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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Samplers to Heirlooms: Cross Stitch Is A Real Art Form

Stamped Cross Stitch
Stamped cross stitch uses the basic “x” stitch to form a picture or large lettering, but the image of the “x” is already stamped onto the fabric. The needle is inserted at the top of one side of the “x” from the bottom of the fabric and then brought diagonally to the bottom of that side of the “x.” To finish a stitch, the needle is then brought up from underneath the fabric and reinserted across the first half of the “x” now forming the completed cross stitch.
You can do an entire row of cross stitches by going from top to bottom on one side and then going back over the row in the other direction. The important part to remember is to keep the underneath stitches all going in the same direction and the top stitches all the other way. This makes the finished image have the same knap and allow it look as if it were painted.
Counted Cross Stitch
Counted cross stitch works the same way, only the image is not printed on the fabric. Instead, symbols on a pattern tell you what color thread, called floss in cross stitching lingo, to use and for how many stitches. You then count from there how many stitches to use for the next color on your pattern.
The best way to start a counted cross stitch is to find the center of the image on your pattern and the center on your fabric and start from there. Patterns are printed on grids and cross stitch fabric looks like a grid, so it is easy to match the squares you’ll use to form the “x”es from the pattern to the fabric.
Cross Stitch Fabric & Materials
The fabric used for cross stitch has a number assigned to it that tells you how many little squares there are per inch. The higher the number, the smaller the finished image will be. For example, ADIA 14 fabric, which is the most common size, has 14 squares per inch. A fabric with 11 count will produce a larger image and is easier for beginners. Fabric with 21 count is very tiny. You pattern will tell you how big the finished image will be based on what size fabric you use. This is how you will know how big you need to cut your fabric.
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Preparing Your Fabric For Cross Stitch

When you are beginning a cross stitch project, it is necessary to prepare your fabric in certain ways. Wait, let me rephrase that…not necessary but optional and very helpful later. There are just a couple of things that you may choose to do to avoid aggravation later on in your project.
First, there is the issue of pre-washing your fabric. If you have ever sewn anything you will know that when you begin a sewing project, the first thing you do is wash your fabric. This is sometimes recommended for your cross stitch fabric also. I think most stitchers would agree that this is not necessary. When you finish the project and wash it, it will not shrink enough to cause a problem. On the other hand, if you are using a darker colored fabric you may want to pre-wash the fabric to prevent the dye from running after it is stitched. I have never personally run into a problem but I have heard stories of others that have and I would rather be safe than sorry. It is very simple to set the color in your fabric. Make a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water. Soak the fabric in this solution for about 15 minutes and the rinse the fabric under cold water until the water runs clear.
Second, there is the issue of your fabric unraveling while you are stitching. I know many stitchers that don’t concern themselves with this problem. I would suggest if you are not going to worry about the fabric unraveling, then you need to be very certain to cut your fabric large enough to allow for this because it will happen. There are other solutions to this problem though.
1. Masking Tape - You can tape around the edges of your fabric. Again you will need to cut your fabric large enough so that you can cut off the portion that was covered with the tape when you have finished. The adhesive on the tape will transfer to the fabric and over time can cause the fabric to begin rotting. The benefit to this is more control over how much fabric you will lose to unraveling or tape damage.
2. Fray-check - This is a fabric stiffener that you can apply to the edges of your fabric. Unfortunately, I fear that this will have the same effect as the adhesive in the masking tape. I am always concerned that the chemicals in these types of products will cause stains or rotting in the fabric eventually.
3. Sewing - I have found the best solution to be running a zig zag stitch along the edges of the fabric. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can fairly quickly even hand sew a quick hem around the edges to prevent unraveling.
After getting these two issues out of the way, you are ready to stitch. Hopefully this will help save you some of the aggravations of learning cross stitch.
Happy Stitching!
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