Posted in How To

How to kit up a cross stitch project from scratch

Hi Everyone

If you’re like me and started your love affair with cross stitch with kits helped a lot with learning to stitch and see the finished project. So, progressing to kitting up your next project yourself seems like the next logical step!

What you need

Some of these things may seem blatantly obvious, but can easily forgotten in the rush and excitement of starting a new project. I’ve also purposely not talked about scissors, lighting, stands, hoops, frames, needle minders or any other tools of the trade that can be used while stitching a project. If you are curious about these things, check out some of my previous posts!

The pattern

Many patterns, regardless of where you’ve gotten them from, have some really handy instructions for all stitchers. I strongly recommend you have a read through them, just in case there’s something special you need to pick up from your local craft store. The instructions will tell you what the stitch dimensions are of the finished piece and many of the designers will recommend what fabric size to stitch the project on. Sometimes, the designer may suggest what needle size to use for the corresponding fabric count.

The other component of the pattern is the key that lists all of the threads you need and how much of each colour you will need to complete the pattern. This can be in the form of number of skeins or metres. Below is an example from one of my own patterns I’ve converted from a photo I’ve taken. This is only a partial list:

Example of floss list for a cross stitch pattern, minus the symbols for each colour

The numbers you see in the column for number of skeins, shows that you would need a partial of each skein. By memory, each skein comes in 8 metres in length and you may need about 1 metre of each skein. So you will have quite a lot left over with the exception of black, where you will need the full skein / 8 metres.

I strongly recommend that you take this page of your pattern to your local craft store and use it as part of your shopping list and tick or mark off each colour as you put it into your basket.


Sometimes the designer may not state how much extra fabric you will need to stitch your project. They will just state how big the project is and recommended fabric. For example, the stitch size may be 289w by 250h on 14 count navy blue Aida. This is where a fabric calculator can be helpful to calculate how much you will actually need. The website has an awesome calculator that’s very easy to use. Below is an example of how it works, using the dimensions I’ve used in this paragraph:

Snippet from website calculating how much fabric is needed

You may also see in the above snippet, is the option to select how much extra fabric you want around the edge of your project. I’ve selected 2 inches/5 centimetres. There is the option to have 3 inches/8 centimetres. This is your personal choice and potentially how much you can afford to pay for fabric.

The additional reason why I’m talking about the amount of extra fabric you need, is to help with stitching the project and finishing it. The extra fabric will mean that your project can be snugly in a hoop or stand or whatever you choose to keep the fabric taught and your stitches neat. If you choose to frame your project, there’s enough fabric to stretch it into place so that it looks just the way you want it!

It’s also your choice for the numbers you enter for the number of strands for your project. This won’t have an impact on the size of fabric the calculator recommends for you. It may have an impact on how many skeins per colour you choose to purchase!

Purchasing your fabric

In this digital age and the internet at our fingertips, we can choose to purchase our supplies online or we can find out where our local craft store is that sells the fabric we want and need. In Australia, the two major craft stores closest to where I live are Lincraft and Spotlight. From there I can purchase pre-cut Aida in a some colours, counts and dimensions. I can also go in store and purchase some fabric off the roll in a size that I need. The fabric they have on rolls will vary from store to store. Thankfully, there are smaller business that I can purchase other fabrics from and they have a wider variety of fabrics, count size and dimensions.

I’ve also really enjoyed going to craft shows and checking out the fabric section of store to see if they have any off-cuts I can purchase for potential projects down the track. I find that they have many fabric colours that I haven’t seen on the internet.

Preparing your fabric

Some people hate it when the edges of their fabric start fraying while they’re working on their project. I’ve seen on some American floss tube clips that the edges of their fabric already have been serged as part of the process that American shop owners choose to do. If you have an overlocker or know someone who has one, you can use it to go around the edges of your fabric. Another option is to use your sewing machine and use the zig-zag stitch or you can hand sew the edges.

Example of serged edge – image from Google search

If you are choosing to use Aida, some people have complained about how stiff it can be when they start using it and it’s turned them off from wanting to use it ever again. I’ve certainly experienced some stiff Aida and it has been annoying to get it into the hoop. I have found that over time, the fabric softens as I continue to work with it. I’ve also heard of people washing it before they use it and trying to soak it with fabric softener or similar products. How successful they are, I’m not sure. All I can say is do what works for you!


