Welcome back to The Pony Draw’s cross stitch tutorial. In my last cross stitch blog I reviewed the materials needed to start your first cross stitch project. Today, I’ll be showing you how to start your floss on your aida, make the basic stitches, and how to end your floss. These skills will allow you to successfully complete just about any basic cross stitch pattern out there. I’ll also show you a few little tricks during these processes that I’ve learned from other long-time stitchers.
Start by blocking your aida cloth. I prefer to use masking tap to secure the edges and keep them from coming apart while I work (Picture A). Another option is to do a whip stitch around the edge though this is indeed more time consuming, but a great way to secure your cloth using stitching materials you already have on hand. Put your cloth in your preferred embroidery loop and lets get started!
THE CROSS STITCH
The cross stitch is the classic X shaped cross done in the space of one square on your aida. The first thing to do is get your needle threaded. You’ll want to cut a piece of floss long enough for the number of stitches you will be doing, but short enough to not get tangled during your work. I recommend 8 to 12 inches to start. You’ll learn what your comfortable with as you progress. After you’ve cut your bit of floss you’ll need to separate out two of the six threads. Most patterns require two threads, but you’ll always want to double check the instructions in your pattern as some require more or less depending on the effect desired. Below in Picture B you see me separating out the thread.
Go ahead and thread your chosen needle with the two threads of floss. Leave about two inches folded over (Picture C). I like to twist the two together so that my needle doesn’t slide off the end while I’m working.
Now it is time to begin your first practice stitch. You’ll start by pulling your needle through the back of the fabric to the front. Leave about a half inch of floss hanging out the back. You will stitch over this piece in order to secure it and keep it from unraveling. On the front of your fabric you’ll push your needle back through your fabric using the hole directly opposite across the square from where you came in. This will create the first half of your cross stitch (Picture D). I like to always start out top right to bottom left, but you can go top left to bottom right if you prefer. Whichever you select you just want to make sure you do the same for ALL your stitches.
Your needle should now be on the back of your fabric. This is where you’ll start stitching over that bit of floss you left on the back at the start of your stitch. Push your needle through the hole next to where your needle last passed and below where you first started. This will have you coming back to the front of the fabric in the lower right of your cross stitch. At the same time you’ll be crossing over the loose bit of floss securing it on the back (Picture F).
Now continue to repeat this pattern with each block down the line and you’ll be able to stitch over several blocks worth of the lose bit thoroughly securing it (Picture G).
It is up to you as to if you want to complete a full cross stitch for each square (Picture H, right side) or do a half stitch down the line then work your way back up (Picture H, left side). I usually do a row of half stitches first then work my way back. I do this so that I only have to reference the pattern on the first pass. The second pass I can simply go back over the half stitches without keeping track on the pattern. It is completely personal preference.
Continue in this manner following your pattern until you either complete the stitches designated in that color or run out of floss. When this occurs you’ll need to end your thread in a way that secures it from unraveling. What you need to do is run your needle through the back of a row of stitches (Picture I).
Cut your thread so that just a tiny bit remains past the row you just ran through (Picture J)
THE BACK STITCH
Many patterns include back stitching over the cross stitch portion of the design. This usually provides an outline of the pattern’s details or is used to create straight details such as flower stems or cat’s whiskers. Back stitching is often a stitcher’s least favorite part of a piece, but really gives it that extra pop. In the pictures following, back stitching is outlining the details of a pattern.
You will start your back stitching the same way you would a cross stitch. Since you are likely stitching over squares that already have cross stitches you can use the back of those rows to secure your thread (Picture K) instead of having to secure it with your new stitches, but either way works.
Next you’ll follow your pattern stitching straight lines either around or across your blocks. There are two different ways I’ve seen back stitching done. Some people opt to stitch in big long pieces, connecting points far away from each other on the cloth, but still in a straight line. Others prefer to make stitches no larger than the size of one block just like a cross stitch. A disadvantage to this is that it takes much longer to complete the back stitching on a pattern. It can also be difficult to make designs that require large lengths of back stitching across multiple blocks appear as straight. An advantage though is that the back stitching is much more secure and unlikely to get snagged while working or while on display once completed. In Picture L, I have completed three stitches on the left using stitch sizes only as wide as the block. The rest of the row I have completed in one long stitch. You can see the differences in appearance. Like the other options discussed, it comes down to your personal preference and which benefits you prefer.
Here (Picture M) I have gone back and completed the row using the one stitch per block method and begun following the pattern over and across cross stitches as indicated. If you look close you can see that this pattern has the back stitching crossing blocks that contain our next type of stitch, the half stitch.
Before we move on to the half stitch though I’ll point out that when you have completed your back stitching or have run out of thread, you’ll simply end your floss as you did with your cross stitch by running your needle and thread through the back of a stitch row to secure the lose end (Picture N).
THE HALF STITCH
The half stitch would more accurately be called the quarter stitch as you are actually only going to complete one quarter of a cross stitch. Half stitches are used to help a pattern have a more rounded edge whether on a design’s border or between pattern elements. Below (Picture O) is an example of a bear in a pattern that has multiple half stitches to create the rounded outline of his chin.
The half stitch can be done from any corner of your square and requires you to stitch through the center of the block. In the example below (Picture P) you can see multiple half stitches done with two different kinds of thread on top of the middle column.
You will usually encounter half stitches along with your cross stitches and completed them along with those as you work through the pattern. Note that the picture above also shows a row of cross stitches done with blended thread colors. This is where a pattern requires that the two threads being used are different colors. This will be indicated on your pattern’s key and can make for some very pretty color combinations and color detail beyond your regular color selection.
Next time we’ll take a final look at cross stitch by introducing some of the more advanced stitches and fabrics available. Even though they may be considered more advanced they can easily be mastered making any cross stitch pattern on the market a match for your skill level.
Until next time…
Happy homesteading and God bless,