I just finished my first-ever cross-stitch project last week, so I thought I’d blog about it and share some tips and time-saving hacks for beginners. (fun fact: writing and cross-stitching are good ways to procrastinate from doing actual work)
I was introduced to this hobby this June (during summer break) by my friend, a fellow craft enthusiast. She was working on the same Hogwarts crest, as well as 4 smaller individual house crests. Being the impulsive Potterhead that I am, I was instantly inspired and dived in headfirst, buying all the basic materials for a cross-stitch project on the very same day.
I admit, I chose a pretty ambitious project for my first foray into needlework – the Hogwarts crest measured 35cm by 40cm, and looked like it would take an awfully long time to finish. Nevertheless, armed with Netflix and hundreds of hours of spare time, I ploughed through it during my 4th year of university (thankfully we had a very slack academic year) and finished it in just under 6 months .
What You’ll Need
I used this free pattern by LittleMojo; the last page of the pattern includes a list of embroidery thread colours required, as well as approximate dimensions of the project with different AIDA/cross-stitch cloth sizes.
I worked on a light blue 18 count AIDA cloth, but you can choose to work directly on a black cloth to save yourself the hassle of painting the background black later on. I chose light blue since it’s a lot easier to sketch the pattern onto and stitch with.
I modified a few thread colours from the original pattern:
- Hufflepuff had a grey background instead of its signature yellow, so I chose DMC 307, which was the correct shade of Hufflepuff yellow
- Ravenclaw was an anaemic shade of cornflower blue, so I changed it to DMC 824 to achieve the rich shade of blue in my finished project
- For Slytherin (my Hogwarts house), the dark shade of green didn’t really stand out against a black background, so I chose a brighter and more emerald-esque DMC 909
I also purchased a 18cm diameter embroidery hoop, which I felt was a comfortable hoop size for a project this size. If you’re planning to do much smaller projects in future, then you could get an even smaller hoop (or just buy multiple hoops!).
All the materials cost me around $40 in total, but I still have plenty of embroidery thread and AIDA cloth (it’s sold by the meter, so I have a lot of fabric left over) for future projects.
Once you’ve bought all your materials, you’re good to go! Below are some tips and tricks that I figured out through trial and error over the 5 months of cross-stitching; hopefully you’ll find them useful.
- Calculate the approximate size of your finished project, then leave a 5-8cm rim around it, since cross-stitch fabric can fray and cause you to lose your work. To reduce fraying, I stuck masking tape along all 4 edges to seal them.
- You can choose to print the pattern out or have it on a device for easy reference; I chose not to print it out since I had sketched the entire design out before stitching.
- Each thick piece of embroidery floss contains 6 strands, so when the pattern says 2 strands, it’s 2 individual threads and not the full thickness.
- These threads tangle really easily, so I personally found it more efficient to separate all the threads before starting each colour.
- To obtain 2 strands, I used 1 strand threaded through the needle, tying both ends together in a knot. Some people prefer not to use knots in their projects as it prevents the project from laying flat, but tying knots doesn’t have any significant effects on big projects.
- You can also choose to anchor the first stitch without tying a knot; you can refer to this tutorial!
- When deciding which colour to begin with, I’d recommend going from light to dark, since the thread fibres can mix and ‘dirty’ the lighter shade when you’re working on 2 adjacent colours.
- When working on the stitches, try to consistently stitch each individual cross in the same direction for a more polished end product.
- I chose to spend a few hours drawing and obsessively counting the grid, because I knew it would save me a fair bit of time later on in the project and reduce the number of times I would have to refer to the pattern.
- All you need is a long ruler, pencil and eraser. Each box was 10×10 squares, and each square was 1mm in size…my eyes were low-key dying by the time I finished drawing the full grid, but it was worth the effort
- I also chose to draw the entire pattern out with a marker – pixel by pixel – and used coloured markers to delineate the transitions in colour so I wouldn’t have to refer to the grid so much.
The End Product
Once I had finished stitching the whole piece, I outlined it with white and silver paint markers, then painted the light blue AIDA with black acrylic paint.
After 5+ months of working on it in my spare time, I finished my very first project!
I’m still trying to decide what to do for my next cross-stitch project, but in the meantime, I’ve started designing and selling my own jewellery online – check out GLITTR by Faith, and you’ll be contributing to charity at the same time because we donate a portion of every sale to charity!
P.S. I don’t make any money from running this blog, so if you’d like to support my writing and help me bring even better content to you, you can buy me a coffee/donate on Ko-fi!
If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series