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Calling all cross-stitchers of MeFi!
March 17, 2014 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I am about to begin a very large, very exciting cross-stitch project! I have only done small projects in the past, and I need some guidance in several areas.

I've decided to cross-stitch some of my favorite pieces of art! I used MacStitch to create charts from high-res photos of the pieces, but I have a few questions. In the past, I've completed small projects, but they came exclusively from all-in-one kits, where all tools were included. The pieces I've charted will be quite large - in the neighborhood of 25in x 18in-ish. (The largest chart is 28 printed 8.5x11in pages.) Help! Here's what I think I need to know:

1. What sort of hoop or hoop-like contraption should I purchase to hold the cloth taut?

2. Where are the best affordable sources to purchase lots of different colors of thread? I'll be using DMC.

3. Tips on organizing a lot of thread would be great. In the past, I've punched holes out of pieces of cardboard and looped each color individually. Is there a better way?

4. I have no idea whether I need to incorporate half-, quarter-, three-quarter-, or back-stitches into my charts. Should I worry about this?

5. I'm planning to use 14-count Aida cloth. What should I know about buying it? Cutting it?

I know there are probably lots of things I am not thinking about, as I've never attempted a from-scratch project like this before. Any and all words of wisdom/general tips would be greatly appreciated!
posted by sevensnowflakes to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. What sort of hoop or hoop-like contraption should I purchase to hold the cloth taut?

I like Q-snap frames for larger projects, but Aida cloth is stiff enough (at least at the beginning of the project) that I don't need a hoop for it and often skip it on larger projects. You can also do just a regular hoop of whatever size is comfortable and move it around the project as you go. Be a little bit strategic about it and make sure to take your sewing OUT of the hoop when you're done stitching so you don't put perma-creases in the work.

2. Where are the best affordable sources to purchase lots of different colors of thread? I'll be using DMC.

They're pretty much the same at all craft stores, but sometimes you can catch it on sale or find a coupon.

3. Tips on organizing a lot of thread would be great. In the past, I've punched holes out of pieces of cardboard and looped each color individually. Is there a better way?

At this point I just put all the skeins in a big ziploc bag and put the few colors I'm currently working with in a small ziploc bag. I also like the cardboard method.

4. I have no idea whether I need to incorporate half-, quarter-, three-quarter-, or back-stitches into my charts. Should I worry about this?

Back stitches make things look more strongly outlined; lack of back stitches gives you a softer, more impressionistic result. You'll have to decide what you're going for.

5. I'm planning to use 14-count Aida cloth. What should I know about buying it? Cutting it?

Buy it rolled rather than folded if you can, just less aggravating because the creases can be annoying to iron out.

You might want to consider moving up to 18-count and stitching the piece slightly smaller. This seems GINORMOUS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on March 17


For big pieces, I started with a scroll frame. But I got tired of holding it with one hand and stitching with the other.

So I switched to a lap frame, which let me use one hand on top of the fabric to push the needle through, and the other underneath to place the next stitch. (I like that lap frame because it folds flat, because the only way I can ever complete a project is if I drag it around with me. I even made a special carrying case for it.)

But if you'll only be working on yours at home, you might prefer a floor or table frame.

Whichever you pick, I would definitely get a frame. Trying to do a piece like that on unstretched canvas sounds like a nightmare to me.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:55 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I always use a 6-8 inch plastic hoop regardless of size. Anything smaller or bigger just feels weird in my hands.

DMC is about 33 cents to 39 cents unless you get metallic which is $1.99 or so. Sometimes JoAnn's will put it on sale. I always go to my JoAnn's because the selection is better there than at my Michaels. You might look at amazon, ebay, and etsy for deals on floss...sometimes they can be found.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:57 PM on March 17


For thread, I got one of those plastic craft organizers with little cardboard bobbins. I can't find a link, but you can probably imagine it.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:57 PM on March 17


I use this type of organizer (similar to what ottereroticist is talking about, possibly) and plastic bobbins. For a while I tried using these and it was a terrible, horrible, no good mess.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:02 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I have never worked on a cross-stitch this big, but I also would suggest downsizing to 18 count aida. For one, it will make your piece smaller and more manageable. Also if you're trying to make something more realistic, the smaller count will be less "pixelated."
posted by radioamy at 6:09 PM on March 17


I agree with Eyebrows McGee and radioamy. You might want to try out the What Fabric Count? calculator to see what might work better than 14-count Aida.

Also, you might want to consider gridding your fabric before you start. More about that, and some other considerations, here at Kathy Dyer's Counted Cross Stitch Tutorial.
posted by candyland at 6:11 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I have used small ziploc baggies with a hinged metal ring to organize my floss. I like this a lot, because I can put all the baggies I need for a project on the same ring and keep it with the project. I find my floss gets annoyingly tangled when I use the cardboard, but maybe you're neater than I am (highly likely).
posted by jeoc at 6:15 PM on March 17


I use cardboard bobbins in a plastic case and they work great. Write the color number on the corner and keep them in numerical order and Bob's your uncle. The case may have room for little tools also, which is handy.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:21 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I agree with posters above, I think 18-count Aida would be a great idea.

I just use plastic hoops for all my projects, even the big ones. And I organize floss using the type of organizer SLC Mom is talking about above.
posted by gerstle at 5:48 AM on March 18


A good scroll frame and stand and good lamp will make this project much easier.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:37 AM on March 18


I use the plastic-craft-organizer-with-cardboard-bobbins setup too. I used to use plastic bobbins, thinking they would be awesome and reusable and sturdy, but turns out the little number stickers don't stay on, and if you write on them the writing gets smudgy, so I've returned to cardboard bobbins.

I like the idea of a scroll frame but have never found one I liked for pieces of the size you're talking about; I end up just working with a plastic hoop, 10" or so.

With a big project you'll be working on for a long time like this, your edges may fray - you may want to use a fray-check spray/gel to keep your fabric edges from coming apart. You could also, if you think you'll have a hard time following the pattern, look at something like. Or just get yourself a nice big piece of Aida with lots of room around the edges to make it easy to frame and also no big deal if you lose some of the edges to fraying.

You will be fine! A big cross-stitch project isn't really substantially different from a small one. Just start stitching, and have fun.
posted by Stacey at 10:15 AM on March 18


Chiming in to recommend the ziploc-baggie on a ring for floss storage. I never managed to rewind all my floss onto the little cardboard bobbins for the plastic box. The skein bands with the numbers stay in the baggie, even when I unwind and separate the floss from the band.

I prefer tension clamp hoops as opposed to the screw tension ones, easier to move about your piece, though as mentioned above, a bigger scroll frame might be more suitable.

If think you might lose your place in the diagram, this might help you keep your place, assuming you have a surface to set it on.
posted by sarajane at 11:07 AM on March 18


Thanks so much everyone! All of this was really helpful.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 4:51 PM on March 18


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