Here is a beginners guide to cross-stitching: Cross Stitch Carpentry
The below are some general tips, tricks, and hacks.
You can buy patterns, or make your own.
There are many sites that do patterns. Some of my favourites include Shitpost Sampler, and just looking up Etsy designs. “Digital Downloads” will be a PDF of a few pages that you can either print or zoom in on your device to stitch.
Make your own
You can use just about anything to make a design: a sprite making app, grid paper, or even a spreadsheet app!
I have made my own software that converts an image to a pattern.
I often work with cross-stitching floss, or tapestry wool.
Called “cross-stitching” as you have to make a cross to fill the square.
Canvas: Aida cloth is a popular choice, coming in many “counts”. E.g. “14ct” means “14 squares per inch”.
Thread: Floss is mostly used in this medium, often the popular DMC floss.
Tapestry or half-stitching.
Canvas: Literally canvas, or other stiffer fabric, in larger counts. I work in 10ct, as it is a good size for the wool I use to ensure complete coverage. This canvas can be harder to find, but if you look up your local craft store for “interlocking” or “zweigart” you’ll be sure to find something.
Note: DMC tapestry wool has historically had far less colour availability than it’s floss counterpart, but as at time of writing (2021) the number of available colours on the DMC website has risen from 100 in 2019 to 390 in 2021. Confirm the colours in your design and your local availability before starting your design.
When purchasing materials for a specific design, there are some important things to keep in mind.
Try to always buy enough to cover your project at once. There is an art to dying threads, so sometimes the “dye lot” or “batch lot” can have slight variations between other batches, so try and make sure all your thread for a colour comes from the same batch.
Try not to mix materials. For consistency in the piece, make sure you use the same thread type for the entire thing (unless you’re trying to make sections different intentionally, of course!)
Buy more than you need. If you run out of a colour, you increase your chances of having a different batch, or the colour not being available at all.
I like to take some spare cardboard – an old cereal or cracker box works well – and take a whole punch and make a thread card.
I then take lengths of my material and loop them around the holes, writting the colour number and/or symbol on the card for identification (tweet).
Always start from the center of your design in the center of your canvas or aida, ensuring you have plenty of room on the edges for framing/border work. You can’t easily add canvas but you can take it away!
When starting out cross-stitching, check your medium and canvas to see how many threads you need. DMC floss comes with 6 threads, so you can easily split it into 1-ply, 2-ply, 3-ply – whatever you need. 2ply on 14ct canvas can work well, but do what works for you. Keep consistent unless you’re intentionally trying to play tricks with foreground/background (tweet).
When cross-stitching, try and make sure all your stitches follow the same direction. When “cross” stitching, you make two passes over the same square, so try and make sure your first pass follows the same direction, and your second pass follows the alternative direction. I like to make my top layer second pass go bottom-left/top-right.
When half-stitching, you only make one pass, so while the direction does matter, but it’s pretty hard to go in the wrong direction unless you are working a great distance from your main work.
In either method, try not to ‘travel’ thread. If you have to jump many squares with the same colour, tie off and start again in the new place. The aim is to converse thread, so if the amount of two thread changes is shorter than the travel distance, you’ll be saving material! If you have to travel a short distance, try and tuck the thread under the back of other threads to keep it secure.