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Get to Know Your Stitches

Start Stitching

To begin, cut about 18" of embroidery floss, and pull out the required number of threads (usually 2) one at a time- and thread your needle. Use one of the following methods to start your stitching:

Thread Tail Start:

Bring the needle up through the fabric, leaving about 1/2" (2cm) of thread on the reverse side, and work over this with your first few stitches to secure it.

Loop Start:

Separate 1 strand of floss, twice as long as you normally use. Fold the floss in half, and thread the 2 loose ends through the eye of your needle. This should make a long tail with a “loop” on the end. Bring your needle up from the back, and down through the front of the fabric to complete the first half of your ‘X’. Turn your work over and thread your needle through the loop. Find the full tutorial here

Cross Stitch

To make a single cross stitch: bring the needle up through hole 1, down through hole 2, the up through hole 3, and finally down through hole 4.

The quickest, easiest way is to work rows of full stitches. To work a row of cross stitches: work across the fabric from bottom left to upper right corners, and then back to complete the row of full crosses. Always make sure your X's slant in the same direction.  At some points, it may be necessary to work single full stitches, in areas that require only one cross stitch square. Using both methods of making full cross stitch is fine wherever they are appropriate. 

Half Cross Stitch

Some designs have areas that are worked in half-cross stitch, usually the background. This stitch is literally half a cross stitch, (up through 1, down through 2, etc.) as shown at left. 

You should always make sure your work slants in the same direction for the finished work to look good. 

Back Stitch

Back Stitch is a row of straight stitches, made with a single embroidery thread. Back Stitches are usually marked on the chart by a thick or colorful outline. The back stitch is not worked until all the cross stitches have been completed.  To make a row of back stitches: bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, and down at 4, and so on, as shown on the diagram on the left. Notice that 1 and 4 use the same hole.

Some people like to make Back Stitches for each and every square. I prefer to use slightly longer Back Stitch where possible. It's much quicker, and I prefer the look of it. I generally stitch over 2-3 squares (but no more that that) for each stitch, but around corners and such it can be each and every square as you follow the line on the pattern. 

Partial Stitches

¼ Cross Stitch

A one-quarter-stitch is from one corner to the middle (where the legs of the x would cross). Stitch should slant in according to pattern.

¾ Cross Stitch

A three-quarter-stitch is a one-quarter-stitch plus a half-stitch. (see photo below)

When you see 2 colors that share one square on the chart, work a 3/4 stitch in the more prominent shade, and complete the block with a 1/4 stitch of the other shade, as shown in the diagram on the left. 

When you see 2 colors that share one square, PLUS a backstitch line through it, you can do one of the following things: Do two 1/4 stitches, and let the backstitch line function as the other half of the stitch (this is my preference), or, do one 1/4 stitch and one 3/4 stitch and place the backstitch on top of it all.

Finishing the Thread

To finish stitching, run your thread under several stitches on the reverse side to secure it. Snip the thread close to your stitching.

Carrying the Thread

Try to keep your work neat- don't run your thread more than 4 or 5 squares at the back of the design. There's a good chance it will show through to the front, your stitch tension won't be even, and it wastes thread.


Additional Stitches: 

Whip Stitch

Use this stitch to attach of two pieces of fabric. Usually there will be a backstitched line to follow as a sewing line. Using 2 strands of embroidery thread, begin by taking a stitch on one piece of fabric (or under one backstitch thread) and another stitch on the other piece. Continue in this method until two pieces of fabric are stitched together. To end your thread, take a tiny stitch loop your needle through the thread and pull tight. Snip threads close to stitching line.

Blanket Stitch

Thread your needle and knot the end. Bring your needle up from the back, about 1/4" in from the edge. Make a loop by bringing your needle up from the back again through the same spot. Bring your needle under this loop at the edge of the felt. This anchors the thread. To make the blanket stitch, bring your needle down from the top about 1/4" from the first stitch. Pull the needle up through the loop of thread, and pull tight.

French Knot

Bring thread up to top of fabric. Wrap thread around needle two times. Holding thread taut, insert needle back into fabric. Pull thread through to back.