If part 1 sounded like a lot to think about, don’t worry. My advice is to go and purchase a kit. These are sold all over the web and at most craft shops. The picture on the front shows the finished image and often gives an idea of difficulty. Inside you’ll usually find (but check on the back of the packet) a needle, a piece of aida the right size, silks all the colours you’ll need and the chart. The chart will be a picture of the image you’ll be stitching, made up of lots of symbols. These symbols will appear somewhere on a key, which tells you which number of thread to use. I find it handy to check every so often that the symbol, code and thread not only match each other, but the picture too. It’s not unknown for there to be a small typo on the pattern and for you to colour the sky in pink. If you buy a kit, you’ll only need to make sure you have scissors and maybe a frame. They start out very cheaply and vary enormously in style, size and difficulty. I’d recommend starting with something small and with a few colours. Samplers can be a good first project, and usually were a girl’s learning piece in ‘Ye Olde times’.
You can also buy the charts on their own. These are much cheaper and some can be downloaded free, but you will have to source your own aida and threads, based on what the pattern recommends. If you do go down this route, thread conversion charts can be found all over the web which tell you which companies’ threads are equivalent to each other. This means you can use an Anchor chart and sew it with DMC threads without ending up with odd colour combinations.
Stitchers, start your engines…
So, you have your kit, you have a cup of tea (or wine, I don’t judge) and you have a sofa on a wet day. How on earth do you get started?
The first thing to go is find your centre. No, not your spiritual centre, the middle of your project. If you look at the chart, you’ll most likely find 4 arrows or heavier lines pointing to the centre of your chart. Get a ruler and a pencil and make a little mark in centre square so you know where this is without having to work it out 4 times because David Boreanaz took his top off in Bones and you got distracted. Learn from my mistakes people. Next, you find the centre of the aida. You can do this by folding the aida into quarters and putting a little pencil mark in the centre, like me. Or, if you’re doing it properly, count the little holes until you find the centre and do a big running stitch all the way down, then turn it round and do the other side so you get a big cross with ‘x’ marks the spot. I prefer to draw on my aida, but remember to make this bit the back!
Next you need a piece of thread. Take the little wrap of embroidery thread and find an end. Holding the wrap in one hand by the loops, gently pull out about 20-24” of thread from the wrap. In theory, this will come smoothly and easily but in reality you may need to take the paper bits off and untangle the thread.
Once you have your cut piece, take a look at the thread. It’s made up of 6 smaller threads. You only need 2 of these. Fray the ends out and take hold of one of these little threads. Now, holding the rest of the string, pull that thread straight out. It should slide out, pulling its friends behind it until it pops clear. Now do that again and put your 2 threads back together. Keep the remaining thread safe and together. Now is a great time to use your thread sorter!
Once you’ve finished with a colour and need to change to another, turn your work over and sew your remaining thread under a couple of stitches, then snip.
Congratulations, you’re cross stitching!
There are lots of fun things you can do with cross stitch. I’m now staring to design my own charts. For this, all you need is some grid paper - just fill in the grid squares in different colours to make your shapes. You can use parts of charts you already own to enhance your own designs, and you can use software to help you. Some even convert photos into cross stitch charts!
Beads can also be added to your ‘top’ stitch to give some more decoration to your work, and there are kits available which include these.
You can use cross stitch to make gifts and enhance other craft works. Embroidery on bed linen, towels and clothes can really add a wow-factor and items like cushions, book marks or even simple pictures, framed can be beautiful gifts. There are 1001 books around to give you ideas, but once you get going you can cross stitch anything!
I’m planning on adding some embellishment through cross stitch to a pashmina I’m buying for my Mother in Law this Christmas!