by Geordie Julia
Do you ever feel the urge to be creative? To make something special with your own two hands? Something you can proudly display? To be admired by all visitors into your home?
If you do, then counted cross stitch is a great way to satisfy that urge! I guarantee that for the majority of you, if you try this craft, the creativity bug will bite; and you'll become a total cross-stitch addict - just like me!
For many, understandably, the humdrum of everyday life does get a bit tiresome and at such times our stress levels can get pretty darn high. We all need to de-stress and have different ways of achieving this.
Let me tell you that for many people,the activity of stitching small crosses onto a scrap of canvas is truly therapeutic.
So, why not create a family heirloom or a brightly colored piece of artwork, such as "The Big 5 of Africa", to proudly display by boldly leaping into our wonderful world of cross stitching? This is a sure fire, stress-busting cure for the mundane day-to-day tasks each of us has to endure.
Counted cross stitch is a type of embroidery. You generally work from a printed chart, which uses symbols to represent various colors. It's a lot like paint-by-numbers or, more accurately, stitch-by-numbers. Wherever there is a symbol, you make a stitch in the recommended color.
You can create beautiful gifts using this craft. There is an abundance of pattern subjects to choose from (just look at the variety of patterns on this page), and the color palette is practically endless.
Cross stitch is generally workedusing a simple unspoken rule - when creating more than one stitch of the same color in a row, it's best to go in one direction first and then come back to the beginning in the opposite direction.
For example, let's say you have three stitches in red to do. You would go from the bottom right corner to the top left corner with all three stitches, and then starting with the third and final stitch, go from the bottom left corner to the top right corner of each stitch until you complete your X on the first stitch.
You can certainly modify this system to suit your personal needs. The most important thing about this common practice is that your top stitches are all going in the same direction. If they aren't, it will greatly affect the look of your finished piece.
This theory can be ignored only when using specialty stitches such the quarter stitch, backstitch, and French knots.
Creating and Adding Embellishments
As novice stitchers gain experience they seek out new ways to personalize their cross stitch projects. An easy and inexpensive way to do this is to add embellishments (as we call them in the trade), which simply means adding beads or buttons - or both.
Aida is the easiest fabric to use when cross stitching. This is the fabric most beginners use when first learning this wonderful craft. Aida fabric is stiffer than others and is woven to produce a grid-like form (rather like graph paper) with the center of your stitches covering each small square where the horizontal and vertical threads intersect.
Once you've mastered cross stitching and are looking for a more challenging fabric choice, you may wish to try either evenweave or linen. Information, as well as comparisons of these fabrics and more, can be found by doing a general "cross stitch fabric" search on the Internet.
Counted cross-stitch pieces are generally stitched using a 6-strand cotton thread normally called "floss". The floss is separated into one or two strands depending on the stitch you're doing. The cross stitch pattern directs you as to how many strands to use for each type of stitch.
A big advantage is the huge range of colors available. In fact, it's sometimes tough to decide which color to use! And if you can't find the perfect color, you can use tweeding?
Tweeding is where you take one strand each of two different colors and combine them. By threading your needle with these two differently colored floss strands, you can achieve a unique and stunning effect.
One of the many great things about cross stitch is that it requires remarkably few tools to complete a beautiful piece of art. Other than the fabric, needle, pattern and floss - the only other tools that would probably be useful are a small pair of sharp scissors and an embroidery hoop to help hold the fabric taut.
With just these few tools, you'll be well on your way to creating wonderful cross-stitch pieces. Another bonus is you can do this anywhere and at any convenient time! Your counted cross-stitch supplies take up very little space; so, you can continue to stitch when away from home.
In the early days of your new hobby, when choosing a cross stitch pattern to stitch, don't choose something just because someone else will like it or it's a simple design. Make sure you choose a counted cross-stitch pattern that appeals to you, no matter what you are going to do with the finished project.
If you decide to stitch a design that doesn't hold your interest, you won't be too surprised to discover the chances are rather high that it will go unfinished.
The best way to stay motivated to complete a counted cross stitch pattern, is to make sure you will enjoy stitching the subject.
An Essential Subtlety of Cross Stitch is ... Contrast!
Many veteran stitchers are constantly seeking to polish their skills and improve the quality of their completed cross stitch projects. They seek to create variety into their craft by subtlely introducing depth and tone.
One way they do this is by "tweeding" with contrasting colors and shades. Thanks, in no small part, to the many hundreds of different thread colors produced by the leading thread manufacturers, they have lots of options from which to choose.