- Arts and Design
Your Guide to Cross Stitching Excellence
It's easy to learn how to cross stitch. Most people can pick up the basics quickly, and off they go. But what brings cross stitchers perfect results? And what separates an average cross stitcher's work from that of an expert?
It's that extra care taken to ensure that the very best stitching habits are achieved and maintained. I aim to show you how you can improve your stitching talent so that you see better results, and be proud of your stitching projects.
You can have more fun too if you do something to the best of your ability. Some of these tips may appear to be small changes to your usual style, but if you put them into practice, I guarantee that you will get better results.
Your most important stitching tool is...yourself!If you are straining to see your work, hurting your wrists, or slumping on a sofa, it is easy to understand how you may be more prone to make mistakes and get disenchanted with your hobby. Keeping healthy, happy and reducing pains will produce better work - as well as caring for yourself:
Sit comfortably, with your back against the back of the chair. Stay upright; slumping to one side will cause pains down your sides. Sitting with your feet tucked under you will eventually cause your legs to ache. If you wish, use a footstool to support your legs and feet, but keep your knees loosely bent, so that your knee joints aren't strained. Have your stitching needs close by, to avoid stretching for them.
Stitch in a good light, preferably with natural light streaming from behind you. If the light starts to fail, use a good daylight lamp to illuminate your work. Remember to have an eye examination regularly and wear appropriate eye glasses.
If you have joint pain from the repetitive movements, consider using Handeze gloves which support your wrists, and also try using an embroidery frame.
When spending an evening of stitching, take a break every few minutes, and do some gentle stretches, some walking, and focus your eyes softly ( that means - not jerking your focus around the room) looking at distant objects for a short while. Have a drink and then you will return to your stitching, refreshed.
Make sure your hands are clean when you restart stitching after a break, especially if you have been snacking. You will need to wash your hands regularly. Sorry to mention this - but touching your face, hair or having perspiring palms can all add to the possibility of your work getting greasy or soiled.
Enjoy yourself. If you like to listen to music or an audiobook, or chat with stitching friends, now's the time to indulge yourself.
Create and Keep Great Habits
- Start and finish your stitching neatly. Starting and finishing threads with a knot will result in a lumpy piece of work. Make perfect those waste knots or knotless loop knot starts now, and once you are used to them, you will never to tempted to use a knot again. Trim all the thread ends, close to the fabric.
- You will get super-smooth stitches if you prevent twists in the threads as you stitch. One important tip is that when you separate your two strands of thread to use, part the two threads completely, and then re-connect them before you thread the needle. This prevents them from sticking together too much. Allow the threaded needle to dangle from your work every so often; it will spin round and the twists will disappear. An additional way to prevent the thread from twisting is to turn the needle slightly each time you draw it out of the fabric.
- However tempted you are, never trail the thread across the back of the fabric to make stitches. It will show through the fabric of the finished design. Plan your route around the design, accordingly. My own rule is: never trail across more than two stitches - otherwise, it will show, and may affect the tautness of the thread.
- Treat your project with great care. Never fold it; this may stretch some stitches and crease your work. Remove your hoop if you use one, between stitching sessions. Remove your needle from the design too. (Using a gold-plated needle will ensure that you will never get rust marks, so you can park these needles on the margins of your project. Roll your work neatly in between stitching sessions, and keep it clean and dust-free.
- Oversew the edges of your work before you begin. This will prevent fraying edges.
- Use good basic equipment: embroidery scissors that are for the exclusive use of your cross stitching. Use good quality threads, and do not be encouraged to buy cheap market stall equivalents. Those gold-plated needles do not cause allergic reaction for people with nickel allergy and are a pleasure to use.
- Get inspiration from the stitching greats: Jo Verso, Jane Greenoff, and Connie G. Thomas spring to mind. If they can do it, so can you!
- Keep food and drink away from your work. If you are a smoker, do not leave your cigarette in your mouth as you stitch ... the ash will certainly fall onto your treasured design. Be aware, if you smoke, that your work may smell of stale ash on completion, and will need gentle washing. If you are trying to give up smoking, you have discovered a good way of doing so in cross stitching. Your hands and mind will be busy. Busy, stitching fingers will not be delving for the cigarette packet, nor reaching for the biscuit tin. Good luck!
- Take care when ironing your finished work. Too heavy pressure on the stitches will flatten them, and spoil their appearance. Instead, place your work between two thick towels, face down, and gently press, using the minimum amount of pressure over the stitches themselves. If there are stubborn creases, spray lightly with water before pressing with the iron.
- Experiment with different stitches, different fabrics, and different types of thread (floss). You'll find that stitching becomes more fun when you are learning new things regularly.
- When you are working with a number of different shades of thread, consider using the ‘stitch and park' method. This saves you from having to stop your stitching momentum to keep threading your needle. Just bring the needle out to the front of your work and ‘park' it at the side of your stitching until it is next needed. Then move on to the next colour, and so on.
- Consider adding a new dimension and value to your projects with beads, charms, buttons and other embellishments.
- Experiment with some unusual threads to add charm to your work. Check them out: these include light effects threads, metallics, flower threads, variegated threads and even glow-in-the-dark threads.
- Catalogue all your finished projects by taking a photograph and keeping it in a Photo Journal. You will feel inspired to work more when you see the great projects you have already completed.
- Learn how to display your projects to their best advantage. An inappropriate frame will spoil the effect of your masterpiece. A stitching project is displayed to its best in a frame that reflects the age and style of the intended project. Consider carefully how you wish your work to be presented, and use the services of a professional framer where necessary. Ask the framer to use spacers in between the glass and your project. These will prevent your stitches and any embellishments from being crushed against the glass. Similarly, consider using wadding behind the project. Add foil to the back to prevent the intrusion of small insects that sneak into the frame during summer months.