Getting started with cross stitch

CrossStitchI recently finished my very first cross stitch project – a Toronto Blue Jays logo for my brother:

2016March_BlueJayXStitchCollageIt was a super fun and easy project, so I thought I would share what I learned about cross stitch so you can try your hand at stitching something too!

What is cross stitch?

It is a specific type of embroidery, in which you use thread and a needle to stitch many little crosses on to fabric and all the crosses together form an image on the fabric.


To get started, you will need some fabric to stitch on. There are two basic kinds used in cross stitch: Aida and evenweave. They are both easy to use, just different! I started with a 14-count Aida fabric because it does have more obvious holes to stitch into than evenweave, but I am sure you can figure out evenweave as a beginner, too. To help you choose, you can learn more about each fabric on the Cross Stitch Guild’s website.

Both Aida and evenweave come in various colours, so make sure you choose one that will go with the design you want to make – it does make a difference to your overall project. You can usually get both kinds of fabric, in a variety of colours, in most general craft stores.

Of course, you also need something to stitch with: embroidery thread (floss). The most common type, and the one most recommended for beginners, is DMC cotton floss. This floss is 6 ply, which means you can separate it into 6 different strands. In most cases, you have to separate them and use only 1, 2, or 3 strands at a time, not the full 6. You can see a great image of how the thread splits on the DMC website. Floss comes in a crazy number of colours, so have fun shopping for just the right shades for your project!

You will also need a needle. For cross stitch you use a blunt tipped tapestry needle, NOT a sharp embroidery needle. You don’t want to pierce through the fabric itself when cross stitching (unless you are doing a fancier stitch), but instead through the holes of the fabric. The most common sizes used are 24 and 26. The size you use depends on the fabric you have chosen, and how many strands of thread you are using. If you are using a fabric with larger holes to stitch into and more strands of thread (2 or more), than use the larger size 24 needle. If your fabric is finer and you are using fewer strands (2 or less), use the smaller size 26 needle. A good test is to pass the needle through the fabric – if the needle makes the hole larger, it is too big.

I used a size 24 needle and 3 strands of thread for my project, but from what I have read since, most people use only 2 strands on 14-count Aida. Working with three strands worked out fine for me – my stitches were simply thicker and more raised from the fabric. It is all a matter of preference, so experiment using the fabric you have choosen. Next time, I plan to experiment and try only 2 strands.

You may also want to get a hoop to hold your work as you stitch. A hoop is made up of two wooden or plastic circles, one small one that fits inside a larger one. You stretch your fabric across the small circle and keep it taut and in place with the larger circle. You can see how it works on the DMC website. Many stitchers use a hoop to help hold the fabric for them and keep it taut while stitching, but others prefer not to use one at all and simply hold the fabric in their hands. Try out both methods and see which you prefer.

Hoops come in both wood and plastic, in a variety of sizes and shapes. Again, you need to experiment with each kind to see which you like to use – there are mixed reviews! When using a hoop, make sure you choose a size that is larger than the pattern you want to stitch – you don’t want your work to be pressed in-between the two hoop pieces.

There are alternatives to hoops, such as scroll bar frames and stretcher bars, so if you aren’t a fan of the hoop, check these out and see if you like using them instead.

Finally, you will need a good pair of really sharp scissors that are used exclusively for your stitch work. You may already be familiar with the stork scissors that many people use for embroidery and cross stitching, but of course, a normal pair also work, just make sure they are super pointy for cutting the fine threads accurately.

How to Cross Stitch

I won’t go into the details here on how to actually cross stitch because there are so many great resources already out there. The two websites I referred to the most were:

The Cross Stitch Guild



These two sites are really all you need to get started reading a pattern and making a cross stitch project of your own, but if you prefer books, I have also read parts of The Cross Stitcher’s Bible – see if your library has it (that is where I got mine!) because it has some great tips and techniques to improve your stitches as well as embellishments to try.

Pattern Ideas

There are so many really great cross stitch pattern designers out there. A good place to start is Etsy, but of course just Googling something you want to stitch is also quite effective (I found the Blue Jays Logo as a google image).

I already have a number designers on my “to stitch” list. Here are my favourites so far (maybe they will inspire you, too!):

The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

Satsuma Street

Crafty Like a Fox


andwabisabi cross stitch

sew sew n sew

Another neat website for some quick and simple designs is the Daily Cross Stitch website. Visit it everyday for a new free pattern!

You can also try your hand at creating your own design. You can convert any image into a cross stitch pattern by using a program that will turn it into a bunch of little squares, just like a cross stitch design. While I haven’t tried it myself (yet!), there are free options out there to try for yourself (just Google it).