The size of your project will depend on how many colours you need to purchase. If you’re needing to purchase a lot of colours, you could:

  • purchase a few colours at a time and stitch with them until you need to purchase some more
  • purchase all of the colours in one go
  • raid your stash to see if you have some left overs from previous projects
  • have a chat with stitchy friends and family who may be able to give you some of their left over colours

Tip: If you’re purchasing your floss from a craft store, I strongly recommend you include in your basket some floss holders (aka bobbins) and a storage container to hold all of your colours. The image below is an example of what you can purchase.

Plastic Bobbins – image from the website

You may hear of people talking about ‘bobbinating’ their threads. What they’re doing is winding their threads onto the bobbins, like the image above (that come in plastic and cardboard) and writing on the bobbins or using stickers like the ones you can purchase in the image below. If you conduct a search in your preferred search engine, you should be able to come up with some stores who stock these awesome stickers!

DMC Floss Stickers – image from Google image search


The size of the needle you use for your project will depend on the size of fabric you’re using. Using the right needle size will mean you’re stitches will be neater and there won’t be any obvious holes from your needle. Below is a table of what needle size you’ll need for the fabric size you may be stitching on:

Needle and fabric chart – information from the websites and

Another thing to consider with your needles, is whether they’re silver all-over or have a gold or brass colour around the eye of the needle. This comes down to personal preference. Some people find that the needles that are gold plated move through the holes in the fabric smoother than the silver needles. Some people also find that the silver needles tarnish over time from the oils and other excess moisture and crumbs from our fingers, and may impact the ease of the needle moving through the fabric and thread on their projects.

Armina from Stitch Floral wrote a great post about ’10 things to remember about hand embroidery needles’ and suggests the use of ‘a strawberry cushion filled with gritty emery powder, pull the needle all the way through it in one direction.’ The aim of this is to sharpen the needle and remove any moisture on it, resulting in your needle remaining sharp and moving through your fabric smoothly.

Admittedly, I’ve been pretty lucky with my needles in the sense that they have tarnished a bit over the years through wear and tear and moisture on my fingers. The only adverse affect my projects have had from me using these needles is me using the wrong needle for the size of the fabric I’m working on. More often than not, I’m using needles from previous kits I’ve stitched or snaffled out of my sewing box.

That said, I agree with Armina from Stitch Floral when she says that needles are inexpensive. It’s possible to pick up a pack of needles from your local craft store or online for a few dollars. If you’re not sure on what to do with your old needles that you don’t want to sew with anymore, check out the post by Superior Threads in the related reads at the end of this post!

Putting it all together

Thankfully there are many, many Flosstube clips from a variety of stitchers who have been wonderful in sharing how they organise their projects. Hopefully you find some of the clips below of use and interest!

‘How I Approach My Cross Stitch Projects’ by CatCrazyCreations. Uploaded on 13 October 2015
‘Floss Tube 8: How I Setup and Start Large Cross Stitch Projects’ by Stitching Jules – Uploaded on 2 March 2017
‘How I do large cross stitch projects’ by Stitching Jules – Uploaded on 5 December 2017
‘Tutorial – How to start a cross stitch project’ by Stitchin’ Mommy – Uploaded on 20 April 2017

Final thoughts

I hope this post has helped you with kitting up your own project. It’s been a long time since I’ve started a project that’s been kitted up for me and I find kitting up my own project can be rewarding and it can show me where the gaps may be in my collection. My boyfriend has been amazingly patient when he’s been with me in the craft stores and I’ve been busy finding all of the threads I need. He’s also started helping with finding the threads as well and that’s helped a lot!

At the end of the day, the strongest recommendation I can provide you is do what works for you. If a pattern recommends the use of linen, but you find that the count size is too small, use the calculator to find out how much fabric you need for a smaller count size. If floss bobbins aren’t your thing, floss organisers like the ones you get in your kits can be re-used. Have a chat with fellow stitchers and find out what they do. They may have a different system to what I’ve suggested in this post that works really well for you.

Until next time, happy stitching!

Related reads:

Posted in Uncategorized

Stitching to the Plan verses Making Alterations. What do you do?

One of the many things that I love about cross stitch, is that it enables me to be creative in so many ways. This ranges from adjusting the colours in a pattern through to fudging parts of the pattern when I’ve made some minor mistakes. Then there’s the swapping out of French Knots for beads because I’m avoiding doing the French Knots when all I really should do is practice them!

Changing colours

In earlier blog posts when I’ve talked about my WIP (work in progress) I’ve nicknamed Jingle Bells (because I keep forgetting the official name which is Christmas Toys, designed by Irina Zagorodskaya), I’ve swapped out a couple of colours for two reasons – 1. because I thought that the silver thread highlights would add a different dimension or flare to the picture and 2. I didn’t have the shade of blue that the pattern required, so I went through my stash and found another one that seems to work just as well!

