When I first started cross-stitching a little over a decade ago, I ended up throwing my first project away. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t have proper internet to find helpful resources online as a newbie. While at a toy store, I spotted a kit with two cute kittens on the cover. I had done some canvas work when I was six or seven but never stuck to it. After I purchased that kit, I went home and immediately started working. The kit only had a small printed tutorial about how to do the basic stitch.
Oh the things that I didn’t know… Here are a few reasons why my first cross-stitch project failed and what you shouldn’t do.
I used all 6 strands
It may seem silly to you but back then I had no clue what I was doing. The kit had several 6-strands floss in it, so I grabbed a color, cut some 10 inches (the only thing I did right!) and threaded my needle… with much difficulty. After making my first X, pride set in and I fell in love. When I had to start my second stitch, I had to pass all 6 strands again in the same hole. By the time I started the second line, each square’s corner had 24 strands of floss. My fabric was suffering.
I started with a knot
If you read the basic cross-stitching tutorial, you probably came across the part about leaving an inch of the floss hanging when making your first stitch to bury the thread. Since I didn’t know that back then, I made a knot so my thread would hang still. After finishing my thread, I made another knot. It was fine at first, but soon my entire back was full of knots! At some point I had to start another thread in a place where there was already a knot. Can you imagine two knots in a small fabric hole! Add to it each thread was made of 6 strands so passing the needle became almost impossible to do. I had to force my needle through!
I started stitching at the top-most left corner I could
Being a very thrifty person, I was worried that I would run out of space eventually on my fabric. I had no idea about fabric count or how to calculate the total stitchable area. So, I started as close as possible to the top left and started working. I saw that the pattern was huge but didn’t really think that 10 squares of fabric would be much much smaller than 10 squares on paper.
Since I also didn’t secure the edges, the fabric started fraying and getting dangerously close to my stitches. That’s when the real panic set in!
I stitched without a hoop
As a beginner, I didn’t know how to properly hold my fabric straight without a hoop, so I stitched ignoring the increasingly shrinking distance between the squares as I pulled my fabric closer together. At some point, it became almost impossible to see the holes as they were so close together. Since I didn’t want to waste threads (I’m thrifty, remember?), I jumped from one section to the other without making sure my thread wasn’t putting tension on the fabric. My beautiful rectangular fabric was turning into a triangle.
I didn’t keep track of my pattern
Being a perfectionist, I was sure I would be able to keep track of where I was on the pattern in comparison to my stitches. So I never wrote on the pattern or highlighted the areas I completed. The project was too large for a beginner. I got lost and wasted more time removing stitches than actually stitching. Since the back was a complete and absolute mess, I had no idea which strands I was cutting. Even after finally giving in and highlighting the completed sections, it was impossible to fix that piece. Another mistake I did was that I was doing the stitches literally one square at a time. I would look at my pattern, check the color and stitch.
How I found out why it all went wrong
My grandmother was a huge fan of sewing. She was extremely pleased to find out I picked up cross-stitching on my own, especially that no one else in our family was ever interested in such things. However, I also remember the horrified look on her face when I showed her what I had done.
She started explaining to me that I didn’t have to use all 6 strands, how to bury the thread and how to keep my fabric steady. She was also the one who explained how i could stitch faster by completing a row of half stitches and going back to close them.
I never completed that project. My second and third attempt as well didn’t go well since I still had difficulty holding the fabric. It all went well after I got a hoop and I have been using it ever since. I guess my first experience traumatized me enough to never stitch without a hoop ever again!
How about you? Was your first cross-stitch project a failure as well? What were your first mistakes when you started stitching? How did you end up learning how to do it correctly? Let us know in the comments below!