The parking method can be a great way to keep yourself organized and on track while you’re stitching. Most people who come across the parking method fall into one of two categories. They’ve either never heard of it, or they know generally what it is but aren’t sure how to actually do it. In this tutorial, I’ll explain what the parking method is, how to do it, and what other alternatives you have.
The parking method is one way of moving across your pattern in a logical way. It helps minimize mistakes, and can help you keep track of where you are in your pattern easier. Especially for patterns that are quite complex and have many colour changes, the parking method can be very useful. An alternative method is called cross country stitching, and that is covered in the next blog post. Both of these techniques can help you to not only tackle some more complex projects, but also to enjoy the process of creating your newest masterpiece.
To see a video demonstration of the parking method and the “sister” technique, cross country stitching, please check out the video below. Neither one is better than the other — try them both out and see which one you like best! More detailed instructions about how to do the parking method are below the video. And if you’d like some free cross stitch patterns to practice these techniques on, click here to get access to them!
Parking Method versus Cross Country
1. Gridding out your pattern
If you’re feeling intimidated by your pattern, one option is to first grid your fabric before you start stitching. Every pattern has every tenth row and column indicated by a darker line, so it’s well worth the time to grid out your fabric the same way (I use a pencil very lightly in the video tutorial below, but don’t do that if your pattern has many light tones). Many stitchers use special pens that are designed to wash away. Be aware though that sometimes the grid lines from fabric pens can reappear on your project.
You can also buy special fabric called DMC Magic Guide that has the lines pre-gridded for you. These gridded lines will help you find where to start a new colour, and will help to keep you on track (even with a simple pattern it’s never a bad idea to double check the placement of your stitches as you go along). Some stitchers are very against the idea of gridding out your fabric, they think somehow you’re “cheating.” I say do whatever is easiest for you and helps you enjoy stitching more. For me, that means I grid my fabric for a bigger piece. If you’d like some instructions on how to grid, please check out this video tutorial that will get you started in no time! An alternative to gridding by drawing the lines on is gridding using nylon thread (like fishing line). To learn how to grid using fishing line, click here.
2. Moving across your pattern – the parking method
The parking method helps you keep track of exactly where you are in a pattern. It does not mean you run over your cross stitch piece with your car because the pattern is making you batty (tempting as that may be). Basically it means to “park” your thread in the next stitch it will appear in along the horizontal row you’re working on. Let’s say here are your next ten stitches in your row, and you are starting stitching with the “3” colour:
First you’d stitch your first 3 colour. Then you’d look to see where your next 3 was, and lo and behold, there it is again after one stitch in the “square” peach colour. So after your first 3 is stitched, you’d carry your thread across the back of the piece, and bring your needle up at the corner (I start in the lower left) of where your next 3 would start. Instead of stitching that 3, you’d bring your thread to the front of the fabric as if you were going to stitch that stitch, then you’d drop the thread and let it hang from the front of the piece. Then you’d stitch your one “square” stitch, and bring that thread up again at the next square stitch (in this case, the tenth stitch). After that one square stitch, you’d pick up your “parked” 3 thread, stitch those two 3 stitches, then carry that thread across the back to the next 3 (in this case it’s actually the next row of the pattern, not shown).
In this manner, by “parking” the different colours ahead to the next stitch in that colour, you can work in horizontal rows and keep track of exactly where you are in the row. Mistakes are also minimized, which is definitely a good thing. You can also mark off on your pattern as you stitch (many use highlighters) so you don’t get lost. Depending on how many colours are in the row, you have three options:
- keep the needle attached to each thread (you’d need a needle for each colour)
- unthread the needle and rethread it with the new colour (which can take a lot of time to do over and over)
- a combination (keep needles only on the colours that are used most frequently).
The main disadvantage of parking is depending on how many colours you’re working with, you can end up with dozens of threads hanging down. Some people are ok with their piece looking “messy” as they work across the rows, but for some people this makes them nuts. Or it makes their cats super happy to try and bat all the dangling threads around. 🙂 Below you can see an example from my own stitching.
3. Parking method in practice
Here are pictures of my piece “Gaze” from the back (you can see the front below). You can see in the first ten horizontal rows at the top, I was trying out this form of parking. Because you’re carrying threads horizontally across the back, this method does tend to make your back pretty messy and dense looking. I don’t worry about what the back of my cross stitch looks like (as long as there aren’t any gigantic knots or tangles of thread), people look at the front. If you’re going to enter your pieces into judged craft shows or competitions they may want to see the back (and judge its neatness), but otherwise I wouldn’t worry too much about what your back looks like.
Personally, I found the parking method doesn’t suit how I like to stitch. I didn’t like changing threads/needles every few stitches, and I felt like I was constantly rethreading needles (I was using shorter threads so they wouldn’t tangle when hanging down). It was very laborious for me, and it made stitching become a chore. However, some people really enjoy the parking method and find it’s the only way they can cope with their more complex pieces. In my next blog article (complete with a video demonstration), I’ll show how I currently enjoy stitching, which is a cross between parking and cross country stitching (and I’ll explain what that is).
What about you, have you tried parking? What did you think?
If you’d like some free cross stitch patterns to try out the parking method with, click the image below!