Every cross stitcher inevitably runs into situations where they get frustrated with their beloved hobby. Whether the reason is knots forming on the back of their project or a hard to follow pattern, these small problems can keep even the seasoned stitcher from progressing at a good pace with their work.
Whatever level you are on, here are seven simple ideas you can use to improve your finished work and your morale during your stitching time:
- Use Highlighters to Mark Where You Left Off
- Use Multiple Needles of Varying Sharpness
- Determine the ‘Front’ and ‘Back’ Side of Your Fabric
- Examine Your Aida
- Apply Thread Conditioner to Prevent Knots Forming on the Back
- Use Fusible Interfacing Before Framing
- Make Use of Cross Stitch Size Calculators and Color Converters
- Bonus Tip
1. Use Highlighters to Mark Where You Left Off
If you are working on a large pattern that is difficult to follow, there are two things that will make your endeavor so much easier: a couple of highlighters, and a solid method of marking.
Make a working copy of your chart, and grab two highlighters: yellow and blue are best. Now look at your chart and mark a portion of no more than 50 stitches with your yellow highlighter. This is the area you’ll be stitching in the next half hour or so.
Start stitching away, and complete all stitches on your fabric from your marked area. When you are done, put your needle aside and grab your blue highlighter. Mark over your yellow section with the blue highlighter, turning this area green and thus marking it complete. Magical, isn’t it?
Yellow and blue markers work best for black and white charts, but if your cross stitch pattern is colored and these colors are not strong enough to make your markings stand out, feel free to use other color combinations. Using pink and blue together yields purple, while yellow and pink combined results in orange.
DON’T drop your highlighter on your fabric
2. Use Multiple Needles of Varying Sharpness
If you find it difficult to do quarter stitches on Aida, that’s perfectly normal. The smaller the stitch count, the harder you will find it to glide your needle through the woven fabric.
What you can do in these situations is to grab another, smaller and sharper needle. Let’s call this your assisting needle. So take this assisting needle and make a hole in your fabric where the quarter stitch should go.
While the needle is still in the hole, move it a bit from side to side to ease up the threads in your fabric, then pull out your assisting needle. Now the stubborn fabric is much looser, and will allow you to go in with your regular needle with more ease.
DON’T misplace your assisting needle when not in use, or accidentally ‘finding’ it can be a painful experience
3. Determine the ‘Front’ and ‘Back’ Side of Your Fabric
Did you know that some cross stitch fabrics have a face (or front) side, and a back (or inner) side? Sometimes it’s just an instinct to tell the right side from the wrong side, but they do exist.
It is not always immediately obvious especially on plain white Aida, but on certain cross stitch cloths you can tell the difference by looking at the selvage of the fabric. If the pinholes on the selvage are neat and smooth, you are looking at the front side of the fabric.
If for some reason your fabric does not have the selvage anymore, here are a few other ways you can tell which side should face up when you lay your stitches down:
- it is easier for the needle to find the hole on one side than the other
- when the two sides of your fabric are different, the slightly mottled look will be the front, while the solid color will be the inner side of the fabric
- a close look in a good light will identify the side that looks smoother and clearer, while the other side might look or feel just a tiny bit rougher
- if your fabric has been treated with a special finishing, the side that presents this distinction will be the face of the fabric
- the front is sometimes shinier than the inner side of the textile, and the color of the textile might look a bit duller on the back
DON’T stress over the right or wrong side of the fabric if you already made a bunch of stitches following a sampler. If it looks good, just roll with it!
4. Examine Your Aida
Blemishes & Imperfections in the Fabric
Not all fabrics have been created equal, and even a top quality fabric made by the best manufacturers on the market can present small blemishes or tiny imperfections.
Always inspect your entire fabric piece carefully before you start stitching, and if you see something that cannot be covered, just turn your fabric over and use the other side. And remember: don’t stress over the right or wrong side of the fabric!
