How To Cross Stitch Faster

I regularly get asked how I can cross stitch so fast, and whilst it probably has a lot to do with how many hours I stitch in, there are various ways to speed up your cross stitching. We’ll start off with some different techniques to try, before going into some tips for speeding up your cross stitch.

The Danish Technique

Traditionally there are two ways to cross stitch, the English technique and Danish technique. Generally people use the Danish technique, where you lay down a line of stitches in one direction, and then go back with the other direction. We use this technique in our how to cross stitch guide for a reason; it makes things far faster.
How to cross stitch animated gif
If you want to find out more about the differences between both, peacockandfig has a great guide.

Two Hand Technique

The two handed technique requires you to have a hands free frame. This means that instead of flipping the frame over to find the needle, you simple grab the needle with your otherhand and push it back up through the fabric. This means that you don’t have to put the needle far to straighten the thread, or take your eye off the fabric holes.

Double Sided Needle

One of the best ways to acheive the two hand technique is to change your needle to a twin pointed or double sided variety. Its basically a standard needle that you don’t have to swin around, cutting even more time off.

Double ended cross stitch needle
Source: reddit

You can pick some up at 123stitch.

“In Hand” Technique

Sometimes refered to as the ‘sewing’ method, this technique requires you to not use a frame. For smaller projects, this is fine, however just not workable for larger ones. The idea is to pucker the fabric so you place an in and out hole in one go. The below video explains this process very well:

General Tips:

Have the right equipment

Whlist you can change your stitching style, or using fancy needles, there is always a need to have the right equipment, and regularly, without realising it, many people don’t have what they need to stitch fast.

  • Needle
    • Should always be the correct size for the fabric
    • Consider using a petite needle or one size smaller
    • Should always be a blunt embroidery needle (there are sharp ones)
    • Use gold plated needles if possible (they slide through better)
  • Frame
    • Should always be as taught as possible (unless using the “in the hand” technique)
    • Should be appropriate the fabric size (no hoops on massive projects)
  • Scissors
  • Fabrics count

    There are loads of different fabric types you can use to cross stitch on, and due to their differences, some are easier to stitch on. If you want a fast project, use aida.
    In addition, the count can drastically change the speed of stitching. Try using a larger count for faster stitching.

    Stick with the same color

    Another great tip is stitching with one color as long as possible. Firstly, this means no awkward thread changes, but also means you havelots of nearby references for where to stitch next (so no pesky counting).

    Pre-thread needles

    One way to help yourself when sticking with a color is to prepare lots of needles. I regularly set up 8 needles with 8 threads ready to go, so I don’t have to keep start stopping to rethread. It saves far more time than you realise and makes use of all those needles you collect.

    Use the correct thread length

    Many new cross stitchers make the mistake of having a very large piece of thread hanging off the needle. In theory, the larger the thread, the less needle preperation. However, in reality, the larger the thread, the more tangles. Instead, you should have a smaller piece of thread. A good guide is measure from the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your elbow.

    Organise, organise, organise

    Finally, you have to organise. Whilst it can seem a bit tedious, this actually saves you massive amounts of time. I would suggest taking all of your skeins off and onto thread cards. By doing this your not only making it easier to grab the thread you need, but you’re untwisting the threads, making sure they don’t knot on the skein, and making selection easier. They also look super pretty.

    Full set of DMC threads
    My full set of DMC threads

    So there you have it. Now you have everything in your disposal to cross stitch faster. However, as a final note, I would say that sometimes taking your time can have added benefits, such as curbing stress.

    Cross Stitch Fabric Types

    Moving on from my history of cross stitch, I’ve started looking into the various parts of cross stitch and breaking down some of the walls people see when starting out. One of these has got to be the fabrics used for cross stitch.

    Simply put, there are four types of fabric used:

    • Aida (the most widely used)
    • Hardanger
    • Linen
    • Evenweave

    There are then also specialist fabrics:

    • Waste Canvas
    • Plastic Canvas

    A note on counts:
    Before we get into what makes up a fabric, we should mention counts. In short, this is the amount of full cross stitches you can get in a line, for an inch. The most common type is a 14 count, which is an Aida. Some fabrics come only in set sizes.

    Aida

    14 count aida cross stitch fabricAida was invented in 1986 specifically for cross stitch and counted cross stitch. As a result its the most widely used fabric for cross stitch, and is very likely to be the type your using.
    Its made up of regular holes on a semi rigid starch heavy cotton. It allows you to cross stitch in perfect squares by using the holes given.
    They come in different size counts, from 10 to 32.

    Hardanger

    Hardanger cross stitch fabric exampleHardanger is very similar to aida, however is 100% cotton without starch, meaning its very easy to stretch and warp. It comes in 22 count only,, however cross stitch can be done over 2 “sets” giving 11 count. Prior to 1986 this was the most common fabric for cross stitch, and most historic examples of cross stitch are on Hardanger. Since the invention of aida Hardanger has dropped massively in popularity and is very rare currently.

    Linen

    linen cross stitch fabricLinen is a very traditional fabric used for embroidery, made up of flax, an untreated cotton. It can come in a large varience of types, with smaller or larger holes, however its normally found as a 22 to 36 count.

