/ / / Cross stitch – cross country stitching
Cross stitch – cross country stitching

Cross stitch – cross country stitching

with 14 Comments

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.

 

Banding in Sistine 1 piece
Banding in Sistine 1 piece

 

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.

 

Starting to work cross country style again
Starting to work cross country stitching method again

 

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.

 

Pieta reverse
Pieta reverse

 

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! 🙂

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Artist and Designer

I am an artist, veteran, analyst, and mommy to the sweetest dog ever. I am constantly thinking of ways to use my creativity in everything I touch despite my physical limitations, and I love encouraging others to do the same.

14 Responses

  1. Elisanne McCutchen
    | Reply

    I just started seriously doing cross stitch and saw images of all the threads hanging and about fainted!! All I could think of were dozens of threads tangling and needles falling off to be stepped on by canine and human alike. That said, I’ve bought a chart with 89 colors and a lot of confetti. I may try parking in that one…with a frame that goes nowhere instead of a hoop! Thanks for the info. I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to explain these techniques.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha you’re very welcome Elisanne! The hanging needles made me batty too, I wish you the best of luck with your big pattern! You may love parking, or you may find yourself happier working cross country style across the piece. 🙂

  2. Marisela
    | Reply

    I just wanted to know if after you washed and ironed it did you still see tension markings?

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Marisela! No I didn’t, it was good as new. The only time I’ve had creases not come out is when I bought a full yard of fabric — where the fabric had been folded in half, that line never fully came out. But hoop marks or whatnot, no problems at all. 🙂

  3. Lee Rowe
    | Reply

    Thank you Dana – this was really helpful, really appreciate the time you’ve taken to do these tutorials for us.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks so much Lee! You’re very welcome, sorry it took me a few days to get back to you. Happy stitching! 🙂

  4. Stephani
    | Reply

    Hi, I don’t do either of those two ways.
    I always start in the center (because that’s what the instructions always say) and do whatever color is the closest to that. Then I’ll pick another color and/or area that touches the first one. Repeat as needed. :)So it ends up being blobs of color spreading out towards the edges.

    Is there a name for that? 🙂

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha thanks for your comment Stephani! I don’t know if there’s a specific name for starting in the centre or not. The patterns I design have the centre marked (and often a page map so you can see where you are in the bigger picture), but I don’t specifically tell people to start in the centre. For me personally it depends on the pattern. If it’s full coverage I start in one corner on a big chunk of colour and just work my way across that way, but if it’s a pattern that is more open then often I’ll start in the centre. I still work in big chunks of colour though, I don’t like being constrained to work in any particular direction. 🙂 Whatever works best for you is what I always recommend, as everyone stitches a little differently. 🙂

  5. Anne, thekrazysheep
    | Reply

    One thing I have learned about cross country stitching (which is the way I have always stitched) is to be really careful carrying darker colors behind non-stitched or light-colored-stitched sections. Better to end and restart or the darker threads will show through on the right side of the fabric. 🙂

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha yes that’s true Anne. I guess it depends what fabric you’re using, I mainly use Aida so it’s near impossible to see anything from the front. I will be doing that for a piece I’m working on 28 count black linen, I’ll be very careful about the lighter colour threads in areas of confetti where there is lots of plain fabric showing. 🙂

  6. monique vermuyten
    | Reply

    I enjoyed reading your blog -when making a complicated pattern (Theresa Wentzler has some intricate ones) I tend to pre-grid my fabric, do some countrywalk stitching and park my thread and needle way outside of the part I’m embroydering – I also try to enclose the short endings of one colour immediately so that the back doesn’t get too tangled – once and a while I remove the complete embroidery and flip it over to do some fastening of all loose ends so I don’t get knot like structures at the back, which will show after washing and pressing
    I truly love doing cross stitch and a day without stitching makes me unhappy –
    I also like to alter patterns to my personal colour taste or I interchange the position of some patterns in a sampler to my personal liking and the frames I have available – this way I can use up my stash of frames (some of which are recycled ones from my grandparentswhich I sand down and repaint/give an other patina…)

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Monique, thanks very much for your comment! It sounds like you really have your cross stitching technique adapted to what works best for you, which is great! I think it’s great you adapt patterns to suit your own taste, so many people don’t think of doing that. As a designer I think if you’re happier using yellows instead of blues (or whatever), then do it — the whole point is to get creative, so I love seeing how people adapt patterns. I’m sure you have a fantastic collection of pieces! 🙂

  7. Heather Richardson
    | Reply

    Thank you for explaining this! I just learned about “parking” which looked waay too complicated for me. I’d probably be driven to drink! lol However, I didn’t know what cross country stitching was either. What’s cool is I’ve just discovered that’s exactly how I stitch and have stitched for years! So thank you for clarifying!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha I know right Heather, me too! When I found out about cross country stitching I was like “ooohhh, that’s how I’m happiest stitching!” 🙂 Glad to hear you learned something, and at least if you’re going to drink it’s because you want to, not because your projects are making you batty. 😀

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