This is a children's craft website and with that in mind the patterns and directions are geared to those learning to cross stitch. Having said that, beginners of any age may find the info handy!
Note! Framing ideas (bottom of this page)
Pattern: Kids can use graph paper to design their own patterns or they can check out one of the free beginner cross stitch patterns on my website.
Holidays and Seasons
Fabric to Use: My grandma is far from a beginner cross stitcher and can use any linen for cross stitching. But for those of us at a less advanced stage, the most common material used is called "Aida cloth". Aida cloth comes in a number of different sizes. For example 8 count Aida cloth has 8 cross stitches per inch while 16 count has 16 cross stitches per inch. A beginner should use the LOWEST number Aida cloth they can find -- my 10 year old daughter (a beginner) uses the 6 count Aida cloth (8 count when we can't find any 6).
Keep in mind, the size of your finished project also depends on the count you use. If the pattern is on a 50x40 grid, a 6 count Aida cloth will give you an 8.3x6.7 inch finished work while an 8 count Aida cloth will result in a 6.25x5 inch piece. You'll want to add two to three inches all around for framing.
For even younger children (my 6 year old, for instance) the plastic canvas needlepoint material is the best option. In this case you don't need an embroidery hoop, you can use wool instead of embroidery floss and you'll find it much easier to "aim" your needle at the right spot. This plastic canvas is a terrific starter material for cross stitch!
Embroidery Floss: This is the thread you use for stitching. It comes with 6 threads wrapped together. Cut about an 18 inch piece off and unravel the thread so you're using 3 threads for your cross stitching or 1 thread for your backstitching -- this applies to all our beginner projects. If you're using a higher numbered Aida cloth (18 or up) use 2 threads for your cross stitching instead of 3.
Embroidery Hoop: If you visit this site a lot, you know I'm not a big proponent of buying things (I like recycling and cutting back on expense when crafting with kids). But you can't cut out the embroidery hoop (4" ones work well)! Trying to cross stitch without one will just result in failed attempts and frustration. Borrow from grandma, pick up at a garage sale or buy brand new... but make sure you have one before your child (or you) starts trying to cross stitch. Remove projects from the hoop when you aren't working on them to avoid leaving marks. The smaller piece goes on the wrong side of the project with the large piece overlapping on the right side.
Embroidery Needle: A 22 or 24 needle work well... Realistically,
just find a needle that you can thread 3 pieces of embroidery floss into without
too much trouble!
Edges: Purchase Aida cloth with about 3 inches extra around the sides. Put masking tape around all of the edges to prevent fraying.
Find the Center: Fold the cloth lengthwise and widthwise and crease. The point in the middle is the center. Start stitching as near the center as makes sense (given your pattern) as possible. There are arrows on the patterns that indicate the center. When you put your embroidery hoop onto your cloth, do it so the center is showing.
Starting Out: When you start your thread out, leave a 2 inch length dangling on the wrong side of your fabric (you don't need to tie a knot in the end). When you continue with more stitches, catch the 2 inch length under the stitches on the back of your project. This is called anchoring the thread.
back side of project
Making the Pattern: You can do this two ways (it depends a lot on whether you're changing colors of thread or not). The best way if you don't need to change colors for awhile is to do a long row of half stitches (/ / / / /) and when you've finished them work backwards to complete the cross (\ \ \ \ \). Ultimately, this method results in a more uniform stitch and seems to go a bit faster. If, on the other hand, you are changing colors a lot, you can stitch an individual X each time).
Just make sure you always work your stitches the same way... you can start with \ \ \ \ or with / / / / but don't start one row \ \ and the next row / /.
Backstitching: Not done for every project. This is done at the end of the project. It is a running stitch not a X that outlines the pattern. When reading the pattern, the backstitching is typically shown by a solid line and is sometimes done in a color different (slightly darker) than the cross stitching.
With a beginner cross stitcher, I skip the backstitching (unless they're already familiar with how to do it) and just focus on the cross stitch. I find it takes my10 year old longer to backstitch her projects than it does to cross stitch them, so we're just sticking to the cross stitch for now.
Here's how it's done, though...
backstitch: up at one, down at two; up at 3, down at 4
So! You've finished off a beautiful masterpiece and want to display it... here are some ideas:
Bookmarks - any of the smaller -- long, narrow projects can be used as bookmarks:
Cards - any of the smaller rectangular or square projects can be made into greeting cards.
Framed Picture: any of the projects can be finished this way.
Pillow: any of the more square shaped projects can be finished this way.