Cross Stitch FAQs

What does Thread Count Mean?

All fabrics are sold by the yard or metre or part thereof and are described by the number of threads to 1in (2.5cm), i.e., their count. To check the count of a fabric, lay a ruler on the fabric and count the numbers of blocks or threads in 1in (2.5cm) – use a needle to help you follow the threads. If there are 14 blocks to 1in (2.5cm) then the fabric is 14-count. 28-count linen will have 28 threads to 1in (2.5cm).


How are Cross Stitch Design Sizes Calculated?

All that determines the finished size of a cross stitch design is the number of stitches up and down and the thread count of the fabric. Calculate the size of a design as follows:

Look at your chart and count the number of stitches in each direction.

Divide this number by the number of stitches to 2.5cm (1in) on the fabric of your choice and this will determine the completed design size. For example, 140 stitches divided by 14-count aida equals a design size of 10in (25.5cm).

Now add a margin for stretching, framing or finishing. I always add 13cm (5in) to both dimensions for a picture or sampler. This can be reduced to 7.5cm (3in) for smaller projects.

How Many Strands for Stitching?

The number of strands of stranded cotton (floss) used depends mainly on the stitch count of the fabric you are using. When in doubt, work a few cross stitches in the fabric margin and decide how many strands you prefer. If the chart does not indicate how many strands to use, check by pulling a thread from the edge of the fabric and comparing it with the strands of cotton. They should be a similar weight to the threads in the fabric.

Threading a Needle or Needling a Thread?

Sometimes threading a needle can defeat you, usually when you are tired or distracted or when you have been stitching too long!

So try needling the thread instead.

Pass the thread across your index finger and hold it quite firmly. With your other hand holding the pointed end of the needle, rub the eye of the needle up and down the thread. The thread will pop up through the eye of the needle as if by magic.

How do I Check for Colourfastness?

Ensuring that threads are colourfast is important, particularly if you need to launder the piece or are planning to tea-dye it. I have had experience of threads not just running, but galloping! You should have no trouble with well-known reputable brands such as DMC, Anchor and Madeira but take extra care with Christmas reds.

To check for colourfastness, place the work face down on a clean surface and press the back of the stitches with a clean, damp white tissue. Any trace of colour on the tissue means the thread colours are not fast, so do not wash or tea-dye.

How do I Form a Single Cross Stitch on Aida or Evenweave?

Bring the needle up from the wrong side of the fabric at the bottom left of an aida block or to the left of a vertical evenweave thread. Cross one block of aida or two threads of evenweave and insert the needle into the top right-hand corner. Push through and come up at the bottom right-hand corner. Complete the stitch in the top left-hand corner. To work an adjacent stitch, bring the needle up at the bottom right-hand corner of the first stitch.

How do I Form Cross Stitch in Two Journeys?

Work the first leg of the cross stitch as above but instead of completing the stitch, work the next half stitch and continue to the end of the row Complete the cross stitches on the return journey. I recommend this method as it forms neater vertical lines on the back of the work. This method isn’t suitable for cross stitching over one fabric thread.

What is Tweeding?

Where two shade numbers are quoted for one stitch this is known as tweeding. This straightforward practice is a simple way to increase the numbers of colours without buying more thread.

To tweed, simply combine more than one coloured thread in the needle at the same time and work as one. You can also apply the tweeding technique to working French knots and bullion bars to great effect. Metallic threads and blending filaments can also be tweeded with stranded cotton.