Cross Stitch Patterns from Fine Art by Scarlet Quince
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Scarlet Quince

Cross Stitch Tips

Counted cross stitch is extremely easy to learn and do. It’s very flexible too -- you can sit and stitch for hours, or carry it with you and do a few stitches while waiting for someone. It’s also about the least expensive pastime (per hour) that there is. Sitting in the dark might cost a little less but it’s not as much fun!

If you are new to cross stitch, these tips will help you get started, and see also our illustrated tutorials. If you are an experienced stitcher, you may still find some new ideas here -- and if you have tips of your own to share, please let us know and we’ll add them!

If you'd like to print the tips to have handy while stitching, we have printer-friendly cross-stitch tips.

Preparing the fabric
(rev. 3/7/12)
First, make absolutely sure your fabric is large enough for the piece you plan to stitch, including an allowance at least 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) on each side. You can’t expect to get your piece framed if you start right at the edge! You can use our fabric calculator or just divide the number of stitches in each direction by the thread count of the fabric and add 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).

If you have managed to acquire fabric which is dirty or even has dirt spots, wash and iron it before beginning to stitch. Even if the dirt is in a place where it won’t show, dirt is bad for your work. And looking at dirty fabric is depressing! Unless you have already finished the edges, you should hand wash it to minimize fraying. You can iron it with a little spray sizing if you’d like to restore that new-fabric crispness.

If you are going to stitch using a scroll frame, you should straighten the edges of the fabric so that the sides you attach to the scroll bars parallel the grain of the fabric. This will allow you to keep an even tension on the fabric as you stitch. (You don’t need to straighten the edges if you are using a hoop, Q-Snaps, etc.) The goal is to have the edge of the fabric be a single thread that runs the entire length (or width). If your fabric was cut unevenly, and you can see that one side is longer than the other, start at the end of the shorter side. To straighten the edge of aida cloth, you can just cut carefully between two threads. For linen or fine weaves, pull a thread. Make a short snip into the fabric so you can separate one thread. Gently pull the thread. The fabric will gather up around it. Keep smoothing the puckered fabric away from you as you pull. This creates a line you can see to cut along. If the thread breaks before you are finished, cut to the break point, then start again from there.

Finally, bind the edges of the fabric. Almost any kind of cross stitch fabric will gradually fray (more rapidly if you are using a hoop). There are several ways to do this: you can hand-whip the edges, run a machine zig-zag stitch along the edges (we aren’t good at this and it always seems to pre-fray the fabric), use Dritz Fray-Check or a similar product, or even fold a piece of masking tape over the edges! Another idea is to put a folded piece of bias tape along the edges and use a zig-zag stitch to attach it. This creates a smooth edge that doesn’t catch the floss, but it does add some thickness so it would not be ideal if you’re using a scroll frame. Our favorite is Fray-Check. This is a thin glue that comes in a tube. You just run a narrow line along the edges of your fabric and let it dry (about half an hour). Be sure to protect your work surface as you apply the glue -- it will go right through the fabric and ruin your nice table.

Some people feel that Fray-Check (and definitely tape) are not “archival-quality” solutions and that the glue may deteriorate or do something strange to the fabric after many years. This might be -- but you can always cut the treated edges off when you’re finished stitching. (Just remember to allow a little extra fabric so you can.

Preparing the floss
(new 11/6/07)
You should have selected a standard length to which you will cut your floss -- see Floss To start stitching for a particular symbol, cut the one or two colors of floss used for the symbol to the chosen length. Tap the end of the cut length gently to make the strands fan out so you can get hold of a single one. Even if you are stitching a solid color, pull the strands one at a time. The rest of the strands will bunch up but they won’t snarl as they will if you try to pull two strands at a time.

When you are down to the last two strands in a cut length, even if you are stitching a solid color and need both strands, separate them, smooth them out, and put them back together. The last two strands tend to be twisted together, and it’s much easier to make nice-looking stitches if you don’t start out with twisted floss.

How to cross
(rev. 7/17/09)
A cross stitch consists of 2 diagonal stitches which together form an x, or cross. There are various ways you can do this, but you must be consistent about the direction of the stitches. If you start making a / and cover it with a \, all the stitches must have the upper stitch going \.

