How to make awesome cross stitch!

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re either want to make a cross stitch pattern, or you’ve just make a killer cross stitch pattern, either way, you want to make it so awesome the internet skips a beat. Well is really isn’t that hard.
I’m going to start by splitting this guide straight down the center. Read on if you’ve not made the pattern, or skip ahead if you have a pattern already.

I just want it to be an awesome cross stitch!

I’m going to suggest three different ways of making a truly awesome pattern here, each of them are SUPER simple to do.

Remove stuff

The initial idea when trying to make an awesome cross stitch is to add something, but before we get there, think about removing something. The below storm trooper helmet cross stitch originally had a full outline which the designer decided to forgo. Its placement on a white aida hoop makes it really work, and as not many people think to remove bits, its rarely seen, making it more unusual.
stromtrooper helmet cross stitch

Add stuff

Ok, you can add things too. Sometimes its more detail, or an extra joke, but in the case of the below, one of a massive series, is an instagram sepia filter, making it moody and dark.
link detailed cross stitch

Combine stuff

I’ve shown off the work of Johan Ronstrom before, as he’s the true master of the craft, but you can always combine patterns to make something truly weird. The below image takes a sweet Breaking Bad reference and combines it with a kitsch flowery boarder to really make the evil face stand out. Perfect.
kiss the cook breaking bad cross stitch

I have a pattern, but I want to make it break the internet!

Now you have a pattern, the hard but is done for you. All the images below started off as standard patterns and have been edited in some way to really make them pop.
I actually devoted a whole post to making a cross stitch pop but that relied on you not making a pattern yet. The truth however is that you’re going to be doing the same things. In the below image, by replacing the suggested blue threads with a glow in the dark thread, the piece lights up ever so slightly in the day, giving it the illusion of real neon.
neon cross stitch

In addition is this pattern we’ve featured on our best Harry Potter cross stitch as its a brilliant example of pattern hacking.
The original pattern was entirely black, but by choosing to stitch the golden stitch gold, its taken a whole new edge to the piece. I imagine you could go further, stitching in a metallic thread, or even putting small silver details on the snitch.
Sampler Harry Potter Cross Stitch large

Got any other ways of making awesome cross stitch? Drop me a line below.

Clever tricks to make cross stitch patterns pop

We’ve posted a few times now about How to make a cross stitch pattern perfect, How comics help create cross stitch patterns and How to finish a cross stitch pattern, but that’s not where cross stitch patterns end. There’s a final, and easy to master, last step you might want to consider. What little thing will push it just a bit beyond?

glow in the dark fallout 3 cross stitch

Make it shine with Metallics

I’ve stated here metallics, however glow-in-the-dark works too, just look at the awesome Fallout 3 cross stitch above which utilized glow in the dark so that the screen glows, just like the game. Would it have worked in just green? Yes. But now it works that little bit more. Its something a little better.
This can be done to pretty much any cross stitch as no change in actual pattern is needed, just the thread. Try a blending filament on something that’s meant to be wet to give it that extra bit of shine.

Hidden Elements

You can hide things in cross stitch all over the place. One that I love to do is hide text in the backgrounds using font specific to the theme. You can also hide things using the above method, with glow in the darks, hiding a message, or even a totally different pattern within a block of white.
The advantage of this is that the main pattern is once again, completely unaltered, however as soon as dusk falls, your piece takes on a totally different feel.

Can you read it?

This actually covers a few things, however is one of the biggest issues you might have with a pattern; language.

Do you actually need that text?

Samplers are a staple of cross stitch, and whilst that will never change, it does close off that piece to non-native speakers. Now, there are some situations where the text is completely necessary, so don’t avoid it, but think of how you might want to adapt the piece so more people can enjoy it. For example many Pokemon are named differently all over the world, but the English translations are best known.

Distance

Chances are you’ve either made the pattern or you brought the pattern because you could read it. But can others? The best way to do this is to put up the pattern and take a 10 meter walk. Turn around, and ask yourself “can I read that WELL?” The most important thing here is ‘well’, as if a passerby can’t, they won’t bother trying.

So you’ve finished a pattern; but is it perfect?

We’ve made loads of guides on how to make cross stitch patterns, how to make video game cross stitch patterns and even how to make free pokemon cross stitch patterns, however we always stay away from what makes a pattern PERFECT.
Now, perfect is clearly in the eye of the beholder, and without a doubt you’ll have your own preferences, but there are a few things that will help you in making sure perfect is achievable for you.

fifth element perfect gif
More perfect that Milla Jovovich?

