Starting Off First, find the center of your pattern (marked here with a red cross + symbol) and the center of your fabric. To find the center of your fabric, fold it in half lengthwise and gently press the seam with your finger. Unfold and repeat the previous step width-wise. The point where the two folds meet is the approximate center of your fabric. Next determine what color of embroidery floss is needed at the center of your pattern. Most embroidery floss is made up of six strands. Separate the strands and thread the required number (listed in the symbol key) of the correct color through your tapestry needle. Start cross-stitching at the center of your fabric and count from the corresponding red cross at the center of the pattern to determine the correct number of stitches.
Making a Cross-Stitch Cross-stitch fabric is specially created for cross-stitching. Look closely at how the fibers are arranged to create a square grid with tiny holes separating each square. In cross-stitching, the basic cross-stitch is created by forming an X pattern over one of the squares. To stitch a cross-stitch, bring your needle from the back of the fabric through to the front in the lower left corner of the square you’re cross-stitching. Next, bring the needle across the square to the upper right corner forming a half stitch (/). Then, from the back of the fabric push your needle through the lower right corner and pull the embroidery floss through. And, finally, bring the needle across the square to the upper left corner and pull the needle through. You should have a single X now on the center of your fabric in the correct color. If you have a horizontal sequence of stitches that are all the same color, you can stitch a half stitch (/) for each stitch in the row and then return to your starting point by placing the opposite half stitch (\) in sequence. This process can allow you to stitch horizontal rows quickly and efficiently as you get used to cross-stitching. If you prefer to not use this technique, you can always stitch each X one-by-one.
Making a Three-Quarter Stitch A three-quarter stitch allows a pattern to show a smoother, rounded edge. To create a three-quarter stitch, start as before with your needle in the lower left corner of your square, but this time bring your needle through the center of the square fabric. This will create a quarter stitch. To complete the stitch, pull your needle and floss through the lower right corner and then across the square to the upper left corner. It is important to note that a three-quarter stitch can be created four different ways, since each corner of the square could be the “half” corner, depending on which edge of the piece you are working on. Look at your pattern carefully to see what is needed.
Starting and Ending Thread Colors When beginning a new color, leave a 1-inch tail, holding it against the back of the fabric and working over it to secure the thread. When you finish with that color, cut off about 5 inches of the thread and use your needle to weave it through the back of your work to secure it. If this method proves too complicated, you can always tie a simple knot in the thread as an alternative.
Adding a Backstitch Backstitching is used to outline, add details, or stitch letters or numbers on a cross-stitch piece. Backstitching can be done with a single strand of embroidery floss, but some patterns, like the ones here, ask for more. Check each pattern to see how many strands are needed. For a different look, you can increase or decrease the number of strands according to your preference. To create the backstitch, start with your needle behind the fabric and pull it through the fabric where your backstitch line starts. Push the needle through the fabric one square in the direction of your line. Next, pull the needle through the back of the fabric and push it through the fabric one square ahead again. This will create one visible line on the front of your fabric and one visible line on the back. With your needle pulled through the fabric on the front one square ahead, push it through back one square so that the line meets up with the previously stitched line. Now bring the needle from the back to the front two squares ahead of your line and back across the front one square back. This process creates a single, smoothly stitched line on the front and a looping doubled line on the back.
Completing Your Project Once you are finished with your project, make sure all loose threads are secured, then hand wash it carefully in cold water and use a flat towel to press out the excess water. Then, lay it flat to dry. When your work is dry, you can frame it or sew it into a pillow, shirt, baby bib, tea towel, or quilt - use your imagination!
Embellishing Your Project As you gain confidence in your cross-stitching skills, you may want to take it to the next level by adding sequins, beads, and other embellishments. You may want to use your pattern to plan out where to put the embellishments. If not, you may need to thread the embroidery floss through a beading needle each time you wish to add an embellishment. Then, simply slip the embellishment through the needle and complete your next stitch. You can also embellish your piece once it is finished. You’ll want a beading needle and thread in the same color as the embroidery thread on which you’re sewing the embellishments. Take care to hide your knots so they don’t show.