We suggest you stitch left to right. Come up at the lower left corner of the first stitch, then go down at the upper right, to make a /. Come up at the lower right and go down at the upper left, and that makes one cross. Basic cross stitch tutorial

If you have several stitches in a row, you can make all the / stitches across the row first, and then work back making the \ stitches. On the back, your stitching looks like this: |||||. (This is called Danish method.) You may prefer, at least in some situations, to complete each cross as you go. (This is called English method.) When you do that, the back looks like this: |/|/|/| You will definitely want to complete each cross as you go when stitching a vertical column — don’t go down the column making /s and then go back up with the \s! English method stitches are said to be sturdier — this might be a consideration if your stitching will be used as a pillow cover or something that doesn’t just hang on the wall. The English method does use slightly more floss than Danish method (about 8% more).

You may prefer to start your crosses at some other corner — that’s fine — just pick a way and always do it the same way.

Over 1 or 2
(new 2/1/07)
When you cross stitch, you either stitch "over 1" or "over 2". Stitching "over 1" means that you come up in one hole and go down in the next hole diagonally adjacent -- crossing 1 thread in the material (actually one junction of two threads). When you stitch "over 2", you don’t go down in the next hole diagonally adjacent to where you came up, you skip that one and go down in the one after it. Your floss crosses 2 threads (or actually 2 junctions). Stitching over 1 vs over 2 illustrated As you can see from the illustration, on a given piece of fabric, stitching over 1 gives you smaller stitches, and more stitches per inch, than stitching over 2.

Usually, on lower thread count fabric, such as 10, 12, 14, 16, or 18-count aida, you will stitch over 1. On finer weaves, with 28 threads per inch or more, you will stitch over 2 (and your stitch count is then half the thread count). On fabrics with thread counts of 20 to 28, you can go either way. On 20-count fabric, you can stitch over 1 for 20 stitches per inch, or over 2 for 10 stitches per inch.

Our patterns call for stitching with 2 strands of floss, but if you want to stitch over 1 on fabric of more than 25-count, you will need to stitch with a single strand (see Blending colors, below). There is simply not room in the spaces between the threads in the fabric for 2 strands once all the stitches have been filled in.

Blending colors
(new 2/1/07)
All of our patterns use at least some blended colors. A blended color just means that a stitch has 2 colors of floss in it instead of only one. In the floss key, if a symbol is followed by a single number, you thread your needle with 2 strands of that color. If the symbol is followed by 2 numbers, it is a blended color, and you thread your needle with 1 strand of each color. It’s very simple!

Although some blends have a tweedy appearance viewed up close, when you get back to a normal viewing distance for a picture on the wall (say at least 3 feet), your eye blends the colors into an intermediate color. This gives us many more colors than the DMC pallette actually contains. In order for this optical effect to work properly, it is important for the floss strands to be parallel to each other, not twisted. (Your work willl look much better if you keep the floss strands parallel even for solid color stitches.) See Keep floss strands parallel, below, for ways to manage this. It is not important to the appearance of the completed work to have the 2 colors always in the same position relative to each other, as long as they are always parallel. Good and bad stitches illustrated

If you want to stitch over 1 on fabric with a thread count higher than 25, you must stitch with a single floss strand. You can still blend colors, though. Here’s how. Suppose your blend is of pink and tan. Using one strand of pink, make all the / parts of the stitches. Then, using one strand of tan, finish the crosses with the \. It’s not really more stitching! If you keep 2 needles threaded for each blend, you’ll save a lot of time changing colors. You may want to use 2 colors of highlighters so you can mark your chart in one color for stitches that are half-done, and then mark with the second color for the stitches that are complete.

(new 3/9/11)
Scarlet Quince patterns don't use backstitching, but many patterns do, to outline different colored areas or fill in small detail. It is also used for lettering and is useful for signing your work (which we urge you to do). Backstitching tutorial

Anchoring floss
(new 6/15/06)
There are several ways to anchor your floss. Most people recommend that you NOT tie knots, although the cross stitch police will not come after you if you do. The main problem with knots is that they can show as tiny bumps on the front. Sometimes, too, they will pull through the fabric.

