My top 10 tips for living your best cross stitch life
Updated: Aug 10
There's a lot of information out there on the interweb about cross stitch from videos to tutorials to pictures to...well, all the things. I started making a note of any cross stitch tips that I found especially helpful and now I want to share some of them with you.
Heads up...I also have lots of tips and trick over on my YouTube channel so don't miss those too!
Since there is soooo much I could cover I've decided to break it down into several posts and this first one is some very general cross stitch tips that are focused on the basics and getting the most fun out of your cross stitching.
I do have some other articles that dive into more specific tips that you may also find helpful;
Ok, let's get started...
1. Have good light
I'm starting with the obvious here but I speak from experience of having stitched in poor light then looked at it the next day and realised that it might not have been the best it could be.
Lovely sunny daylight is the best, but since I live in the UK, this sometimes needs to be supplemented with some extra light. You can buy daylight bulbs, although I honestly find that any lamp will do the trick for me as long as it's good and bright.
One other thing I like to do is to have different projects that I can work on depending on the light; so I stitch projects that are more complicated or on higher count fabric in the daytime and have easier projects or lower count fabric for my evening stitching.
2. Keep it clean!
I very much recommend washing your hands before you start a session of cross stitching.
This seems to be pretty much the most common cross stitch tip that I have seen and for very good reason, because you don't want to get oils or dirt from your hands on your fabric. Your hands may look clean and you may not see any immediate problems, but it can affect the durability of the fabric or threads later on if they have invisible oil/dirt on them.
While we are talking about cleaning; make sure to wash and iron your finished piece. I feel quite strongly about this one. Seriously, you have spent the time creating a beautiful thing so give it some love to make it look 100% beautiful for however you want to finish it.
And if you don't know what you want to do with it just yet, then wash and press it, place it between layers of acid-free tissue paper, roll it around a cardboard tube (e.g. from a roll of wrapping paper or kitchen towel) and place in a drawer. Just don't ask how many of my pieces are still stored like this - lol!
It's probably also best not to eat or drink while cross stitching...but I admit I struggle to be strict with myself on this one! I avoid eating while stitching, but I do enjoy a coffee or maybe even a G&T whilst stitching :-) So, it depends how much of a risk you are up for...and maybe how clumsy you are - lol.
3. Get organised
I am one of those (annoying?) people who LOVE to keep everything organised so this is easy for me, but I do think it helps to keep you stitching as quickly and efficiently as possible and then you can get more done so definitely a win!
I can't really get too specific about this as everyone will find different ways to do things that work for them, but some of the things you can do are;
- get all your supplies together before starting a project and organise the threads onto a card or something similar
- organising your thread stash in a way that works for you
- keeping each project in a separate bag or pouch (I even like to keep a separate tiny pair of scissors with each project!)
I will definitely come back time and again to organisation as it's such a fave topic of mine and one I don't mind spending some money on...like this gorgeous Sarah Ashford Studio pouch.
And on a related note...
4. Read the instructions before you start
There is nothing worse than realising part or all the way through a project that you have stitched in the wrong place or used the wrong number of strands. Just saying. I may or may not have fallen victim to this.
5. Learn the lingo
Like many hobbies, cross stitch has it's own special language full of weird and wonderful terms and acronyms. So, if you want to find out what 'frogging' is or what WIP stands for then check out my handy list of Cross Stitch Terms and Acronyms.
6. Test it out
If you're planning a project with a different fabric or thread type, or a new technique then I think it's worthwhile trying it out first before taking the plunge.
Test stitch a few rows to see what it looks like and whether you like doing it. It's so much better to find out early on. For example, if you've never used metallic thread or black fabric, then try it first because if you really don't like it then you can switch it for something else.
I think this is especially useful if you're thinking of using a different count fabric than you've used before so you can decide how many strands of thread you want to use.
A case in point here is that I decided to start a Heaven and Earth Designs (HAED), which is most commonly done with 2 strands of thread over 1 thread of 25 count linen. I tried this out on a scrap of fabric and realised that although I could do it, it was pretty tricky and was likely to kill my enjoyment of the stitching. A test with 1 strand showed the coverage was still absolutely fine, and more importantly was going to be waaaaay better for my sanity.
7. Keep track of progress
It can be really helpful to cross off patterns as you stitch because it makes it much easier to keep track of where you are. Some people like to make a copy of the chart rather than cross off the original.
Full disclosure; I don't always do this if it's a really small pattern or it's really easy to see what I have already stitched, but mostly I do cross off. You can use a pencil, a pen, ba highlighter...whatever you find easiest.
I'll show you exactly how to do this in my quick tip video >>>
8 Avoid accidents!
I have never needed this particular tip but don't leave your stitching lying around if you have kids and/or pets. I've heard too many horror stories of projects that were cut up, ripped, vomited on...ewwwww.
I guess I am lucky that I can leave mine all over the place...and I do!
9. Stitch what you love
I've made the mistake of starting a cross stitch project, finding out that I didn't love it and trying to keep going just to get it finished, but I've come to realise that this is rarely a good idea. It might be a controversial view but I genuinely believe that you should just get rid of such projects because it will sap your joy. I will admit that actually putting it in the bin might be a step too far, but you could give it to a stitching friend to finish if they like it, or give it away online in a stitching group or to a charity shop.
I know some people out there will just absolutely have to finish that project no matter what but to everyone else I say please don't keep slogging away on something you don't love because life is short, time is finite and for sure there are more than enough other projects out there to find just the right one that you will love.
10. Find your own path
There are two elements to this. The first is that if the kit or chart you are using calls for something you are not a fan of, then switch it out and make it your own.
If you don't like the fabric count or colour, switch it for something you do like. If you don't love backstitch, choose projects with minimal or no backstitch. If you don't like French knots switch them for beads. Get the idea?!
And the second part to this is very VERY important...maybe even the most important thing in this whole post. Even though I am in the business of designing and selling patterns, I cross stitch for FUN, and am willing to bet you do the same. So if you come across tips or advice that you don't agree with or just doesn't work for you, then it is 100% OK to IGNORE it...and yes, that includes mine! We are not all the same and don't all do our cross stitch the same, because how boring would that be? Don't be afraid to try out tips and new things to see what works for you but don't worry if it doesn't suit you.
And that's it my stitchy friends...for today at least. Did it give you food for thought? Do you want to know more about any of these topics or is there something you really struggle with? If so, please do leave me a comment, or get in touch with me via email and I'll get right back to you...and maybe it will spark a whole new blog post!
Until next time, happy stitching!