This is how you, Mark, will learn how to cross stitch

Okay so the title of this post might seem person specific, but if you’re looking for a crash course (and I do mean crash course, I’m covering a lot in this post but by no means everything) in cross stitch, you can join in even if you’re not Mark. Mark is a friend of mine, not a made up person. Honest. You can read his Pop Culture blog over at Zwolanerd if you like.

Ready? Then let us get rolling. Cross Stitch is a form of needlework where the stitches form an X shape. You may have deduced this from the name of the technique. It’s a simple, effective form of needlework which allows the quick coverage of large areas as well as pleasing shading and detail work. The threads used tend to be slightly glossy which looks marvy.

Continue reading →

The Half Cross Stitch Issue

Last night I started a new kit which I will tell you about much much later. The kit came with aida fabric and I did stitch a little on that before I looked closely at the chart and saw an absolute ton of half cross stitches. Soon as I saw them I unpicked what I’d done and rummaged around for some evenweave. While it’s perfectly possible to half stitch on aida, it’s a bit of a pain in the neck in my opinion, and doing it on evenweave is so much easier.

A half cross stitch is a stitch that doesn’t complete the whole X. Half of the bottom arm is worked, with the thread taken back down through the fabric in the middle of the block. They are used for shaping, without them a design can look quite blocky at the edges, but with a diagonal half stitch the blocks are smoothed out.

Just as an aside, the pictures for this post were taken with a USB microscope I have, so the quality is not brilliant. Pretend it’s 1998.

Evenweave and Aida

On the left is probably the most familiar fabric for cross stitching – Aida. It’s woven in clear blocks to¬†accommodate¬†the cross stitch. Generally speaking, each cross is worked over one block. On the right is evenweave. This is an open weave fabric with no clear blocks. Crosses are usually worked over a square of 9 holes.

I dare say most cross stitchers start out with aida. It’s provided in most beginner kits, and is generally a nice easy fabric to cross stitch on. It’s easy to keep tight in a hoop too, because it tends to be firmer than evenweave (especially the horrible cheap stuff which is horrible and cheap). For half stitches, though, it can be a bit of a pain. It’s not impossible!

Half Stitches

To start a half stitch, a hole has to be made in the middle of the block. You can see the one just to the left of the thread exiting there. The trouble with this is that sometimes the hole doesn’t end up right in the middle – the rounded end of most cross stitch needles can slip to one side while you’re stabbing it into the fabric. The solution is simple – keep a sharp sewing needle to hand. Using this to start the hole in the fabric is a lot easier, the hole tends to end up where you want it and you don’t have to use as much force to make the hole.

Once the underlying half arm is done (I always do the half as the bottom stitch, I don’t know if that’s correct, but it works for me and hides the stabbity hole I made), the top arm is worked as normal, from corner to corner.

Half stitches

This photo shows two half stitches in the middle. The top one has the top arm worked in yellow, and the bottom one has the top arm worked in blue. The dominating colour will always be whichever colour the top arm is worked in. To do the two colour bottom arm you just work the rest of the bottom stitch, using the hole you made in the middle (which is off kilter in this shot on the bottom row – see? Tsk).

Now, why is it easier to half stitches on evenweave? Because the hole is already there for the half stitch. Because it’s worked over a grid of 9 (or worked over two threads if you want to use the proper terms), there’s a perfectly placed middle hole to use for your half stitches.

Halves on Evenweave

I suspect I’d set myself up as a better authority in these things (ha!) if I hadn’t forgotten to do the yellow half stitch on the top row there. I blame the radio, it was being distracting.

Evenweave can be a bit of a brain bender to start with, especially if you’ve been using aida. It’s a little harder to keep tight in a hoop also. Life can be a little easier by using a dark fabric on your lap or the table you’re working over – it will help the holes show up better. You can also exploit the “extra” holes for long stitches which can really add a lot of detail to a design.

Long Half Stitches

These long, narrow crosses are worked over a block of 6 holes. This makes them the same length as a normal stitch in one direction, but narrower in the other direction.

If you’re swapping aida for evenweave, you can make sure your design works out the size it should by remembering that aida counts are doubled. “What? Lyn, what?”. Look, I wrote that 9 times and it didn’t come out any clearer. Put it this way, if your design is sized for 14 count aida, you’ll need to replace that with 28 count evenweave.