Story

Story. Story. Story. I can’t say it enough. Its the thing that changes the pattern the most. A standard sprite for example is a nice pattern, but to see the sprite interacting with a background, or posing the sprite in a special way; that’s what makes the difference.
The Pidgey’s below are both sprites from the first games, however the first has a custom background. Now, which looks best?
pidgey cross stitch patterns

Devil In The Detail

Details are important, and are normally the first thing people see when looking at a piece. In the below Portal pixel art patterns you can see small dots by the eyes. Whilst these could all be the same, the fact that each is detailed to that point goes to show how much more different they each are, and when placed next to each other really show up those differences.
portal companion spheres pixel art

Outside Line

In video game cross stitch in particular, the sprite is likely to come with a big black border. Now, whilst this is fine, and can be used as a feature, like most of my own work, the black line can detract from the sprite itself. Instead a very dark version of the color next to it can make a nice contrast to the sprite and make it pop more.
pikachu recolor

Shading

Somewhat connected to the outside lines, shading makes a massive difference to a piece. A heavily looked over area of pattern making is the color picking. Instead of choosing the standard sprite images, which were made to go on a white background, consider darkening them when putting them in a shaded area, or on black/dark aida. Pikachu in the example below is in a dark area, with a dark aida, so has his colors changed to suit.
pikachu darkened recolor

Top Stitch

Every good cross stitcher knows that you need to ensure the top stitch is always the same direction, so that the off stitch doesn’t stand out. Well, what if you WANT something to stand out? Now there are two ways to acheive this. The first is which orientation you want the top stitch; if you have something of interest in one corner then you want to have the top stitch oriented to point towards it (your eye naturally follows the top stitch).
The second way to utilize this is to change the orientation of the item of interest, and thus bring your eyes to it.
What I will say is this works so much better in person that through images, but its definitely something to consider.

Signature

Last of all, theres the signature. You may not sign your works, but if you do, consider its placement.
You see a lot of people adding the signture to the bottom right just outside of the peice, however every other kind of artist does it *inside* the corner. Why not follow suit?
Alternatively there is the Japanese approach of signing on the top corner, bringing attention to the well thought out signature of the artist.
Or what about an inverse colored name seal?

These are just a few ideas to help you make a pattern, a superb pattern.
Big thanks to our Pokemon & Portal friends for a helping hand.

How to frame cross stitch

A freshly washed cross stitch is great, but unless you want to store your stitch you’ll want to show off your gorgeous piece? Well, good news for you, as Lauren of Plastic Little Covers has you covered with this perfect little guide on how best to frame cross stitch. You can also pick up the pattern used for this guide on her Etsy store.
featured-on-craftfoxes

Here’s a quick cross stitch framing tutorial for you all!

Before I start with this no doubt subpar tutorial, let me preface it with the fact that I am in no way precious about the way in which I finish a project. There are definitely neater ways to do it, so if you’re a perfectionist this mightn’t be for you! I also took the photos during the grim winter months here in the North East of England. To quote Florence & the Machine “no light, no light…”

Having said that, on the rare occasion I go all out with a frame this is the method that works for me, so here it is:

Things you’ll need:

Your ironed cross stitch with at least two inches of excess material around all edges of the design.
A photo frame
Acid-free foam board (sometimes labelled as foam core mount board). Make sure you get a colour that coordinates with your fabric, white for white etc.
Pins
Needle and strong thread (the thread in the photo was as weak as my tutorial game, so make sure you’ve got something strong enough to pull taut without snapping. I actually ended up using Anchor embroidery floss, which wasn’t ideal but just about did the job.)
Scissors (pictured are my tiny embroidery scissors, but you’d be better off using a pair of sharp habedashery scissors for trimming your cross stitch and kitchen scissors or something similar for the mount board) It’s even better to use a proper cutter for the board, but alas! I don’t have one.
how to frame cross stitch what you need

Step one:

First off you need to cut your foam board down to a suitable size for the inside of your frame. My frame was 6 x 4 inches, so I cut it to a few millimetres shy of that. You’ll want it to fit inside the frame but still have a little bit of wiggle room at the edges for when the cross stitch fabric is eventually folded around it. Check you’ve got that gap by trying the foam board in the frame, it shouldn’t be too snug or be wedged in there.