    Evenweave

    aida and evenweave togetherEvenweave however is a combination of multiple fabric types. Officially aida is a type of linen, but with added starch and even spacing. Evenweave however is linen with even spacing, but no starch. The image here shows that whilst Evenweave is normally much higher count, it can vary from 18 to 32.

    Waste Canvas

    14-Count-Waste-Canvas cross stitch fabricThe first of out specialist fabrics, waste canvas is made to either dissolve in contact with water, or to be able to pull it apart when wet. Its effectively a type of aida, but with larger holes and special starch that washes out. It usually only comes in 14 count.
    Despite its very specific purpose, you can still cross stitch objects without waste canvas.

    Plastic Canvas

    different types of plastic canvas cross stitch fabricGoing the other way for a specialist thread, plastic canvas is made to be stiff, so you can make 3D objects. It comes in a variety of types, as seen in the image, and some plastics are stiffer than others, meaning you can use them for different purposes. They come in 14 count normally, however I have seen 16, 18 and 22.
    An example of what can be acheived with plastic canvas is my transforming cross stitch robot.

    Find The Perfect Skin Tone – DMC Threads

    Finding the right skin tone threads can be VERY hard, normally resulting in a super pink face, or a washed out face. However, with the sheer volume of threads out there, its not actually that hard to create really realistic skin tones.
    skin tone DMC thread table 3
    We’ve created the above table so you can look up the skin tone you want to stitch and see both highlight and shadow thread colors for DMC to go with it. Equally, you can go down the table to see darker skin tones progressively.
    With this you can edit existing patterns to match skin tones you want, or you can make your own patterns with quality skin colors.

    The Best Cross Stitch Calculators

    A cross stitch calculator is basically a requirement for all stitchers. Sure, if you wanted you could do the maths, but who has time? And who want’s to check it three times over to make sure its right? Neh, instead, pull out the calculator.
    There are a few out there now, each doing slightly different things. We’re going to roundup all the best ones in one post, with their pros and cons.

    The Best – Lord Libidan’s

    This post has started for a simple reason; I wasn’t happy with the ones available. So I took all the best features from all of the below calculators and combined them into one. Which we (of course) belive is the best, but we’ve also got loads of support from reddit!

    Pattern Size: 

    Pattern Size: 

    Fabric Count: 

    Each stitch covers? 

    Extra fabric for border? 

    Extra fabric for framing? 

     stitches wide by
     stitches high

     threads per inch

    Stitched area will be: 

    Stitched area will be: 

    Fabric should be: 

    Fabric should be: 

     inches wide  inches high

     CM wide  CM high

     inches wide  inches high

     CM wide  CM high

    Use a size  cross stitch needle

    Use  strands of floss for stitching

    Use  strands of floss for backstitch

    Cross stitch calculator created by LordLibidan.com 


    Yarn Tree

    yarn tree cross stitch calculator
    Yarntree’s calculator has previously held the title as the best due to its extra features. It allows you to select extra aida a the sides for framing and gives you both inches and centimeters, but it also simplifies this down by just asking it you want it or not, doing all the fancy maths in the background.

    Crossstitch.com

    crossstitch com cross stitch calculator
    The original online calculator, crossstitch.com do a lot right, however with slightly less choice than Yarntree, always comes away without fully doing the job.

    Needlework Tips & Tricks

    needlework tips and tricks cross stitch calculator
    Barely known for anything else, needlework tips & tricks’ calculator has gained a lot of momentum due to it being more mobile compatible than the others mentioned (other than our own), however will a lot less options, tends to be a quick reference calculator to give an approximate, and not exact measurements.

    123Stitch

    123stitch cross stitch calculator
    An extreamly simple calculator, 123stitch tried to link it to a sales procedure that didn’t really work out. Now it serves as the only most basic of sums, which might be better off done in your head.

    Whats the best way to show cross stitch off online?

    You’ve braved the world of cross stitch software, made yourself an awesome pattern, and even battled a few problems with stitching, but the time has come; you’ve finished your stitch. You’ve shown your family, you’ve shown your friends, but frankly they’re sick and tired. So who else do you show it to? The internet.

    love me family guy gif
    If they don’t love your cross stitch; you’ll make them love it!

    So what’s the best way?

    Instagram

    It really shouldn’t surprise you that social media is one of the first options here. And it really shouldn’t surprise you that instagram is the most important one. As a primarily image based sharing platform its craft following is really quite massive, with people regularly getting up to 10,000 followers. What’s even better is the engagement with people is super high.

    Other social media

    Other social media is pretty much the same as the above, but unlike instagram you need to limit the text, limit the hashtags, and you’ll get less of an impact on posts. But, you can post multiple times for more love!

    DeviantArt

    DeviantArt is similar to a few other things on this list, however as the largest online artist sharing platform, its obvious that this is where you want your work. It requires a little more effort to get popularity than social media platforms, but with over 10 million finished pieces on its databases you’ll be addicted in no time.

    Forums

    Forums are SUPER at self promotion. There are loads out there, but big highlights are craftster, crossstitchforum or more specific sites like SpriteStitch. The great thing about forums is they’re full of your peers, meaning you can get tips, help out others, and of course, promote your work.
    We recently went through all the best cross stitch forums so you can find your community.

