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

How do you teach someone to cross stitch? Part 2 – Learning styles and abilities

Hi Everyone

The way we learn is unique to us and when we find someone who can explain things or show us things in a way that clicks for us, makes them a very special person! It can also say a lot about the teacher. Their ability to ask the right questions, observe your body language and properly hear what you are telling them, to then adjust their way of communicating with you. Resulting in you feeling supported and (hopefully) confident in your abilities to have successfully learnt the intended lesson or perform a specific task.

Learning styles

There are many different ways in which we learn. Sometimes it depends on what we’re that will determine the best way in which we can put it into practice. Sometimes it depends on how our teacher presents the material to us that we need to learn that can make the world of difference. The YouTube clip below shows how this can be true for both sides of the coin via the use of scenes from popular or famous movies through the decades…

‘Learning Styles’ – uploaded to YouTube on 10 November 2010 – shows the main learning styles via popular movies.

In support of the above YouTube clip, the website (viewed on 29 July 2018) suggests that there are 7 different ways in which people prefer to learn.

Visual learning means that you or your student prefers to use pictures/ diagrams and videos that assist you with understanding how to do something. Additionally, you or your student may find it easier to have someone sit with you and show you how to thread the needle and make the crosses on the fabric – regardless of which fabric it is. Furthermore, you or your student may find the use of colours and patterns to assist with the learning of a new task. Click here for further information.

Image from the Work Ready Training website – originally posted on 18 September 2018

Logical learning means that you or your student uses logic, reasoning and systems, to understand how and why cross-stitch works to then put it into practice. From a teaching perspective, explaining why we do cross stitch may assist your student with understanding the logic of cross stitch. This may also relate to the pattern they choose to stitch. Click here for further information.

Verbal learning means that you or your student finds it easier to listen to someone talk or reading a set of instructions (words only). suggests that you or your student read the instructions to yourself out-loud. By doing so in a dramatic and varied way, it may make the instructions sound more interesting and you or your student may pick up on the keywords that will assist with achieving the desired outcome. Click here for further information.

Physical or tactile learning means that you or your student needs to get your hands dirty to learn. uses the example of pulling apart an engine and putting it back together without the assistance of instructions to learn how the engine works. From a cross stitch perspective, you and your student can sit together and go through the motions of cross stitch. Click here for further information.

Image from the Work Ready Training website – originally posted on 2 October 2018

Aural learning is about the use of sounds and music to enable you or your student to connect to what you’re learning, because it enables you (or your student) to visualise the way something moves or the actions you need to take to complete a movement. Alternatively, the music in the background can assist with triggering memories the next time the sounds or music are heard, resulting in your or your student being able to remember the process of cross stitch until it becomes second nature. Click here for further information.

Social learning means that you or your student enjoys studying in group environments or being around other people whilst learning, because it enables you to bounce ideas off others and increase your understanding of the topic at hand. Which is where stitch ‘n’ bitch sessions can be a perfect way for your or your student/s to learn cross stitch, because you’re able to bounce off each other and share different tips and tricks you’ve learnt along the way and see how others stitch as well. Click here for further information.

Social learning image from the ATD website article on ‘how to be a catalyst for social learning’

Solitary or one-on-one learning means that you or your student finds it easier to learn on your own because there are less distractions. Which also means that stitching at home in silence (or softened background noises) may be your preference or your student’s preference. Click here for further information.

What about learning disabilities?

This is a little different to the learning styles that we have just looked at and learning disabilities can have a major impact on the way in which you teach someone to cross stitch. In the YouTube clip below titled ‘Common Learning Disabilities’, Dr Audrey Huebner from the Mayo Clinic, briefly talks about the common learning disabilities and what they mean.

‘Common Learning Disabilities’ by Dr Audrey Huebner from the Mayo Clinic – uploaded on 14 April 2017

It’s important that we talk about learning disabilities because it will (hopefully) help you and your student be more comfortable around each other and both of you will be able to communicate in a way that works for both of you. On a personal note, I always have and always will struggle with maths and doing some calculations in my head. At times when I’m doing cross stitch, I’ll joke about how I need to go back to school and learn how to count because I’ve stitched either too many or not enough crosses. I’ll also joke about how I need to get my eyes checked because as I get tireder as the day progresses, I make more mistakes. The eye sight thing and making mistakes can happen to anyone and everyone. However, I absolutely acknowledge that people who have legitimate eye sight problems will need some extra help with the way they see a cross stitch pattern and fabric – just a hint for what the next post will be about!

If you are teaching someone with a learning disability, the following clip by the CreativeMentalist may help you with providing praise and feedback to your student. Additionally, your student may find comfort and reassurance in hearing and seeing what she has to say.

