1. Working With Patterns
Designs are stitched using DMC embroidery floss to place X's on the fabric corresponding to symbols on the chart. Each symbol on the chart represents one X on the fabric. The different symbols on the chart represent different colors of DMC floss. For more detailed instructions you can look through our crosstitch tutorial.
With larger patterns you can have quite a few pages. Most people start on the page in the middle of the pattern and start stitching at the center of the pattern and center of the fabric. You can really start anywhere though (like the top left) as long as you count the fabric weave carefully to make sure the design will end up centered on the fabric. You can use the numbers printed along the top and left side to tell you what row and column you are at, and use that to refer to the same hole on the fabric. Some people will even loosely sew in bits of bright sewing thread at 10 square intervals (and pull it out as you go) to help keep track of the row and column number on your fabric. On some patterns there are 3 rows that are shaded showing the adjacent rows from the previous pages. This is only for your reference to help with keeping your place and is otherwise ignored.
Even though it's listed on the pattern, you are free to choose any type, count or color of evenweave fabric to stitch on such as aida or linen, etc. The only thing that will change is the stitch size of your finished piece if you should choose a different count of fabric. Alternate counts and stitched sizes may be listed on the pattern. Make sure to add at least 3" or 4" inches of extra fabric on each side to allow for finishing and framing. The look of the cloth in the background may also be important when choosing a fabric so you should consider both the texture and the color.
Counted cross stitch should be done with a tapestry needle. Again, there are no set rules but generally you use a #22 needle if the fabric is 14 count or less, a #24 or #26 needle if the fabric count is 16-18 count, and a #26 needle if the fabric is finer than 18. The floss thickness and number of strands used may also affect your choice of needle size.
4. Number of Strands
The number of strands of floss will be shown on the pattern but, as with most things in cross stitch, it is open to individual choice. Traditionally, you want a certain amount of the background cloth to remain visible but some people prefer a fuller look. Some common choices are 2-3 strands for 14 count, 2 strands for 18 count, and 3-4 strands for 11 count. Try a few stitches on a scrap of the project's fabric to see if you like the look. Before you stitch, separate the floss into individual strands and then recombine them.
5. How to Stitch
The design should be centered. Find the center of the fabric by folding it in half, then folding it in half the other way. Locate the center of the design, marked by arrows, on your chart. You can either start stitching in the middle or count the number of squares (stitches) over from the center on both the chart and the fabric to where you want to start. The top left is a common starting place.
Do not use any knots to start or end. To begin stitching, bring the threaded needle up from the back of the fabric leaving about a 1" tail of thread behind the fabric. Stitch the next 5 or 6 stitches over the tail. Clip off extra thread. To end off, weave your needle back through the last 5 or 6 stitches and clip the thread short so as not to leave a loose tail.
There are two methods to stitch. The first method is to work a row of half stitches ////, then work back \\\\ to complete the X"s. Use this method for most stitching. The second method is to complete each X as you go. Use this method for vertical rows of stitches or isolated stitches. In all cases the X"s should be crossed in the same direction or the finished piece will look uneven. That is, the top thread of the X should always slant in the same direction. It does not matter which way they slant, as long as they are consistent. As you stitch the thread can twist so you should frequently let the needle and thread hang free until it un-twists.
6. Carrying Threads Over
Sometimes a color will have only a few stitches and then jump to another area. Most of the time you should end off and start again, other times you can carry the thread along the back. Just jumping from area to area is easier than starting and stopping, but sometimes the thread will show through. This can be a problem if you jump a dark thread over an unstitched area of light fabric. In general, you can carry the thread to another area if the jump is short, and you are jumping over a stitched area. Also, you shouldn't stop stitching at the pattern page boundries. If a particular color goes into the next pattern page you should switch pages and keep stitching, otherwise the page transitions could be visible on the stitched piece.
7. Keeping your place
Mark the stitches you've completed on the chart with a highlighter or transparent marker. You may find the darker markers (pink, blue, green) are easier to see than yellow. If you like you can print an extra copy of your chart for marking purposes. (Remember it's a violation of copyright laws to make additional copies, on paper or electronically, to sell or give away though.)