Happy New Year! One of my new year's resolutions was to start a blog on this site, so here it is. It will hopefully be a place for tips, tutorials and everything cross stitch as well as other crafting adventures.
As it is a new year and many people have new year's resolutions to try something new or learn a new skill, I thought I would start with some advice for beginners choosing their first cross stitch kit or pattern.
Choose a design you really like
This seems obvious but as cross stitch takes a lot of time, it is important to really like the design you are stitching. This means you will be more likely to enjoy the process of seeing the picture taking shape and excited to see the finished piece. You will also be more motivated to finish and get past any beginner frustrations if it's something you want on your wall.
Kit or pattern?
Cross stitch is usually sold either as a kit containing all the materials required, or as a pattern, which is usually chart of the design and the thread colours used either in digital form or on paper. I recommend going for a kit to start with as most newbie stitchers will not have acquired much of a stash of threads or fabric so will probably have to purchase all the materials separately. This will require some research into what you need and then to seek out those materials. Due to the quantities they are usually packaged in, you may end up with a lot more than you need for your project as well as possibly being more expensive than purchasing a kit. A kit should have all the required materials so you don't have to worry about any of that and also instructions should be included to get you started.
Cross stitch is a slow craft that always seems to take longer than you think, especially when you are learning and getting used to it so choose a small pattern to begin with to try it out and see if you like it. A smaller pattern will also be easier to follow.
Counted or printed?
Counted cross stitch is where the pattern is on a separate chart and you reproduce the pattern in cross stitch on to blank fabric by counting stitches/holes in the fabric. Printed cross stitch is where the design is printed on to the fabric and you stitch over it. This is the easier type as there is less chance of making a mistake by stitching in the wrong place, although with counted cross stitch it is easier to identify colours when you have different shades of the same colour and counted allows for more detail in the pattern. Whether you choose counted or printed is down to personal preference - I prefer counted as I like starting from scratch and watching the picture appear on a blank fabric and all of the kits we sell are counted cross stitch.
Check the fabric count and type
Cross stitch kits usually come with aida fabric, which has an open weave, grid-like format, with relatively big holes that are easy to see and find with your needle. Cross stitch can be done on other fabrics such as evenweave but aida fabric is the best for beginners. Aida fabric comes in various counts, which tell you how many holes per inch there are in the fabric - if there are more holes per inch, there will be more stitches per inch when you stitch on it and therefore your stitches will be smaller. Likewise, the lower the count, the larger the stitches.
Most of our kits come with 14 count aida fabric, which is one of the most common counts and a good place to start for beginners. However you should consider the size of this and if there are other factors affecting you that might cause challenges such as eye-sight, dexterity or whether you are teaching a young person then you may decide to look for a kit with a lower count such as 11 or 6 count.
Another thing to check is the fabric colour - some people find black or darker fabrics more difficult to stitch on. Personally I don't find it much different as long as you have good lighting.
Types of stitches
If the pattern has backstitch or fractional stitches in it, this will make it more difficult - the vast majority of our patterns have full cross stitches only. Backstitch is the outlining stitch you will see in some patterns - I find this more difficult than cross stitch as it often involves fractional stitches going through the weave of the fabric.
Number of colours and colour distribution
The more colours there are in a pattern, the more stop-start the stitching process will be. You should also look at how the colours are distributed in the pattern. It is better for beginners to have blocks of the same colour to stitch in order to get used to the rhythm and flow of stitching. Some patterns have stitches scattered here and there to blend the colours (called confetti stitches) but these are not ideal for a beginner.
Our Best Beginner Kits
I've included some examples of our kits that are great places to start for beginners but I do recommend that you shop around and find a design you really like as in the first point.
This is a really simple and small pattern, with just 6 colours and should only take 2-4 hours to stitch. It comes with a 3 inch flexi hoop, which can be used to display it in when you're finished.
I find this pattern a really easy one to follow as long as you mark off your stitches along the curve of the rainbow. With the bright colours it's really fun and enjoyable to stitch
This octopus kit is a bestseller and we have had a lot of reviews from customers who are new to cross stitch and have tried this kit and found a new hobby.
Check out more of our most beginner-friendly, easy cross stitch kits here.
I hope this post helps in choosing your first cross stitch, look out for my next post, which will include some beginner cross stitch tips.