Loop start
A loop start can be used when you are stitching with an even number of strands all of one color (unblended symbols). Take a single strand of floss and fold it in half. Thread the cut ends through the needle. Make your first / (come up through the fabric and go back down diagonally) keeping the loop about 1/4" long on the back. On the underside of the fabric, pass the needle through the loop and pull it tight. Loop start illustrated

Anchor under existing stitches
When you are going to start a new color near some existing stitches, you can work your needle under those stitches on the back of the fabric to anchor the tail of the thread. You can loop around one stitch for extra security. This is also how you'll usually anchor at the end of stitching. Here is an anchoring tutorial.

Away waste knot
(rev. 7/17/09)
If there are not enough previous stitches to use as an anchor (for example for your very first stitch), use an away waste knot. Tie a knot at the end of the thread, then go down through the fabric about 3 inches from where you will make your first stitch, so that the knot is on top of the fabric. The knot and thread leading to the first stitch should be located so that they will not be in your way as you stitch, probably to the left of and above the stitch. Then come up in the right place for the first stitch. After you finish your stitching, cut off your waste knot, thread the tail on the back of the fabric onto a needle, and anchor under the stitches you just made. Here is how to make an away waste knot.

Pinhead stitch
(new 9/3/07)
The pinhead stitch is a method of anchoring a stitch using only the space occupied by that stitch! It's great for isolated stitches. The pinhead stitch is also helpful in areas where you have many color changes, where if you anchor your floss by running it under 2 or 3 stitches the back of your work can become very thick and crowded. You can use it when you're starting a color, ending a color, or both. It's ideal when stitching over 2 (on linen, for example) but can also be used on aida. It is essentially a figure 8 which will be covered by the cross. Here is how to make a pinhead stitch on linen.

To make a pinhead stitch on aida, you must pierce the fabric. Because you can't pull the stitch as tight (because aida is woven tighter than linen), the cross will not cover the pinhead stitch as well. Here is how to make a pinhead stitch on aida.

To anchor at the end of stitching with a pinhead stitch, you make the pinhead stitch vertically (if it is an isolated stitch you may have a horizontal pinhead stitch in place already) and work it under a completed cross stitch. Here is how to end with a pinhead stitch.

Floss lasso
(new 10/8/08)
We felt the need for an anchor that would work with blended colors on aida, and created the floss lasso. It makes for much less congestion on the back than running floss under existing stitches, so it's great in areas where there are a lot of color changes. It's very versatile — you can actually use it on any type of fabric, stitching over 1 or 2, and with any number of strands of floss. Here is how to make a floss lasso.

Re-anchoring loose tails
(new 4/8/08)
Sometimes, when you rip out incorrect stitches, a floss tail from an adjacent color which was anchored under those stitches comes loose. Or you may get a knot in your floss which you can’t get out and have to cut it off. It’s helpful to have a Knit Picker for catching those loose tails and re-anchoring them under other stitches.

Stitch order
There are just a few considerations for keeping the front and back of your work looking beautiful.

Starting point
For most of our patterns, which are solidly stitched rectangles, you can start at the top left corner or in the center, as you prefer. For patterns which are not solidly stitched, you’ll probably need to start in the center (marked with arrows on the pattern). To find the center of your fabric, fold it into quarters and mark the center with a basting stitch. To find the top left corner, calculate the width of the top and left borders (our fabric calculator will do this for you), then measure in from the fabric edge and mark starting point.

Avoid artificial boundaries
When you begin stitching with a color, stitch at least all contiguous stitches in that color. DO NOT stitch one 10 x 10 square at a time, or even one page at a time. Your stitching will show an obvious checkerboard effect if you do that. If you are stitching across horizontal rows, when you come to a page boundary, if the same color continues in the same row on the next page, stitch across the page boundary. You don’t need to worry about the horizontal (bottom of the page) boundaries. If you stitch vertically, just reverse this advice -- continue a color over the bottom of the page, but the side boundaries don’t matter.

