My grandmas (on both sides) have been cross-stitching for 20+ years. Having been personal mentored by them I have picked up a few tricks of the trade that perhaps you might not know about. These tips will make your cross stitch experience much more enjoyable, your project go twice as fast, and in the end… it will look like it was stitched by a pro. So lets get to it!
Tip 1: Before you even begin cross-stitching you need to “seal” off the edges of your ada cloth so that it doesn’t fray. (If you are new to cross stitching and embroidery, ada cloth is that white cloth with the holes in it as seen below). Even if you are doing a small project on a large piece of cloth you still need to do this step. Simply seal up the sides by either using a serger or (if you don’t have one of those fancy machines… sigh… one day…) just use your sewing machine and do a zig-zag stitch around the edge.
TIP 2: When you are searching for all of your colors its nice to have your embroidery floss already organized by number. Although it may look pretty to have them all in “rainbow” order, this isn’t going to do you any favors when you are look for a specific number. There are two major name brands of embroidery floss (DMC and Anchor) and most cross-stitch patterns will give you the numbers for both brands so you can always use an equivalent color in a different brand.
TIP 3: Always use the SAME needle throughout your entire project. I have done a project before where I switched needles half-way through (because I misplaced my other one… in a house with two toddlers… nice Ali) and you can definitely tell where I switched needles even though they were comparable in size. When I am ready to take a break from stitching I like to weave my needle through my ada cloth on a corner or edge so that it won’t fall out of my project or get lost next time I go to stitch.
TIP 4: A really easy way to keep track of where you are on your pattern (especially on really big projects) is to use a small thin piece of metal under your pattern and some rectangular magnets on top to help mark your spot. I rarely miscount when I am using the magnet trick.
This is what my board looks like…
And this is what it looks like slipped under my pattern…
TIP 5: If you want to stitch twice as fast with greater accuracy, don’t put your needle “down” in the fabric, reach under your fabric and grab it and then try to poke “up” in the right spot. Using your hands to try and guess where to come up wastes time and going over and under is slow. Instead try going down and back up on the same stitch. That way your needle is always on top where you can see it!
TIP 6: ALWAYS separate your embroidery floss into sections of two. If you haven’t worked with embroidery floss much, it is actually six tiny pieces of floss all together. Pull two off at a time and thread those through your needle instead of using all six. Its a rookie mistake. Your project will be less bulky and you will have fewer knots to untie. Even when the pattern calls for a “Blended Needle” (which is a needle that is threaded with two different colors) I always just use two threads even if it calls for three.
TIP 7: My grandma always said that the back of your cross-stitch should be almost as beautiful as the front of it. What she meant was that you shouldn’t have all kinds of zig zags on the back and several knots. If you are working on one color and the next area to stitch in that color is “far away” then tie it off and start a new knot. My rule is that I can’t go more than 3/4 of an inch away from where I am working. If you avoid lots of mess on the back it will be prettier on the front and you will have less trouble as your project unfolds.
TIP 8: Always start in the middle of your cross stitch. Before you even do your first stitch, count out where the middle of your project is and mark it with a pen on the pattern. Then get out your iron and crease your ada cloth in half and then in half the other way so that it marks the center of your pattern. This way you can be sure that your cross stitch isn’t too far over and you end up not having enough room on one side. Then work out from the middle. Try to do more building on what you already have, then counting out really far, just so you can use a different color.
TIP 9: It is ok to pick out your stitches. Sometimes, we miscount. Sometimes we aren’t paying attention (because our toddler just through his fish stick on the floor covered in ketchup) and we accidently don’t stitch exactly what the pattern says to stitch. It is ok to pick out your stitches. Take a deep breath…get a Dr. Pepper and unthread your needle. Using the blunt end of the needle SLOWLY unpick your mistake stitches one stitch at a time. Never try to keep your needle threaded and then try stitching it backwards hoping that it won’t get it a knot…cause it will. Then you will have an even bigger problem. Just do it right the first time. Sometimes when I miscount and its not THAT big of a mistake and its something that I can over correct with on another color, I will just leave it. But if its going to throw your whole count out of whack, then just take the time to unpick it.
TIP 10: Sit and watch the Bachelorette (or New Girl) while you are stitching. Do something you enjoy. Listen to music or just sit and bask in the silence that is your house while the kids are asleep. Grandma always says, “If you aren’t enjoyin’ your stitchin’ then you may as well be quitin'” Its true. If it isn’t fun, then why are you cross stitching?! Get real people. Who has time to sit and cross stitch? This should be a time where it is down time and just something you do to relax.
So get stitchin’ and turn on that TV!