Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why magic cross stitch is hard... at first

I wrote yesterday about my "magic cross stitch" approach -- stitching from the back of the fabric.  I didn't think this would be at all difficult to learn but I was wrong.  If you want to try this kind of stitching, I'll try to give you a tutorial and hope that you aren't confused too.

If you were doing running stitches from the back of the fabric, of course, you wouldn't be confused in the least, because the front and back of the work look the same.  But cross stitch is a different animal.  On the front, it makes Xs, but on the back it makes boxes or ladders.  And it's surprisingly hard to visualize what's happening on the front when all you can see is the back.

That's the magic, of course -- not knowing exactly what's going to show up on the front of the work.  But it can be frustrating, until you get into your rhythm.

Look at diagram 1 -- we're making a single cross stitch.  The darker, thicker blue line is what we see from the back of the work.  The thin, pale blue line is what's happening on the front.  All you see from your side of the work is your knot, one horizontal line, and the thread emerging, ready for the next stitch.  Maybe it's easy for you to visualize the cross on the other side; maybe not.

In diagram 2 we're making a whole bunch of cross stitches in a column.  What we see as we stitch is a double ladder of horizontal stitches -- one set as we go down the column, a second set as we come back up, completing the crosses.

In diagram 3, we're making random crosses, not in a column or pattern, just scattered here and there.
If you're looking just at the back of the work, you may be totally confused!

If you can perfectly visualize the crosses on the front of the work by looking at this, you're better than I am!

So here's my advice.  Always keep your needle on top of the fabric. Never stab down, then move your hand underneath to grab the needle and stab back up.  If you make each stitch as a scoop -- down, then up in the same motion -- you can always see whether your needle is going on the diagonal.  And as long as your needle is always on the diagonal, you're going to get a cross-stitch pattern.  Even if you don't eventually cross that stitch to make a perfect X, the diagonal will fit into your overall pattern and look great.

If you want to make a whole column of cross stitches, I recommend that you use a mantra as you stitch so you don't lose your place.  You'll start at the top of the column, work down, and then come back up later.   If you're right-handed, put your needle in and tell yourself "southwest, east, southwest, east."  The first stitch goes diagonally down toward the southwest, then on your side of the work, you go to the east and put the needle in again.  Coming back up the column, your mantra is "northwest, east, northwest, east."  Lefties say "southeast, west" going down and "northeast, west" coming back up.

Let me know if this approach works for you!

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I'll have to try this. I "think weird" like that so might not be hard. It's like thinking of knitting as the "knit stitch" and "the back of the knit stitch" instead of knit and purl. Like thinking of the whole conceptual idea instead of pieces and instructions. Or, another good one, paper piecing where you're always working with pieces that are mirror images to the shape you want. Hard at first, then you have to work hard to STOP thinking in mirror images. :)