Finishing techniques

Once you are done your project it is a good idea to wash it, even in just water, and to press it using an iron. This will remove any wrinkles and other things that may have gotten on your fabric while you were stitching.

Now you have a beautiful design on a piece of fabric, but what do you do with it?!? I simply put mine back in the hoop to frame it and sent it off to my brother. In the hoop, it can be hung up as a piece of art on your wall, or sit in a stand on a table. I followed the video by Shiny Happy World on how to frame using a hoop.

You can also place your work in a normal picture frame to hang on your wall. Or, you can turn it into a bookmark, a pin cushion, a pillow, a greeting card, etc. I have started a Pinterest board with ideas on what to do with cross stitch projects.

And that is all I have learned so far! I hope it helps you if you want to start to cross stitch, too. I highly recommend it as a relaxing craft.

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Until next time,
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How to read amigurumi patterns: Part 2

How to read amigurumi patterns part 2This is the second post in a tutorial series on how to read amigurumi crochet patterns. Previously, I looked at the most common abbreviations used in written amigurumi patterns – if you haven’t already, I recommend reading it before continuing with this post. Now, I will take you through, line by line, how to read a written hookabee pattern. This will not only help you with reading hookabee patterns, but also those designers who write similarly.

Lets go through how to read the pattern for a simple fin shape:

Fin: (make 2)
With A, make a magic ring, 1 ch
rnd 1: 6 sc in magic ring (6)
rnd 2: inc in each st around (12)
rnd 3: (inc, 1 sc) 6 times (18)
rnd 4: 7 sc, 2 dec, 7 sc (16)
rnd 5: 6 sc, 2 dec, 6 sc (14)
rnd 6: 3 sc, 4 dec, 3 sc (10)
Fasten off, leaving a long tail to attach to body.

Line 1 Fin: (make 2)

This line indicates that the following instructions are to make a fin for your amigurumi, and that you are supposed to make two of them total; therefore, after making one fin, you need to repeat all the instructions again to make a second fin that is exactly the same as the first.

Line 2 – With A, make a magic ring, 1 ch

Using colour A yarn (refer to the colour key in the pattern for the actual colour used), make a magic ring (which is the same thing as a magic circle) and then make one chain, “1 ch”, stitch. You can see how to make a magic ring using my written or video tutorial. These tutorials include a chain stitch after making the magic ring – this is the “1 ch” indicated at the end of this line.

Line 3 – rnd 1: 6 sc in magic ring (6)

Now you make your first round of the piece, “rnd 1”. For this round, you make 6 single crochet, “6 sc”, stitches total, and they are all made into the magic ring you just made in Line 2.magic ring for amigurumi

The number in brackets at the end of the round, and at the end of every round, indicates the number of stitches you should have once you have completed that round. For this round, because you made 6 single crochet stitches into the magic ring, you should have 6 stitches total in the end = (6). These total stitch counts are super helpful because you can count your stitches and make sure that you did everything correctly for that round before moving on – it is always best to catch a mistake sooner rather than later so you don’t have to undo so much of your work.

Line 4 – rnd 2: inc in each st around (12)

Next, for round 2, “rnd 2”, you are going to increase, “inc”, in each of the stitches from the last round, all the way around the piece. An increase means you make two single crochet stitches into the same stitch. You have 6 stitches from the previous round to crochet into, therefore you will be making 6 increases total.  In other words, you will make 2 single crochet stitches into each of the 6 stitches, so you will have 12 stitches total at the end of the round = (12).How to read amigurumi patternsFor this round, you will want to place a stitch marker on the first stitch you make so that you know where the round started. When you come back around to the marker, you then know you have completed a round and should have the number of stitches indicated in the brackets at the end of the line. Do this for every round – move the marker up into the first stitch of each new round you start. Read my tutorial on marking the start of a round using a stitch marker for more detailed instructions.

Line 5 – rnd 3: (inc, 1 sc) 6 times (18)

For round three, there is a repeat. The “inc, 1 sc” within the brackets means you will make an increase (so 2 single crochet stitches) in the next stitch, followed by 1 single crochet stitch in the stitch after that. You need to crochet this entire sequence, “inc, 1 sc”, 6 times total, and this will bring you all the way around, back to your marker in the first stitch of the round. Basically, it is the same as writing: inc, 1 sc, inc, 1 sc, inc, 1 sc, inc, 1 sc, inc, 1 sc, inc, 1 sc (18) – but is much easier to read and follow!Reading amigurumi patterns

If you aren’t sure you are interpreting the instructions correctly, see if the math all adds up. For this round, you are increasing 6 times total, so that means you will make 12 stitches from the increases (because each increase is 2 single crochet stitches), plus you are making 1 single crochet stitch 6 times: 12+6 = 18, which is the same as the total stitch count!

