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Tips & Techniques

Here are some tips and techniques on stitches, thread, and more. Find out all the tricks from our experts.

Stitching Techniques:


Needle Felting Tips

How Does the Roving Stay in the Fabric?

needle diagram 1Traditional needle felting is done wool to wool. The relatively rough nature of wool allows the fibers to cling together easily when the needle is used. Other substrates (fabrics or felts) that are of a different fiber such as polyester or cotton may respond a little differently because of the variation of roughness in the fabric or felt. In any event, it can take a lot of “jabs” to firmly attach the roving; you need to go over the entire area with the felting needle.  Keep your needle jabs close together to ensure that the roving fibers are fully interlocked with the felt or fabric surface.  If you are still having trouble, look at the tip of the needle under a magnifying glass to make sure that the barbs on the needle have not worn away. The barbs are what help to interlock the fibers. If the needle looks smooth, it will not work.

Sometimes we might feel tempted to pull on the felting we’ve done, either absent-mindedly or to test how well it holds. Like we learned with Grandma’s chenille bedspreads, if you pull hard enough, it will come out!

Using the Felting Needle

Fabric-on-block1Felting needles are fragile, so you need to use them carefully. Here are some important things to know to help prevent breakage:

  • You must use a foam block under the item to be felted. The needle tip will break if you try to felt on a hard surface (and it may damage the surface).
  • Make sure you hold the needle straight up and down while you work; if it is angled, it may break.
  • You don’t need to be forceful with your jabs; your needle should just enter the foam block, not penetrate too deeply into it.



How Much Roving Should Be Used for Needle Felting?

Small-clump1Start with a small amount of roving—a clump about 1" in diameter is easy to work with, and you will find that a little roving goes a long way. If it’s not enough to fill the area, simply take another small clump and continue. If you try working with too large an amount, it can be difficult to see the outlines of the area as you apply the roving.


Always Start at the Outlines

Push-fibers-in1Start at the outline or edge of an area and work toward the middle. Be sure to cover any printed outlines. Lots of jabs at the edges will help you achieve sharper lines. If you finish filling an area and have extra roving, simply trim the excess with scissors and poke in any stray fibers.


Product Tips

New Thread Sorter Lets You Start Stitching Faster!

Thread SorterOur needlework kits are now being packaged to include pre-sorted thread/yarn. This is an exciting enhancement to our great designs! It lets you begin your stitching right away and eliminates any confusion in identifying close colors.

In this example, you see the actual thread attached below its color block and the code number used for identification. Above the block is listed the length of the thread (36"/91cm) and how many lengths you should have of each color. EASY! Top

Out of Ingredients for Your Kit?

Have you run out of or need replacement ingredients for your kit? We can help. Please fill out the Contact Us form for quick service. If you need yarn or thread, be sure to include the code numbers from your instruction sheet, and how many lengths you need.


This is My First Stitching Project

Enjoy yourself! Stitching should be relaxing and fun. It’s best to take a few minutes to read your entire instruction sheet. It will answer many questions that you might have about your design. If you still are unsure, practice with some fabric and thread from your scrap box until you get the hang of it.


What’s Best for a Large Design?

stitcherScroll bars, stretcher bars, or an embroidery hoop?  Many stitchers have their own preferences for stitching. All of the mentioned products serve the same important purpose: they will keep your fabric or canvas taut while you are stitching. Which product you choose will depend on how you like to stitch.

If your stitching travels with you wherever you go, perhaps an embroidery hoop is best for you. It makes your stitching portable and easy to pack. Hoops are available in many sizes to suit your needs. Just remember to remove the hoop from your design when you are not stitching. This will prevent the hoop from marking the fabric/canvas.

If you prefer to stitch with two hands (one above and one below your design as shown in the illustration), then scroll bars, Q-snaps, or stretcher bars would probably work best for you. You can mount your fabric/canvas onto one of these and place it in a purchased stand or lean it against a table top. By doing so, you keep both your hands free to stitch which will give you quicker results and a more comfortable use of your hands. Another advantage to these products is that you can see and work any area of the design with ease.