    Personal Website

    Now we start getting more technical. There are loads of blogging platforms out there such as wordpress, blogger or tumblr which makes it super easy to create a website. Over time you’ll get more and more people following your site, and can help out the community with awesome posts like this.

    How to do it

    So now you know where to upload it, is there an easier way? The answer is yes; automation.
    If you’re making a website, there are plugins you can get that post to all of these are more. And if you’re not, you could use a tool like Zapier or IFTTT, which post across all.

    Have you got any preferred ways to promote your work? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

    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.

    How to make a cross stitch pattern perfect

    I’ve already written a few blog posts in the past on how to make a cross stitch pattern perfect however it was written from the point of view of improving a pattern you’ve already made. But what about starting from a blank piece of paper?

    Story

    Every post I’ve written about cross stitch patterns starts the same way. Story.
    Comic books have story in spades and can really boost an image, but stealing some of their magic, but just thinking about the composition or the background can make a cross stitch pattern perfect.

    The Rule Of Thirds

    Journey cross stitch using the rule of thirds
    The above image is one of the best composed images I’ve even seen recreated in cross stitch. Its perfect balance of blank space to stitches, and its fantastic sense of scale allows it to own that title on its own. But its fantastic us of the rule of thirds (a well known photography trick) make it even more special.
    The rule of thirds stipulates something every simple, but its often not that easy to actually do it. The eye is naturally drawn to the cross over points marked in blue. I know that blue lines make it clear on the above image, but normally it happens too. It doesn’t even matter if the image is rectangular, circular (or even star shaped), your eye naturally goes to these areas. Combining them like the above Journey one just makes the eye pick them up perfectly.

    Theme

    There’s no getting away from it, but the theme of a cross stitch pattern is the thing that makes or breaks it. Is it an in joke? Or is it something everyone is talking about?
    Ironically depending on what your theme might be, the pattern changes drastically. It might be a good idea to check out the biggest trends in cross stitch for 2017 to see what might be a good starting position, but remember one thing; make something memorable.

    Color Palettes

    Taking a fun Harry Potter image might be a great start to a cross stitch pattern. Its got a story, it fits with positioning, it has a fantastic and nerdy theme, but there are 7 movies. I can’t tell you how many Potter cross stitch patterns I’ve seen that have bright colors like the first film. But if you’re stitching up something from Harry as a child, how about choosing color palettes from the film that reflect that time?
    harry potter and the deathly hallows part 1 color palettes
    @CINEMAPALETTES is a fantastic place to find movie colors.

    ITS RUINED! How to fix common cross stitch mistakes

    There are two reasons you might be reading this; either you’re currently sitting over a ruined stitch, or you’ve made a few too many mistakes in the past. The good news is at some point everyone has made the same mistake, so don’t fret!

    This is fine
    This is fine – honestly, the house is NOT on fire.

    First things first

    Take a breather. If you’ve just noticed your mistake, don’t fear there is ALWAYS a way out. So lets get into the list:

    Knots on the back

    I should state now, you need a smaller bit of thread. As standard you should look for about a lower arms length.
    If you have a small knot pull on the knot and pull towards to hoop. Then pull all the following threads tight like a shoe lace.
    If the knot is big (or there’s no hoop) then this won’t do. Instead start chopping. Make sure to only cut threads involved in the knot and leave as much “free” thread as possible. Once the knot is gone and you have a series of loose strands, start stitching the surrounding area, and stitch over the loose threads. By the time you’ve finished the surrounding areas the threads will be all stitched up. Alternatively you can push the loose threads under the backs of the stitches like you would end a thread.

    You’ve spilt something on it

    Yeh, normally tea, right? Well this is super simple, just wash it. However as you haven’t yet finished, make sure you don’t iron it.

    Missed stitch

    This happens a lot. I don’t know of anyone that hasn’t managed to do it. You should really look into future ways to avoid this, like thread breaking, and fabric pens, however you have two possible solutions.

    White Out

    Let’s say we have a missing stitch marked on our Pikachu preforming iron tail, with a blue blob.
    Pikachu pattern missing stitch 1
    You could then think about removing the lines from that point on towards the end of the piece, marked with dark blue lines.
    Pikachu pattern missing stitch 2
    This means you have to be prepared to edit your pattern in a big way, but sometimes is the only way to get it to work. The Pikachu still looks fine:
    Pikachu pattern missing stitch 3

    Fill it

    Depending on the stitch in question, it might not matter a whole lot, much like the Pikachu pattern, you could easily fill it with yellow and no one would ever know.

    Unpick it

    Well sometimes that’s the easiest way…

    Wrong stitch placement

    The white out technique about might be a good idea here, however for the most part you probably want to unpick what you have. But let’s say its a massive area, its obvious and you can’t do a white out. Cut it out.
    Now this seems harsh, but if you cut out the offending area, and stitch a new small piece of aida on top it’ll be totally hidden by the time you finish. Easy!

    Know of any other stitching disasters? Throw me an line and I’ll help!

    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.

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