to adjust the thickness of your stitching by using a different number of strands.  Charts and instructions commonly refer to a strand as a ply (i.e. 6 ply embroidery thread)

    Other DMC threads to use when cross stitching include: DMC Color Variations Thread, DMC Light Effects Thread and DMC Satin Thread. All of these threads are also composed of six individual strands that can be easily separated. All DMC Threads are made from the world’s highest quality fibres and are either mercerised or finely twisted so that the beautiful lustre and brilliant dyes are consistent skein to skein, ensuring that your project will withstand the test of time. DMC Threads are all 100% colourfast and fade resistant.


    SELECTING YOUR FABRIC
     



    Select an evenweave fabric for cross stitch projects. For beginners it is best to start with 100% cotton Aida fabric. Its precise square-patterned weave with visible stitching holes, or squares, makes this fabric easy to use and allows the needle to glide easily through the holes. When a project calls for Aida fabric, it usually lists a count.  The count indicates how many squares per inch of fabric. Each square or hole represents a cross stitch. DMC & Charles Craft Aida are available in a variety of different counts ranging from 11, 14, 16 and 18, with the holes being larger or smaller.  The smaller the fabric count the larger the holes in the fabric. For example 11-count Aida fabric will have 11 holes per inch. This is why for beginner projects it is recommended to use 11– count or 14 - count Aida fabric as the holes are larger making it easier to stitch and to count.  DMC and Charles Craft Aida fabrics have a wonderful finish and are available in a variety of colours and types.

    A little more about fabrics and how to select the right one…

    People often learn how to do counted cross stitch on Aida and later learn to stitch on linen or other evenweave fabrics as they become more experienced. The term evenweave refers to the fabric having an even number of weft and warp threads per inch. Warp threads run the entire length of the fabric, while the weft threads run side-to-side, from selvage to selvage.  The thread count for evenweave fabrics is determined by this number – for example, 22-count linen has 22 vertical warp threads and 22 horizontal weft threads per inch of fabric. The higher the count number, the finer and closer the weave will be.  Aida is worked with one X over one square, linen and other evenweaves are generally worked over two threads. The common term for this technique is simply called “over two threads.”  Stitching “over two threads” on 28 count linen produces the same size design as one stitched on 14-ct Aida.         

    Some things to keep in mind when choosing fabrics:
    - Fractional stitches (quarter stitches and three quarter stitches) can be hard to make on Aida fabric as the needle goes through the middle of the square. Stitchers sometimes prefer to use another evenweave fabric such as linen as the needle simply goes between the two threads.
    - Most evenweaves have a soft feel and aren't as stiff as Aida. This can be a plus or a minus, depending on your preferences. The difference in stiffness isn't usually a factor if the fabric is worked in a hoop or on scroll bars. Stiffer fabrics like Aida can be worked without a hoop and still not get distorted while stitching.
    - The look of the cloth for the background of the design is also important when selecting a fabric. Both texture and colour should be considered.

    There are a number of other fabrics and items you can use for your cross stitch such as Vinyl Aida, Waste Canvas, Soluble Canvas and ready-made Afghans.



    PICKING THE RIGHT NEEDLE

     
    For cross stitch projects use DMC Cross stitch needles. Cross stitch needles have an elongated eye for easy threading and a blunt tip that glides smoothly through the holes in your fabric. The number of the cross stitch needle corresponds to the size of the eye and the thickness of the needle.  The higher the number of the needle, the smaller the eye and thinner the needle is.


     
    THE DESIGN CHART
     

     

    Your Design Chart contains all the information you need to stitch your design. The chart lists what kinds of thread to use, how many strands and the fabric type and colour. The squares on the Design Chart correspond to the squares on the fabric, every square on the design chart that requires a stitch will contain a symbol.

    Cross Stitch design charts are plentiful, varied, and easy to find. A good place to start is this website under Inspiration (Link) where you can find a variety of different projects that are categorised by the threads used and the skill level required. Also check your local needlework or craft store, which will have leaflets, books, and numerous stitchery and craft magazines offering you an array of newly published designs.



    HOOPS, SCROLL BAR FRAMES & STRETCHER BARS
     


    Keeping your fabric taut while stitching is the best way to keep your stitches even and the tension of your stitches consistent.  Choosing the right product depends on the size of your project and personal preference.  The most versatile and inexpensive is an embroidery hoop while the more experienced stitcher may prefer the versatility of a scroll bar frame for larger projects and stretcher bars for smaller projects.

