Jacqui completed her first stitching project at 4 years old and is a firm believer that stitching is for everyone and does not have to be labourious! Her modern spin on tapestry and cross stitching design has been hugely influencial and her books, including SUPERSIZE STITCHES feature modern quick stitching designs.
The following is an extract from her stitching school, showing how to stitch on canvas
PREPARING THE BASE
I would recommend that you cut your base fabric from 10-20 cm larger than the finished piece (5-10 cm round each side). It is worth then taking a little time to prepare the base for stitching. On aida and evenweave - make sure you lightly steam or press out any creases from the fabric. You can then take the time to either hand stitch or machine zig zag the edges to avoid fraying of the fabric, although this is up to you.
The larger canvas pieces do not fray as readily, but the open canvas edges can snag your yarn. So for this reason I usually tape the edges with masking tape, which stops both the snagging and any fraying.
WHERE TO START?
Tradition dictates that you start your project from the middle and work outwards. In order to mark the middle of your base - simply fold it in half and then half again. You can then co ordinate this with the middle of your project to start stitching. If you want an extra reference, you can use a ruler to mark the horizontal and vertical stitch rows which evolve from this point with a water soluble embroidery pen - which will be covered by your stitching and easily disappears with a touch of water.
You can then frame or hoop up your base ready to get started. Or if you are using canvas you can simply start stitching as is.
I would recommend that you cut your yarn before threading to no longer than 45cm maximum. The yarn length is to stop longer pieces being damaged as they constantly pass through your work, but also to make life a little easier with less thread to ‘handle’. Using your threader, thread up your needle with the number of strands required for the project, in the colour shown on the chart.
WORKING WITH THE CHARTS
Each of the charts is a grid of coloured squares. Each square represents a single stitch - and the colour of the square represents a different coloured yarn, which is shown on the yarn key. This method is called COUNTED CROSS STITCH. As most projects start in the middle - this is clearly shown by 2 large arrows on each chart highlighting the middle row. Also every 10th row/column, is highlighted in blue on my charts to enable you to count out your squares more readily. Some people find it easier to cross off the squares as they stitch - but I have only ever done this on really complicated stitching.
So now you are ready to stitch.. There are a number of different ways to start, make and finish your stitching..
It may sound a little silly to some, but it is important to start off your stitching in the proper way (without lots of knots!) otherwise your work will look ‘lumpy’ and may even unravel! There are 3 main methods for starting Cross Stitch:
1 QUICK START
This is a super quick and easy way to start stitching if you are using an even number of strands (2,4,6 etc). Firstly you cut your yarn - to twice the length you need and with half the number of yarns. For example a crewel wool on 10 hpi uses 2 strands of yarn - you would cut 1 longer length and then fold in half to make your 2 strands. By folding the yarn length in half you leave a ‘loop’ at the end. Thread the stranded end through your needle and start off the stitch from the right side. Take the needle down at point 1 and then back up at point 2, pulling through but leaving a loop on the right side of the fabric. Bring your needle back down at point 1 ready to make your first half cross stitch, but make sure you pass through the loop. Once your needle is through the loop you can pull the yarn through from the back so that the loop passes to the wrong side of the fabric. You have now completed your first half cross stitch and are ready to keep on stitching!
2 THE WASTE KNOT
The waste knot is perhaps the more traditional stitching starting block - and it can be used in embroidery as readily as cross stitch. It is best to use this method if you have an odd number of threads.
Start by threading your needle and then making a knot at the end. About 10 holes away from where you are starting to stitch (in the direction you are going to stitch over) pass your needle from the right side through to the back and keeping the end against the back, start to stitch.
This method ‘traps’ the waste yarn behind the stitches you start to make, and all you have to do then is snip off the knot from the right side as you approach it.
NOTE - do not pull the yarn loop through too tightly or it will distort the stitch.
The threading through method is a ‘multi function’ method - which is used once you have some stitches on the go! You simply run your threaded needle through the back of the last few stitches adjacent to where you are starting to stitch. This secures the thread in place ready to start stitching.
You can use this method for finishing off too at the end of your colour / thread and simply snip off any excess. It is also used for CHANGING COLOUR threads in the middle of your project.
CROSS STITCH TECHNIQUES
Whilst there is only 1 stitch, there are actually 2 different methods of creating it that are widely used. My Aunty Ann prefers method 1, whilst I use method 2 as I like to complete each stitch as I go. It can simply be a matter of personal preference. The only thing that I will stress is the stitch direction.
As the stitches are SUPERSIZED, the bigger the stitch the more noticable it is whether the stitches are in the same direction. By this I mean to ensure that the second half / top of the stitch is lying in the same diagonal direction. It really does not matter which direction you choose to stitch your project.. just make sure it stays the same for the whole project. I have recommended directions for most of the projects in this book, but the choice is yours.
CROSS STITCH - METHOD 1 - HALF CROSS STITCH
Half cross stitch is when you work in rows, working one half of the stitch first, and then turn around and go back over your row with the top half of your cross stitch. This first half stitch is called ‘Half Cross Stitch‘ or sometimes ‘Tent Stitch’.
On the illustration, the ODD numbers are when the yarn is coming up from the BACK and the EVEN numbers are the stitch being passed back from the FRONT through to the back. (ie: Up at 1, down at 2...) When you reach the end, you simply work back over all your stitches in the opposite direction, to make your cross stitch.
CROSS STITCH - METHOD 2 - COMPLETE CROSS STITCH
Alternatively you can work the cross as you go along (this is what I like to do as you know where you are!) Up at 1, down at 2, up at 3 etc... but forming the complete stitch as you go.
I hold the canvas so that the row ahead is in front of me - and as the canvas is forgivingly large you can just thread the needle right to left up and down in one movement... once you get your rhythm going! Although this is not recommended by purists because of the ‘extra wear’ you place on the yarn... I have not noticed a problem using tapestry or crewel yarns with this ‘all in one’ method
Finishing off is the same method as changing colour otherwise known as the THREADING THROUGH METHOD. You simply pass the thread through to the back of the fabric and thread your needle back through the last 4/5 stitches sewn and then snip off the ends.