Posted in How To, Tips and Tricks

How do you teach someone to cross stitch? Part 4 – Patterns, Projects and Stitching

Hi Everyone

We’re now getting to the fun part of teaching someone to cross stitch! Well, fun in my opinion anyways! In this part of the series we’re going to take a look at pattern choices, starting a cross stitch project and the different ways to do cross stitch.

I’ve always loved the prospect of starting something new and seeing something new come out of a blank canvas. I love the different options available to us regarding fabric, patterns and the tools of the trade. It may be part of why it takes me a while to fully finish a project, because there are so many options out there and I want to stitch them all! But I digress…

Choosing a pattern or a kit

By now, I hope that you and your student have gotten to know each other and you know what their interests abilities are, which will enable both of you to pick out a pattern that will suit them and keep them interested long enough to finish it.

For someone who is completely new to cross stitch, it would be best for them to start with a kit, because the majority of what they need will be in the kit – i.e. fabric, threads, a needle and most importantly, the pattern. The question is…which one when there’s so much to choose from?

Patterns and kits for kids

When kids are concerned, the simplest pattern design with a few different colours is probably the best one to go with. Because it has at best, 3 to 4 different symbols on a chart they need to worry about and the simple design means that the chart should be easy enough for them to read.

Examples of simple patterns and kits for kids include the following:

Image from the website – Designed by Dimensions

According to the website, this Unicorn Poop Emoji kit comes with everything, including 11 count Aida, the black hoop we see in the picture and all of the things needed to complete the project. This particular kit I think ticks alot of the boxes for kids these days because it’s poop! Also, in Australia at the moment, the unicorn theme has been strong and emojis seem to be here to stay, so why not embrace them?!

Baker Ross Wooden Flower Cross Stitch Keyring Kits for Beginners (Pack of 5) Embroidery For Kids – images from the Amazon UK site

These particular kits are from the UK Amazon site and they could be a fantastic way of introducing kids to cross stitch and embroidery. With these kits, there’s no pattern they have to follow. The holes are already drilled into the wood. All the kids need to do is decide what colours they want to use where because the kit comes with the threads and needle.

Scrolling through the Net…

Another idea is to jump onto the Net and have a scroll through some different websites that may spark some inspiration. The website for example, has a couple of pages dedicated to kits that can be stitched by kids. Meanwhile, The Fox Collection has some pages on kids crafts and mini kits that could be of interest.

Patterns and kits for teenagers and adults

If your student is a bit older, then you have a bit more wriggle room for options in design. This is a lot to do with the complexity in the designs and your student’s potential ability to more patience and time to sit down and work on the project. It also means that your older student may be able to cope with a larger count size – e.g. 14, 16 or 18 count.

Personally, I’ve found the Country Threads patterns and kits by Fiona Jude to be absolutely awesome. The patterns are easy to read and they are comfortable size to work on. Meaning, it took me an average of three months to complete one of Country Threads patterns and that’s all the while working full time and in many circumstances, studying online part-time as well. The other thing that attracts me to the Country Threads designs is that there’s little to no backstitch and it’s a mix of full cross stitch and half stitch (aka tent stitch) and some patterns may require some French Knots.

Subversive cross stitch

This is something that may be of interest for teenagers and adults who may be more into quotes or words rather than images. The main challenges in this case, will be deciding on which font to use, how much swearing there is and which quote or word fits best with your student! Because the Internet and the stitching community has fully embraced subversive cross stitch and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon!

On a related note to the swearing, even if there isn’t any swearing in actual pattern, there may be a bit of swearing as the stitching commences because of the number of times that you or your student stabs themselves with the needle, the amount of un-picking that may happen and figuring out where you or they are on the pattern!

If you and you’re student still aren’t sure on what to stitch because nothing’s really jumped out at them, another idea is that your student could try designing their own pattern. All you and your student need is some graph paper and some colour pencils and some creativity and imagination to bring it to life!

A kit has been chosen…Now what?

Hemming the edges of the fabric*. Washing the fabric and threads*. Finding the middle of the fabric. Sorting or organising the threads*. Getting the rest of your supplies together. Understanding the pattern.

*These things are optional and may suit the preferences of you or your student. Personally, I’ve been really lucky with the threads I’ve used from kits and purchased individually either online or instore. When I have washed my project after completion, none of my threads have run and adversely affected the project. I have read in different forums that for some people, their threads have run and had a negative impact on their projects. Additionally, in some kits, the threads may not be as organised as you or your student need them to be.

Finding the centre of your fabric

The main times I bring out my iron and ironing board is to do something with cross stitch! When I’m finding the centre of my fabric, I prefer to iron out my fabric so that it’s as flat as possible because of the way it’s initially been folded and stored in my collection. By doing this, I know that I’ll be able to easily fold up my fabric in half and then half again, then run the iron over it while it’s folded up, so that I can cleanly see the centre.