    Round Embroidery Hoops are the most common shape available and they generally range in size from 3” to 12”.  They’re made from either plastic or wood and come in various styles and screw locking systems.   Select a hoop that is slightly larger than the design area.  The fabric should extend about 2” beyond the edges of the hoop to allow you to position and secure the fabric properly. To learn how to use an embroidery hoop click here. For information on scroll bar frames and stretcher bars click here.



    DMC COLOUR CARD
     
     

     
    The DMC Colour Card is a wonderful reference tool to have on hand when searching for a special colour.  It allows you to view the entire colour range and compare the subtle shades of each colour available in the DMC thread range  With the DMC colour card you can choose your own colour palettes to personalise any cross stitch design or find a substitute shade should your shop be out of a colour.


    WATER SOLUBLE MARKERS
     


     

    Some people like to mark a grid on their fabric so it’s easier to follow the design chart. Use a Water Soluble Marker to draw grid lines on your fabric according to your design chart so you can easily count out stitches. To draw grid lines on your fabric draw vertical and horizontal lines every 10 stitches. Most charts have bolder grid lines every 10 stitches for this reason. It’s also helpful to put a tiny dot in the centre of your fabric to help you centre your design. (See below on how to find the centre of your fabric) When you’re done stitching, the marker washes cleanly away.

    Use DMC’s Magic Guide Fabric when stitching a larger project.  The grid lines on the fabric correspond to the stitching chart with a line every 10 blacks of Aida.  The grid lines disappear completely when washed.

    TIP:   To help keep your place on a chart, try using a “Post It” sticky note under the line you’re about to stitch.  By exposing one line at a time, it will be easier for you to follow the chart.  When you finish stitching the line just move the note onto the next line.



    LIGHTING & MAGNIFICATION

     

    Your eyes and needlework project deserve optimal lighting while stitching.  Choose a bright light directed onto the surface of the design.  Floor lamps and swivel armed clamp style lights work well and are adjustable.  For the advanced stitcher, several manufactures produce lamps with attachable magnifiers.


    ADDITIONAL TOOLS FOR ADVANCED STITCHERS:

    Thread Heaven – When stitching with specialty fibres DMC recommends using Thread Heaven, a thread conditioner available at most needlework and craft stores. The conditioner coats your thread to help hold the strands together and can be beneficial in aiding the thread to glide smoothly through the fabric.

    QUICK START TO CROSS STITCH


    Get the basics! Counted Cross stitch is one of the easiest forms of stitching – Warning! It is highly addictive!

    CROSS STITCH TOOL KIT
    - DMC Mouline Stranded Cotton Thread
    - DMC Aida Fabric 14 – count
    - DMC Cross stitch needle size 24
    - DMC Needle Threader
    - DMC Mouline Stranded Scissors
    - Design Chart
    - Embroidery Hoop
     

    PREPARATION

    Separate your Thread – DMC Mouline Stranded Thread is composed of six strands that are twisted together and easy to separate. Many cross stitch designs stitched on 14 – count Aida call for only two strands of thread, so you will need to separate your thread. Refer to your design chart to see how many strands (or plies) of thread the design specifies.



    Find the end of the thread on your skein of DMC Thread. Slowly pull the end out from the skein until you have a 50cm (18”) length of thread and cut it off. To separate the thread into individual strands, pull one strand up and out slowly until it is completely separated from the remaining strands. Continue to pull out the number of strands you need to stitch with.  To rejoin the threads, hold them together at one end then gently pass your hand over the lengths of thread to smooth and recombine them.

    Prepare Fabric – To know when to begin a cross stitch design, it is helpful to find the centre of your fabric. Fold your fabric in half and then in half again, where the two folds intersect is the middle point.

    Place your fabric into an embroidery hoop. Click here for instructions on using an embroidery hoop.

    Thread your needle – Follow this handy needle threading guide to thread your needle with the DMC Needle Threader.


     

    Reading the Design Chart – Your design chart contains all the information you need to stitch your design. A thread colour key shows the symbols that correspond to each colour. The squares on the design chart correspond to the squares on the fabric. Every square on the design chart that requires a stitch will contain a symbol. It is important that you centre your design. Follow the four arrows on the design, where they all intersect is the centre point. It is easiest to start stitching from the centre of the design, but choose a section where you feel most comfortable.