Sorting Colors

In our newer kits, all the colors have been sorted for you already.  If you happen to have a kit without the colors pre-sorted then we recommend separating one bundle (knotted group of yarn/thread lengths) at a time and using the number of lengths listed in the instructions to help distinguish similar colors. If you have a thread palette, loop each color through one of the holes to keep it separated while you work.


Yarn in Counted Cross Stitch Kits

In our newer Gold Collection kits, all the colors have been sorted for you already. If you happen to have a kit in which the colors are not pre-sorted, you will find that a length of yarn is used to help you identify the bundles of thread. Since our Gold Collection designs are very detailed and subtly shaded, some of the threads are very close in color. Refer to the sorting list in your instructions for which color of yarn indicates which bundle. These lengths of yarn have no other purpose. Do not use them in your design. We recommend opening and sorting the colors in one bundle at a time to avoid confusion.


My Needlepoint Canvas Colors Don’t Match My Colors of Yarn or Thread

Our needlepoint canvases are colored to help you distinguish the areas in order to accurately place the colors. Sometimes, several colors of yarn or thread are very close in shade. If these same colors were used on the canvas, they would be almost impossible to distinguish from each other. In these cases, we select canvas colors that are more distinguishable and can easily show you exactly where to stitch. Refer to the color list and the key in your instructions often while stitching.


My Fabric and or Canvas is Smaller or Larger than My Printed Chart

The chart in your instructions is sized to be as large as possible on the instruction page. It is not intended to indicate the actual size of your design. The actual size of your design can be found on your package label.


Preventing Your Thread from Twisting

As you stitch in and out of the fabric or canvas, it is natural to inadvertently be twisting the thread as you turn your needle. When your thread gets too twisted, it can knot or even fray as you stitch. To prevent your thread from twisting, let your threaded needle dangle from your fabric every so often. Your thread will unwind like magic!


Distinguishing Between Strands and Lengths of Yarn or Thread

A length of yarn is made up of three individual strands twisted together, and a length of thread is made up of six individual strands (unless otherwise noted in your instructions). Each length should be separated into individual strands just before you use them. By doing so, you will create smoother, fuller stitches. To separate the strands, hold one end of the length between two fingers and slowly pull out one strand at a time. Then, combine the number of strands indicated for stitching and thread the needle. Do not double over the thread/yarn in the needle by bringing all the ends together, as this will cause you to use twice as many strands as you should. Instead, leave a 3" tail in the needle.
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How Many Strands Should I Use?

The number of strands to use for stitching is always indicated in your instructions. In some instructions, look in the key which has a column labeled “Strands.” In others, look in the color or symbol list. Using the correct number of strands is very important to acheive the look of our model on the package label. If you use more strands, you will likely run short of yarn or thread to complete your design.


Keeping Your Place on Your Chart

There are many ways to keep from losing your place on the chart. You can use a highlighter to keep track of the areas you’ve already stitched. This is especially helpful when you are unable to stitch on a design constantly. Some stitchers prefer to use a sticky note to keep their place. Perhaps you would find it helpful to cover your chart with clear contact paper. This protects your chart, and you can use dry erase markers to mark your place which can easily be wiped away if you make a mistake.


Starting Your Thread

As a general rule, try to avoid using knots as they tend to make your finished piece look lumpy. For Crewel designs, you can use a “waste” knot that you will eventually trim away: Start by tying a simple overhand knot at the end of the thread, then pull the needle through the fabric from the front to the back within the design area. As you stitch, work over the thread on the back. This automatically anchors it. After the thread is anchored, cut off the knot.

For Counted Cross Stitch, Stamped Cross Stitch, Needlepoint, and No Count designs: Start your thread by leaving a tail of thread on the back of the fabric/canvas. Holding the thread tail against the fabric/canvas; work your first several stitches over the tail. Trim away any thread that is not covered by your stitches. For all crafts, in subsequent areas, begin your thread by weaving it through the wrong side of your stitches. Try to avoid weaving dark colors under light ones as they may show through the fabric, making your stitching appear soiled.