<how to frame cross stitch foam board 2

Step two:

Now that you have your expertly measured foam board at the ready, it’s time to pick up that lovely cross stitch of yours. Position it over the foam board, making sure that the design is central and level, and begin by folding the top side down. Find the middle of your design and push a pin into the foam centre of the board right on the top edge. Repeat at the bottom.

how to frame cross stitch foam board

Step three:

Repeat Step Two, this time at the centre of the left and right sides. As you do this try to make sure that the fabric is as flat as it can be, and pulled fairly evenly across the board.

how to frame cross stitch find the center

Step four:

Start working your way out from the centre, placing pins diagonally opposite each other, a couple at a time on each side. As you do this check that your design is still central, and that the fabric is laying flat and taut. Continue all the way round.

how to frame cross stitch pin down

Step five:

Now that you’ve finished pinning flip the whole thing over. This is where my shambolic tutorial skills once again show themselves. For reasons unknown I’m holding the whole thing the wrong way round in the photo below. S0 what looks like top to bottom is actually side to side. * Sighs*

how to frame cross stitch sew the back

What you need to do is fold your sides inwards, and lace them together. I found doing the sides first is best for a flatter overall finish. For the lacing you’re going to need a really long length of your thread, as you can see I underestimated and had to do a shoddy retying job in the middle. For my lacing I started at about 1cm from the edge (you can go in closer to the edge than that if you want), and stitched backwards and forwards between the two sides. Pull it tight as you go, but make sure you’re not warping the board.

Step six:

If you’re still with me here then not only are you some kind of modern hero, but the end is also in sight!

At this stage fold over the top and bottom edges and lace those too.

how to frame cross stitch sew the back 2

As you can see my back isn’t the tidiest, but I left far more than two inches of excess around the piece and didn’t pull very tight with my stitches, so it’s all a bit bulkier than usual.

There are neater ways to finish a piece (there’s a snazzy method of folding your corners down and sewing them, which gives the whole thing a lovely finish), which I’d be happy to point you in the direction of if you’ d like to try them!

After you’ve done all of that you should find that the surface of your cross stitch is pulled nice and taut across the board, and that the edges are smooth.

Step seven:

Rejoice and remove those pins!

how to frame cross stitch remove pins

Step eight:

Because you left that little bit of wiggle room at the start you should find that your cross stitch fits into the frame nice and snugly now.

framed cross stitch

Finito!

This is just one of many ways to finish a cross stitch piece. There’s also the option of embroidery hoops and professional framing. Ultimately it’s all about personal preference and budget! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

Washing, Drying & Ironing

Having mastered the art of cross stitch you’re now looking to display it, however there is often an over looked step.
When you’ve been stitching a while you’ll find out exactly why washing is important. But even I would admit I never really gave it credit when I started, and I’ve seen the problems first hand.

Its all about finger juice. Yeh, you heard me. More specifically the thin layer of oil around your fingers to help you grip things. This oil is fairly innocuous, and doesn’t do any damage on its own, however it bonds with the thread. When it bonds the thread takes on the same characteristics and can grip to things. Specifically dirt.
To make things worse, if you leave your thread out in the sun it will brown (quite considerably). Even worse if you’ve ironed without washing!

Unless you have yourself a house trained raccoon, you have to do the washing yourself. And its not obvious as you might think, but don’t worry, its easy. So lets jump in.

racoon washing

Washing

The problem with washing cross stitch is that the threads and aida aren’t treated dyes like your clothes. As a result they bleed heavily. In addition if you use special threads like metalics or glow in the dark threads they have metals or plastics in them which react differently. But there is a tried and tested way you can clean ANY cross stitch. This is even what you need to do if you’ve got dirt on your ironed piece.

There are two things you need. Ones a bowl, big enough to hold your piece (it can be rolled to fit, but don’t fold it). The second can be slightly harder to find; non-colored, non-bleached, non-abrasive dish soap. This is actually easy to find, but its always in an obscure place to see in the super market, so you might have to nose around a little bit.

Once you have everything, fill the bowl with water. COLD water. The colder the better in fact. This is the thing that stops the threads loosing their color.
Add 1 drop of dish soap per 5 liters (a normal washing up bowl is about 10). Then very slowly pass your hand through the bowl to mix it, making sure no bubbles form.
Then place the cross stitch on top and let it sink. Wait 15 minutes.

Drying

That was washing. Simple as letting it sit for 15 minutes. All it does it wash the oils through so they are more dilute so won’t bond to the thread. As a result you don’t need to rub it off the cross stitch.
However all that water has left the threads weak, and the aida very pliable. Drying the correct way is the only way to make sure the finished piece is flat. You often pull the aida out of shape slightly when stitching, and the washing will release all of that stretch, leaving your piece warped. As a result we dry in two stages.

Firstly, its VERY wet, so we need to take the bulk of water off. Get a towel large enough to place the cross stitch on, and roll from one edge to the other. Leave this for 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece (the larger pieces need longer, but if you’ve used plastic canvas it needs at least 20 minutes).

