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Cross Stitch Gridlines Tutorial

I've written this tutorial as an aid to cross stitchers who want to be able to mark their fabric for ease of counting. This is the method I use to mark my fabric for particularly difficult pieces.

I know that there is a lot of flash bounce/washed out color in the photos: the next project I have that is conducive to re-taking these photographs will see this tutorial re-done. (It is also very difficult to photograph your own hands!)

The pieces that appear in the photographs, for those who are curious, are, from the top down:
Fencer Keychains: [link]
Emerald Mermaid: [link]
Regal Blue: [link]

This is a tutorial was originally written several years ago, and appears in the archives of the LiveJournal cross stitch community: [link] Though under a different user name and on a different site, both tutorials are my own work, written and photographed by me. I am not plagiarizing myself.

6/11/2008: Uploaded a new version. Text remains mostly unchanged: I added a note about thread conditioner (which I forgot the first time) and fixed the formatting to make it nicer-looking. Many thanks to ^znow-white, *sleepinglynx, *cl2007, *StudioHarajuku, and all the people in #ArtisanCrafts who offered critique on this tutorial!!
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Cross Stitch "How To Keep Your Back Neat" Tutorial

I've written this tutorial as an aid to cross stitchers who have trouble keeping the back of their work neat. A neat back not only looks nice, but improves your stitching: it is easier to remove mistakes and it minimizes bulk, helping your piece to lie flat when finished. Though I've tried to write so that everyone can understand, this tutorial does assume a basic familiarity with cross stitching, and is not meant to teach the craft from scratch.

For anyone who is curious, the piece I've used for this example is dA Emoticon: Wink/Razz: [link]

Please feel free to ask questions!!!
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The ABC's of Cross Stitch

A: Aida, evenweave and linen are the most common types of fabric used for cross stitch.  Aida cloth is woven with the threads grouped into definite blocks, forming a pattern of "squares" and "holes"; stitches are formed over the blocks by passing the needle through the holes.  Evenweave refers to fabric where threads are woven singly - the "even" part of the term refers to the fact that the number warp and weft (horizontal and vertical) threads is the same - no skipping over threads to form a "design" in the fabric.  Evenweave threads can have some small variation of thickness, though it is not as extreme as linen, in which "slubs" (varying thickness across a single thread) are characteristic of the weave.  Cross stitch can also be done on silk gauze, perforated paper or plastic, or on "regular" fabric with the use of waste canvas.

B: Breaks are important!  Be sure to sit up and stretch, and to rest your eyes and hands.  Stitching can be very addictive, so be sure to take measures to avoid a stitching-related stress injury.  Lap- and floor-stands exist in many styles to hold your needlework at an ideal height, and there are many styles of lamps with flexible necks to put the light where you need it.  Support gloves and wrist braces can aid those with weak and/or arthritic hands.  Remember to stretch your back and hands occasionally - your body will thank you for it.

C: Cleanliness is super-important!  Always wash your hands before handling your fabric and threads, and wash your finished piece at the very end.  Even if your work looks clean, you probably haven't noticed that the oils from your skin and dust from your environment have worked their way into your materials.  Washing will bring out the true beauty of your piece.

D: Details, details, details!  Don't shy away from backstitch or French knots or Algerian eyes or bullion bars because you think it's hard.  Oftentimes these small details are what really makes a piece pop, and any technique can be mastered with practice.

E: Enjoy what you're doing!  Stitching is something you should do for fun, and you can lose sight of that in the midst of a difficult piece.  Remember to sit back and remind yourself that you are stitching because you want to, not because you have to.  Don't be afraid to put a piece aside in favor of something easier: you can always come back to it later, and every stitcher has at least one unfinished piece hiding in a closet.

F: Finishing can really make or break a piece.  I prefer to have my framing professionally done with museum-quality materials: it is expensive, but worth the cost to preserve the piece for years to come.  If you choose to frame a piece yourself, take the time to properly clean, iron and center your work; nothing ruins a beautiful piece than poor finishing.  Framing is, of course, not the only option: stitching can be used in pillows, cards, table linens, or stitched "just for the heck of it" and put into storage until you decide what to do with it.

G: Gridlines can be marked on your fabric, to help with counting.  Some stitchers use water-erasable fabric marking pens; if you do, be sure to read the instructions very carefully, as some inks can become permanent and thus ruin your piece.  I personally prefer to baste my gridlines in with thread; the process can be time-consuming, but the thread will not permanently mar your fabric the way ink can.  Tutorial linked below.

H: Hand- and over-dyed fabrics and threads are materials that have had an additional dye treatment on top of the base color, often yielding a marbled or variegated effect.  Hand-dyed materials can add a great depth and interest to a piece, but should be treated carefully: the additional dye can bleed upon washing, though it is uncommon.  If dye does bleed, keep rinsing the piece in cold water until all the dye runs off and the water runs clear.

I: Initial and date your piece!  A stitcher's version of signing your work is to backstitch your initials and the year on the piece itself; choose a subtle color and an unobtrusive corner of the design for placement.  You can also stitch below the design, such that the information is hidden by the frame, if you so desire.  In addition, I like to print out a label on my computer containing design information, starting/ending date, and a small dedication to the piece's recipient: the label I adhere to the back of the frame.

