Cross Stitch Tips & Instructions

Before you start stitching

  1. Unpack your cross stitch kit and check the contents. Be aware that if you kit state it is a “Counted Cross Stitch Kit” this means you have to count aida blocks to work out where to place your stitches – the pattern IS NOT printed onto the fabric.
  2. Take the time to READ the instructions – a lot of people are so keen to start they don’t do this and then go wrong!
  3. Steam press the aida fabric to remove the fold creases. If the creases are particularly stubborn you can wash the aida and iron it dry, but it is better to do this at the end when you have completed the stitching.
  4. Tape the eges of the fabric with masking tape or oversew to avoid fraying.
  5. Fold the material gently in half in both directions to find the centre.
  6. Tack along the fold lines with ordinary thread in any colour – it helps to have a reference point when counting the stitches.
  7. If you use a frame now is the time to fix the material to it.
    a) If you use a rectangular rigid wooden frame fix the aida to the frame with drawing pins at regular intervals along the edges (approx 25mm apart).
    b) If your frame has tape fixed to the top and bottom rollers sew the aida to this securely and wind the material around the top and bottom rollers so that the centre of the aida is taut and in the middle ready for stitching.
    c) If you use a hoop place the aida over the smaller hoop and place the larger one over it whilst at the same time ensuring that the fabric is taut.
  8. If you don’t use a frame you will find the material easier to handle if you roll it with the front side innermost to get to the area you are working.
  9. Draw symbols on the thread organiser next to each colour number(s) as it makes it easier to select the correct colour thread to use.
  10. Each length of thread consists of 6 strands.Thread your needle using two strands of cotton, unless the key indicates otherwise.

Tips for when you are stitching

  1. Each symbol on the chart represents one cross stitch. The stitch is worked over one block of aida material. First make the understitch by bringing the needle up from behind the fabric into the lower left corner of the aida, then inserting it into the upper right corner and pulling the thread through, the top stitch is created in the same way in the opposite direction (top left to bottom right).
  2. Wherever possible stitches should be worked a row at a time, rather than each stitch individually to ensure even tension and best use of thread, although sometimes this is not possible. Always complete one row of understitches in one direction before going on to work the top stitch in the opposite direction. It is most usual to work horizontally but you can work vertically if you prefer.
  3. The first stitch can be made in two different ways:
    a) Begin stitching by pushing the needle up through the fabric as described above, then pull the thread through the fabric leaving a “tail” at the back of the work. Hold the loose end to prevent it pulling right through. Continue creating the stitch. The end will be secured with your first few stitches.
    b) Using a single strand of thread fold it in half and thread the ends through the needle. Push the needle up through the aida as described above, pull the thread through ensuring that the loop end of the thread doesn’t get pulled through. Push the needle down through the top right hand corner and through the loop at the back. Pull the slack thread until it is secured.
  4. For subsequent changes of thread and to fasten off, weave the thread through the back of the worked stitches. When fastening off trim the thread close to the fabric. Do not use knots and do not make large jumps with the thread from one area to another. Cut off loose ends immediately before they get caught up in other stitches.
  5. To ensure an even tension be careful not to pull the thread too tight.
  6. To keep a track of where you are, mark off squares on the chart as you stitch them using a pencil, pen or fluorescent felt tip pen. This is particularly useful on areas where there are several similar colours.
  7. Rethread unused lengths of thread onto the organiser to avoid confusion with similar colours and to prevent mislaying unworked lengths.
  8. Allow the needle to dangle from the material occasionally to remove any twists to the thread. Twisted thread will give an uneven appearance to stitches.
  9. Backstitch is used to give definition and detail to a design. The key will indicate whether one or two strands of thread should be used. It is worked over one block of aida, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally depending on the direction shown on the chart. Bring your needle up an aida block away from this stitch. Now go backwards and push it through the fabric at the same point as your previous stitch – carry on in this way until complete.
  10. Long Stitch is used where a line does not follow the diagonals or edges of the squares on the chart. Work them with a single stitch from one end of the line, as shown on the chart, to the other unless otherwise instructed. Excellent for outlining windows, sails of a ship etc and for giving perspective in a design.

Tips for finishing off your work

  1. When you have finished stitching your picture, check the back carefully to make sure there are no loose threads.
  2. Remove the tacking thread.
  3. If necessary wash the work gently by hand, do not pull or rub. Use lukewarm water and mild soap suds. Rinse well. It is unlikely with modern threads that the colours will run but if the colours bleed keep rinsing until the water runs clear. DO NOT WRING the work. Lay it on a clean white towel to dry.
  4. To press, place the work face down on a clean white towel on your ironing board and cover with a thin white cotton cloth. Carefully press with a warm iron. You can iron the work to dry it, especially if there are any stubborn fold creases, but leave it a few days in a warm atmosphere and on a flat surface to make sure it is completely dry before framing.The work is now ready to be mounted and framed. This can be done professionally or you can do it yourself. Sybilla Davis Designs kits have been created to fit a standard shop bought frame.

    Instructions for lacing the work are given below.

Lacing Your Work

  1. Cut an acid free mount board to the same size as the inside or your frame. Place the work over the mount board, right side up and with the design centred.
  2. Starting at the top, fold the surplus fabric over the edge of the mount board and push pins through the fabric lightly into the top edge of the board using the fabric holes as a guide to keep the pining straight.
  3. Pull the fabric gently and repeat the process along the bottom edge and then along each side.
  4. Turn the work over to lace the back. To give a neat finish fold the surplus fabric in at each corner to meet in a mitre.
  5. Use a large-eyed needle threaded with crochet cotton. Tie a knot at the end of the cotton and starting from the left, lace (not too near the edge) from the top to bottom. Stop when you get to the centre. Then work in from the right hand side. If you run out of thread join a new piece with a reef knot.
  6. When you reach the centre remove any slack from the threads by pulling the crochet cotton loops gently but firmly one by one, drawing the excess thread to the centre. Keep both threads taught before knotting the two ends together.
  7. Next lace the remaining two sides by repeating the whole process, this time stitching from side to side to complete the lacing.
  8. Finally, stitch the mitred corners in place and remove the pins.

    Your work is now ready for framing.