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How to read needlepoint or cross stitch chart

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This is a complex one, pre-printed canvas or pre-printed cross stitch have the colours or even the stitched marked on. These are relatively easy to follow, this issue is usually that the colours are not labelled, which means you have to guess which is light green, medium green and dark green. This can be easy if the colours have a marked difference, but a pin it relatively close in colour. Its best to lay them next to each other in natural daylight and that should tell you the difference.


Pre-printed canvas for needlepoint has a colour bar down the side to help you match the print colour to the thread colour (are yes it’s another guessing game ) but it help later on in stitching to match the colour used for stitching an area.

Counted work

Now on to counted work, this means nothing is pre-printed, you are given a blank canvas or fabric and have to match areas.  Now its best to mark the centre line both vertically and horizontally.  You can if you want mark out the whole grid to match it to the design booklet. Some aida’s even come pre marked.   You will need to know the count (how many threads per inch) the design is worked in before you do this just to make sure fabric and design match up.  For example, our kits are worked on 14 count canvas and our designs are planned on the same. So, each tiny square on the chart represents 1 stitch.   This works for both cross stitch and canvas work.

Marking the centre line both vertically and horizontally

The Charts

Each chart will have a key which shows you the symbol that has been assigned to each colour. This key should also tell you the name of the colour and the number (in case you run short) If the designer has been helpful, these match numbers on the threads, if not it’s the guessing game.  Some will be obvious, such as black, white etc but 6 shades of green can get a tad complex.

When working its best to start from the middle and work out wards, take it slowly as miscounts happen and can throw out parts of the design, it best to correct if only a small amount of unpicking is required.

There is no real rule on whether you work in rows or vertically but completing a 1-inch square at a time does make it easier, it also shows up errors quickly.


Ready to stitch

You have prepared your marking lines on the canvas or the cross-stitch fabric, and you are now ready to stitch. You can stitch your piece by hand, or you can frame the fabric on a scroll frame. Scroll frames are easy to purchase and easy to set up. We always recommend framing your project as it prevents the fabric from stretching during stitching, and in the end, you are less likely to need to block your piece.

Find the center of the twill tape and mark with a pencil.

Then match to the center thread marks on the canvas. fold the edge of the canvas 1cm over to avoid it pulling off the frame when tight. Pin the folded edge to the twill tape.

Over sew the canvas to the twill tape. Once both ends of the frame are attached to the canvas, then roll on any excess to the bars so that the center cross is visible.

Sometimes, when working on larger canvas and frames, the canvas tends to loosen up, causing horizontal or vertical waves.   This occurs due to incorrect tension. When horizontal waves occur you have to move your main bars to even the tension until they dissapear. When the vertical waves appear we typically lace up the edges to correct it. Normally, we wrap the edges in twill tape and lace them up with curtain cord using bracing needles. When working on needlepoint, we use a twill tape and T-pins to lace the canvas.

Lacing the canvas

Start your way by tying one end of twill tape to the corner of the scroll frame. Then take the twill tape to the edge of the canvas and  pin with the T pin 1-2 inches from the stretcher bar.

Fold over the pin Take the twill tape and foldit over the frame side bar and repeat this step every 1-2 inches until you reach the end.

Make sure you maintain the tension until the waves on your canvas disappear. To maintain the tension on your framed canvas you should retension every time you work.

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