    The most common stitch on your chart is the cross stitch. Where the square on your Design Chart contains a symbol taking up the full square, a full cross stitch is required. The second most common stitch is the backstitch. Backstitches are generally used as outlining or lettering. When a square contains a straight line or dotted line that join two corners, a backstitch is required. Less common stitches are half stitches, quarter stitches and three quarter stitches, also referred to as fractional stitches.

    Let’s Start to Stitch!

    Start stitching by pulling the threaded needle up onto the front side of the fabric, leaving a 2.5cm (1”) end of thread on the back. Hold the end of thread against the back of the fabric in the direction you plan to stitch and work the first 4 to 5 stitches over it to secure it into place.  Be sure to check the back to confirm that your stitches are covering the thread and clip any loose ends before continuing to stitch.

    To end a thread, run your threaded needle under the last few stitches on the back of the Aida, then clip off the end of the thread. After you re-thread the needle to continue, simply run the needle under several stitches on the back to secure the thread and resume stitching.

    Quick Tip: When stitching make sure your thread lies flat, if your thread becomes twisted while stitching, drop the needle and allow the needle to hang freely. The thread will untwist by itself.

    Cross stitch is usually worked in horizontal rows from left to right. To make a cross stitch bring the needle up at point 1, lower left hole of one square of the fabric and down at point 2 upper right hole of one square of the fabric. Then up at 3 down at 4, up at 5 down at 6. Complete the row. To complete your cross stitches The return row is stitched right to left, make crosses by bringing the needle up at 9 and down at 10, up at 11 down at 12. Complete the return row and repeat the stitching sequence until the area is stitched as charted.



    For more information on how to stitch the cross stitch click here.
    PREPARE YOUR THREAD

    DMC Mouline Stranded Thread is composed of six strands that are twisted together and easy to separate. Many cross stitch designs stitched on 14 – count Aida call for only two strands of thread, so you will need to separate your thread. Refer to your design chart to see how many strands (or plies) of thread the design specifies.



    Find the end of the thread on your skein of DMC Thread. Slowly pull the end out from the skein until you have a 50cm (18”) length of thread and cut it off. To separate the thread into individual strands, pull one strand up and out slowly until it is completely separated from the remaining strands. Continue to pull out the number of strands you need to stitch with.  To rejoin the threads, hold them together at one end then gently pass your hand over the lengths to smooth and recombine them.


    ESTIMATING THREAD FOR A PROJECT:

    Thread amounts for a project depend on numerous variables; the tension of the stitch and where the colour is placed in the design are the two primary ones.  A quick way to estimate the amount of thread you will need for a large project is to take one 50cm (18”), length and in the correct ply, cross stitch the fabric until the thread is finished.  You will then know the how many stitches per length of thread you can make.

    Each skein of DMC Mouline Stranded thread has 8m (8.7 yards) and a skein of Pearl Cotton 5 contains 25m (27 yards).   By counting the stitches on your chart and using a calculator you should be able to determine the amount you’ll need.

    Most charts assume that one skein will be plenty but in larger projects like Afghans, the chart will list how many skeins of each colour are needed.



    PREPARING YOUR FABRIC:

    It is important to locate the centre of your fabric so that you can centre the design on it.  To find the centre, fold the fabric in half and then in half again, the centre of the fabric is located where the folds intersect.  To mark the centre point make a small dot with a Water Soluble Pen.

    Every chart lists the finished size of the cross stitch design.  Add at least 8cm (3”) all around the design area for framing or more if your finishing technique requires it.

    DO NOT wash your fabric before you use it. Washing will tighten up the holes and make stitching on the fabric more difficult as the squares become harder to see.

    Embroidery hoops are especially helpful if you are a beginner. See below for a step-by-step on how to easily insert your fabric into an embroidery hoop.


    HOW TO USE AN EMBROIDERY HOOP:



    Loosen the screw or nut on the outer embroidery hoop and separate the inner and outer rings. The outer ring will hold the fabric over the inner ring once you have inserted the fabric.



    Place the inner ring on a flat surface. Place your fabric over it, then put the outer ring over the fabric and press until the bottom ring is snug inside the outer ring.  Tug the corners of the fabric slightly to make the fabric taunt – make sure this is as tight as possible so the fabric won’t slip out of the hoop.