Ending Your Thread

For all designs: After you have worked an area, end your thread by weaving it under your stitches on the back. Try to do this horizontally or vertically. If you anchor your thread diagonally, you may see an odd ridge appear on the front that is distracting from the horizontal and vertical weave of your fabric or canvas. Remember, avoid weaving dark colors under light ones as they may show through, making your stitching appear dirty.


What to Do With Blank Areas or Squares on Your Chart

On Counted Cross Stitch designs, blank squares indicate unstitched fabric. In other designs, areas that are blank or not explained in your key also indicate unstitched areas of fabric. This allows the color of the fabric or the printed area to show.


Using the Key to Stitch a Kit

The goal of our instructions is to make your kit as easy as possible to stitch. We want you to enjoy your project! To help you read your chart, we have included a key or legend for reading it. The key tells you many things. It tells you what stitch you will be using (either with a letter or an icon) and tells you where you will be stitching (either a symbol, line, or patterned area). The key also tells you how many strands to use (either a number or a circled number) and what color to use (either a color name, code number, or number from your color list). Review the key in your kit to be sure you understand how to interpret all the information there. Then you can settle in and enjoy being creative with the needle!
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Chart Symbols

We do not use 1/4 or 3/4 stitches on our Counted Cross Stitch designs. You should use a full or half cross stitch as designated by the symbol on the chart.

On Stamped Cross Stitch, you should stitch as much of the X as appears on your fabric. If a partial stitch is not represented by a symbol on the chart (space may not have permitted it), you can usually determine what color to stitch by looking at the surrounding stitches or looking at the color picture on the package label.

On No Count designs, you should use full and partial stitches as needed to fill the areas. If you are unable to determine the symbol because detail lines interfere, refer to the package label and chart to make your best guess. Usually you can easily determine what color to stitch by looking at the surrounding stitches.


Colors with More Than One Symbol or No Symbol at All

In your symbol list or key, you may find that some colors have more than one symbol or no symbol at all. Look carefully at your symbol list or key. Colors with more than one symbol are generally used for both full cross and half cross stitches. Sometimes the additional symbols indicate using more or fewer strands of thread. Colors without symbols are generally used for detail stitches, such as Back Stitch or French Knots.


Counted Cross Stitch: Switching to a Different Count Fabric

The thread amounts in our kits are determined based on the way our featured model was stitched, i.e. fabric count and number of strands. If you choose to change the fabric in your kit to another count fabric at your own expense, please understand that by doing so, you may run out of thread in your kit.

To determine the amount of fabric you will need of a different count, follow these simple steps:

  1. Count the number of squares horizontally across the design. For example, let’s say there are 147 squares. Divide this number by the fabric count you wish to use. The result is the horizontal size of the design in inches. For example: 147 squares ÷ 14 count fabric = 10.5 inches.
  2. Add at least 4 inches of fabric to the design size to allow for framing or finishing. This number is the horizontal size of your fabric. In this example: 10.5 inches + 4 inches = 14.5 inches
  3. Repeat these two steps for the vertical.

On certain fabrics, you may wish to adjust the number of strands you use for stitching. The typical number of strands used on 11 count is three, on 14 count fabric is two or three, and on 18 count is two.


    Punch Needle Tips

    Punch Needle: Easy Techniques Get Great Results!

    First, make sure your fabric is placed in a plastic hoop to keep it taut. This is essential. If the fabric is too loose, you will have difficulty with the needle. Second, understand that the printed side of the fabric is the BACK. Punch Needle is stitched from the BACK to create loops on the FRONT. Each loop is created with a simple push/pull motion. Easy! Top

    Filling an Area in Punch Needle

    insidelines1When filling an area, work just inside the printed outline on the fabric. This ensures that areas of color are clearly defined on the front of your design. There is no need to cover the line as you would in traditional embroidery since the lines are on the back of the fabric and won’t show on the front of the finished design.


    Punch Needle Stitch Spacing

    Don’t be overly concerned about making sure your rows of stitches are perfectly spaced or worked over every fabric thread. Relax and have fun with it! This craft is very forgiving, so if the stitches are a little irregular on the back of if there is some white space between rows of stitches, it will still be ok. The important thing is how it looks on the front, so check it periodically. Notice in the pictures that even though the stitches are not perfectly spaced on the back of the fabric, the front looks just fine.



