Thursday, January 15, 2015

How I Cross-Stitch

Feel free to click on any photo for a larger image.

When I was in high school, a dear family friend taught me how to cross-stitch. I fell in love with the craft.  I have no doubt this hobby of mine kept my sanity during the 7 weeks of bed rest I was confined to during my second pregnancy.

After having my boys, finding the time to stitch was a rare treat.  As they grew older, I was able to carve out a bit more time.  However, my wrists bug me if I cross-stitch too long.  (I tried smaller hoops and a scroll type frame, and neither helped; so, I believe it is the repetitive nature of the stitch, itself.)

In 2012, I saw a photo of a cream-on-cream crazy quilt.  I had seen one before, but this time, I wanted to make one.  It took a few months, but I gathered my courage and decided to try crazy quilting.  I fell in love with this craft.  Better yet, it did not bother my wrists one little bit (with or without the hoop.)  That is how I used all of my crafting time.

Then, last January, I discovered a few amazing cross-stitch projects shared on blogs during the 2nd Annual Grow Your Blog Party at 2 Bags Full.  The bloggers referred to the designs as HAED charts.  Through Google and those blogs, I discovered Heaven and Earth Designs and began the freebie Santa and the Mouse Ornament.  These patterns do not use back-stitch to outline.  There are no quarter-stitches, half-stitches, or three-quarter stitches.  Yet, the photos I saw looked so detailed, I had to try one out.  (For the sake of my wrists, I generally limit myself to stitching between 100 and 300 x's a week; and that is working.)

Jumping back to the photos others shared of their HAED projects, there was one thing that left me a bit baffled.  They had loose threads showing on the top of their work. That was something I had never seen. 

I did not understand until I began stitching over only one thread of 28-count cross-stitch fabric for the first time. (I believe this is Charles Craft 28-count Monaco, but I found it in my stash and am not quite sure.)

The squares are tiny.  So, when you make two stitches in light blue and then skip a square for another color to stitch the next three squares in light blue, that empty square can be nearly impossible to see.  With this project only, I will make my two light blue stitches, skip a square, pull my light blue thread up for the next stitch, and leave it there until I add the other color.  This method takes longer and I have to be careful not to catch the loose threads in my next stitch.  However, it is the best way I have found to work on such tiny spaces.

Once I finish up a few of my current obligations, I plan to spend some time each week with one of these two unfinished projects.  You can see how I normally cross-stitch in these photos. There are no loose threads waiting for me.

The photo at the beginning of this post is from a chart called "The Gazebo" and it is in the 1994 Cross My Heart, Inc. booklet of cross-stitch designs entitled Secret Gardens. (I found a copy on Amazon, HERE, if you are curious to see it.  I am not affiliated with the book, but do receive a tiny credit if you go to Amazon through my site and purchase to purchase it.)

This piece is stitched on 18-count aida. There is a lot of shading, and what I have read others refer to as "confetti" - meaning a lot of changes between colors as you go.  As you can see in the close-up to the right, if I skip a space, it is easy to see the spot I need to fill in.

My second unfinished project is "Cozy Winter Twilight" and it is from the Stoney Creek booklet Country Living.  (I found a copy of it on Amazon, HERE, if you are interested in seeing it.  I am not affiliated... same as above.)

This project is stitched on a 32-count linen.  So, the squares are even smaller than the Santa and the Mouse project.  However, it is stitched over 2 threads, not one.  It is equivalent to using a 16-count fabric. That means each "x" is larger than in The Gazebo or the Santa and the Mouse project.

Because it is stitched over 2 threads, you can easily see the spaces that still need a cross-stitch.

As you can see, working over 1 thread on 28-count fabric makes much tinier x's.  (On my computer screen, the 1-inch picture is actually over 2-inches long, so this is almost double the size of the actual project.) If I skip a square to add another color later, it is way too hard to find, so I count and leave my threads where I will need them next.

I was always taught to work my rows from the lower-left corner to the upper-right corner. And work my way back from the lower-right corner to the upper-left corner of each square.  On the back, this leaves small, neat vertical stitches.

To keep the back neat, I was taught not to skip more than 3 squares.  If the thread needs to move further out, I was instructed to tie off the current strands in the back, and start the new section without dragging the thread across the back. (The only exceptions I make to this are on this current HAED project, as the squares are SO tiny, but I do not skip sections larger than 3 squares would be on 14-count aida.)  I have read that you should not knot the thread when you are done, but pull it through behind the other threads to secure it.  However, I feel more comfortable with a little knot to be sure the threads will not be snagged and pulled out in the future.  (The picture to the left is a section of the back to The Gazebo. I am sure there are neater cross-stitch backs out there!)

When stitching with 2 strands of floss, I do not knot the bottom before I start.  Instead, I fold one long strand of floss in half, and thread it through the needle.

The photo to the left is of the back side of the fabric while making the first stitch.

Before pulling the thread tight, take the needle through the loop at the end.  (Photo is of the backside of the fabric.)

This catches the thread in the back, so a knot is unnecessary. (Photo of the backside of the fabric.)

Proceed to stitch per normal. (Front of fabric with 3 cross-stitches.)

This leaves the back looking very neat.

I learned the hard way not to leave my work in the hoop when I am not working on it, as it will leave hoop marks.

And, I learned the hard way not to tighten the fabric in the hoop by pulling on it.  It will stretch. Trust me on this one, it is no fun to spend hours and hours on a cross-stitch project only to find the circle you just stitched is now an oblong shape.  (Ask me how I know...)

You also want to make sure you have all of the floss you need before you start.  I was working on a cross-stitch once and ran out of a color.  I bought the same color of the same brand of floss, but it was a different dye lot and the colors were slightly off.  In the projects above, that might not be noticeable because there is so much shading and the colors are broken up so much.  However, the project I was working on had large single-color sections and it was horribly noticeable. This is another lesson you do not want to learn the hard way!

Madame Samm shared a few more cross-stitching tips when she introduced the Tammy 4 all Seasons Blog Hop.  You can read those tips by following this link to that post on Sew We Quilt.

I am off to check out Day 5 of the Tammy 4 all Seasons Blog Hop, and then it is back to work on my We Support You project.  I will have another sneak peek for you tomorrow!


Queeniepatch said...

WOW! Thank you for all this useful information. My 95-year-old aunt is a master cross stitcher and the back of her projects is almost as neat as the front. I see I need to be more patient and work slowly to achieve a good result!
About the dangling thread-in-waiting, how about stretching it away from the working area so it does not tangle up with the working thread?
About your wrist, I suggest you have two projects to switch between and change as soon as you feel discomfort in your wrist. It might mean you spend more time on a cq project than the cross stitch but you spare your wrist. In the long run, that would be good, wouldn't it?

KimM said...

Wonderful post - and what detailed, beautiful stitching!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Great cross stitching tips Renee - thank you!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I'm a lurking reader here. Your blog has been an inspiration since I first found it not that long ago. Great post.

Deonn said...

Brilliant tip for the beginning knot!