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The parking method: cross stitch tutorial

The parking method: cross stitch tutorial

with 26 Comments

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

 

MacStitch pattern detail
MacStitch pattern detail

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:

pattern-example-parking-method-cross-stitch

 

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).

 

parking-method-cross-stitch-example
Here’s an example of what parking looks like on a complex piece. You can either bundle your floss as shown (she’s using hair clips), or you can have the needles hanging down.

 

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

 

Gaze cross stitch pattern parking method

Gaze cross stitch pattern parking method

 

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.

 

Gaze cross stitch pattern parking method

 

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!

free cross stitch patterns parking method

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Follow Dana Batho:

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.

26 Responses

  1. Lori
    | Reply

    I’m a visual learner. I need to see the technique demonstrated.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Lori! Sorry, the written description and photos is the best I can do, it takes a lot of time to do parking (too much to film). Maybe there’s another tutorial online that will help. I absolutely hated that technique, it was too difficult and made things harder for me, so I won’t be doing a filmed tutorial as I won’t ever be using the technique again. 🙂

  2. Debbie Ley
    | Reply

    Thanks, for your explanation. I found it very helpful. I do have a question that I’ve not heard addressed. How do you keep up with the colors in your ‘parked’ threads?
    Thanks!!!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Debbie! It’s a massive pain, which is why I only experimented with part of the one pattern. If you keep close track on your pattern by marking off what you’ve already stitched, then that should help a lot. 🙂

  3. Tina Poer
    | Reply

    Oh my gosh! I have never considered drawing the grid lines on my fabric! I’ve been cross stitching for over 28 years and just had a duh moment! I’m working a very complicated tessellation with a lot of color changes and this idea is making it so easy now. Who cares if others think it is cheating because I would rather cheat and end up with a perfect piece than a lot of mistakes!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Ahahah it’s totally not cheating Tina, there are no rules to stitching (and people who tell you there are need to “remind” themselves it’s a hobby, it’s not rocket science where lives are on the line). Just make sure either your stitches completely cover your lines, or the lines can be removed (aka using a water soluble pen). Those pens can sometimes “reappear” if the project gets really cold, like if you put it in checked luggage on a plane or post it somewhere, so that is something to be aware of too. 🙂

  4. Sarah
    | Reply

    Where did you get the stand that you are using? I’m working up the confidence to start on a big pattern and I feel the stand would be very useful.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Sarah! It’s just a scroll bar frame I made legs for. If you search “rear leg” on my site, you should find the tutorial where I explain how my Dad made the rear leg for it. 🙂

  5. […] decision I’ve made is that carrying threads is for me! I tried the parking technique and it just made life more difficult. Maybe as I become more experienced I’ll try […]

  6. Linda Fischer
    | Reply

    I enjoyed both videos. I had never heard of either. I’ve been doing a somewhat modified cross country but didn’t know it had a name. That’s just the way I was taught when I was 10 and I’m 71 now. I have done hundreds of pieces. I could never do the parking. I’m a perfectionist and neatnik and all of those needles and threads hanging would drive me crazy!! Thank you for doing the videos. It’s true…you can learn something new every day but I think this old gray mare will stick with the method I’ve always used.! My pieces turn out beautifully.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha awesome, I’m glad you learned something Linda! And yeah, I’m very much a cross country stitcher, all the needles did make me nuts…. 🙂

  7. Christine May
    | Reply

    Parking looks complicated and I would be too intimidated to even attempt it. Thank you for your explanation. I had never heard of it and just wanted to see what it was about. Your video did a good job of showing both techniques.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks very much Christine! Some people love it, for me it makes me batty. I’m a cross country stitcher all the way. 🙂

  8. […] The Peacock & Fig has a pretty good explanation for the Parking Method. […]

  9. Jade W
    | Reply

    I’m a natural cross country stitcher like you, and I have looked at trying parking but I think it will just slow me down! Thank you for your great explanation!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha you’re very welcome Jade! Happy stitching! 🙂

  10. Linda Napier
    | Reply

    Thanks for making this video! I really enjoyed and learned two new techniques. I’m starting a new project and will try the cross country technique first!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Awesome, I hope you have fun trying out cross country Linda! That’s my preferred method, but some people prefer parking. 🙂

  11. Mahogany Ransom
    | Reply

    This video was not helpful. You did so much talking but you didn’t show any examples. I was disappointed.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      I’m sorry you didn’t find it helpful Mahogany, as I explained in the video I was using a project I’d already completed as an example (as I found parking to be really aggravating, I switched part way through it). There is a lot of information in the blog post itself, you’re literally just carrying your needle over to the next stitch of the same colour so there isn’t really a ton to demonstrate. Have a good day, and happy stitching! 🙂

  12. Constance Witzel
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for a great explanation. I look forward to trying this technique.👍

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha have fun Constance! It wasn’t for me, but you may find you really enjoy it. 🙂

  13. Jo-Ann Alvarez
    | Reply

    Thanks, this was a great help to me.
    I loved your pattern of Pieta(?)

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha thanks so much Jo-Ann! And yes, it’s the Pieta pattern, I’ll be making a more detailed and larger one of that pattern in a few months once my newest collection is launched. 🙂

  14. Michelle Lynn Bonds
    | Reply

    Thank you for the great time you give in explanations! I so enjoy each of your videos! Quick response to questions. I can find out anything I need to know about cross stitch from you. The best teacher I have found so far!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha awwww, thanks so much Michelle, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the tutorials! 🙂

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