Thursday, September 23, 2010

'X' Marks the Spot - Part 1

Cross-stitch is a skill I learned as a child.  It’s a pleasurable distraction that is useful as well as beautiful.  It is a form of embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture.
 When I was learning I did a form of cross-stitch called stamped cross stitch.  This is where the pattern is printed on the fabric and the stitcher marks the ‘X’ over the outline.  It is easy and doesn’t require a lot of thought.

Now that I’m all grown up and enjoy more of a challenge, I prefer counted cross-stitch.  With this form, the stitches are counted across a blank canvass using a pattern and color chart to make the desired image. 

I generally buy a kit with the fabric and floss and pattern all together in one package.  Although, I have made my own patterns with success. 

Cross-stitch is usually carried out on an even weave fabric called aida cloth; which allows for stitches are uniform size and appearance. Cotton floss is the most common embroidery thread made up of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Sometimes other specialty threads are used for accents and embellishments.

To start, find the center of the graph. Most patterns show this with arrows or a bold line. Next, find the center of your fabric. An easy way to do this is to fold the fabric in half vertically and "pinch" with your finger to make a small crease. Open the fabric, fold in half horizontally and make another "pinch". Open the fabric up. The two creases will mark the center of the fabric. It is easiest to start at the center of the pattern.

To begin stitching, bring the threaded needle up from the back of the fabric leaving about a 1" tail of thread behind the fabric.  There is no need to knot it.  Stitch the next 5 or 6 stitches over the tail. Clip off extra thread. To end off, weave your needle back through the last 5 or 6 stitches and clip the thread short so as not to leave a loose tail.

There are two methods methods for stitching.  I’ve used them both and have no real preference for either.  The first method is to work a row of half stitches (////), then work back (\\\\) to complete the X's. Use this method for most stitching. The second method is to complete each X as you go. Use this method for vertical rows of stitches.
It is important that all the X's are crossed in the same direction. That is, the top thread of the X should always slant in the same direction (either \ or /). It does not matter which way they slant, but if they are mixed the finished piece will look uneven.

Do not pull the thread tight.  Relax and enjoy making the pattern.  Your stitches should lay flat on your fabric and not distort the holes or the fabric.
Sometimes a color will have only a few stitches and then "jump" to another area. Most of the time you should end off and start again, other times you can carry the thread along the back. Just jumping from area to area is easier than starting and stopping, but sometimes the thread will show through.

When your stitching is complete, wash in cool water using a mild liquid detergent. Rinse well. Do not wring, but roll in a clean towel to absorb most of the water. While still damp, place face down on a terry towel. Place another cloth on top of the needlework and press lightly with a warm iron. Let dry. Then frame or finish as desired. 

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