Holes or contiguous?
(rev. 11/13/08)
If you need to insert a stitch at a point that is already surrounded by other stitches, it can be difficult to insert that stitch neatly. Therefore, some people prefer to make all their stitches contiguous, and not leave holes that have to be filled in later. Also, stitches made adjacent to at least one other existing stitch are better supported and ultimately neater than stitches made in isolation. To stitch contiguously, you must either change colors a lot or park your thread (see below).

On the other hand, stitching goes faster if you keep going with a color as long as you can. The back is also neater if you minimize the places you have to end a thread. If you decide to leave holes, just don’t skip more than about 4 stitches. For a neater back, if you are bringing your thread across an area that has already been stitched, work the needle under the existing stitches. We strongly recommend NOT carrying the thread across a section that is not to be stitched.

(rev. 7/17/09)
Use parking when there’s a small gap in a color and you want to fill in the intervening stitches before continuing with the original color. To park, stitch the first section in your color, then bring your needle up where the color continues and leave it hanging on the front of the fabric while you take the intervening stitches. Leave the needle on the floss -- this saves time since you don’t have to rethread later, and the needle will not fall off. You can have several colors parked at a time. (You will need several needles.) If you get confused about which color you have on a needle, just figure out what square that is on the chart and look up its symbol. (Here is a parking tutorial.)

Again, don’t jump too far with the color you are parking. Make sure that the floss is pulled taut against the back of the fabric so it will be covered as you stitch the intervening colors.

Some people use parking extensively and have dozens of needles going at a time. Others use it sparingly, mainly for background sections where a maximum of 4 or 5 colors are intermixed. Some people don’t like it at all.

If you have pets or small children and put your needle(s) away between stitching sessions, try using one Spiral Eye needle. The eye is open on the side so the needle is easy to thread. You can move the needle from color to parked color and then put it away when you are finished stitching.

Stitching neatly
(new 6/15/06)
It’s easy to do basic cross stitch. For the most attractive results, keep these ideas in mind.

Keep proper tension
(new 11/6/07)
You should pull your stitches snug but not tight. They are too tight if they are distorting the fabric and leaving spaces between stitches. They are too loose if there is air under the legs of the cross on the front. You should be able to get a needle under the stitch with a little difficulty — if it’s easy or impossible, the stitch is too loose or too tight.

If you stitch without a hoop or other fabric stretcher, be aware that your stitches will tend to be loose. Since the fabric is not flat as you stitch, the stitches will come out a little longer and when the fabric is flattened out again, they will be too loose.

If you have a tendency to pull your stitches too tight, try this: start a stitch as usual, but when most of the floss has been pulled through the fabric, stop pulling with your hand, hook your little finger around the floss and pull it the rest of the way using only your little finger. The muscles in your little finger are too weak to pull a stitch overly tight.

Avoid splitting threads
Each point in your work will ultimately be shared by 4 stitches. Two stitches go down through the fabric and two come up. As you place the second, third, and fourth stitches, be careful to avoid putting them through the previous stitches. You don’t want them tangled and definitely don’t want the needle to actually split a thread. If you stitch contiguously, across rows from left to right, then down to the next row below, this is a little easier. The reason is that the messier stitches tend to be the ones coming up through the fabric, and if you stitch in this order, you will do the "coming up" stitches at each point first, and the "going down" stitches, in the next row, will be the last two.

If you are leaving holes and need to come up through a point where the other three stitches are already in place, take a spare needle, poke it down into the location, and stir it around a bit to make room for the stitch to come up. The gap made by the needle will close up again when the stitches are all in place.

Keep floss strands parallel
(rev. 4/8/08)
As you stitch, the floss tends to become twisted. Your stitches won’t look as good, or cover the fabric as well, if the strands don’t lie parallel to each other after the stitch is made. You also won’t get the intended effect from the blended colors, which depends on both colors showing equally.

To untwist the floss, let your needle hang from the back of the fabric. It will slowly untwist, or you can speed up the process by running your fingers along it. Remember to do this frequently.

If, as you are taking a stitch, you see that one strand is going to cross the other instead of lying parallel to it, you can comb the strands apart with your needle (away from the direction the stitch is going), then take the stitch. This usually fixes the problem.

