Top tips for stitching large designs
Ready to level up and tackle some larger scale cross stitch projects? We're here to help! Read our handy A-Z of tips from the pros for stitching large designs
A is for Ability
Ability – Know your stitching limits: speciality threads, stitches and fabrics take some getting used to, so if you’re not 100% confident, tackle a project with just one of the three in first.
B is for Bright
Never stitch without a bright, low energy craft lamp, especially in winter. They give off better light and throw out less heat than normal bulbs. Daylight bulbs are ideal.
C is for Colour
Typically, large designs have over 30 colours in them, so if the threads aren’t pre-sorted, cut lengths and arrange them on a sorter first. Invest in a Pako Thread Sorter.
D is for Deadline
If you're stitching to celebrate a special occasion, work out how long it takes you to stitch a block of 30 by 30 stitches; multiply this by how many sessions you can fit into a week, and then work out when you need to start. Allow an extra two weeks for mishaps and then another one for framing.
E is for Evenweave
If your large project has lots of fractionals, this is the best fabric to go for. Having to pierce aida repeatedly will put you off the design. This fabric distorts more easily than aida, so make sure you use a good frame.
F is for Frame
his is an essential bit of kit for working on large projects. Choose from one that stands on the floor, or one that sits on your lap. Siesta Frames have a good selection to get you started.
G is for Growing
As the design grows, set yourself little challenges to keep your motivation levels up. For example, you'll finish the green of this tree before I go to bed. Then plan which bit you'll stitch next, so you know what you'll be working on the next day.
H is for Help
If you're stuck on any aspect of your stitching, ask fellow stitchers! Reach out in cross stitch Facebook groups or let the experts on the Q&A panels of our magazines know and we'll be pleased to help.
I is for Initial
Backstitch your initials or name and the year onto your design. It will give it an heirloom feel and a place in history as it's passed down the generations.
J is for Juggling
Juggle two or three smaller designs with your large project to give you a break from it every now and then, and to help keep your motivation levels high.
K is for Knots
Keep the back of your stitching neat to prevent threads from getting tangled up at the back. Use a thread conditioner like Thread Heaven.
L is for Linen
It looks beautiful, but can be more challenging to stitch on than plainer evenweaves. "Linen certainly suits the folk art style of many of the American designs that are around today," says Suzanne Bullman of The Historical Sampler Company. "It makes a fabulous background for many larger samplers or heritage pieces." To see a wide range of linens, visit www.willowfabrics.com
M is for Making Up
If your walls are jam-packed with pictures, invest in a sewing machine so you can easily turn your stitching into household accessories, like cushions.
N is for New Designs
Don't be tempted to buy any new charts or kits until you've finished your large project. They can be far too tempting and there’s a danger that you may put down your big project and never pick it back up again!
O is for Organisation
Keep your threads tidy, your fabric neat and flat and your kits and charts sorted. At the end of a stitching session, pack away your needle, threads and fabric tidily so it's easy to start next time. Having to untangle a mess of fabric and knots will only put you off continuing a design.
P is for Practise
Large projects often contain French knots or speciality stitches. Practise these on a scrap of fabric first, before trying them on your big design.
Q is for Quiet
If you have a particularly tricky area to stitch, or some unpicking to do, sit in a quiet area of the house so you can get it done as quickly as possible, before continuing with the rest of the fun bits.
R is for Running Stitch
Before you start stitching, grid your fabric with red thread in running stitch. It will make counting much easier.
S is for Speciality threads
Substitute these for regular stranded cotton to create a special effect on your most prized pieces. By speciality we mean anything other than ordinary, machine-dyed stranded cotton. In particular we love DMC's Jewel Effect threads.
T is for Tape
Use masking tape to cover the edges of your fabric, so they don’t fray and so that your threads don’t catch on them. Alternatively, you can trim them with pinking shears.
U is for Unpicking
Unpicking is tricky, but quicker and easier if you've made sure that the top arm of each cross stitch lies the same way so you can use the point of your needle. Use a soft toothbrush to remove any remaining fluff.
V is for Variegated Thread
Save time stitching areas of shading, by using threads that have lots of different tones of one colour.
W is for Wrinkles
Iron your fabric first, before stitching on it, to remove any creases. You can dampen the fabric and iron it dry, to remove any stubborn creases.
X is for X Marks the Spot
Generally speaking, you should always start stitching in the centre of your fabric and chart, where the two heavy black lines intersect. If your design has a border, work this quickly, before starting on the main centre stitching.
Y is for Yawns
Yawns are usually closely followed by errors – don't stitch when you're tired! It's a false economy.
Z is for Zweigart
The popular German Fabric brand is one of our favourite fabric types to stitch large designs with. Choose from a large range of Zweigart fabric at www.willowfabrics.com
Hannah has been the Editor of The World of Cross Stitching magazine for 4 years and is responsible for bringing a wide range of cross stitch patterns from the best international designers to the readers around the world. She loves to stitch modern baby samplers for new arrivals amongst her friends and family, but as an all-round crafter, Hannah is just as likely to have a crochet hook in hand as a needle and thread. When she’s not busy crafting, Hannah can be found Irish dancing or running to keep fit.