Once you move past beginner cross stitch patterns into more advanced patterns, you may find yourself coming across a few new types of stitches incorporated into your pattern.
The most common stitches that many intermediate and advanced patterns use are fractional stitches, French knots and backstitching. These allow for greater detail, depth and smoother lines than some beginner cross stitch patterns.
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Tips for nailing new stitches
As always when you start a new skill, you aren’t going to necessarily get the hang of it first time ’round. Unless you are one of those people that picks up new skills at the drop of the hat that people like me are immensely jealous of.
All new skills generally take practice and this is certainly the case when it comes to mastering new stitches.
However, there are a few tips that might make your transition that little bit easier:
- Have a scrap of Aida that you keep just for practising new stitches.
- Watch lots of different YouTube tutorials. Different people have slightly different ways of stitching or explaining techniques. While one might not resonate with you, another one will. I had to do this when I was teaching myself to knit. Some videos went right over my head but others gave me that much sought after “lightbulb moment”.
- Master one new stitch at a time, once you have nailed that one, move onto the next.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. The wonderful thing about hand stitching is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. All those little “mistakes” or “imperfections” make your work yours! Plus, no one is really going to notice if there is one stitch slightly off in a row. You will be the only one who knows it is there.
- Never throw away your first cross stitches. It is fun to see how far you’ve come!
Now that you have a few tips up your sleeve, let’s move onto the common types of stitches that you will come across in intermediate and advanced cross stitch patterns.
Full Cross Stitches
This is the most typical type of stitch you will make when cross-stitching any pattern. Full cross stitches tend to make up the bulk of a pattern with other types of stitches used for depth, definition, effect and detail.
Full cross stitches are stitches that look like little rows of X’s and make up the basis for other types of stitches such as half, quarter or three-quarter.
YouTube Tutorial: This simple tutorial by Peacock & Fig is a great starting point on how to do basic cross stitches
French knots are commonly used for eyes, buttons or in fonts as the “dots”. However, they are also used for extra effect in other parts of stitching such as twinkling stars, spots and so on. These are the most common knots used in cross-stitch
The best thing you can do to master French knots is to practice, practice, practice. Then practice some more. Once you have nailed them, a whole world of more advanced cross stitch patterns will open themselves up to you.
You may even learn a new swear word or two while learning the art of French knots. Two birds, one stone.
YouTube Tutorial: Cutesy Crafts has a simple tutorial on how to do French Knots
Colonial knots are very similar to French knots, one could say that they are twins. Same-same but different.
These knots do differ ever so slightly in looks. You may have to look a bit harder but the slight distinction is how they sit. French knots tend to sit flatter against the fabric while Colonial knots will sit a bit higher and more upright. The reason for this is the technique used when stitching and twisting the floss around your needle.
Having a good awareness of French knots will set you up for mastering Colonial knots.
YouTube Tutorial: Sarah Homfray Embroidery has a really easy to follow tutorial on how to master colonial knots
Fractional stitches include quarter, half and three-quarter stitches. These types of stitches allow you to stitch curves, have two colours in one square and other fun things.
Half stitches are used to create depth and shading, quarter and three-quarter stitches are commonly used to create extra detail.
While they sound confusing (and can look overwhelming in a pattern when you first see them), once you get the hang of these bad boys, the world is your stitching oyster.
Fractional stitches are shown on the pattern by a small symbol filling just a corner of the box. Where the symbol is placed (top left, bottom left etc) is where your stitch is made and which direction you make it face.
Quarter and three-quarter stitches are shown the same way on a chart or pattern (with a smaller than normal symbol). You get to decide which stitch to use. The most common ways to use fractionals are:
- If the area is outlined in backstitch, generally a quarter stitch is used.
- If the area is not outlined in backstitch, use a three-quarter stitch for the detail colour and a quarter stitch for the background colour.
- If the stitch is next to an unstitched area, use a three-quarter stitch.
Half-stitches are usually indicated in the key or legend area of your pattern.
YouTube Tutorial: How to do fractionals on Aida by Stitcherista
Backstitching can make your design pop. It brings the detail to life and adds extra definition to your stitch. It really is worth persevering and mastering backstitching.
Backstitching is used to outline your stitches and can be used in letters and wording.
Blackwork embroidery is something fun that you can experiment with when you are getting more confident with backstitching. Blackwork uses different variations of backstitching to create intricate designs.
YouTube Tutorial: Dana from Peacock & Fig has put together a video on how to backstitch
Full cross stitches, knots, fractionals and backstitches are the most common types of stitches that you will use when you start using more advanced cross stitch patterns.
As you gain more confidence, you can start experimenting more but as with everything, practice, practice, practice! Keep all those first practices to look back on and cringe at in the future.
What stitches did you struggle with at the start? Leave a note in the comments with what made it “click” for you.