     


    Tighten the nut or screw securely. Your fabric is now in place and ready to stitch.

    TIP: Never leave your work in the hoop for an extended period of time. This can cause creases in the fabric that are difficult to remove. It is best to take your work out of the hoop when you’re not working on it, as it only takes a moment to place it back in the hoop.


    PREPARING YOUR NEEDLE

    To thread your needle it is easiest to use the DMC Needle Threader. To use the DMC Needle Threader, slide the eye of the needle onto the hook, then loop the thread on the hook and pass the hook through the eye of the needle and pull the thread through.



    Here are some other ways to thread your needle without the assistance of a threader.



    Pinch and Poke

    Pinch and Poke – Cut a clean end of thread and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger, leaving only a little of the end exposed. Holding the needle in your other hand, “poke” the eye of the needle over the tip and the thread into the eye, then pull the thread through. Pinching the thread gives you more control to guide the thread into the eye. You may have to “saw” the eye of the needle back and forth slightly to get the thread to enter the eye.



    Loop, Pinch and Press          

    Loop, Pinch and Press – Loop the end of thread over the eye of the needle and pinch the loop tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Remove the needle from the loop and press the eye of the needle down over the thread. Pull on the loop to get the thread through the eye of the needle.

     TIP: Make sure your hands and work surface are kept clean while you’re stitching. Make it a habit to wash your hands before you begin to stitch and keep drinks and snacks away from the area.
    STARTING
     
    To create beautiful cross stitch designs, DMC recommends starting your stitching with one the methods described below.


    IN LINE WASTE KNOT METHOD
     
    This “beginners” starting technique is best used to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design. Knot the end of your thread and take your needle from the front to the back about 2.5cm (1”) or so from your starting point running the thread along the same line you plan to stitch. Bring the needle up to the front of the fabric at the starting point of your first cross stitch.  Start stitching towards the knot, being sure to cross over the thread on the back with each stitch to secure it. When your stitching reaches the knot, pull the knot up and clip it off close to the fabric and continue stitching.



     


    AWAY KNOT METHOD

    Another easy way to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design is the Away Knot.  Knot the end of the thread and take your needle from the front side onto the back several inches away from your starting point and start stitching. When you finish stitching with that thread, pull the knot up and clip it off. Turn your work over, re-thread the needle with the remaining thread and weave the thread through several stitches on the back to secure it.



     

    STITCHING OVER METHOD
     
    Pull your threaded needle up onto the front side of the fabric, leaving a 2.5cm (1”) end of thread on the back. Hold the end of thread against the back of the fabric in the direction you plan to stitch and work the first 4 to 5 stitches over it to secure it into place.  Be sure to check the back to confirm that your stitches are covering the thread and clip any loose ends before continuing to stitch.

     Once you have started a project, you can secure new threads by weaving the thread under several adjacent stitches on the back and continue stitching.

    TIP:  DMC recommends that you start stitching the design in the centre of the fabric and work outwards towards the edges.  Beginners and all stitchers alike, it’s best to start in the centre and avoid a costly miscalculation only to find that you’ve run out of fabric to finish stitching the design.

    STITCHING CROSS STITCH
     
    The cross stitch is worked in horizontal rows from left to right. To make a cross stitch bring the needle up at point 1, lower left hole of one square of the fabric and down at point 2, upper right hole of one square of the fabric. Bring your needle back up at 3 down at 4, up at 5 down at 6. Complete the row. The return row is stitched right to left, make crosses by bringing the needle up at 9 and down at 10, up at 11 down at 12. Complete the return row and repeat the stitching sequence until the area is stitched as charted.


     

    TIPS:  

    When stitching make sure your stitches lie flat, if your thread becomes twisted while stitching, drop the needle and allow the needle to hang freely. The thread will untwist by itself.

    - Make sure all your stitches are crossed in the same direction.
    - Keep your tension and the stitches even while cross stitching the design.
    - Work the design area first and any plain background last.
    - Work the darker colours first, and the lighter colours last.
    - Sometimes you'll stitch only a few stitches in an area, than jump to another area with that same colour thread. Jumping can be easier than stopping and starting, but when you carry the thread along the back it can show through the fabric. Only carry thread to another area if the jump is short and the thread is a light colour.


    ENDING A THREAD
     
    To end a thread, run your threaded needle under the last few stitches on the back of the fabric, and clip off the excess thread.  After rethreading the needle to continue, simply run the needle under several stitches on the back to secure the thread and resume stitching.



