To slow down
Our society is full of rapidly evolving high technologies and incessant commercial activity. It seems like we never slow down: there's not enough time in the day to get everything done. But relaxation is necessary, even critical, for our health. We need to find times when we slow down and enjoy life's little pleasures, whether it's basking in the sun, enjoying a good meal, reading a good book or doing some needlework . Cross stitch is a type of needlework that is a relaxing hobby. It's cheap, easy to learn, and the final product can be a wonderful gift.
About Cross Stitch for Beginners
Counted cross stitch as a needlecraft has been around almost as long as people have been sewing embroidery and embellishments into the material. In modern cross stitch, colored thread is sewn onto evenly woven fabric in small Xs in a pattern. Uniform weave fabric and Aida fabric are specially designed for this purpose: the weaving forms small squares with small holes at each corner already made for the needle. Since the seamstress does not need to push the needle through the fabric as is the case in most other needlework, the needle itself has a blunt tip, as well as a slightly wider eye for wire that has a larger diameter than the wire. Yarn is made in a wide variety of colors and textures, meaning the pattern potential is endless. Sometimes designs are stamped directly onto the fabric to indicate which color to use in which squares. When using blank fabric and a separate pattern, the color of the thread matches the symbols on the pattern and the seamstress must count the squares on the fabric to know where to put a specific colored X. Hence the term counted cross stitch.
Beginners should either buy a small kit that has everything, or look for a seasoned cross stitcher who has all the materials needed and is willing to share. A kit contains the right size of fabric and the right amount of thread, along with a needle, a pattern and, in some cases, a hoop. They may even include small scissors, but these can be found separately without problem. Even weave fabric comes in various sizes depending on the number of squares per inch, from large squares like 6 thread count to very fine linen that can be as small as 40 thread count. Beginners should start with large square fabric of 14 stitches or less, as the squares will be much easier to see.
Threading the needle for cross stitch is done differently than when sewing. The thread is not knotted, but pulled through the eye of the needle just a few inches, enough to keep the needle from slipping off the thread as you sew. For fabrics 14 or smaller, three strands of floss are typically used. For a count greater than 14, two strands are used or even one strand for the very fine count.
If you don't have fabric that has the design stamped on it, it's usually easiest to start sewing from the center of the design. The pattern will indicate with arrows which row and column meet in the center of the pattern. Instead of counting the squares of the fabric to find the exact center, the easiest way to start is to fold the fabric in half, then in half again, so that the folds form an X indicating approximately the middle of the fabric. Many people find it helpful to place their fabric in a hoop, to stretch it evenly and give the seamstress a good visual area. If you use a hoop, remember to always remove it when you take a break in sewing, otherwise the hoop will leave a ring in your fabric that will be difficult to remove.
Once you have threaded your needle with floss and the fabric is folded to indicate the center, choose your starting square and push the needle up through a hole in one of the corners of the square. It doesn't matter which corner you use, but it's important to always make the first cross of your X in the same direction for each square. If you don't do this, the top cross of the X will go in different directions throughout your final image, making it look messy. Once you have passed your needle through the fabric, pull the thread until a few inches remain on the back of the fabric. Later, you will thread this thread tag onto your needle and pass it under the stitches to secure it. There is no need to cross stitch. When you have pulled the thread far enough, push your needle through the hole that is diagonal across the square from the first hole. To complete the X, pull the needle up through one of the remaining holes and back down to the last hole. Continue making your X's according to the symbols and instructions on the pattern.
When you've finished a section or are near the end of your thread, simply run the needle under a few stitches on the wrong side of the fabric to secure it and cut off any dangling strands. Rethread your needle with a new length of thread and start again, this time securing the back end of your thread into the strands at the back of the fabric before making your first X.
Simple but beautiful
Cross stitching can be a great way to relax or keep busy while waiting, such as at the doctor's office or at the airport. Not only are you doing something fun and interesting, but you are creating a beautiful picture at the same time. It's simple to learn, easy to do, but you produce a beautiful work of art that will be admired by everyone who sees it. What more could you want in a hobby?
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