J: Jump into a project head first!  Don't get discouraged because something is meant for "advanced" stitchers...everyone started as a beginner.  Complicated designs just take a little extra patience, and a little practice.  Remember to go slowly, check your progress against your chart, and take a break to work on something else if you feel overwhelmed.

K: Knotting your thread on the back of your piece is a no-no: the knots create lumps under the stitching, making it appear uneven.  The proper way to secure your thread ends is to run them under the backs of completed stitches: I like to make sure my ends are secured by 4 to 6 stitches on the backs of my pieces.  Be careful, however: if you secure dark threads under light stitches, the dark can shine through the fabric, making your lighter colors look dirty.

L: Light!  Natural daylight is, of course, the best option for stitchers because it allows you to most accurately see subtle shades of color.  A daylight lamp is good too, and a bright incandescent bulb is better than nothing.  Make sure you have adequate light that you are not straining your eyes while you stitch: position your light source over the shoulder opposite your main stitching hand (over the left for right-handed stitchers, and vice-versa).

M: Mistakes can be "design opportunities".  Don't get discouraged because you mis-counted a whole section: look first at your pattern, and see if the mistake can be worked around.  Very often something that you thought was a mistake can end up looking better than what the designer had originally planned.

N: Needles.  Use a needle size appropriate to your work and comfortable in your hand.  The general is 24-gauge for 14 stitches-to-the-inch (14-count), 26-gauge for 16-count and 28-gauge for 18-count.  Change your needle after each project (or during, if it's a large project): with the constant motion of going through the fabric, your needle's surface gets worn.  A new needle will glide through your fabric more easily (and cause less damage to neighboring threads) than an old one.  Gold- and platinum-plated needles slide the best through fabrics, though the standard nickel-plated ones you can find in most stores work just fine.

O: Order your stitching!  That is, look at your pattern and form a plan in your mind as to how to approach it.  I like to work by color within an area, starting with the darks and working to the lights.  Try to keep your stitches going in the same direction as much as possible, such that the back of your work stays as neat as possible.

P: Practice new techniques on a scrap of fabric before trying them out on your masterpiece.  Nobody gets everything right the first time, and it is better to practice on a scrap than to continuously rip stitches out of your work piece - especially since you run the risk of weakening the fabric's weave if your ripping method is too harsh.

Q: Quality of your materials is important if you want your finished piece to last through the years.  I'm not saying that you have to buy $50-a-cut linen or $2-a-skein thread, but definitely take the time to explore your options.  If it looks and feels cheap, it probably is.  Consider too the intent of your stitching: are you making a bib that a baby will drool on, or a wedding announcement that will become a family heirloom?

R: Railroading is a technique used to help your threads lie flat so that your stitches appear "plump" and give the best fabric coverage; the same effect can be achieved through the use of a laying tool.  Tutorial linked below.

S: Scissors!  Sharp, fine-pointed scissors are an essential tool for clipping threads and thread ends: just be careful not to clip your fabric!  Some embroidery scissors come with curved blades, to help you maneuver around the edge of a hoop or frame.  Additionally, I keep one pair of scissors that I use only for metallic threads: these threads will dull your blades after a while, so I make sure not to cut them with my good scissors.  I prefer scissors with 3- to 4-inch blades.

T: Tension is important if you want even-looking stitches.  There are several ways of stretching your canvas, including hoops, scroll frames and stretcher bars.  Hoops (I prefer a brand called Q-Snaps, linked below) provide all-around tension, but you've got to be careful "hooping" over completed stitches, as you can crush them.  Scroll frames secure the fabric on top and bottom, allowing you to "scroll" to the part on which you want to work, however, the tension on the sides of the fabric can be loose/uneven.  Stretcher bars are what artists use to stretch canvas for painting: tension is great, providing that you've stretched your fabric evenly, but you've got to stretch the entire piece of fabric (which, when stitching a large piece, can be unwieldy).

U: Unraveling (fraying) fabric edges can lead to trouble: if your fabric frays too much, you may not have enough of a border to stretch for framing.  There are many ways to secure your fabric edges: some people use masking/painters tape, though it can leave a sticky residue that's hard to remove.  I prefer sewing a hem: this can be done with a serger, by using a zigzag stitch on a "regular" sewing machine, or by turning under and securing with hand stitching.  Fraying can be used to your advantage, however: evenly fray the edges of a small piece and glue it to some cardstock for a personalized greeting card.  A line of backstitching can help prevent the fabric from fraying too far, though you must still be careful.

V: Verify the size of your design before you select your fabric!  Just because a designer suggests you stitch with a certain stitch count, does not mean you are locked into using that size!  Be sure to calculate the design size by dividing the finished size in stitches (usually listed on the chart) by the count of your fabric (i.e., 14 stitches per inch).  Add at least three inches to the horizontal and vertical measurements to ensure that you have enough of a border for your finishing work.