The clip below by Stitcherista shows you what I mean…

‘Cross Stitch 101 – Finding the center of your fabric’ by Stitcherista – uploaded to Youtube on 9 October 2018

Additionally, if your student wants to use a hoop while stitching, the clip below by Spot Colours, will show them how to find the centre of their fabric and how to put it into the hoop…

‘Cross Stitch – How to Find the Center and Hoop’ by Spot Colours – Uploaded to YouTube on 22 June 2017

Hoops, Qsnaps and Frames

It’s important to note that depending on the size of the project your student is working on, that the size of the hoop, qsnap or frame will have a large impact on how well the fabric fits. For example, the smaller the size of the fabric, the smaller the tool you use to keep the tension. This may also depend on personal preference and what your student is able to use.

Personally, I have always used hoops of various sizes and I’ve recently started using a stand to hold the hoop.

Understanding the pattern

The first time your student sees the cross stitch pattern, it may look really confusing to them. Thankfully, some patterns have colours on them to make it easier to see the different areas they need to stitch with the different threads. However, if it’s a black and white pattern with a series of symbols, helping your student understand that each symbol represents a different colour in the key will be crucial. The YouTube clip below by Love Crafts shows people in a really easy and simple way how to understand and read a pattern, to enable them to start stitching:

‘How to read a cross stitch pattern for beginners’ by Love Crafts – uploaded to YouTube on 14 October 2019

Tip – Drawing the symbols from the pattern on the thread sorter

One of the things that may help – regardless of your student’s age – is to go through the key and draw the symbols on the thread sorter (if the kit came with one). I’ve found this to be really useful for some of the Dimensions kits I’ve worked on due to the way the chart and key have been written up.

Symbols I have hand drawn on the card sorter that came with a kit

Starting to stitch…

The earlier clip by Love Crafts shows people one of the ways that they can start stitching a pattern. What you will need to show your student is what they will need to do with their thread so that it doesn’t accidentally come straight through the hole of the fabric.

Floss, cotton and strands

You and your student will find that the majority of patterns and projects will require it to be stitched with two strands of cotton (aka floss). To help put things into perspective, the image below shows that the floss can be split into 6 individual threads or grouped into 3 lots of 2.

Image shows that floss can be grouped into three lots of 2 strands.

The Loop Start Method

This relates to the way the amount of strands you or your student has pulled out of the cotton and the way it has been threaded into the needle. For the loop method to be most effective, you or your student will need to pull out just one strand and then fold it in half, so that ends meet up evenly. The clip below by Mr X Stitch explains the loop method really well:

‘Start your cross stitch with the Loop Technique’ by Mr X Stitch – uploaded to YouTube on 18 July 2018

Personally, I love the loop method if I’m using two strands on a project. It makes the back of the project a lot neater and I find it to be a fantastic anchor for the first few stitches. The caveat with using this method though is that it’s only useful if I need to use two strands of floss.

Finishing off your crosses and changing colours

You may need to help your student with the first time they go to finish off their crosses in accordance with the pattern or because they’ve run out of enough thread on their needle. The aim is to fully finish the cross and then flip the project over so that you’re looking at the back of the project. Then have the needle move between the fabric and some of the crosses that have just been stitched. I’ve found this to be a very neat way of finishing the crosses and it helps to secure them. To put this into perspective, the clip below by Rainbowlune, shows us how to just this:

“How to Finish a Thread – Cross Stitch” by Rainbowlune – uploaded to YouTube on 23 February 2013

Meanwhile, changing colours is reasonably easy in cross stitch. The difficulty sometimes is deciding which colour to do next or threading the needle – depending on the size of the eye of the needle! The way that your student would start off and finish on a new colour is very much the same as they would with any other colour.

Which way to stitch – left to right, up and down, right to left, cross country or parking

If you’ve been stitching for a while, you’ll hopefully know what I mean by this heading! When you’re chatting with your student, you will be able to work with them to find out what is most comfortable for them and what the pattern allows you to do too.

Stitching left to right and right to left (aka horizontal cross stitch)

This predomenantly means that the first half of the stitches will be done left to right – just like when we’re writing something. Once we’ve reached the designated number of stitches, we then complete the crosses by stitching right to left.

Meanwhile, the stitching right to left is when you start the first half of the crosses by moving right to left and then completing the crosses by moving left to right.

To help put this into perspective, the clip below by Peacock and Fig help to put these words into motion by showing you the English and Danish methods of cross stitch (aka left to right/right to left or one cross at a time):

“Cross Stitch Techniques: English method and Danish method of cross stitch” by Peacock and Fig – posted to YouTube on 4 April 2017

Stitching up and down (aka vertical cross stitch)

This way of stitching may depend a little bit on the pattern your student may be working on. Personally, I’ve found it easiest to stitch the full cross before I move above or below the first cross. To help explain what I’m talking about, check out the clip below:

“Full Cross Stitch Vertical” by – posted on YouTube on 8 August 2008

Cross Country and Parking

The good thing with cross country cross stitch is that we don’t need to leave our chairs to do this. The main exertion with this method is keeping track of where you are on the pattern!

