Like knitting, crocheting and other handicrafts that are repetitive, cross-stitching can be extremely relaxing. As someone who doesn't enjoy sitting with my hands still, cross-stitching gives me a way to use some of my excess energy. Still, it is simple for young hands to begin, and small errors are easily remedied either by removal or, if possible, an adjustment in the pattern. I first got started cross-stitching when my 10 year old son asked me to help him design a pattern for a dragon. Since then, I've been designing and stitching patterns of some of the most spectacular places I have seen on the planet.
The key to cross-stitch is the "Aida Cloth" with its clear woven pattern that allows you to make perfect Xs in every box. The fabric comes in a variety of sizes with the number telling you the number of stitches per inch. All of the patterns for this website were designed for Aida Cloth size 14 which means there are 14 stitches per inch. You could, however, do the pattern on size 11 or size 16 (or any other size you choose) but would need to make adjustments. A pattern that is 5 inches wide on Aida 14 is approximately 70 (14 x 5) stitches. To reproduce it on size 11, you would plan for an image that is almost 7 inches wide (70 / 11).
The second part of the cross-stitch is the floss. These patterns are designed for cotton floss which is sold in strands of 6 or more. To sew, you cut a length of floss for stitching, split it into single strand lenghts that you will fold in half for 2 strands if you are working on Aida 14 or 16; split it into 3 strand lengths if you are working on Aida 11.
To start, you want to measure the cloth with plenty of room to spare and you want to treat the edges with either a machine zigzag stitch or some other fabric treatment to keep the edges from ravelling.
Stretch the fabric on a hoop or bar stretcher. I generally prefer the bar stretchers because the hold the fabric well and let you make adjustments as you proceed on the project. However, if you are workng on a small design, the hoops are much easier to handle.
The best advice on how to stitch is found at Offe's Cross-stitch. I definitely agree with her comment that it is faster and easier to use the Danish method of stitching. (Also, if you use the Danish method, the counting is easier). Be sure to follow her advide about the creating a loop to start and to finish by sewing through the final stitches.
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