I’m sure we have all heard of the saying X marks the spot. If you are wondering if that saying has anything to do with the embroidery style of cross-stitch or counted cross-stitch I’m quite sure it doesn’t. Cross-stitch is a form of counted thread embroidery in which the stitches are X-shaped to form a pattern or a picture and has maybe been used to make a map to a hidden treasure but that’s it. Cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and in the United States there is a sampler created by Loara Standish (daughter of Myles Standish) that is dated back to the 1600’s. Today it’s more popular for people to use cross-stitch as a way to decorate fabric for wall hangings, but traditionally it was used more to embellish items such as household linens and dishcloths.
One type of cloth that is often used for cross-stitch embroidery is Aida cloth. Aida cloth is an open weave and even-weaved cotton fabric that has a natural mesh and stiffness that works well for cross-stitch embroidery. This fabric is made with different size spaces or holes between the warp and weft that will accommodate different thicknesses of yarn or embroidery floss. The holes in Aida cloth are described by the count. For example 12-count Aida cloth would have 12 squares per linear inch. The typical sizes are 7,10,11,12,14,16,18 and 22, with 7 being the coarsest and 22 ranking as the finest. This cloth is usually made in colors of white, shades of tan and brown or ecru but brighter colors are also available. One tip about Aida cloth is to be careful with it as it has a tendency to fray easily. It should never by laundered prior to using it for cross-stitch embroidery and often needs to be hemmed. When you finish your project it’s best to hand wash it because it has a tendency to contract up to 1/2″ when washed in soap and water.
Cotton floss is the most common embroidery thread used to work a cross-stitch pattern today It is made from mercerized cotton, consisting of six strands that are loosely twisted together for ease of separating them. Mercerization is a process where the chemical structure of cotton fiber is altered to give it more strength and makes it more acceptable to absorbing dye. Although cotton floss is the most common, other materials such as silk, rayon and pearl cotton are also used.
There are two main styles of cross-stitch patterns available. One style is counted cross-stitch where a graph on a grid will correspond to the grid of fabric such as Aida cloth and symbols on the pattern will show you where to stitch each color. With this style you will usually count into middle of the fabric as your starting place. My favorite is the stamped cross-stitch pattern where X’s are stamped directly onto the fabric to show you exactly where and how large your X’s will be. With this style there is also a chart with symbols to show you what color of thread to use and stitch type. Here’s a tip for you, do not wash your stamped pattern prior to completing your project. Washing will remove the stamped pattern and I am speaking from experience. With the very first kit I bought the fabric seemed a little stiff, so I though washing it would help. Prior to reading any directions I did wash it and the material was softer, but it also removed the entire pattern.
If you are looking for a relaxing hobby to try, give cross-stitch a chance. It’s fairly inexpensive to start because there are limited supplies you need. A needle, floss, material and a hoop to help keep you material taunt to ensure even stitches. You can get Cross-stitch kits that will contain everything that you need.
Lanette Herrmann is co-founder of Something and More Hand Crafted Gifts, http://www.somethingandmore.com, and has enjoyed woodcrafting and other types of crafts for many years. She started out learning how to braid rugs with her grandmother. She got her love of hand stitching and weaving rugs from her mother. She also enjoys quilting, using the scroll saw and many other woodworking tools. When she isn’t working at her full time job, Lynn’s favorite pastime is spending time with her family.
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Photo: Lucía Pizarro Coma