Railroading is another technique for keeping floss strands flat and parallel as you stitch. (Some people also call it "training the floss".) Here’s how to do it: stitch by bringing the needle up through the fabric and pull the floss along the fabric in the direction that the stitch will go (so the floss is lying flat over the hole where the needle will go down). If the strands are not perfectly flat and parallel, give them a flick with your fingernail to smooth them. Then insert the needle between the strands (be careful not to split a strand) and go down to complete the leg. Railroading illustrated

Sometimes railroading instructions just say to come up, put the needle between the strands, and go down, but we find that the key to making this work well is having the floss stretched flat against the fabric. If your non-stitching hand is free, you may find it helpful to keep a finger on the extended floss as you complete the stitch to keep the floss flat. This is optional, though. For best results, railroad on both legs of the cross, although some people only railroad the top leg. It does take a little practice to become second nature, but once you are used to it, it’s well worth while and really adds very little to your stitching time.

(More to come on laying tools.)

Keeping your place
It’s easy to lose your place on even the smallest charts (which ours are not!). Here are some pointers on staying out of the tall grass.

Use chart guides
(new 11/7/07)
Block off the area on your chart where you are currently stitching. You can use a magnet board and surround the area where you are stitching with magnetic rulers, or simply use Post-it notes. As you look back and forth from your stitching to the chart, this keeps your eye returning to the correct place instead of falling on another spot that may look similar.

Some people like to block off about 20 columns at a time, and do all the stitches of a color going down the rows in that section. You may want to peek under your marker to see if the color continues into the next block. Besides helping you keep your place, if you do make a mistake, you have a smaller area to check.

Mark the chart
(rev. 11/13/13)
Mark the stitches you’ve completed on the chart with a highlighter or transparent marker. The pencil-style ones have smaller tips than the big fat magic marker style, and the darker colors (pink, blue, green, orange, and purple) are easier to see than yellow. If you can find the ones with a click-top to extend and retract the marker, those are faster to use than the kind with a cap. Some people like to pre-mark the stitches they are planning to make in one color, and then mark them off with a different color as they stitch. This two-step approach helps to avoid missing near-by stitches. If you want to make one photocopy of your chart for marking purposes, that’s OK with us. (It is a violation of our copyright to make additional copies, on paper or electronically, to sell or give away.)

If you find you’ve marked a stitch as completed that you haven’t actually done, circle it with a pencil. You can erase the pencil mark when the stitch has really been done.

You can put a chart page in a plastic page protector and mark that instead of the chart. Use the kind that is open only at the top. You need a water-soluble marker. It should say "water soluble" or "wet erase" rather than permanent. Staedtler makes one; what we found locally was Expo Vis a Vis. This keeps your chart pristine, and if you mark something you didn't intend, you can erase it with a damp Q-tip. Red, green, and orange show up well but are translucent; the darker colors are nearly opaque.

Mark the fabric
(rev. 11/13/13)
You can hand-baste the fabric with a contrasting color of thread to mark boundaries. Some people make a grid every 10 stitches, to correspond to the dark lines on the pattern. This is particularly helpful if you are working in an area where there are large blocks of the same color. If you are stitching across rows, you probably only need vertical lines, and they can be added as you find you need them. You don’t have to put them all in at the beginning!

We do find it very helpful to mark vertical page boundaries. For example, as you stitch page 1 of the chart, when you reach the right edge of the page, run a line of basting down your fabric so you know where the page boundary is. The reason is that we recommend you stitch across the page boundary, rather than completely finish page 1 before starting page 2. Otherwise, you may have a noticeable vertical line at the page boundary. (If you are marking both page boundaries and the dark lines on the chart, it’s helpful to use one color for page boundaries and a different color for the dark lines.)

For complex patterns, using a different color for each of the dark lines, and marking those colors on the chart too, can be very helpful. See our gridding tutorial for how to do this.

Remove basted lines bit by bit as your stitching approaches them. If you stitch over them they are hard to get out afterwards. It is tempting to use ends of embroidery floss for the basting lines, but they can leave fuzzies as you pull them through the fabric. A hard finish sewing thread is better.