‘8 Things kids with learning disabilities need to hear’ by CreativeMentalist – uploaded on 2 January 2015

Another clip that may be of interest and use for you as a teacher is ‘Students with Disabilities: Special Education Categories’ by Teachings in Education. The presenter briefly goes through the 14 different categories by defining what they are and provides some tips on what teachers can do to help their students learn a task or concept.

‘Students with Disabilities: Special Education Categories’ by Teachings in Education – Uploaded to YouTube on 7 April 2018

I hope that this post has given you some food for thought and that you consider some of the different ways in which may approach the way you do your cross stitch. In part 3, we’ll take a look at physical abilities and disabilities and some tools of the trade that may help you and your students.

Until next time, happy stitching!

Related links:

Posted in How To, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized

How do you teach someone to cross stitch? Part 1 – Who is your student?

Hi Everyone

Have you ever been approached by family, friends, friends of friends or colleagues and asked if you could teach them how to cross stitch?

I’ve been contemplating this question for some time now and wondered what the best approach would be. Many years ago I would have just jumped straight into it with whomever my student would be. Not really considering their preferred learning style, choice of pattern and materials, their age and abilities, let alone my teaching style!

This series is going to cover all of these things and more in case you are approached and asked to teach someone to cross stitch. So without further adieu…

Why age matters

How old we are and our life experiences can make the world of difference in how we learn new things and sometimes, how long it takes us to learn those new things.

For example, the blog post by the TEFL Academy (posted on 16 January 2017) titled ‘6 Differences between teaching adults and young learners’ talks about the importance of using different approaches based upon the age of your student. Based upon the blog post by the TEFL Academy, you will need to consider the following things if you are teaching adults or children and adolescents:

Adults Children and teenagers
Are autonomous and independent and prefer to work things out for themselves, with minimal direction. You will need to be in charge and provide the young learner with clear instructions on what they need to do with their needle and thread and fabric.
You may find that you and your adult learner can spend a lot more time on the cross stitch project due to extended attention spans. Your young learner may have a genuine interest in cross stitch, but will need a bit of variety to keep them interested. This is where the choice of pattern is crucial. Starting off on a small picture that the young learner is interested in will make the difference.
Keeping things fun is still important for your adult learner. This is where stitch ‘n’ bitch sessions may be more applicable. Having a relaxed environment where there is minimal pressure may help your learner with being anxious about learning something new. Keep it as fun as possible for your young learner – especially for your very young learners. Their key interest is play and having fun. How you do that is up to you!
Finding the motivation for why your person wants to cross stitch is important. It’s just like you needing to find the motivation to stitch a project. This may be closely linked with keeping it fun and having a design or project that they really want to stitch. Finding the motivation for why your person wants to cross stitch is important. It’s just like you needing to find the motivation to stitch a project. This may be closely linked with keeping it fun and having a design or project that they really want to stitch.
Depending on the type of relationship you have with your adult learner, having some ground rules may still be necessary to ensure you both are on the same page. Each person is different. Use your judgement on this one.   Discipline. How you approach this may vary from person to person. For example, setting up some ground rules may help for some people. The challenge will be following through on the consequences should any of those ground rules be broken. E.g. running with scissors, poking others with needles and scissors = no stitching for x amount of time.
Life experience will play a very large part with your adult learner and it can have an enormous impact on their motivation for wanting to learn how to do cross stitch. It will be worth having a chat with your learner to find out why they want to learn cross stitch. Also, you may find that you learn something from your learner while you’re teaching them! The TEFL Academy recognises the enthusiasm and curiosity that young people bring to learning. It will be worth keeping this in mind and trying to enhance their enthusiasm and curiosity while teaching them cross stitch. For example, linking story telling with cross stitch may be one way of keeping it fun and piquing their curiosity!

What about gender?

In this day and age, gender shouldn’t matter – anyone can do cross stitch – what does matter, is the way gender can influence the way you teach your student and how your student learns.

If your student considers themselves to be male, they may initially feel embarrassed about learning how to cross stitch, even though they have a strong interest in it. All because cross stitch and embroidery has historically have been considered something women and girls have done – even though some of the most famous fashion designers are men – e.g. Karl Largerfeld, Hugo Boss, Pierre Cardin, Giorgio Armani and Tommy Hilfiger to name a few. To put this into context, the flosstube video below is the first one from Shaun/ Sean who has wanted to do cross stitch for a long time, but has felt embarrassed and fearful about taking it up, because of the perceptions around who does cross stitch.

Flosstube clip by Sean/Shaun – uploaded to YouTube on 30 January 2019

So what I’m trying to say here is that some of your male students may need some extra praise and encouragement to help them feel comfortable with doing cross stitch. The patterns they stitch may help a lot too. The same may be for your female students and other students who are part of the LGBTQI community who are really interested in cross stitch, but feel uncomfortable about taking up the craft because of some old perceptions about our craft.

So what do you think so far? Have you already taught someone to cross stitch? Has their age and gender had an impact on how you have taught them?

Until next time, happy stitching!