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Welcome to week 2 of the #buststitchalong!

We're working on this fantastic Broad City-inspired counted cross stitch project by Julie Jackson, to celebrate the updated release of her updated tome, Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 F*cking Clever Designs for Your Sassy Side.

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Last week we went over what supplies you needed and how to get'em.

Today we're actually gonna start getting stitchy with it.

But first, here's the chart:

Click here to nab  the larger version of this, suitable for printing

That's what we're going to be making. If you've never done counted cross stitch before, you may be wondering, "Okay, great. Now how do I copy that design over onto my fabric?" The answer to that, my newbie stitching friend, is simple: You don't. 

So how, exactly, do you know where to put all your stitches? That's where the counting part comes in. You see 4 stitches in a row on the pattern, to make the bottom of the letter "O," for instance? Well, you just make 4 stitches in a row on your fabric. Going up one row, you see there's a stitch one box up and one box over to the right?  Well, you make a stitch right there, using the stitches you just made as your landmarks. It's kind of like hopscotch, really: you just need to put your stitches in the right "boxes."

But here's the next problem: where the heck do you start? Where do you put that very first stitch, the one from which all other stitches will follow? Not too hard: just find the center of your fabric, and the center of your pattern, and start there.

Most cross stitch charts will have little arrows to show you where the center of your pattern is. We have that here, too, but I've made things even easier by circling it for you, below.

 

Okay, so that is the center of the pattern. Now you gotta find the center of your fabric. 

Let's get started, shall we? 

Step One: Find Your Center

The first thing you need to do is find the center of your 10" x 14" piece of Aida fabric, and make a dot there, with a pencil. This pencil-dot side is going to be on the back of your sampler, so it won't show. You can find that middle any way you want; just folding your fabric in half, then folding it again, then unfolding and making the dot in the middle of the creases works just fine for me. 

 

(Please ignore the line on the fabric; I fucked up when cutting this out! Waah!)

Step 2: Get Hopped Up on Hoops

Now we're gonna get that piece of fabric into the embroidery hoop. If you've never used one before, this process starts out by turning the little screw/knob thingy to loosen it just enough to separate into two hoops. Now take the smaller, inside one—the one that doesn't have a screw thingy—and lay your fabric over it so that it's centered. Take the other hoop and push it down on top of the fabric and around the inner hoop. Tighten the screw so that it's sorta tight but it doesn't have to be too tight. Then go around and pull the fabric out around all sides so that the part in the middle is nice and taught (not tight!) and flat.

 

Fabric in picture above is not yet pulled taught in the embroidery hoop.

Step 3: Ready for Thready

Get your red embroidery thread, and cut off a "wingspan" worth of it. That's as much thread as will fit between your hands with your arms spread out. This does not have to be exact. Just grab the thread, spread out your arms, cut the thread. I find that this is a pretty manageable length to work with.

 

If you look closely, you'll notice that your embroidery floss is made up of 6 really thin threads. When you do cross stitch, you're only going to use two threads at a time. That means you gotta peel off two threads from the rest of the bunch. Easier said than done, as the thread is going to twist and turn all over the place. I do it like you see below, with my finger in between the two parts of the thread - 2 strands on one side, 4 strands on the other--and the rest of the strand held loosely in my palm so it can do all the twirling it wants to do. Take this part slowly or you'll end up with a bit knotted mess.

 

I hope you enjoy my bee-yoo-tee-full manicure!

Step 4: Needle Time

You have your thread, your canvas is all ready for you, you have one more step of prep to do before you can start stitching: get that thread into that needle! 

Start by inserting the thread through the needle, and then pull out about a 6" "tail". That tail is what's going to keep the thread from popping out of the needle. You are NOT going to double this thread and put a knot in it. That's totally not kosher. When you pull the thread through, you'll just keep your finger on the eye part of the needle, and that will hold the tail in place and ensure your thread ain't going nowhere.

New Fall Issue d217c

Step 5: Get Stitchy With It

NOW it's time to actually start making a cross stitch. We're going to make a red one right in the middle here, and then we'll get going on the pattern. So insert your needle from the back of your work into one of the holes nearest to your pencil mark. (Remember that holes thing?  You can refresh your memory here.

Carefully pull the thread through but leave a 6" tail hanging at the back. No knots, no nuthin'. Just leave that part hanging in the back.

 

Cross stitches are basically tiny little Xs in your fabric.

We're going to those little holes in the Aida fabric to help us make the X. Every X stitch is going to use four holes: A lower left hole, an upper left hole, a lower right hole, and an upper right hole. Take a look below, so you can see where I'm coming from. (from where I'm coming?).

Each cross stitch is going to use all four of them holes.

Now, there are two different ways to make the stitch.

The first is to make one leg, and then cross the other leg right over it. You do that like this. Bring your needle  up in the lower left hole (you've already done this part). Then weave your needle into the hole at the upper right and back out at the lower right hole of the X. *

*Please ignore the fact that the fabric is turned 90 degrees in this photo; I actually make my stitches a little differently than most folks. So, in the immortal words of your parents, "do as I say, not as I do."

Carefully pull the thread all the way through, but leave that 6" tail hanging at the back. You just made the first, right-leaning leg of your X.

 

Now take  your needle and go back into the hole on the upper left, to make the second leg of the X.

Donezo. Next, you move your needle to the lower left hole of where the next X needs to land, and repeat the whole, holey thing. 

 

But how do you know where the next X needs to land? Aha! We need to look at Julie's handy dandy chart again. This first red X corresponds to the center of the chart, which is actually the first X on the left-hand side of the bottom of the letter M in NOMO. Scroll back up if you don't remember.

 Looking at the chart, you can see that you need to make 6 Xs for the bottom of that part of the M, and since you already made 1, you just need to make 5 more Xs to the right of the one you just made.

But I'll let you in on a little secret: Making your Xs one stitch at a time like this is for amateurs. It's slow going and annoying and just not nearly as fun as the next way I'm going to show you:

Just make a bunch of right-leaning legs first, then go back over them with the left-leaning legs. You shouldn't do this over the whole entire fabric, but it's a good plan for doing a nice section.

 

 

I'm on top of the M, ma!

In the end, however, you can really make your Xs in whatever way pleases you, but there is one thing that is important: You need to always have the leg that's on TOP be leaning the same way. We have been making the first leg of the stitch leaning to the right, and the top leg leaning to the left. Whether you're doing one stitch at a time or a row of 'em,  you still need to keep it that way throughout. 

I'm about to send you on your stitchy way, but there's just one more thing: What happens when you run out of thread? Easy. When you've only got about 6 inches or so of thread left, finish your X and leave your needle at the back of the work. Flip that thing over and weave your needle into the backs of some of your stitches. That will just sort of hide it away and make sure it doesn't unravel. We'll be doing more of that next week. 

Then just separate off another 2 strands and go on. 

Oh wait--there is still one more one more thing. When you do cross stitch, you will often find that your naughty thread has made a knot in itself. This knot often looks like a loopy thing, and you will panic when you first see it. But don't panic. Do what I do: Just put your needle into the loop, and gently pull the loop while holding one side of the thread. That knot will unravel itself and you can go on.

 

That's an awful lot for one day. Just get going. Your goal this week is to get all the letters done. Ask any questions in the comments below. And don't forget to Instagram and Twitter the fuck out of your in-progress shots, and tag them with #buststitchalong. I'll be looking out for them!  

See you next week!

 

 

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