Another way to get a 10 x 10 grid that some people have used successfully, is to mark it with a pencil The pencil marks gradually rub off as you stitch. It might be best to use a fairly hard pencil (not a number 2 pencil) so that the marks are light to begin with.

You can also use a fine line water-soluble marker, available in fabric and craft stores. These usually mark in light blue. The markings will probably be covered by your stitching, but in case you find you need to wash them out, be sure that you only use such a marker on projects where the floss is washable (NOT overdyes!).

There are also disappearing ink markers! These mark in purple and the color fades within 24 hours (depending on humidity and temperature). They are available in fabric and needlework stores. These are handy (perhaps in conjunction with a grid marked with a more permanent method) for marking all the stitches of one color in an area before you begin stitching that color. Please test the marker on a scrap or in a corner first to make sure the ink really disappears.

If you are concerned with producing a truly archival quality work, it may be best to stay away from all pencils and markers. It’s hard to know what sort of chemical or particle residue they may be leaving. On the other hand, if you are going to finish the piece in under, say, 20 years, and then wash it, you’re probably OK.

If you double-check your work often, recounting even when it doesn’t seem absolutely necessary, it may not keep you from making a mistake, but it will keep you from making the kind of mistake where you discover you got off by one ages ago and everything since is wrong. You may determine where to stitch relative to already-made stitches -- for example, stitch up to the first red stitch -- but if you also count, and make sure that the chart and fabric are in agreement on how many stitches that is, you’ll find your mistakes much sooner.

Lost anyway?
If you find that you got lost or made a mistake anyway, first decide if it matters. If it’s only one stitch and it doesn’t LOOK wrong, then leave it! If you’ve been off one stitch for several rows, you may still be able to fill in with extra stitches (or leave one out, as the case may be) and patch things up without it being obvious. Usually on our patterns, mistakes are not that obvious (unless you used a totally wrong color). What does seem to happen, though, is that you can’t tell where you went wrong. In that case, it’s better to rip back to a point where you know where you are again.

Time savers
(rev. 11/13/13)
If you have special techniques that make things go faster for you, please share them with us!

Use a clickable highlighter
It's faster to mark your completed stitches with a highlighter with a pushbutton top and retractable tip than to pull a cap off, then replace it. Some kinds are easier to click than others. We like Sharpies.

Leave needles threaded
If you have enough needles (buy them in bulk), you can leave the floss on the needle when you are through with a color. Using a single needle, threading it to stitch with a color, then taking the floss off and threading it with the next color is much more time-consuming. There are various options for keeping track of what floss is on the needles.

Memorize symbol colors
Make an effort to remember the first color number for as many symbols as you can. This saves you many references to the key.

Grid the fabric
Marking a grid on the fabric greatly reduces the need to count. You don't have to do a complete grid, and you don't have to do the whole grid before you start stitching. See above, Mark the Fabric, or our gridding tutorial, for ways to do this.

Stitch two-handed
If your work is on a floor or table stand, you may be able to stitch two-handed. Instead of moving your dominant hand back and forth, you can keep it under the fabric. Your non-dominant hand (your left, if you're right-handed) stays on top. Your dominant and more able hand positions the needle and pokes it up through the fabric, your "dumb" hand pulls it through and positions the needle for the down stitch, aided by the fact that you can see what you're doing. This may take some practice to become comfortable, but people who learn to do this can stitch very fast.

Traveling with needlework
(rev. 11/13/13)
If you want to stitch on a plane or in a car, select a small project. If you are working on a huge design, let that be your at-home project and choose something else that can be worked conveniently in-hand or on a small hoop. Needles and scissors are allowed on US domestic flights again, but if you are traveling by air elsewhere, check with the local authorities regarding what can be carried on the plane, as some countries/airlines do not allow them. If needles are allowed, but not scissors, take a thread cutter instead.

Notions box
Take a small metal box with a tight-fitting lid, such as a Sucrets or Altoids box, clean it out, and line the bottom of the inside with adhesive-backed felt or moleskin (from Wal-Mart or a crafts store). The felt makes it easier to get hold of needles. You may like to decorate the top attractively while you’re at it. Use this box to carry needles (more than one, in case you lose a needle), folding scissors or thread cutter, needle threader, and, if you are doing a teeny project with just a few colors, floss bobbins. If you don’t usually use bobbins, take some extra business cards, cut to fit in the box, notch the tops and bottoms, and wind the floss on them, or use our bobbin pattern to make a few bobbins.

