How to embroider

If you've never embroidered, never fear! You, too, can produce beautiful and stunning handmade textiles with just a little know-how. This step-by-step tutorial will teach you the basic cross stitch using one of our BitKits as an example.

In your kit, you will have the handwoven ground cloth, the color pattern, DMC 100% cotton embroidery floss, and a size 24 John James' brand tapestry needle:

Step 1: Prep your embroidery floss 
Your floss will come wound into hanks, which you'll need to unwind and cut a length of floss that is 24-30" long (this is a matter of preference, so experiment with various floss lengths to find what you like best). Notice that the floss is made up of 6 strands of floss twisted together. Pulling gently, separate out two of these strands and thread them through your needle; do not make a knot--have one end of the floss longer than the other.

Step 2: Figure out where to begin your first stitch 
You'll need to figure out where to take your first stitch. You want to start 2 inches in from each side; if you don't have a ruler handy, just use your thumb to measure approximately 2 inches. Stick your needle in a hole close to this spot and then put your embroidery in a hoop if you're using it.

Step 3: Stitch! 
Bring your needle out of the fabric, back to front (anywhere close to where your thumb was is fine):

Leave a small amount--about an inch--of floss on the wrong side of the embroidery:

Now, look at the fabric and you'll notice that it's made up of woven threads. Count UP two threads and OVER two threads and then put your needle in that hole and pull the floss through. Every two threads of the fabric equals a square on your chart.

making sure to catch the tail on the wrong side:

When you look at your fabric from the right side, you'll see that you made a diagonal stitch--this is the first half of the cross (X) stitch. Repeat this diagonal stitch across for a few stitches to get the hang of it:

On the next stitch, instead of making another diagonal stitch to the right, make a diagonal stitch to the left, which will make an "X". Voila! You're embroidering! Keep making the second half of the "X" stitch across the row until you're finished with that section of stitches:

Step 4: Following the pattern 
Each square on your chart equals one "X" on your fabric. The chart is in color, so just match the color of thread you're using to the stitches on the pattern and you're good to go. It's best to start your pattern from a corner and work either to the left or right (whichever is more comfortable for you).

A few hints: When you need to "travel" to portion of the design that's a few squares away, don't stretch the floss on the wrong side of the fabric more than about 6 stitches (these long stretches of floss on the wrong side are called "floats"). Too long of floats on the backside and the floss can snag and tear. As you're working, you'll begin to look for the most efficient path to stitch in any given design, but don't worry too much about this in the beginning. Play around with this-if you're working a star motif and need to go over a few stitches, where can you start the stitch using the least amount of traveling?

When you need to end off a section of floss, just turn the work over and pass the needle through the back of three stitches to anchor it. Trim.

It's best to work smaller sections of the design, moving across and down your fabric in little sections as it helps keep you from making errors because each new little section acts as a double-check against the section you've just worked. The following photos show a BitKit design being worked in this way:

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© 2020 by Krista West