Pinning

Once the time is up unroll. This stage could have a whole entry devoted to itself, there are a lot of different ways to do it, and people have come up with some creative ideas. However I’ll tell you two ways. The idea here is to stretch the canvas out again.

Most people call this pinning as, you guessed it, there are pins involved. The first way does involve pins, but if you don’t have any to hand, move to the second option. You want to have a flat surface you can pin. I know that might be unlikely in some houses, so you can also use a flat bit of aida left over (or even a bed sheet). If your backing is fabric, stretch that out first to make sure its flat. Then take your cross stitch and place it on top. Put a pin in a corner. Then in the opposite corner pull it as far as possible, and pin it. Do this all they way around the cross stitch. You should put a pin every inch/2 cm around the edge. Then let it dry some more! It’s likely to take about 2 days to dry fully.

No pins? No problem. Get two pegs and roll your project on its longest side. Do it tightly so there is 1 cm gap in the center. Then pin the edges down so the roll holds. This method uses the aida against itself, meaning it can’t warp. But it also means it takes AGES to dry. I would give it at least a week before you unroll. I would also make sure you put it somewhere dry and breezy instead of damp and humid.

Ironing

So its washed, great. Now it won’t get dirty in the sun. However what happens if you accidentally spill something on it? If its something like fruit juice it will stain. However there is a super easy way to stop this. Ironing. Basically it heats the threads up enough that they secrete their own natural oils, which seal the threads (this is how sheep stay dry if you’ve ever wondered). But if you throw the iron on top of your cross stitch its going to flatten it, so lets go about this the right way.

Get a towel and dampen it slightly. You could do this under the tap, but make sure its not dripping if you pull it taught. Its only meant to be JUST damp. I tend to iron before the washing is fully dry, so I use a towel in the washing. Heat the iron up to the highest level, and remove the steam.
Cross stitch face up on the ironing board, towel on top. Then iron, using a large amount of pressure.

Remember I was talking about getting dirt on your finished piece? Well now any dirt should just wash away!
Not too hard, was it? Just need to frame it now or if you have too many like me; you’ll need to store it somewhere.

How To Cross Stitch Like A Rock Star

The world of cross stitch can be someone daunting fro the beginner, with a whole new dictionary of words and terms to learn (Aida, floating stitches, etc), but stitching is actually pretty simple. This how to cross stitch guide will help you through your first project and beyond!

How to cross stitch animated gif

What you need

The first step in any cross stitch rock star’s future is getting the right tools for the job. This guide runs on the assumption that you have all the below items either collected yourself or as part of a kit.

  • Scissors – These can pretty much be any scissors, but embroidery scissors work best, or even better; quick clips
  • Aida fabric – You can also stitch on other fabrics, but aida is the best place to start. I would suggest 14 count (its the most popular kind)
  • Needles – Embroidery needles are blunted needles, and usually a little shorter. They come in sizes too. If you’re using 14 count use a size 24 needle
  • Threads – Embroidery thread is what you need here. Its a little different to other thread, which we’ll go into in a minute
  • Hoop/Frame – You’re going to need something to hold your cross stitch taught. A hoop works best, and it usually the cheapest option
  • A Pattern – You need a pattern, otherwise you don’t know what to stitch! My how to make a cross stitch pattern post will be able to help you make one.

Getting your fabric ready

Now you have everything, you need to get your fabric taught. We do this so that its easier to see the little holes in the fabric, but also so the stitches are nice an neat in the end. Depending on if you have a hoop or frame you can see the two ways below.

Hoop:
If you’re using a hoop, you need to measure out the required size of fabric (it should be on your pattern), and you need to add 2/3 inches on top of each dimension. once done fold your fabric in half, and then half again, pressing firmly on the edges.
Open the folds up and there should be two lines denoting the center of your fabric (you need this for later).
Place the smaller of the two hoops on the table, and place the fabric over the top, so the center is in the middle of the hoop.
Loosen the larger hoop slightly by unscrewing it. Place it over the top of the fabric and bottom hoop. Tighten the screw on the top of the hoop without lifting it.

Frame:
You’re going to need a little more fabric when using a frame, so bear that in mind when purchasing. You’re looking at 2 or 3 inches more in one dimension, and 6 to 8 inches in the other dimension.
Once you’ve cut your fabric, fold it in half and fold it in half again. Open up and you’ll have two folds marking out the center point.
Taking the shortest edge, put the fabric on top of the frame, and push over/screw the edge of the frame to it (you can also get some you have to stitch). Twist the frame so that fabric only just covers the far side of the frame. Repeat the process of clipping/screwing the edge of the fabric to the frame. Twist the frame once again until you have the center point in the center of the frame.