Very small projects
Bookmarks, needle cases, chatelaines, and similar small items make good travel projects. They should use only a few colors so that the floss will fit in your notions box. Put the notions box, a small hoop, fabric and chart in a large zip-loc bag and you’re ready to go!

Small SQ projects
Our smaller patterns are also workable as travel pieces. Check our quick cross stitch list for possibilities. Even the smaller ones use more colors than will fit in your notions box — here’s how to organize the floss.

Get the floss labels for the pattern — they make a great checklist for the floss. Gather your floss and label the bobbins for the solids and the blends. When all the labels are gone, you know you have all the bobbins you’re supposed to have. (If you don’t want to use the labels for the solid colors that don’t have a symbol, still peel the label off the sheet so that you know you have a bobbin for that color.

Put the floss into sandwich size zip-loc bags by color family: one bag each for blues, greens, yellows, browns, reds, gray-black-white, etc. (If one or two colors really dominate, you might split the blue bag, for example, into light blues and dark blues.) As you do this, write the color family next to the number on the symbol cross reference. For example, as you put 3799 in the "grays" bag, write "gray" next to 3799 on the symbol cross reference. When you’re stitching, to find 3799 you look in the symbol cross reference, see that it’s a gray, and you only need to look through the baggie with grays to find it. You can start with one baggie for empty blend bobbins, and as you use them, file them with the appropriate color family. Store all the floss baggies in a large zip-loc bag. It can be squashed into any number of places where a bobbin box would not go. Keep your fabric, hoop, chart, and notions box in another large zip-loc bag.

When you cut floss, run it the length of the large zip-loc twice to measure 24 inches. Even if you usually blend only two strands at a time at home, it’s helpful when you’re traveling to cut the two colors for the blend, take one strand from each, and store the remaining five strands of the two colors on the blend bobbin. This will save you a lot of fishing for the solid color bobbins when you need a new length of the blend.

Ready-to-go totes
(new 11/7/07)
If you are running Mom’s Taxi Service, you can keep a few tote bags (one per project) packed with everything you need for the projects you have going — floss in a box, fabric, scissors, needles, and so on. As you head out, grab a tote bag and you’ll have something to work on while you’re waiting in the car.

Keeping the work clean
Anything you take traveling with you is not going to stay as clean as something you only work on at home, because you probably will not be able to wash your hands as often as you would like. Don’t take a piece traveling if you wouldn’t be comfortable washing it when it is finished. You can take pre-moistened towellettes in individual packets (aka Wash’n’Dries) along for periodic cleanups, or put some baby wipes in a baggie. These may leave a chemical or moisturizer residue on your hands but will get rid of actual dirt between visits to running water.

Aids to vision
(rev. 11/13/13)
If you normally stitch with a magnifier, doing without it can be hard. A portable magnifier that you wear around your neck may help (try it before you leave home). Or get a good strong pair of reading glasses. There are also Mag Eyes, which have a headband and a lens that flips up or down. (Various strength lenses are available.) If you wear bifocals or graduated lenses, your optician can make you a pair of glasses in your close-up prescription only which are great for stitching, reading, or working at the computer.

Light can also be a problem when traveling. Portable magnifiers with flashlight bulbs cast more shadows than light, but there is a range of portable magnifiers now with LED lights. A clip-on battery-operated reading light can help. Look for one with a halogen or LED bulb. The Mighty Bright 9-LED light is excellent but it's designed for a music stand and is hard to clip to anything as thick as a scroll rod.

Someone recommended the Hug Light to us and we got one to try. It is a U-shaped gadget that goes around your neck, with soft bendable arms and 2 LED bulbs at the end of each arm. It uses two AAA batteries. It creates an intense light at a short distance (a few inches) but the light quickly becomes diffuse at greater distances. It would be better as a reading light since the shadows your hands make on the stitching are problematic.

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