You can also compare the previous round’s stitch count to the current round’s and look at how many increases and decreases were made during the current round. For example, the previous round ended with just 12 stitches, then there were 6 increases in the current round: 12+6 = 18.

Line 6 – rnd 4: 7 sc, 2 dec, 7 sc (16)

For round 4, you get to do some decreases. A decrease, “dec”, is when you single crochet the next two stitches together (same as sc2tog). Start the round by making 7 single crochet stitches, “7 sc”, consecutively (so, 1 sc in each stitch, for 7 stitches). Next, you make 2 consecutive decreases, “2 dec”, (so, sc two stitches together, twice). Then end the round with another set of 7 single crochet stitches, like at the start of the round. Because you are making two decreases this round, your stitch count will go from 18 to 16. The long way to write this round is: 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, dec, dec, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc (16).How to read amigurumi patterns

Line 7 – rnd 5: 6 sc, 2 dec, 6 sc (14)

This round is very similar to the last round, but instead of starting and ending with 7 single crochet stitches, you make only 6. Written out fully, this round means: 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, dec, dec, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc (14). Again, because there are two decreases this round, the stitch count goes from 16, down to 14.

Line 8 – rnd 6: 3 sc, 4 dec, 3 sc (10)

Round 6 is like the previous two rounds, but this time you only make 3 single crochet stitches before and and after the decreases, and there are 4 decreases, one directly after another, instead of just 2. This is the same as writing: 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc, dec, dec, dec, dec, 1 sc, 1 sc, 1 sc (10). Because there were four decreases this round, the stitch count drops from 14 to 10.

Line 9 – Fasten off, leaving a long tail to attach to body.

Fastening off basically means you can cut the yarn because you don’t have any more stitches to crochet. When the instructions say to “leave a long tail”, make sure you don’t cut the yarn too close to the piece, but instead several inches away. Usually, when the instructions say to leave a long tail, this strand of yarn is used to attach the piece to another piece, so you want to leave enough yarn to allow you to do this. A good estimate is to leave a minimum of 6 inches, or 2.5-3x the length of the distance you need to sew if it is a larger piece.How to read amigurumi patterns

Once the yarn is cut, simply pull on the working loop that is around your hook until you pull the yarn end through the last stitch. There are other ways to fasten off (another tutorial in the future, perhaps?), but this is the simplest.

One more thing, this is what it may look like if you have to do the same sequence of stitches for multiple rounds, one after the other:

rnd 5-8: sc in each st around (18, 4 rnds)

This just means that for rounds 5, 6, 7, AND 8, you are simply crocheting 1 single crochet stitch into each stitch. Within the final brackets, the “4 rnds” after the total stitch count, “18”, is just there to help you see the number of rounds you are repeating at a glance. Each of the 4 rounds should have 18 stitches total.

And that is it! If there is still something that is unclear or something that is in a hookabee pattern that is not explained here, please let me know in the comments below. Next, I will go through some examples of written instructions that are different from my own style.

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Until next time,
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How to read amigurumi patterns: Part 1

How to read amigurumi patterns part 1This is the first post in a tutorial series on how to read amigurumi crochet patterns. There are no set rules or guidelines for writing amigurumi patterns. Each designer has his/her own format, so if you like to make amis from many different designers (which you probably do!), than things can get confusing. This series will allow you to decipher a number of different patterns and help clear things up.

Amigurumi patterns can be written out (the usual method for designers in North America) or be in graphic form, such as charts and tables (more common for Japanese patterns). These blog posts will focus on written instructions, as that is how I design my patterns.

Lets start with the basics: pattern abbreviations for written instructions. Written patterns can get pretty long if you don’t shorten some of the words. A well written pattern will have a key telling you what all the abbreviations in the pattern mean, but you may come across some that just jump right in without any guidance. Below are the most common abbreviations found in amigurumi patterns:

Amigurumi Pattern Abbreviations by @hookabee

Is there anything major I missed? Let me know in the comments below! Did you catch that one appreviation is repeated in two different locations with two different meanings? MC can mean “main colour” or “magic circle”, so be aware!

Next time, I will take you through how to read a hookabee pattern that uses some of these abbreviations.

Don’t forget to sign up for my amigurumi newsletter to receive emails filled with ami fun. You can also follow me on facebooktwitterinstagram, and pinterest to keep up to date on all things hookabee.
Until next time,
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