Friday, March 25, 2016

Cross Stitch Design 101 - Lesson 2

Welcome back to class...I'm so glad you are joining us!

This is Lesson 2, so if you're a week behind on your "assigned reading", scroll back to Lesson 1, so this makes sense.

*So now you've got an idea, and done a pencil sketch. You have a cross stitch design program on your computer, or you can go retro and use a pencil and graph paper. Now you're ready to start graphing and "draw" with your mouse.

Note: I've had a lot of comments requesting suggestions for good cross stitch software. Sadly, I don't know about this. I just use my 20 year old program and don't shop. Sorry!

* Consider "scale" when you are graphing. This sounds obvious but it's something I had to learn when I was a beginner. You can make Santa's face 9 stitches across, or the jolly old elf's face can be 35 stitches across. Whichever you choose, you're going to end up with very different sizes of finished stitcheries. That's what I mean by "scale". Consider the "big picture" and make sure your design isn't too large or too small.

See pics (above) for large scale Santa and (below) smaller scale Santa.

For L*K, I try to keep my designs in a scale that is appropriate to whatever format I will be marketing. A Snippet can't be too large, or it won't fit on the Snippet leaflet. None of my designs are huge, but they have to be able to fit in my publishing format. I don't do super large, multi-page designs...except for those Mystery Samplers...which unfold over several top-secret leaflets. ***And, oh yea, there's another mystery coming your way soon, but that's another blog post!

*One handy tip I use...I put some "border markers" on my screen as I begin a design. I may already know I want a square design. so I put some little markers (filled in squares) to designate a square shape - maybe 60 wide by 60 high. Then I try to keep my design within this area. If the design grows larger, or shrinks, I can relocate those markers, while maintaining my desired square shape. Check out my border markers below.

Occasionally I'm trying to make a design fit a desired finish size. Maybe it needs to fit a pre-finished pillow or standard frame size. I calculate the size the design needs to be (using the stitch count of the fabric I will be using) to determine where my border markers should be. Technical, huh? That's why I keep my old-fashioned L*K calculator on my desk.

When I began L*K I stitched some rather large designs on 10 ct. fabric and ended up with some plus-size models. Now I choose smaller count fabric which results in more manageable-sized models. My models hit the road in trunk shows and generally stay on-the-go, so smaller is more convenient.

* Practice, practice, practice! You knew it was going to come down to this age-old adage. But that's what I've discovered over the years. The first try I make at a Santa usually looks ridiculous, but I just keep clicking here, removing stitches there, add more, subtract more, scrap it and begin again...whatever it takes until I'm satisfied with the motif.

Sometimes I graph a really cool motif...maybe a bunch of holly...but once I'm done graphing it, it doesn't really fit with the overall design. But I still like that little holly motif! So I put a little box around that holly with my mouse and move it outside the design area. Then it's sitting there, ready to go if I change my mind and add it to my design. If not, I may decide to save it into another file for future use.

Here's an upcoming Snippet I've been working on. Top 2 designs were my original efforts. See the "leftovers" at bottom right. There were actually tons more, but I already deleted them before this blog post. Then I scrapped the whole wide thing and redid this scripture into a neat little square design. It's stitched and framed and being photographed today...coming soon.

By the time I finish a typical design, I've got more stuff "outside the box" than inside the design area. There are borders, motifs, lettering, all sorts of tried but abandoned stuff that didn't make the final cut. I usually leave the leftovers sitting there until I'm totally satisfied with the design, as in...I've stitched the model.

* Repetition is good! Here's my final tip for the day. I have discovered that repetition is my friend. Design wise, it looks nice to have some repeating elements. I apply this rule to color, and try to always use a color several times in a design. I aim to "spread the color around". If I'm using a pretty orange in a Halloween design, then I make sure that orange shows up scattered around the design, not all in one little bunch.

The same goes with motifs. If you look at my L*K designs...especially my will find little motifs that repeat themselves throughout the designs. Once you've graphed it, you can copy and paste little repeating motifs here and there. You may want to vary the color, the placement, the number of those motifs, but I think it makes the eye happy to see repetition. It makes the design flow! And it's a handy tool for filling those hard to fill little gaps in a design.

Can you find some repeating motifs and colors in the partial pic of 3 Little Words above? I spy with my little eye:
birds (3)
lacy white border (2)
wavy light green border (2)
quilt blocks (2) notice that these first appear vertically, then reoccur grouped horizontally.

If you view the entire series, you can spot even more repetition as the series unfolds. Repetition creates a nice rhythm.

Assigned Homework:
Just kidding! I've always wanted to say that, but I'm not a teacher.  I'm channeling my daughter...the talented high school art teacher, Mrs.Wain. We chatted a couple times yesterday - before and after her all day field trip taking 50+ high schoolers to the Chicago Art Institute. I never knew teachers were nervous before a field trip, but it turns out they are!  She always asks for prayers that she and all of her students return to the building. Even though the weather was bad, she had a great day with her AP Art History students. Above is Sarah "Lizzie" and her Dad in her vintage classroom at Lane Tech (Chicago Public School).

Questions?  Comments? Extra credit requests?

Class dismissed...have a great weekend!


  1. Thank you for sharing your creative mind with us. There's a lot of food for thought there! May you and your beautiful family have a blessed Easter weekend.

  2. Thank you for lessons one and two! It has been interesting to read how you go through the creative process for design. Have a wonderful weekend and a blessed Easter.

  3. I have been enjoying your lessons, though I may never design my own. I love your designs. They are easy to do, and often have words of comfort or strength or just make one feel good. Thank you for all you do. I am glad you share your faith, so we can share ours. God bless you! Judy Koch

  4. I've enjoyed reading your design process. You are so very talented!

  5. Thank you for such wonderful and helpful details.

  6. Very interesting post. I was so intrigued at the end with your daughter. Two of our children took AP art and both took the field trip down to the Chicago Art Institute. :D

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your design process, it's truly fascinating to see how you go from an idea to the PC screen. I love seeing behind the scenes! I also absolutely adore your designs so thank you for your wonderful patterns over the past 20 years. :^)