While most of my gifts for Hanukkah this year will be coming from Etsy, I still try to look for ways in which I can add my own handmade touch, whether it’s in the gift wrap, cards, or embellishments. The encyclopedia of embroidered design, A Rainbow of Stitches, offers over a thousand motifs to inspire you to add personal details to your holiday gifts. For this week’s How-Tuesday, the authors share the fundamentals of cross-stitch along with a PDF of holiday cheer motifs to get you in the mood. Besides the lovely jam jar toppers above, how else would you put these seasonal patterns to use? Leave your ideas in the comments below!
If you haven’t tried embroidery or cross-stitch before, a quick look through this book will give you overwhelming proof that you can stitch on virtually anything made from fabric. More than eighty inspiring ideas for stitched embellishment are shown, from wearables and personal accessories to a variety of decorative items for every room in your home.
So dig through your closets and open your dresser drawers to find an item that needs a little extra “something,” then take a trip to your local crafts or fabric store to get some basic supplies. A rainbow of stitches awaits!
Before You Begin
Before you start, make sure your fabric is well prepared so it won’t fray as you’re stitching it. You can either hem the edges with a large basting stitch, or simply apply fusible web strips around the fabric’s perimeter. Keep in mind that the piece of fabric should always be larger than the pattern to be stitched.
Working With Fabric
Fold your fabric in four to find its center point. Make large basting stitches along both the horizontal and vertical folds to serve as guidelines as you stitch. Align the center point of your motif with the point where the two lines of stitching intersect. Remove these guidelines once you’ve finished embroidering your motif.
To help stitches stay even, use an emboridery hoop. Gently stretch your fabric on the hoop, making sure to reposition it frequently — or to remove it at the end of each stitching session — to avoid damaging its weave.
Working With Embroidery Floss
Two or three strands of six-strand cotton floss were used to stitch all of the projects shown in this book. Whenever you start a project, you’ll find it helpful to make a sampler of stitches on the fabric you’re planning to use to determine how many strands of floss you’ll need. As a general rule, lower-count Aidas — a type of counted thread fabric that’s traditionally used for cross-stitch projects — require more strands, while higher-count Aidas and linens need fewer. For example, most projects stitched on 14-count Aida require three strands of floss, while those stitched on a 28-count linen, which has a much tighter weave, would probably need just two strands, and even one might look fine.
To transfer motifs to your fabric, use carbon transfer paper, which is specially made for embroidery and is available in several colors. Choose the one that works best with your fabric. For example, white transfer paper is best for dark fabrics, while blue or red work best on lighter ones.
Start by photocopying the motif, which you can enlarge or reduce to get it to just the right size. Trace the photocopied motif on a sheet of tracing paper, following its outline and making sure to include all its details. Prepare your fabric according to the instructions on the previous page, then iron it carefully before spreading it out on a flat surface, such as an ironing board or clean work table.
Place the transfer paper between the fabric and the tracing paper, making sure to put the colored side of the transfer paper face down. Keep the papers in place by pinning them to the fabric. With a hard pencil or a pen, carefully trace the motif, pressing down so that the entire image transfers properly. Once you’ve finished, separate the papers and fabric carefully to avoid smudging the fabric.
Starting and Ending Off
This method of starting and ending off avoids having to tie knots on the back of your piece. To begin, take about a yard of floss, using as many strands as you need for your project. Fold it in two, then thread the needle. Bring the needle up through the fabric, leaving the loop created by the folded floss at the back. Bring the needle back down to start your first stitch, passing it through the loop, then pull gently to lock in the thread. Once you’re done stitching, slip your thread under your last three or four stitches.
Cross stitch method 1
Cross stitches are typically worked on counted-thread fabric. This method is especially useful for lines of cross stitch.
Come up through the fabric at point A, then go back down at point B, up at C, down at D. Come back up at E and, working in the opposite direction, go down at B to form an X.
Cross stitch method 2
This method can be used either for lines of cross stitch or to make individual stitches.
1. Come up at point A, go down at B, come back up at C, then down at D to form the first cross stitch.
2. Come back up at B, go down at E, come up at D, then go down at F to the second cross stitch.
Stem stitches create a continuous yet slightly staggered line.
1. Bring the needle up at point A, then into B and up at C (midway between A and B). Note that thread should loop under the needle.
2. To make the next stitch, go down at D and come back up at E, above the previous stitch and midway along its length.
Download a PDF of holiday cheer motifs here.
Thanks to Agnès Delage-Calvet, Anne Sohier-Fournel, Muriel Brunet, Françoise Ritz, and the good folks at Watson-Guptill Publications for sharing this project with us. For more inspired stitching, check out A Rainbow of Stitches.