Getting your threads ready

Whilst you just want to jump right in with stitching, getting your thread right is one of the most important parts of this instruction guide.
Look at your pattern, and you should see two triangles at the top and side of the pattern denoting the center. Work out the color of this thread and choose that one.
The first thing to note is the length of your thread. We’ll go into ending threads later, however you will need extra. In addition you’ll need enough. But (and this is the important bit) you don’t want too much, as it catches, twists, knots, and splits.
The accepted standard for thread length is by using your own arm. Hold the end of the thread in your thumb and forefinger, and pull the thread down your arm, around your elbow, and back to your fingers. Cut the thread where the two ends meet.
Whilst using the thread you’ve probably noticed how thick it is. Well, unlike other threads, embroidery thread is actually a composite thread. That means its made up of multiple strands that you can separate. If you take the end and roll it in your fingers backward and forward it will split into six separate strands:

6 stands of a standard embroidery thread (source: DMC)
6 stands of a standard embroidery thread (source: DMC)

Depending on the count of aida and fabric you are using, you make need more or less of these, however for 14 count fabric we use the 2 over 2 method (two stands). But wait! starting the thread is slightly different in cross stitch to other sewing, so for now, split the 6 stands into 6 separate threads. A good way to do this is by pulling one away an inch, then holding the single end, and the remaining threads, pull your finger down the entire length (the threads may spin after this is done, let them spin themselves out).

Starting the stitch

Take one of the strands you’ve created and hold the two ends together. This will create a loop of thread. Carefully insert the two ends into the eye of the needle, and allow the ends of the threads to fall half way down the length of the hoop.

The stitch

That took long enough didn’t it? Well, we finally get to start a stitch!
I’ve repeated the top image again, as its a very good guide on what you have to do. To start, find the middle of your fabric by locating the position the two folds lie. Looking closely you’ll see the fabric has many holes. Pick the closest hole to the center, allowing the thread to pull through about two thirds of the way. Take the thread and insert it in the hole to the top right. This is movement 1 and 2 of the below image.
The first time you’ll have to turn the fabric over and insert the needle through the small hole in the thread. Pull it taught.
You can now repeat movement 1 and 2 for 3 and 4. You’ll note on the image below that this is next to the original stitch, meaning you don’t yet have a full X. Don’t worry. That’s normal. Doing it this way you use less thread, and your finished product will look better. Repeat this until you have a full line of stitches you need to make (you can skip a single stitch if the pattern requires it, but I wouldn’t skip more than two). You then have to repeat the same process, but in reverse. This means you finally complete the full X.
How to cross stitch animated gif
Once you’re back where you started you may need to end the thread (see below), or do another line. Go either up or down, but make sure the first line of stitches is in the same direction. For this example, bottom left to top right. If you change the direction the finished item looks a little wrong, and peoples eyes are often drawn to the imperfections.

Ending the thread

So you have have to end your thread, or used most of it up, but either way, you need to end your thread. The most important thing to remember though, is you need at least 1 inch of thread remaining to end a thread.
Ending a thread is very simply done, by turning over the fabric to see the underside. The top has X stitches on it, however the back has straight lateral lines of thread. Take the needle and slot it through these lines of thread. Done. Cut off the end and start a new thread.
You could always not it, however, this tends to leave bobbles on the back which won’t allow you to frame your project very well. In addition knots can come undone and the stitches could fall out (which no one wants!).

How to end a thread (source: DMC)
How to end a thread (source: DMC)

Floating Stitches

There aren’t many things that daunt a cross stitcher, but the one sticking point is floating stitches. A floating stitch is when there is a solitary stitch on its own, without anything around it. The problem with these is you can’t end the thread without either tying a knot, or crossing thread over a large area.
But there is a trick.
Pull a large knot in the end of your thread, insert it into your cross stitch top down, one row up from your floating stitch, but in a large body of stitches. Make your floating stitch and once again pull your thread one row away (I would suggest down) in a block of stitches and tie another knot at the top of the work.
Keep stitch away, and when you end, cut the two knots off. This will mean there is no knots on the back, and the loose thread is held by the stitches, without it showing though. Easy!

I’m finished, what next?

This is the first part in the how do guide, but once you’re finished you need to Wash & Iron, then Frame (or store) it. You could also look at the after care guide too, to make sure your finished project stays perfect forever! But here’s a guide to save any if not.

Download

You can download a simple A4 cheat sheet for how to cross stitch below:
how to cross stitch printable guide