     
    HALF STITCH
         
    The half stitch is a simple diagonal stitch and is most commonly worked in horizontal rows. Usually when a design calls for a half stitch it is listed under a separate heading in the colour key and indicated on the chart by a diagonal coloured line. Some designers use half stitches in patterns sometimes as shading to create a sense of depth in a cross stitch picture.

    To stitch a half stitch, bring the needle up from the back of the fabric at 1, and down into 2. Up at 3 down at 4. Complete the row. The return row is stitched in reverse and stitched from the right to the left. Here the needle comes up at 11 and down at 12, then up at 13 and down at 14. Complete the return row and repeat the stitching sequence until the area is stitched as charted.




    FRACTIONAL STITCHES

     

    QUARTER STITCH

    To stitch a quarter stitch, bring the needle up from the lower left hole of the square of the fabric and down into the centre of the square.  Quarter stitches may be stitched from any corner of the Aida square.

    Tip: Use a smaller size needle when stitching quarter stitches. Do not pierce the fibres in the centre of the square. Wiggle the needle to shift the fibres and slip the needle between them.


    THREE QUARTER STITCH
     
    A three quarter stitch is most often done by stitching the short arm first, like a quarter stitch. It is completed with a half stitch to make the other two arms. To stitch a three-quarter stitch, first bring the needle up at the lower left hole of the square of the fabric and down into the upper right hole of the same square in the fabric.  Next, bring the needle up at from the lower right hole of the square of the fabric and down into the middle of the half stitch you created. Three-quarter stitches may be stitched in any direction.

    TIP: To make fractional stitches on Aida fabric can be made somewhat easier by using a small sized needle (number 26 or number 28).


     BACK STITCH
     
    The back stitch is worked from the right to the left. To start bring your needle up at 1 and back down at 2.  Move left and bring needle up at 3 and back down at 1. Continue the stitching sequence. A line on your design chart indicates a back stitch is needed. When there is a symbol over a square, and the symbol is the same on both sides of the backstitch symbol, make a cross stitch in that square, then add the backstitch last.

     

     
    FRENCH KNOTS

    The French Knot is used in many counted cross stitch designs to add extra detail or dimension. To make a French Knot bring the needle up at 1. Hold your thread taut with the other hand and wrap the thread twice around the end of the needle. Gently pull the thread so that the wrapped threads tighten and while holding it taut, insert the needle next to 1. Pull thread through onto the back until the knot is formed and lies securely on the surface. A bold dot on your design chart indicates a French Knot is needed.

    TIP: To make a larger knot, wrap the thread around the needle a couple of extra times or use a thicker thread.

    A Design Chart contains all the information you need to stitch your design. The chart lists what kind of thread to use, how many strands and the fabric type. A thread colour key shows you the symbols that correspond to each colour needed to stitch the design. The squares on the Design Chart correspond to the squares on the fabric, every square on the design chart that requires a stitch will contain a symbol. A Cross Stitch Pattern is a grid made up of tiny squares, each square on the grid represents a square of Aida fabric. Grid lines are usually darker in 10 x 10 sections to make reading the pattern, counting the stitches, and keeping your place much easier. Cross Stitch patterns also have arrows to indicate the centre of the design. It is important that you centralize your design. To find the centre of the design, follow the four arrows found on the outside edge of the chart. They will intersect at the middle point. Cross stitch charts can be in colour or black and white. The symbols on the chart will tell you if a cross is needed, or a fractional stitch is needed. Let’s go over what these symbols could look like.

    Cross Stitch: A full cross stitch is required if the symbol takes up the entire square or if the whole square is filled with a colour.

    Half Stitch: In a colour chart the stitch would be represented as half of a square. In a black and white chart a diagonal slash going from one edge to the opposite edge is often used.

    Three Quarter Stitches: In a colour chart the stitch would be represented as a triangle. In a black and white chart a miniature symbol is frequently used.

    Quarter Stitch: In a colour chart the stitch would be represented as a diagonal line coming halfway to the centre of the square. In a black and white chart the stitch would be represented as a miniature symbol coming to the centre of the square. Sometimes two small symbols in one square indicate that two quarter stitches, in different colours, are needed in that square of Aida fabric.

    A line on your design chart indicates a back stitch is needed. A bold dot indicates where a French Knot is

    needed.