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Tips from a stitcher
June 8th, 2011

A stitcher wrote asking how she could share her stitching tips. I said she could post them in the forums, or send them to me and I’d put them online. This seems like a good place for them until I can merge them into the tips pages. (If YOU have tips you’d like to share, please send them! Everyone has their own little tricks, and yours may be just what someone needs.) Here are her notes:

Although “self-taught”, I have been an avid cross stitcher for 40+ years after seeing waste-canvas monograms used by a friend of my mother’s when I was in high school. Over the years, I discovered several tips that make stitching easier.

1. Rather than use the pre-lined fabric I saw referenced in the blog, I use an extra-fine, water-soluble pen to draw a line on every 10th grid to match the graph I am using. If the center of the graph is or is not on the 10th grid, I make my fabric match the pattern. Then, when stitching I know exactly where I am on both the fabric and the graph. If the centerlines are not on a line already marked, I also mark these lines as well, but with broken lines and arrows so they stand out. Unfortunately, I have only found these pens in the same color of blue, so I do not have the option of using another color. These lines stay sharp until time to wash the fabric, but if a marking mistake is made, a damp Q-tip erases the mark, but let it dry completely before remarking or the blue color will run. Another version of the pen is available in purple, but it is not quite as fine of a tip and disappears after a short period of time and is good only on areas I stitch immediately. Both pens are found in sewing or quilting notions and are well worth the expense and time to draw out the lines!! I have never had any problems getting the lines to disappear with water!

2. When traveling, I always take along a cross-stitch project, I try to select an area in my design where there will be some “fill-in” work and draw this area with the same water-soluble pen. Then I do not need to count, but can simply fill in the drawn area with the correct color. Years ago I was stitching a design based on a Jim Harrison painting and I was able to mark several areas in this manner and also write into the area the correct color to use. Stitching in the car was easy and (almost) fool proof! Of course, detailed designs like the gorgeous Scarlet Quince designs do not lend themselves to large fill-in areas, but I wanted to share the tip anyway.

3. The pens work well to draw letters on the fabric as well.

4. I do a lot of original designs based on photographs or combined graphs using graph paper with the same bolded lines based on 10 squares per inch as most designs are drawn. This allows me to carefully mark the graph paper to see how the design will look when stitched. Just remember to allow for the difference in the stitches per inch vs. the number of grids per inch on the paper or your design will be considerably smaller than the drawing!!!

I hope these ideas are helpful to some other stitchers!!!

Me again. The water-soluble marking pens usually say that they are water soluble. The (usually but not always) purple pens where the ink disappears on its own either say “disappearing ink” or “air erasable”. If you have a fabric marker and you’re not sure about it, please test it before you do a lot of work gridding. I hate to think of anyone doing a lot of work gridding only to find that the lines had disappeared 24 hours later (or wouldn’t wash out)!

9 Responses to “Tips from a stitcher”
  1. From Myrna Rock-Simons
    7 years, 7 months ago

    Hi this is a great idea. I used to spend hours hand stitching in the grid lines.

  2. From Jackie
    7 years, 7 months ago

    What a great idea. I am going out and buying a couple in the morning.

  3. From Laraine Harris
    7 years, 7 months ago

    I have used the blue washable markers for over 30 years. I have never had any trouble washing it out. Be careful when you are drawing the lines that you do not push too hard and scratch the fabric.

  4. From Audrey
    7 years, 7 months ago

    I do this too. I find that the washable marker erases very well with a wet Q tip. On a large pattern, I also number the rows and columns of the grid on my pattern, and note tthese numbers on my work as I’m stitching. These keeps me from straying to the wrong square

  5. From Rowan
    7 years, 7 months ago

    Hi, I have used the washable marker pen with “Carnation Lily Lily Rose”. It took a while to grid up, but it was well worth it. It means that I am doing very little frogging except when the floss knots or loops (I like a tidy back). Between the grid on the fabric and marking off stitches with highlighter on a photocopy of the chart, I know exactly where I am all the time

  6. From rebecca
    7 years, 7 months ago

    Great idea. Have you ever had the washable marker bleed through onto any light-colored stitching after you were done?…..and did it come out okay?

  7. From Nancy Garcia
    7 years, 7 months ago


    I sent in the information about using the blue water erasable markers and am so pleased it was shared with other cross stitchers! Why “re-invent the wheel” when we can share and help others with whom we share common interests???

    To answer Rebecca’s question regarding the washable marker bleeding through onto light-colored stitching…..No, I have not had any problem with this at all. I always wash my project before framing “just in case” there is any soil or oil from my skin on the project. Water alone removes any/all of the blue “ink” from the marker and I have never had any problem with using these markers. In fact, I never start a new project without a new marker!!!

    To Audrey….great idea to number the columns and grids on both the graph and pattern….will try this on my next project! Thank you for sharing, too!!


  8. From Therese Weyland
    7 years, 7 months ago

    I use a Frixion pen from Pentel for my quilt markings. this pen has a fine time and comes in 4-5 intense colors. The ink comes out when heat is applied. After washing my cross-stitch projects, I usually iron from the back. It is worth a shot. I am going to give it a try.
    Can anyone help me with parking. the web-page suggestions have not been very clear to me, and I WANT to do the pattern I bought but am stymied.

  9. From Glenda Tietjen
    7 years, 7 months ago

    Rather than use a water soluble pen there is a product available call Easy-Count Guideline that is made for putting a grid on your fabric. You don’t have to worry about accidentally gatting your fabric wet and erasing your grid. This product is a red monofilament that you stitch the grid with. When you are done stitching, you just pull it out. It comes out very easily. I never stitch without it if I have a complex pattern and sometimes even with the easier ones. It is not widely known, but well worth looking for. I sell it in my shop in Florida, and my customers are thrilled with it.

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