    Punch Needle: Trimming Stray Loops

    new-trim-loops1After you fill an area with color, check your loops on the front. If you see one or two loops of thread poking up above the others, simply trim them with a small, sharp scissors. The thread ends will blend in with the rest of the loops.


    Understanding the Punch Needle Tool

    needlefrbkLook at the tip of the punch needle tool. One side is open and cut at an angle. This is the front side of the needle. The other side is pointed and has a small eye in it. This is the back side of the needle. Top

    How to Hold Your Punch Needle Tool

    perpen1When punching, you must lead with the front side of the needle, not the back side. The direction you work doesn’t really matter (example, left to right or right to left), as long as you lead with the front side. Work in a direction that is most comfortable for you. Top

    Punch Needle 101 in Detail

    1. Push (“punch”) the needle tip all the way down into the fabric until the plastic handle touches the fabric.
    2. Lift just until the tip of the needle reappears.
    3. Slide the tip a short distance (about 1/16") along the surface of the fabric, then “punch” again. As you work, loops form on the front of your fabric while a short running-type stitch appears on the back. After you work a few stitches, trim the thread tail about 1/8" away from the fabric.
    4. Repeat to fill in the area with color. It’s that easy! We suggest that you outline the area first (staying just inside the printed line). Each area of color will be more clearly defined if you follow this method.
    5. To fill the center of the area, you can either follow in the direction of your original outline (A) or work in rows (B). Depending on the shape of the area, you may use a combination of both methods.
      Step 1
      Step 2
      Step 3
      Step 4
      Step 5


    Getting the Needle to Pierce the Fabric

    loose-fabric1Are you having trouble getting the needle to pierce the fabric?Your fabric might be a little loose (see diagram).Although the needle tip is very sharp, the fabric has to be very taut so that the needle can pierce it easily. Be sure you are placing your fabric in the hoop correctly. You may have to re-tighten your fabric several times while working on a project. Always check the fabric before starting a new thread and re-tighten it if needed. Top

    My Thread Is Tangling in the Tip of My Punch Needle

    Mark-on-needle1Make sure the needle tip is facing the proper way when punching. You must lead with the front (beveled) side of the tip. Don’t lead with the back side. Leading with the back side could be the cause of the thread tangling. If you wish, you can make a small mark with a permanent marker on the needle shaft just above the front side of the needle tip. That way it’s easier to see that the needle is facing the proper direction. Top

    Keep Your Loops in the Fabric

    loopstay1Are your loops pulling out as fast as you’re stitching? Relax, this is an easy fix. Check the feeder thread (that’s the thread that’s coming out the top of the hollow tube). Chances are it may be caught on something, such as the edge of your fabric or hoop or maybe even your shirt sleeve! The feeder thread must be behind your hand and there should be NO tension on it. Top

    My Punch Needle is Catching My Previous Stitching

    needlecatchingThis is more than likely a matter of form. Check to see how you are holding the needle. Remember, it should be straight up and down (perpendicular to the fabric) when punching. If you angle the needle, the tip may catch on previously worked loops or your loops may look uneven. Top

    Threading the Punch Needle Tool

    1.  Insert the threader into the needle shaft until the folded end of the wire appears at the other end. Place thread inside the wire loop.
    2. Pull the threader back through the needle eye.
    3. Insert the threader through the eye from back (rounded) side to front (beveled) side. Place thread inside the wire loop.
    4. Pull the threader back through the needle shaft until thread emerges from the needle tip.
    5. Remove the thread from the threader.
    6. Remove the thread from the threader. Leave a 2" tail of thread out the back of the needle eye.

    Using a Hoop

    Fabric must be kept taut while working Punch Needle.  A plastic hoop that has a lip on the inner ring works best for keeping your fabric taut.  Use a loop that is large enough to show the entire design.  Here are the steps for using a hoop:

    1. Lay the inner ring on your work surface with the lip facing up. Center your design over the inner ring.
    2. Place the outer ring around the fabric and over the lip on the inner ring. Tighten the screw at the top.
    3. Gently pull on the sides of the fabric to be sure it is as tight as possible.
    4. Retighten the screw if needed.

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