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Tips & Techniques

Stitching It Up

Now that we have a few tips and photos under our belt, it's time to start stitching. Grab your fabric, floss and needle, and let's go!

  1. Make sure your fabric is taut in your hoop or Q-snap. If you prefer to work in-hand, that's fine too.
  2. For a cross stitch, bring your threaded needle up at the bottom left corner of where the stitch should be located, securing your thread in place using an away waste knot or threading it under a few existing stitches. Pull your floss length up through fabric firmly, but do not put undue strain on the floss or linen. Sink the needle in at the upper right corner of where the stitch should be located and pull the thread to the back firmly. This leg of the stitch should rest comfortably on the fabric; check your thread strands too. If you are using two strands of floss, make sure that both strands are side by side on the fabric.
  3. Bring the needle back up at the bottom right corner of the stitch location and pull through. Sink the needle down at the top left corner, again, pulling firmly but not putting unnecessary strain on the fabric or thread. Check the thread strands again and make sure that they are side by side and lying atop the first leg of the stitch. Repeat for all remaining stitches, making sure not to carry your thread more than the width of a stitch or two.
  4. For backstitches, bring your threaded needle up at the end of where your first stitch will be placed, securing your thread in place under a few existing stitches. Pull your floss through fabric firmly, taking care not to split an existing cross stitch or pull thread tails or fuzz to the front of the project. Sink your needle in at the beginning of where the first stitch should be and pull the thread to the back firmly. This stitch should rest comfortably between (or on top of, if working over cross stitches) existing cross stitches on the fabric; check your thread strands too. If you are using two strands of floss, make sure that both strands are side by side on the fabric.

Note: Some schools of cross stitch advocate making all of your first-leg stitches initially and then crossing all of them in a separate pass. Both are technically correct and will yield the same end results on most projects. However, if you are working with over-dyed threads, make sure you complete each stitch with both legs before moving on to make the best use of the subtle variegations.

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Cross Stitch on Linen
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Cross Stitch on Aida
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Backstitch on Linen
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Backstitch on Aida
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1/2 Cross Stitch
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1/4 Cross Stitch
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3/4 Cross Stitch

For those of us who learn things better visually, here are stitch illustrations of cross stitch and backstitch on both linen (or another evenweave fabric) and Aida. Also included are the illustrations for partial stitches.

To perfect other stitches, check out one of the best needlework reference books ever published. Written by needlework extraordinaire and well-known teacher, Darlene O'Steen, The Proper Stitch includes step-by-step instructions for numerous specialty stitches, including illustrations of the reverse side of the needlework for a double check. Three exquisite sampler designs are also included, so you can practice all of your newly acquired skills. To order, click here.

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