Blue Swap and Metallic Highlights

Sometimes when my friend and I talk about swapping colours around in cross stitch patterns, she says that the idea of it freaks her out. She’s worried about getting it wrong and that she would rather stick to what is on the chart and go out and buy any threads that she’s missing. All of that is totally fine and plausible. I worry about getting the colours wrong sometimes as well – especially if I don’t have the colour at all and I have no idea what it should look like. Saying that, I should just look it up on the Net and all would be well!

Things to remember if you’re going to change colours

  • Keep within the same brand of thread you’re using. Over the years I have found that whilst other brands have tried their best to provide us with a conversion chart from their brand to DMC, the colours don’t always match up the way that I at least would like. Which means that if I’m stitching a pattern using DMC threads, I’m going to stick with that brand, regardless of what colours I use. This ensures consistency with the feel of the cotton and vibrancy of the colours. Additionally, if I run out of a DMC colour, I’m going to make sure I purchase the same colour from DMC and not interchange it with a similar shade from a different brand.
  • Sometimes the brands get it wrong. When I was stitching the Fire and Ice horse (pictured below), I was using DMC threads and I ran out of a particular colour. Also, it had been a while since I’d picked up the project to stitch, so when I got around to stitching it again and purchasing the colour I needed, DMC had slightly altered the shade as part of the dying process. Which meant that the colour I had purchased was slightly lighter than what I had previously stitched with, even though it was the same number! This completely threw out the appearance of the picture and by luck, a vendor at the Canberra Quilt and Craft Fair was able to supply me with the colour I needed, because she had a few skeins left over.
Fire and Ice – Designed by Dyan Allaire – produced by Kustom Krafts
  • Limit the amount of changes you’re going to make and use a colour chart. Peacock and Fig wrote a fantastic article on changing colours in a pattern and they strongly recommended limiting the number of colours that are changed. To aid the changes made, they also recommended the use of a colour chart. Especially if you’re not quite sure on how to go about it or what colours would work well in place of the charted colour.
  • Note down what colours you have changed. The point is particularly important so that you don’t get confused and waste a lot of your time, energy and thread.

Fudging a pattern

In a recent blog post titled ‘The Top 5 Cross Stitch Things I’m Yet to Perfect (and 5 I probably won’t!)’, I talked about my need to go back to school and learn how to count. I’ve never really kept count of the amount of times I’ve “stitched myself up” and needed to undo parts of a project because I’ve been completely out with my counting. Regardless of whether I’ve stitched too many or not enough, I try to find a way to fudge it in a way that means it won’t be too obvious what I’ve done and doesn’t throw the rest of the project out of balance.

For example, the most recent fudging I’ve had to do is stitch an “extra” four lines for the Four Season Kittens project because I hadn’t stitched enough. Unfortunately this is a significant muck up and I’ve already stitched a significant amount of the Winter quarter. So in my mind, this is too much for me to go back and figure out where I’ve gone wrong and frog it (another ‘formal’ term meaning to rip it all out, or ribbit like the sound a frog makes!). Now, if I don’t show people what the final picture looks like, it shouldn’t be too obvious. However, if you take a look at the pictures below, you’ll see what I mean…

Swapping types of stitches and embellishments

In a recent blog post titled ‘The Top 5 Cross Stitch Things I’m Yet to Perfect (and 5 I probably won’t!)’, I talked about my ability to do French Knots. In many projects that have called for French Knots, I’ve used the small Mill Hill beads for the eyes of teddy bears, embellishments on flowers and buttons on outfits to name a few.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been known to adjust the way that I do my back-stitch on pictures like the teddy bear one shown above. In some parts of the picture, you’ll see that I’ve stitched around most sides of the cross and when there has been more of a straight line longer than one cross, I’ve gone from point A to D without stitching point B and C. For short distances, I think that this has worked well as it has not diminished the finished piece in any way and it’s saved me a little bit of time.

There’s no right or wrong…be aware of your intentions

The aim of this post has been to let you know that it’s okay to make alterations here and there and that mistakes are okay as well. You will need to remember why you bought the pattern or kit and what you intend to do with the completed project. The point here is that making an alteration to a project – intentional or not – does not then mean you can claim it to be your own design – especially if you’re going to broadcast it to the world and attempt to make money out of it. If you are wanting to broadcast to the world the alterations you have made to any designs you’ve purchased, make sure you do it legally.

What do you do? Do you stick to the pattern or make your own adjustments?

If you have made any adjustments to your projects, what have they been? Did they work out the way you wanted them too?

In the meantime, happy stitching everyone!