Collect your supplies
1. Decide what kind of fabric to use
You can use nearly any kind of fabric you like with our patterns. We recommend 18-count aida for most patterns. If you have trouble seeing with 18-count, you can use 16-count or 14-count. See our floss coverage examples to get an idea of how well different thread counts work.If you'd like the finished size of the piece to be smaller, use a higher thread count. If you'd like the finished size to be larger, use a lower thread count.
You can use any color fabric you like if a color is not specified. Most of our patterns are solidly stitched so the fabric should not show. Usually white or ecru is a good choice. If the pattern is mostly dark colors, you may prefer a darker color, but bear in mind that it's hard to see to stitch on black. If the pattern is not solidly stitched, a color is specified and you should use that color because the edge stitches are colored so that the stitched area blends into the fabric.
You can also use linen or an evenweave if you prefer (and if the background is not stitched, this will be more attactive than aida).
2. Buying the fabric
Use the fabric calculator to determine how much fabric you need See the tutorial for how to use it.
If you have a local needlework shop, that's the best place to get your fabric. They will also help you make sure you are buying enough. Craft stores usually sell precut pieces which may or may not be large enough. If you know of a shop (see our retailers page, they will usually be willing to ship your fabric to you. There are also lots of web sites that sell fabric. Some will cut the exact size you specify; others will sell multiples of 1/4 yard only. There is a lot of variation in price. If you need a recommendation, get in touch with us.
3. Collect your floss
The last page or two of the pattern booklet gives the floss requirements for 16-count and 18-count fabric stitched with two threads. If you need something different, use the floss calculator to calculate the amount of floss you'll need. See the tutorial for instructions on using it and understanding the floss requirements. If a color uses less than a full skein, we tell you approximately how much you'll need (2 yards, half a skein, etc.) so that if you have some of that color on hand, you can decide if you have enough.
You should be able to get your floss at a needlework shop or a craft store. You can also buy it online but it tends to be more expensive that way.
You should stitch with a tapestry needle. We prefer size 26 but if you like a smaller needle, you can use a size 28. Any brand is good. Tapestry needles are available at needlework shops, craft stores, and online.
Reading the chart
1. Stitch using the key
The floss key at the top of the first page of the chart booklet is your guide to stitching. When you see a symbol in the chart, look for it in the key. The key shows each symbol used in the chart and the color(s) used in stitching it. If there is a single number after the symbol, use two strands of that color. If there are two numbers, use one strand of each color. See Blending Colors for more on stitching with blended colors and managing them.
2. Floss color to symbol cross reference
Use of the cross reference is optional. It is not for stitching. See the tutorial for an explanation of its use.
3. Understanding a multipage chart
Our charts are too large to fit on a single sheet of paper. Here's how to find your way around them.
1. Prepare the edges of your fabric
If your fabric is soiled, you should wash it and iron it before you begin stitching.
We strongly suggest you finish the edges of your fabric in some way so that it does not fray. There are several ways to do this: you can hand-whip the edges, run a machine zig-zag stitch along the edges (we arenít good at this and it always seems to pre-fray the fabric), or use Dritz Fray-Check or a similar product.
2. Decide where you will start stitching
You can easily start in the upper left corner with patterns that are solidly stitched. The center of the chart is marked if you prefer to start in the center. Here's how to find your starting point.
3. How to cross stitch
you are new to cross stitch, it's very easy! Our patterns use whole cross stitches only (no backstitching). Here is how to cross stitch.
We recommend that you do not tie knots in your floss. They make lumps. For a starting anchor, we like the Floss Lasso, and for ending, a Thread-Under Anchor.
1. Sign your work
This is optional, but it's a nice idea to add your name or initials and the date. You are making an heirloom and someday people will want to know who made it and when. See Signing Your Work for ideas and tips on how to do this.
2. Wash your work
A project that takes a long time is bound to get a little grimy, no matter how careful you are. It's a good idea to gently hand-wash your work before having it framed. We suggest using Dawn dishwashing liquid in lukewarm water. Just let it soak, agitating gently once in a while, then rinse it thoroughly. Roll it up in a white towel to dry. Press it on the back while it is still slightly damp.
3. Finish for display
If you are going to have your piece framed, we recommend having it done professionally. You may also have it finished as a pillow. Some people have finished their work as wall hangings. Visit the gallery for finishing ideas.
4. Other tips and helpful ideas
We have many other suggestions on keeping your place, saving time, helpful equipment, and so on in our Tips and Tutorials sections.
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