The Anatomy of a Cross Stitch Project Step 2: Project Materials and Inventory

Cross stitching can be a rewarding hobby. The following article will help you to avoid some of the common frustrations related to materials that can be encountered when working on a cross stitch project.

Once you have chosen a chart for your project you can use this information to stock up appropriately based on the chart maker’s recommendations or your own preferences.

Ensuring that you have the proper amounts of thread, fabric, notions, and needles for your project will make it a pleasure to stitch and give the best results possible.

This post does not address the materials required for blocking, mounting, and framing which will be covered in another post.

A cross stitch project needs at least three things: thread, fabric, and a needle. Depending on the chart you have chosen you may require other materials like beads or buttons which come under the catch-all term of notions.

The chart will give you a list of all the materials you will need to complete it and it is always best to take stock and make sure you have all the materials on the list before you start your project.

Thread
You may already have a large stock of thread and happen to have the correct colours for the chart but for a large project it is best to buy in new. It is important to ensure that you won't run out of a particular colour half way through.

This is because even though the colours might be the same, the skein you already have and any new skeins of that colour you may need will more than likely be from different dye lots.
Thread manufacturers dye threads of the same colour in batches, or Lots. These lots are given a unique number which is printed on the skein label or tag. A different dye lot will mean a very subtle variation in colour. If you run out of a colour before the project is finished there may be a noticeable difference where one skein of a particular dye lot ran out and the new skein of a different dye lot was started.

For this reason always get the amount of a colour recommended by the chart. Chart makers and designers test their charts to make sure they give an accurate indication of how many yards or skeins of a particular colour are required to complete the chart. If two skeins are required it is best to get in two skeins at the same time so as to avoid having skeins from more than one dye lot.

If you do need to get two skeins of the same colour remember to check the dye lots on the labels to ensure that they are the same.

Some charts call for thread of a particular brand. If you prefer a different brand you can find lots of colour conversion charts on the internet that will tell you what a colour in one particular brand will be in another brand. Because the match will not be perfect it is best to use one brand of thread in a project unless there is a specialised kind of thread required that a particular brand does not produce.

If you decide to change the thread brand from that of the chart make sure you check how many yards and strands a skein of the recommended brand has and calculate for your preferred brand's skein yardage and number of strands appropriately.

Most thread comes in skeins of 6 strands. That is six separate threads wound together. But if your preferred brand's skeins are only four stranded you will need more skeins even if the skein has the same number of yards as the six stranded thread.

Fabric
Cross stitch charts will usually tell you the dimensions of the finished design in terms of stitches. This does not include the final dimensions of the project that would be required for blocking, mounting, and framing.

Some charts will advise on inches based on the count of the fabric used but not always. You may have to work out the amount of fabric you need based on the stitches.

Cross stitch fabric is reckoned in terms of Count. This is how many holes per inch. Depending on the type of fabric, holes and stitches do not necessarily equate.

If the chart calls for even weave then the count of the fabric is always twice as much as the number of stitches per inch. For example 32 count even weave will give you 16 stitches per inch. If the chart calls for Aida then 16 count will equal 16 stitches.

To calculate the dimensions of the piece of fabric you will need take the number of stitches of the finished design and divide by the stitches per inch of the fabric to be used.

For example if a design is 320 stitches across and will be worked on 32 count even weave, the calculation would be 320/16 because even weave is always half the number of stitches per inch as its count. This would mean the design is 20 inches across.

By doing the same calculation for the length you can work out the minimum size of fabric you need.

This is the MINIMUM amount of material required for the design. You will always need more than this depending on if you would like the design to have a border and if it needs to be blocked and mounted. At the very least you will need about a half an inch extra all around to finish the edges.

For a good border add one inch to all sides and to allow for blocking, mounting, and framing add a further two inches to all sides. Using the example above, the dimensions of the material required for a 320 stitches x 320 stitches project would be 26 inches square.

It is always best to have slightly more than you think you will need. Material can always be cut off but it is very difficult to add it without it being quite noticeable.

Notions
Some charts will call for notions like beads in the design. Like thread you may already have quite a stock. If you do not wish to buy in new ensure that you have enough to cover what the chart recommends.

Needles
It is always good to have a large stock and selection of needles to hand. All Inclusive project packs will usually include one needle but depending on the size of the project it is sometimes very helpful to have as many needles as colours of thread.

This means that to save time you can pre-thread a number of needles with the same colour or for areas where there is a lot of different colours close together you can 'stitch and park'. That is to say you can start one colour, park the needle still threaded, and then stitch around it with a different colour without having to keep cutting and re-threading a single needle.

Make sure that your needles are appropriate to the count and type of your fabric. Blunt, fat tapestry needles are great for Aida. For a high count even weave a thinner sharper needle is easier to work with.

Quality
If you are going to put time and love into a project you will want it to last.

This makes the quality of your materials very important. Especially if it is going to be an heirloom gift such as a wedding or birth sampler.

An experienced stitcher will already have preferred brands of fabric and thread that they know are a good quality, colour fast, and fade resistant.

For the less experienced it is always a good idea to do some research. There are plenty of hobby and cross stitch web sites where people offer product reviews. Ask a stitching friend what has worked for them. Books and magazines also offer a lot of good non-biased information on different products.

All Inclusive Chart Packs and Kits
Some charts can be bought as all inclusive kits. If this is the case then all your materials (thread, needle, notions, and fabric) should have been supplied. Take special care to go over the list of included materials and what has been provided in the pack to make sure that nothing is missing.

The Next Step
Now that you have gathered all your materials you are ready to prepare your project for stitching!

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