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Cross Stitching with Stranded Cotton
Stranded cotton (or floss) is the thread used for the vast majority of cross stitch. The most commonly featured brands on cross stitch charts are DMC and Anchor. These are supplied in 8 metre skeins and are made from 100% cotton, which has been mercerized to make it soft but strong with a lustrous sheen.Each of these ranges is available in around 500 shades. If you can, try to avoid mixing the brands in a single project. This is because each company produces its shades in colour "families" which go together really well. Using an alternative for one or two of the shades can spoil the colour harmony of the design, especially if it's a subtle design with lots of shading.
Cutting your thread to lengthThe first task is to cut off the length of thread you need so that you can thread your needle. 18 inches is a good length for stitching stranded cotton. Much longer and it starts to get knotted and slightly frayed as you pull it through the fabric again and again. Much shorter and you get less efficient use of the 8 metre skein, due to the wastage involved in starting off and finishing each length of thread.
Separate and recombine the strandsStranded cotton is made up of six easily-separated strands. The number of strands required for your project will be indicated on your chart. If not please consult the list below.Pull off one strand of cotton at a time and then smooth them together into the number of strands you require. This untwists the strands and helps greatly to make them lie flat and parallel to each other. You will be surprised what a difference this little bit of preparation will make to the appearance of your stitching.Another good tip is to regularly allow your threaded needle to hang down from the back of the fabric while you are stitching. This will also help the thread to untwist.
Number of strands of cottonIf the chart does not give guidance on how many strands to use, the following suggestions should give good results:3 strands for 11-count fabric2 or 3 strands for 14-count fabric2 strands for 16-count fabric 1 or 2 strands 18-count fabricObviously the more strands you use, the better the coverage of the fabric. You can always try a few stitches on a small waste piece of the same fabric to gauge how well it will be covered when stitched.
Keeping an even tensionTry to stitch smoothly and with an even tension. Some stitchers feel that working the fabric on a hoop or frame helps with this. Avoid pulling the thread too tightly. This will enlarge the holes in the fabric and distort the stitches.Conversely not pulling the thread tightly enough will leave the stitches slightly raised from the fabric. This also looks bad. Your objective should be to work so that the stitches lie nice and flat against the fabric, without distorting the stitching or the fabric - and this will come surprisingly quickly as you gain cross stitching experience.
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