Designing Cross-Stitch Pattern

By | January 19, 2014

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A few sheets of graph paper, colored pencils, or readily available image editing software (either free or professional versions) will transform almost any picture, banner, or photograph into a unique pattern in the first step towards creating a unique design.

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For beginning cross-stitch artists (and for first-time designers) it’s best to use small images with fewer details for the first few designs, gradually advancing to more complicated photos and pictures.

Remember also that the details themselves will be modified during the transition to pattern form, whether digital or hand-drawn; the finished product is determined by other factors, including stitches, thread shades, and the number of squares included.

Graph Paper Design

To draw a cross-stitch pattern by hand, all that is needed are a set of colored pencils, graph paper, and a basic knowledge of how cross-stitch patterns work. This method is best for drawing simple and small graphics, such as snowmen, trees, flowers, and other embellishments or decorations.

Choose graph paper sized according to the size needed for the pattern: think of the graph squares as representing the number of stitches per inch, or the “count” for the pattern. The smaller the squares represented on the graph paper, the smaller the stitch or greater the count for the pattern.

While the size of graph paper squares and cross-stitch count are disproportionate, the application is the same and will help artists determine the finished size of the project.

Drawing the Pattern

  1. Sketch a general design for the pattern on a separate sheet of paper to use a guideline, or print off a copy of the small image being adapted.
  2. Use the colored pencils to trace the design onto the graph paper, using cross-stitch techniques like slanted or half-stitches to create curves or angles; embroidery stitches outline details and features within the design.
  3. Color in the squares according to the colors and shades of thread chosen for the design. Remember, shading is important when it comes to rendering the image accurately.
  4. Use embroidery stitches signified by short lines to trace any final details onto the pattern.

Count the number of squares from bottom to top of the finished pattern’s highest point to determine the “count” of the pattern and its size on different sheets of cross-stitch fabric.

Creating Patterns with Computer Software

Many computer programs, including free online software like Photofiltre, include tile or mosaic filters designed to render an image in miniature squares. This feature is especially useful for cross-stitch enthusiasts, since it can transform a large-scale picture into miniature squares resembling cross-stitch patterns. There are a range of tile sizes to choose from when applying this feature to images, in order to adjust the size and stitch count of the image.

While elaborate details or subtle shadings may be lost in the transition, this technique is particularly useful for transforming small photos with limited detail or larger images into patterns easily printed.

Use the programs to transform vintage postcards or public domain clip art into one-of-a-kind patterns for wall hangings, pillows, Christmas decorations, or other handmade items.

Adding Detail

Most detailed features should be added to the stitched item, although sketching them roughly on the pattern should help. Features such as eyes, wrinkles, and fabric designs can be stitched on using straight or embroidery stitches to make up for details softened by computer software or omitted in hand-drawn designs.

The software patterns can be sized according to the artists’ preference, then printed in black and white to save on colored ink if desired. Simply use colored pencils to add shading and color to the squares once the pattern is printed.

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