W: Waste Canvas is designed to help you cross stitch on "normal" fabrics.  It's a great way to put a design on shirts, bags, table linens, etc.  Waste canvas is basted to the fabric, centered over where you want the design, and removed after stitching.  Tutorial linked below.

X: eXamine your finished piece carefully!  I find that, no matter how careful I am, cat hair always manages to sneak into my stitches.  It's quite easy to remove this annoyance with a pair of tweezers, just be careful not to tug on your stitches as you do so!

Y: Yarn, fuzzy floss, metallic braid, and silk ribbon are only some of the specialty fibers available to stitchers.  Do not be afraid to experiment with specialty threads: make Santa's beard fuzzy, or make the dragon's gold shine.  Specialty threads can be worked in conjunction with or instead of regular floss.

Z: Zero in on you stitch location, both on your chart and your fabric.  A highlighter or colored pencil can be useful for marking your chart with the stitches you've already done, which in turn can help prevent mistakes.  I like to make a photocopy of my chart that I mark up while working - that way I can always refer back to the original if one of my marks obstructs a symbol.
The ABC's of Cross Stitch

This is meant as a mini-introduction to cross stitch, targeted toward those who are new to the craft or want a bit more information. Everything presented herein comes from my own experience of being an avid stitcher for over 15 years, and a seamstress/crafter for almost 25 years (I'm not old; I started very young!!).

The text mentions some tutorials I've written, and which are linked here:

Cleaning & Ironing Tutorial: coming soon!
Gridlines Tutorial: [link]
Keeping Your Back Neat Tutorial: [link]
Railroading Tutorial: [link]
Waste Canvas Tutorial: coming soon!

Here are some resources, for materials I prefer. I am in no way affiliated with these companies, I just like their stuff:

Q-Snap Frames: [link]
Gripit Plus Floor Stands: [link]
DMC Embroidery Threads: [link]
Kreinik Specialty Threads: [link]
Charles Craft Fabrics: [link]
Wichelt Fabrics: [link]
Zweigart Fabrics: [link]

Please feel free to respond with comments, questions, etc.; I'm always happy to talk about my craft and to share what I know. If you're interested in learning how to stitch, and are having trouble, feel free to contact me as well, as I love to teach others.

5/31/2008: Edited to add a preview image. Text remains unchanged.
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The first in a series of 3 tutorials on embroidery. Only the last two are relevant to making the embroidered bag.

Oh, and I'm so sorry for the harsh language and time-wasting lunacy in this. For some reason, I started feeling a lot more serious when I was finishing the tutorial than when I started, so it's kind of lopsided.

Anyway, yeah. Lopsided.


Check this out! [link]


(if you make your own and would like me to link to them, leave a comment or note)


Tutorial 2 (HOW TO EMBROIDER): [link]

Tutorial 3 (HOW TO MAKE A BAG): [link]
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Alot of my purses you see in my gallery (that are made out of yarn) are made by the process of fingerweaving.

It was a pretty uneventful day at work.. So yeah, decided to take my stubby fingers out and try to take point and shoot pictures with a SLR... It didnt work too well.

Its pretty elementry and I learned it when I was younger so its great for little kids and school programs but you can really make some awesome things out of this mega thick yarn product you have.

If you combine 2-3 yarns you can get something thick enough to make a blanket out of..
I have this tie method that I use to make things secure and such which I will show you once I have created about 20 ft of what I want.. (yeah, you can get about 6ft of goodies in one sitting..)
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This tutorial is for transforming pixel art into a pattern for cross-stitch embroidery.

You easily make your own pixel art on the computer and then make a pattern of it, or use an existing one.

Have fun!

Made in GIMP

EDIT: Here is a net you can use [link] Fits to images magnified by 2000 %.
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I tried my best to explain how I use Photoshop to create custom (photo-realistic) embroidery patterns.

Let me know if you have any questions! :icondweebdanceplz:
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Massive image. Sorry. ^-^ All typos and lack of clarity are my fault, along with the crummy images. If you need any help, let me know and I will do my best! This is very chunky to knit/crochet with. It works well for bags, can cozies, and I suppose bracelets, if you want.

I make no claims at the original idea. I saw some examples of this at an art museum and decided to figure out how to do it.

Edit:: Aw, crumbles. Someone else submitted one of these today. My technique is slightly different then THIS ONE, but her tutorial is very good. Check them both out, and use whichever one you find easier. ^-^
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Second embroidery tutorial. The third will focus on how to make a bag from scratch.

Once again, apologies for the overall lack of professionalism. I've probably left out some stuff too...*sigh*. If you have any questions. Let me know, k?


Tutorial 1 (CUSTOM EMBROIDERY): [link]

Tutorial 3 (HOW TO MAKE A BAG): [link]
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I'm happy about the way this cross-stitch work turned out. However I always have the feeling that it could be better.

I made a lot of mistakes in the background and I hate when that happens! But finally it's done! :faint:

Hope you like it too! :D

* Time of work: 6 months
* 40 colors used
* Pattern from: Cross-stitch magazine "Quadros 34"

-- The back Side of this work can be seen here -- [link]
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