A Ability – Know your stitching limits: speciality threads, stitches and fabrics take some getting used to, so if you’re not 100% confident, tackle a project with just one of the three in first.
B Bulb – Never stitch without a bright, low energy craft lamp, especially in winter. They give off better light and throw out less heat than normal bulbs. Daylight bulbs (pictured below) are ideal.
C Colours – Typically, large designs have over 30 colours in them, so if the threads aren’t pre-sorted, cut lengths and arrange them on a sorter first. Invest in a Pako Thread Sorter.
D Deadline – If you’re stitching to celebrate a special occasion, work out how long it takes you to stitch a block of 30 by 30 stitches; multiply this by how many sessions you can fit into a week, and then work out when you need to start. Allow an extra two weeks for mishaps and then another one for framing.
E Evenweave – If your large project has lots of fractionals, this is the best fabric to go for. Having to pierce aida repeatedly will put you off the design. This fabric distorts more easily than aida, so make sure you use a good frame.
F Frame – This is an essential bit of kit for working on large projects. Choose from one that stands on the floor, or one that sits on your lap. There’s a good selection on offer at Siesta Frames.
G Growing – As the design grows, set yourself little challenges to keep your motivation levels up. For example, “I’ll finish the green of this tree before I go to bed”. Then plan which bit you’ll stitch next, so you know what you’ll be working on the next day.
H Help – If you’re stuck on any aspect of your stitching, let the experts on our Q&A panels in our magazines know – they’ll be pleased to help.
I Initials – Backstitch your initials or name and the year onto your design. It will give it an heirloom feel and a place in history as it’s passed down the generations.
J Juggling – Juggle two or three smaller designs with your large project to give you a break from it every now and then, and to help keep your motivation levels high.
K Knots – Keep the back of your stitching neat to prevent threads from getting tangled up at the back. Use a thread conditioner like Thread Heaven.
L Linen – It looks beautiful, but can be more challenging to stitch on than plainer evenweaves. “Linen certainly suits the folk art style of many of the American designs that are around today,” says Suzanne Bullman of The Historical Sampler Company.
“It makes a fabulous background for many larger samplers or heritage pieces.” To see a wide range of linens, visit www.willowfabrics.com
M Making up – If your walls are jam-packed with pictures, invest in a sewing machine so you can easily turn your stitching into household accessories, like cushions.
N New designs – Don’t be tempted to buy any new charts or kits until you’ve finished your large project. They can be far too tempting and there’s a danger that you may put down your big project and never pick it back up again!
O Organisation – Keep your threads tidy, your fabric neat and flat and your kits and charts sorted. At the end of a stitching session, pack away your needle, threads and fabric tidily so it’s easy to start next time. Having to untangle a mess of fabric and knots will only put you off continuing a design.
P Practise – Large projects often contain French knots or speciality stitches. Practise these on a scrap of fabric first, before trying them on your big design.
Q Quiet – If you have a particularly tricky area to stitch, or some unpicking to do, sit in a quiet area of the house so you can get it done as quickly as possible, before continuing with the rest of the fun bits.
R Running stitch – Before you start stitching, grid your fabric with red thread in running stitch. It will make counting much easier.
S Speciality threads – Substitute these for regular stranded cotton to create a special effect on your most prized pieces. By speciality we mean anything other than ordinary, machine-dyed stranded cotton. In particular we love DMC's Jewel Effect threads.
T Tape – Use masking tape to cover the edges of your fabric, so they don’t fray and so that your threads don’t catch on them. Alternatively, you can trim them with pinking shears.
U Unpicking – Unpicking is tricky, but quicker and easier if you’ve made sure that the top arm of each cross stitch lies the same way so you can use the point of your needle. Use a soft toothbrush to remove any remaining fluff.
V Variegated thread – Save time stitching areas of shading, by using threads that have lots of different tones of one colour.
W Wrinkles – Iron your fabric first, before stitching on it, to remove any creases. You can dampen the fabric and iron it dry,
to remove any stubborn creases.
X X marks the spot – Generally speaking, you should always start stitching in the centre of your fabric and chart, where the two heavy black lines intersect. If your design has a border, work this quickly, before starting on the main centre stitching.
Y Yawns – Yawns are usually closely followed by errors – don’t stitch when you’re tired! It’s a false economy.
Z Zweigart – Choose from a large range of Zweigart fabric at www.willowfabrics.com