Each designer is different in how they list their pattern instructions and keys, so I have chosen a couple different designers to show you the different ways to follow a cross stitch pattern.
First up is a kit from Shepherd's Bush. It will list all of the supplies included in the kit. Then the stitch count, 20 x 50, and what size to cut the fabric, 8” x 11”.
This pattern is telling you to stitch all with 3 strands of floss. This is because we are working with a larger count fabric, so more floss is needed to get a full coverage.
As a general rule, most cross stitch patterns are done with 2 skeins of floss, on Aida over 1 square of fabric or Linen over 2 fabric threads. However, if you are working on a larger count, like a 10 count Tula, you will need more floss to archive the same coverage. The opposite is true if you are working on a Linen and are doing some small delicate work such as a face with one strand of floss over one strand of fabric thread.
The Key lists the symbol, the type of floss used, and the corresponding number or name of the color. Any beads used will also be listed
Back Stitching instructions are also included, as they will vary from pattern to pattern.
Embellishments (beads or buttons) instructions will include what floss to use and where to place the embellishment.
Most designers will list where to get the frame that the model was framed in.
Other instructions that can be included: Suggested alternate fabric options. Total amount of stitches, beads and french knots.
How to read the cross-stitch pattern grid. Each square on the grid represents 1 square of Aida fabric or 2 fabric threads on Linen.
You will see an arrow on the side and the top of the pattern to indicate the center of the design, that is where you will start*. I usually find the most symbols of one color and just spread out from there. Another way to stitch is to stitch in 10 x 10 sections. The darker grid lines represent a 10 x10 section. This does help when reading the pattern, counting the stitches, and helps you keep your place much more easily.
*Starting from the center is how you do it on most patterns. However there is always an exception to the rule. If you are working on a large fully stitched pattern such as Kustom Kraft, Mystic Stitch or Heaven and Earth Designs you will want to start in the top left hand corner. You will also want to work in the 10 section blocks. This will help you stay on pattern and you will be less likely to make a mistake.
Fabric of Cross Stitch. There are two types of fabric for cross-stitch: Aida and Linen.
Aida is the most common fabric used for cross stitch, especially for beginners. It's nicely defined and easy to stitch on. Aida comes in a variety of sizes including 11, 14, 18 and 20. The higher the number, the smaller your stitches will be. When stitching on Aida you go from hole to hole.
For a more natural look, use Linen or Evenweaves. Linen come in sizes from 18, 22, 25, 28, 30, 32 and 40. When working on linen, you will go over 2 fabric threads. However, you are able to do fine detail stitching on linen. This is done by using one floss thread going over one fabric thread. A lot of stitchers do this for faces, bodies and hands.
* Note: Your X will be the same size when stitching on a 14 count Aida or a 28 count Linen
Fractional stitches are easier to do on Linen. On Aida you have to pierce the fabric to do a quarter stitch. While on linen you just go over one fabric thread.
Types of Linens:
Belfast & Cashel Linens
Fabric made of flax, which has one strand between each hole. The difference between linen and non-cross stitch fabrics is the consistency of the distance between the holes across the whole length of the cloth. Linen is usually sewn over two holes, so that detail can be sewn over one hole for greater definition of the detail.
Jobelan & Lugana Evenweaves
This is a description of a fabric which is smoother than Aida or most linens. It is smoother because it is made of half natural fiber and half a man-made fiber like polyester. It usually has one strand between each hole as it is most like to the linens.
Thread count is how many stitches there are per inch.
So if your pattern says something like 85 x 90, there are cross-stitch fabric calculators out there that you can input the thread count with what count of fabric count you will be using, along with how much extra you want on the sides (I usually do 3 inches). Always increase the design size by three inches on each size when cutting the fabric for a new project. This gives you room for framing.
I hope this has explained how to read a cross stitch pattern.
Enjoy & Happy Stitching - Donnett