Make your own cross stitch patterns without online tools

One of the most requested posts I’m asked for is simple; how to make a cross stitch pattern. And whilst we have gone over how to make cross stitch patterns using cross stitch software there are those that want to make patterns on paper. So today, we’re going to talk about how to make a pattern without online/computer tools.
When it comes to making patterns without the aid of technology, there are limitations, and we’d reminisce to not talk about these first and foremost, but don’t let these stop you!
Size is a problem – When it comes to these types of patterns, you’re limited to a few factors. One big one is the size and amount of paper you have. Whilst you can make ream after ream of paper into one massive pattern, generally, you’re going to be limited to less than 4 inches square of workable space (depending on the count of paper you have and count you stitch on, this may result in a larger or smaller stitched work).
Complexity is a problem – Whilst you can once again make a pattern as complex as you like, making anything with more than about 10 colors gets very complicated, very quickly. We suggest following a very clear guide and make sure you keep track of changes.
Count is (mostly) out of your hands – This is a slightly more complicated situation, but you’re going to be limited by the size of squared paper you can purchase. Most squared paper is about 6 count, and you can get graph paper from 10 count to 20 count. So long as you’re happy working with large patterns and can get your head around that the pattern you make won’t be the same size as the completed work, you should be fine though!
So now the list of problems is over, let’s get on and talk about how to actually do it.

Copying An Image

The first type of pattern you might want to make is a copy of something you originally own, like a photo, logo or something similar. For this, we’re going to need one of my all-time favorite cross stitch tools, a tracing pad.
Simply place whatever you want to copy on to of the tracing pad, then place squared paper or graph paper on top.

Owl image and squared paper on tracing pad
Owl image and squared paper on tracing pad

Simply put, if there is black in a box, stitch in it. If there is white, don’t stitch. As you get to smaller details you can choose to add petit point or half stitches or make a judgment call on if you stitch there or not. And that’s it!
However, due to the issue above about count, you’re very limited in regards to size. Changing the graph paper can help with count, but if the thing your copying can’t be printed in multiple sizes, then you’re going to have your hands-tied on size.

Making Your Own Image

The second option when making papers is arguably the most interesting (and more complex); making it up yourself.
There are two ways to go about this, you can either draw it yourself and then use the above method, or you can create it from the ground up. Below is an example of that second option, where vmstack has placed each square (equal to one cross stitch) into a square paper journal to form the image. In order to do this successfully, you need to need a really concrete idea of what you want before you start, including size and color count. However, once you’ve done that it’s as simple as marking out your extreme edges, block the areas out roughly, then start adding detail.
The great thing about this is that you have so much more freedom with the size and scope of your project. You could just manually try to copy a design, but make it a count you want, or take a well-known character (as per the example below) and make your own version of it. And once you’ve done a few, you can then borrow elements of previous patterns to help you out. For example, the below character has great proportions, which you could use next time for a different character, etc.

Cross Stitch Pattern on Squared Paper by vmstack (Source: Instagram)

Picking Colors

Whatever method you’ve chosen, you’ll come to the point where you have a pattern, with rough colors blocked out. This is where you’ll need to start picking your real colors, and for this, we strongly suggest getting a DMC color card. We’ve gone more specifically into how to do this on our how to use a DMC color card, and as there are lots of fine-tuning you can do we suggest you read that before picking colors.
However, once that’s done, you’ve just completed your first cross stitch pattern on paper.

DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan

If you enjoy making patterns, or think you may, then trying out one of the various free online cross stitch pattern generators is a great place to start without having to spend any money.
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mrs Ruth Tatlow

    I have made several patterns by using grid paper or by simple using a needle and thread [instead of a pencil or brush other artist would use]. I find it very rewarding, shaping the design and picking the colours by hand to make the picture complete. I do have a software that could make this an easy project but enjoy my way much more.

  2. Nancy Garcia

    I have done patterns on 10 grid paper for 50+/- years, including many monograms to stitch using waste canvas and very large (15”X24”) patterns. Yes, it is very time consuming, but also very rewarding to create truly “one of a kind” designs. Yes, I definitely use a thin lead pencil and several erasers before using colored pencils to mark different colors!

    1. LordLibidan

      That’s super good advice! Colored pencils are super hard to erase! Made that mistake before…