Recently I was online in one of the Facebook cross stitch groups I belong to, and a woman had never tried gridding cross stitch fabric, was having issues figuring out how to do it. I’d never really thought about how that might be confusing for some people – I’m really mathematically and artistically inclined so I saw someone else’s image of a piece of gridded fabric and just figured out how to do it on my own. In order to make the process easier to understand, I’ve made a video outlining how to draw a grid (10×10 stitches) onto 14 count Aida fabric. The process would be the same for any thread count, but if the fabric isn’t white then it might be a good idea to invest in a coloured fabric pen or mechanical fabric pencil. If you search “mechanical fabric pencil” online, there are hundreds of products that come up in many different colours.
One thing to note before gridding cross stitch fabric is to consider how long you will likely be stitching the piece for. Is it a small piece you’ll have done in a few weeks, or is it a larger piece that could take years to do? For larger pieces I would suggest gridding your lines using “thread.” At the beginning of the video I show a small sample of 22 count fabric that I gridded using sewing thread. I have done one small piece like that, but I found my needle did pierce the thread so it was hard to pull the thread out cleanly at the end. If you prefer stitching your gridlines rather than drawing them, there is a product called Easy Count Guideline that is a thin nylon thread. There is a link to a demonstration video on their home page, and then the thread is really easy to pull out and reuse as it’s not going to get split or caught into the needlepoint itself. There is also fabric called Magic Guide by DMC that comes pre-gridded, and the lines wash away with water (in the video I wasn’t sure about that, but I checked). Obviously the colours and sizes available for Magic Guide are going to be more limited than other types of non-gridded cross stitch fabric, but it might be just the solution for someone not wanting to spend a lot of time gridding out a piece. You can also stitch your grid lines in with fishing line like in this tutorial. For linen and evenweave fabric, because it’s so fine you may also find it much easier to grid with stitching rather than by drawing the lines on.
Potential problems with drawing your grid lines
In the video I do show a brief overview of a water-erasable fabric pen I just bought, but do be aware of the issues that can occur with fabric markers. Fabric that has been gridded with fabric markers may have the lines “reappear” if the fabric gets too cold. This happened to one stitcher I know — she mailed her piece to be entered into a competition, but as the mail got cold during the trip when her piece arrived the gridlines had reappeared in her stitching. One solution to prevent this is to wash your project when you’re done — you’d need to do this anyway to remove water-soluble pen lines, but washing your project will help remove any residue from the pen, which could re-appear later. Please obviously take care if you’re washing hand-dyed fabric or flosses, as they may leach dyes.
I do the demo in the video using a regular mechanical pencil (and erasing the lines with an artist eraser), but please be aware that this is not a fool-proof method. If your project has a lot of light colours in it, the floss can pick up the graphite as you stitch and become dirty or smudged looking. In the video demonstration, unfortunately the leads in the mechanical pencil were a bit too soft (so the lines were darker), so the pencil lines smudged a bit when I tried to erase them. When I did the actual gridding on my big Michelangelo piece that I talk about in the video, I used a different mechanical pencil that had harder leads in it (and thus the lines could erase cleanly as they were lighter). I didn’t trial the pencil I did use before filming the video, but in actual practice it’s not that big of a deal as I was just gridding that piece as a sample for the video (and I was pressing harder so the lines would be more visible on camera). If you do decide to use a mechanical pencil (now I would always advise people to stitch in their grid lines with nylon thread), and you do have issues getting the pencil out of your fabric, here is some advice from another stitcher: “I have had perfect results with no pencil lines left by soaking the piece in a bit of Tide and OxiClean. I let it soak for maybe an hour or two unless it is really heavy, then I would leave it overnight.”
Here is a small quick illustration of what a piece would look like fully gridded out. In the example I’ve said it’s 65 stitches across and 95 stitches down. So you would need 7 ten-by-ten grids across to accomodate the 65 horizontal stitches (with 5 stitches in the last column unused), and 10 ten-by-ten grids down for the 95 vertical stitches (again, with 5 left over). You should also allow for 3″ of margin on all sides of the fabric to make sure there’s enough excess to put into a hoop for sewing or to use in framing the piece when it’s done. All patterns will have a stitch count (if not on the cover of the pattern then in the pattern itself), and you can calculate the dimensions of the finished piece by dividing the number of stitches by the thread count of the fabric. So for the example above, if the piece is 65 stitches across and I’m using 14 count fabric (which means 14 stitches per inch), the finished size would be 65/14 = 4.6″. So the piece would be 4.6″ across, meaning the fabric would need to be at least 10.6″ across (as you need to add 3″ of margin to each side, making an extra 6″ added to the finished piece size). If the same piece was done on 22 count fabric, it would be 65/22 = 2.95″ (plus the extra 6″ of margin). If you have a hard time with math, it’s ok. Just draw a little picture like I’ve done and work slowly at figuring out how many grids you will have, how wide and long your fabric needs to be, etc. If you’re really stuck, leave a comment below with where you’re having a hard time and I’ll help you figure it out (I know I’m nuts, I actually do really like math).
I hope that all helps! If you have any questions or need something explained better, please let me know in the comments below!