The aim of cross country cross stitch is to stitch as much as possible of the pattern with the one colour and where possible, using the same strand without the stopping and starting. This can make the picture look a bit pixelated or scattered. Below is an image on how cross country stitching looks on a project:

Example of cross country stitching

Meanwhile, the parking method means that your student may prefer to read the pattern line by line, like they are reading a book, and stitch each symbol on that line. This will mean a lot of threading the needle with different colours as the pattern requires it. The benefit of using the parking method is that the thread will be ready when your student next reaches the corresponding symbol on the pattern.

To help put this into perspective, the clip below will show you and your student what cross country stitching and parking looks like on a project and which methods may be most effective on which projects.

“Cross Country vs Blocks with Parking” by Pam’s Crafty Corner – uploaded to YouTube on 18 January 2017

Deep breath… you’ve finished your project, now what?

This post was surprisingly challenging to put together, which is something I had never expected! I think a lot of it has to do with cross stitch being so much of a hands-on activity, that to just write about how to do cross stitch doesn’t do the activity justice! Which is why I think that there are so many more videos out there on how to cross stitch than there are written posts.

My next post in this series will hopefully be a little shorter. In the next post of this series we’ll be looking at the finishing touches of your student’s project, which may include back-stitching, the inclusion of some beads or special stitches. There may also be questions about whether it’s worth washing the project before your student then completely finishes it.

Thank you for sticking with me during this post and the series so far!

Until next time, happy stitching!

Related resources:

Posted in Uncategorized

Are you a consistently inconsistent stitcher?

Have you ever found yourself stitching one block of 10 stitches row by row then the next block cross country style? Alternatively, have you started a project with the aim of using the parking method, only to find that you’re getting bored and are jumping all over the place with your colours? Are you then finding that the way that you’re stitching your crosses varies from one area of the pattern to the next? For example, for one colour you may stitch it row by row like the diagram below, and then the next colour you stitch it one cross at a time like the second image below?

As I’ve been stitching Dimensions Four Seasons Kittens (pictured below), the phrase ‘consistently inconsistent’ has come to my mind quite a lot. It stems from a variety of things in the pattern. For example, some areas call for three threads of one colour to be stitched as half stitch (aka tent stitch), while other half or full cross stitches may have one white thread and one light green thread. The brilliant thing is that this works! It adds a brilliant texture to the overall picture and highlights different areas that the traditional two stranded half or full crosses wouldn’t normally provide.

Four Seasons Kittens as of 14 April 2019
Autumn kittens are complete on the left hand side and the winter kittens are making progress. At the moment it's quite clear that there will be two kittens looking out the window because of the snow. They are framed by the window, holly and some birds.
Four Seasons Kittens as of 25 October 2019

However, I have increasingly found myself stitching the full crosses or half stitches in a variety of ways to see if it makes any difference with the way the stitches sit on the fabric. This is where I’ve started thinking more and more about the way that I stitch and the impact it may be having on the final picture.

To show you what I mean, Dana from Peacock and Fig posted a YouTube clip on 4 April 2017, showing us the English and Danish methods of cross stitch. Until now, I’ve been unknowing using both methods interchangeably throughout all of my cross stitch projects:

Following this clip by Peacock and Fig, below is close up of an area of the Four Seasons Kittens (front and back) where I’ve used used the Danish and English style of cross stitch interchangeably:

Image highlights sections of the cross stitch project where I have used the Danish and English style of cross stitch.
Back view of the project
Image highlights sections of the cross stitch project where I have used the Danish and English style of cross stitch.
Front view of the project

The more I’ve thought about being consistently inconsistent and looking into what it means, I’ve found that as far as cross stitch is concerned, it’s okay to be regularly mixing things up. Because I’m still doing cross stitch, it just happens to be that the way I do my stitches may be a little inconsistent to the norm. But it keeps things interesting for me. For the most part, I’m able to keep the motivation going and trying to keep the crosses as uniformed (shape wise) as possible.

What are you wanting to achieve?

As part of reading up on being consistently inconsistent, it has led me to wonder what I’ve wanted to achieve as part of my style of stitching (let alone other areas of my life that are like this)? As I’ve touched on earlier, my aim is to stitch my stitches whichever way works best for me, whilst trying to ensure that they are as uniformed as I can make them. Additionally, I just like stitching and I’m going do continue to do it in a way that works best for me!

Consistently inconsistent or boredom?

I have wondered if the consistently inconsistency has anything to do with boredom or the inability to focus on one project for an extended period of time? Additionally, I appreciate the phrase ‘consistently inconsistent’ seems redundant and strange to say considering what cross stitch is all about! I do however, find that I get bored with a project after a while and lose my focus and my eyes start to wander. I start thinking about the other projects I have in my collection and what I want to do with them. It’s not just boredom though. I’ve found that it can be seasonal. For example, when I know that someone’s birthday is coming up or an event such as Christmas, I’m thinking about presents and cards for people.

Flosstube has a huge influence as well! Some of the projects that people are working on look awesome! This is my inspiration at times to continue working on existing projects or purchase/start a new one.

I guess that at the end of the day, the important thing is to keep stitching, regardless of which way you go about it and how many projects you have on rotation!

Until next time, happy stitching!