Cross Stitch Chart and Fabric Orientation
Does your beautiful new cross stitch sampler require you to do a lot of horizontal or vertical stitching? If you plan to stitch your project on something other than plain white Aida, look at your fabric carefully.
Especially noticeable on fiddler’s fabric, the pattern generally runs horizontally or vertically. For this reason, you may want to turn the direction of your fabric to adjust the direction of the fabric’s pattern to your chart.
Do this extra step before you cut your cloth to size, and it will help greatly in achieving a consolidated look of your finished piece. With just a few seconds extra diligence from you, your fabric can better accommodate a project that may have significantly more vertical or horizontal stitching.
DON’T discard an old piece of fabric with noticeable imperfections. Save it for a full-coverage stitch pattern or place your sampler strategically to cover the blemishes on your fabric.
5. Use a Thread Conditioner to Avoid Knots on the Back
Turning your project over after every pass just to avoid knots on the back of your Aida is tedious to say the least. You can keep your knots in check if you pull the floss, then feel it at the back with your fingertips each time you lay down a stitch.
Furthermore, you can strengthen your thread and avoid big loops of it being wasted by using a thread conditioner.
My favorite method for conditioning is applying beeswax on the thread before use. Beeswax is a natural alternative to silicone-based conditioners, and will stop your thread from fraying or knotting so easily.
If you’re anything like me and love mixing your own supplies, read Anne’s DIY article about home-made thread conditioners over at Pumora. She describes the process really well and explains which type of beeswax is good for this purpose.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to go through this little adventure, here is one ready-made that you can purchase on Amazon, having a large number of good reviews.
DON’T use a beeswax substitute, and not beeswax mixed with paraffin. Paraffin makes the wax flaky and can ruin your beautiful work. Always buy the 100% organic beeswax for this purpose.
6. Use Fusible Interfacing on Your Needlework
Interfacing is an additional layer applied to the back side of your needlework to add firmness and extra support. They come in two main types: fusible and sew-in, fusible being the easiest option to use on Aida.
This type of interfacing has an adhesive on one side, and can be applied with the use of an iron. The bumpy, sometimes a little shiny side of the interfacing gets ironed to the back side of your finished cross stitch needlework. When applying heat and steam, the adhesive bonds with your Aida and helps thread ends on the back of your project stay in place.
Here’s a quick video to demonstrate how to apply fusible interfacing to your fabric:
DON’T mix up the two sides of the interfacing. Read the instructions on the packaging to avoid glue sticking to your iron.
7. Make Use of Cross Stitch Size Calculators and Color Converters
Have you ever considered creating a project only from leftover bits and pieces from previous cross stitch endeavors? This is a great, money-saving idea if you have a basket full of threads, fabric and frames that have no clear purpose.
Free up some space in your craft basket by acquiring smaller cross stitch samplers, and accommodating them to the materials you have at hand. To make this process work, here are a few online tools you can use to help adjust the pattern to the desired size, color or material:
Floss Conversion Charts
- DMC to Anchor Conversion Chart
- DMC to Weeks Dye Works Floss Conversion Chart
- DMC to J&P Coats Cotton Floss
- DMC to Sullivans Conversion Chart
- DMC to Puppets Color Chart
Fabric Size Calculators
DON’T just grab random objects from your basket, start stitching and hope for the best. Use the calculators above to plan ahead and create something that looks like it was meant to exist, rather than an obvious upcycle project
8. Bonus Tip: Use a Lighted Magnifier
Do you have a habit of stitching in the evenings? Or does your room lack natural light, especially on those gloomy, rainy days? A lighted magnifier similar to this one can make a huge difference in your stitching experience and needlework quality.
It will significantly reduce eye strain and allow you to comfortably stitch on a 28 count Aida, even if you’re not blessed with a 20/20 vision. If you do a lot of needlework, gadgets like this can save you a lot of frustration and allow you to enjoy the fine detail work in other craft projects too.
DON’T invest in gadgets and tools early on. Be sure you actually need them before you buy