Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Stitch Each Week - Cross Stitch

Ah, the cross-stitch. The building block of an entire category of needlework...

Now, I could just put on this one diagram and say "There you go, the cross-stitch!" Stitch one leg, then the other, to create a square. Follow a chart by matching the symbol to the correct thread, and stitch a cross-stitch in each square. Soon what could be called pointillism will create a beautiful design.

If I did that though, would you be satisfied?

Cross-stitch is simple, cross-stitch designs can be simple or complicated. Your time stitching is valuable. DON'T stitch on things you don't truly love. Don't stitch gifts for ungrateful relatives or teachers that won't appreciate them. Don't stitch holiday cards for people unless you know they're going to save them.

DO stitch on things that you love. Do treat every piece of needlework you create as a possible future heirloom.

Now that I'm slipping off my soapbox, let's move on.

I'm asked often how I stitch things so quickly. First I'll say that I am rarely without a piece available to stitch. I stitch at the ballet library, watching the girls at gymnastics or swimming, while watching TV at home, in the car if I'm stuck in traffic, etc. Every stitch you put in is one more towards your goal.

When I stitch, I use longer-than-average lengths of threads. I work with the needle almost half-way down the length, gradually moving the needle towards the end as I use the thread. This means I have to end (and start) a new length less often. For most threads, this is fine. On some of the specialty threads such as Rainbow Gallery Very Velvet or Neon Rays the thread will break or fray if I use the longer lengths so they are the exception.

My actual cross-stitch may be different from yours as well. In my experience it's split almost half way between which direction the stitch is crossed. These directions are for the way I cross-stitches - I think they work better for right-handed stitchers. If you are left handed, try reversing the stitch and see if it works for you.
When I stitch a cross-stitch piece, I "scoop" the needle in the fabric. The needle goes down partway in the fabric, moves over two threads, and comes back up at the next leg of the stitch. I then pull the needle through, and pull through completely. The working thread never drapes over the back of the fabric entirely. This saves time on pulling through as well as poking the needle around to find the correct hole. I move across the row right to left. Of course this does mean that my working hand would be brushing across the top of the stitched threads, but I am careful to not rest my hand on the piece. Working from right to left also means that the needle is going down in the occupied hole and coming up in an unoccupied hole. This pulls excess fiber to the back of the piece, means that you don't split already stitched threads, and gives a smoother appearance.
When I have larger areas of cross-stitch to fill, I work in columns right to left. I make "bottom" legs of the cross-stitches down the entire column and work my way back up. All the previous advantages still apply.
When a square (or several) are skipped, skip right over those areas, still working in columns. An important time-saver for me is to memorize small parts of my chart. I'm not saying I wake up at three a.m. mumbling "need to stitch five, skip two, eleven, skip four". When I'm awake and stitching, that's the stream of conciousness in my head. At guild I will be chatty but once I start stitch, my conversation drops off. I am able to listen, count, and stitch, but I can't add in talking to that!
To explain further: I will look at a chart, counting the upcoming row. In the below example I'll think "Stitch five" then glance over to the next column and see that it has a series of three stitches with two stitches separating it. In my head I'll now be thinking "Stitch five, then one-one-one" and will proceed to stitch that.

A more difficult example would be this. In my head I'll think "Stitch five, two rows of one-one-one, then five."

Most of the Mirabilia patterns have great swaths of color. I'll count once or twice the first row, which may be as many as 25 stitches. I'll stitch the first column for a base. Then the adjacent rows will be counted off that first row. Thoughts will be "Stitch 10, skip five, stitch four, skip one, stitch three. Next column is solid but two up." Two up, meaning that is ends two stitches higher than the previous row.
After the first color is stitched is is much easier to go in an fill a second or third color.

I stitch all of my pieces in this manner, from Teresa Wentlers' to Mirabilias' to my own designs. With time it becomes quick and the tension is smooth.
Now, since we do all love a simple sampler motif, please feel free to stitch this one.

Copyright 2008 Summer Louise Truswell
It is stitched in two colors of Kreinik metallic thread. The cross stitches are over two threads with one strand of metallic. Back stitch is with one strand metallic. The outlaying backstitch outline is backstitched in copper and then brown was used to whipstitch the backstitching, creating the look of a tiny twisted cording. Design count is 22 x 22.
I was inspired to create this design after thumbing through The Sampler Motif Book
by Brenda Keyes. This 122-page book includes dozens (hundreds?) of little sampler motifs perfect to use in your own pieces. There are also some beautiful "ready-to-stitch" projects, including spot and band samplers, a blackwork sampler, needlecases, and a strong Carnation pillow design. I've had this book for a few years and it's one that has stayed in my stash through numerous rounds of decluttering. Every time I thumb through it I see a project that I want to stitch someday, so it goes back on the shelf! Soon I *will* stitch something from it!

1 comment:

Needleworker said...

Excellent instructions! I am left handed and do my cross stitches the other way, now I know why.