In my last post, I wrote about one popular method for keeping track of where you are in a pattern and managing lots of colours – the parking method. As I said in that post, personally I’m not a fan of the traditional parking method, it just makes me annoyed and I don’t find it as useful as many others I’ve heard from do. That’s why something like cross stitching is great – there are so many ways you can do the same thing, so all it takes is a little experimentation to find out what works for you. If you don’t feel like you’re being driven to drink by your stitching, then you’re probably doing it right (although no one ever said you can’t enjoy a nice glass of wine with your stitching, it is supposed to be relaxing after all). 🙂
Cross country stitching
I’ve been doing this kind of stitching naturally ever since I picked up the craft again about six months ago. I only just found out that this style had a name though – cross country stitching. At first I wasn’t sure what that referred to (as I reallllly hate traditional country-style patterns with chickens and cutesy mottos), but then I realized it was what I was already doing. Whereas parking is working across one row at a time (or I suppose column) doing all the stitches in order, cross country stitching is working across the entire piece (or a section of the piece) one colour at a time. Having your fabric gridded does make this style of stitching easier, as you’re less likely to make a mistake as you move across your piece. Of course, always double check your stitch placement even if your fabric is gridded. The pros to working cross country style is you don’t end up with a gigantic gaggle of threads of various colours hanging down, your piece is less likely to show “banding” if you’re working in big blocks of solid colours (example below), and you can focus on just one colour at a time so it makes following the pattern easier. I know some people use a PDF reader to highlight one symbol in their pattern (the colour they’re working on), stitch a section of that colour, then re-highlight those stitches in a different colour to show they’re done. You can do this with a paper pattern too if you don’t use PDF patterns.
As you can see above, I was working in sections of ten rows at a time, working back and forth across my piece like that. It is kind of a combination of cross country stitching and parking, as I’d do two 10×10 squares horizontally at a time, working one colour at a time. When I’d done all the stitches of that colour in those two squares, I’d park the thread in the next stitch closest to those squares. This allowed me to maintain some semblance of knowing exactly where I was in the pattern as I was stitching in such a small area, but I wasn’t dealing with the “joy” of having lots of threads hanging down in my way as I’d work with one colour at a time. However, as you can see in the picture above, in some of the areas of solid black, the piece is showing areas of banding, where you can see differences in floss thickness, slight differences in tension as I was working in the opposite direction, etc. You’d think such small differences wouldn’t be that noticeable, but they are. I’m hoping once I wash the piece and iron it that it will help even out these differences a bit. If not, depending on how I’m feeling about it I may just snip out some of the stitches that are along the “join” of the sections that are banded, and restitch those to eliminate the banding. There is no banding in areas where there are multiple colours along the horizontal sectional lines I was working along, it’s just in the areas of solid black stitching. You can see below the way I was working – in sections of ten rows one colour at a time. You can see some of my parked threads for upcoming colours, some of the colours like pure white are only in sections of the piece. This piece only has 8 colours, so it’s pretty easy to stitch as I’m not dealing with dozens of colours.
What I’ve only just started doing in the past few days is returning to proper cross country stitching. In the image below, you can see I’ve started working further down to carry along the edge of the cloak. I think I prefer working this way, as then I don’t have to keep threads parked further along for sections of colour that are coming up. I can just use those colours in the general area that they’re needed, then tie off the thread if that colour isn’t going to be used nearby again. I find this to be a much more “organic” way to stitch as I’m following the contours of the design, not just stitching a set space regardless of the design or colours used. I also find I tend to make fewer mistakes this way, although there’s no way to prevent that completely short of being ridiculously careful as you stitch. I think from now on I’m going to keep going cross country style and drop working back and forth in rows of ten. I still will work in bigger sections (as I’m not going to stitch one colour across the entire piece and then switch to the next, I’d be scrolling the piece up and down too much). That way I won’t have to worry about more black banding. I’ve also found it’s nice to do all the colours that have fewer stitched in an area, then leave the black (if that’s the dominant colour) to last. Then I don’t have to use my pattern for the last colour, I can just fill in the blanks so to speak.
What, you may ask, are the disadvantages of using the cross country stitching method? For some, they find it harder to read their pattern as they’re working in a bigger area. As I said above, using some combination of highlighting techniques can make that part a lot easier to deal with. Also, you can end up carrying your threads across the back a lot more with cross country than you do with parking (at least it seems more noticeable). You can see the back of my “Pieta” piece, there are lots of carried threads as I was working one colour at a time across the whole piece (it’s only 5×7″, so it was small enough to do that with). You can see the front of Pieta in my gallery. Despite what some may think about carried threads, it doesn’t bother me at all, you just have to be careful to not use up so much thread doing it that you need more thread of one colour. Most patterns tell you to buy a little more than you’ll actually end up using anyway, so that’s not a really big concern. I really like the back of Pieta, it looks like a lovely loose coloured pencil drawing, I think it’s quite pretty like that.
So that’s it, those are the two main styles of stitching that you can use to get around your piece – parking and cross country stitching. As I’ve shown, you can combine them in various ways to find what your “style” is, and it’s good to keep experimenting with styles. Even though cross stitch is a very simple craft to do, there are multiple ways to challenge yourself and learn how to do it even better. Questions? Feedback? Other ideas? Let me know below! 🙂