How to follow a chart

Our charts are printed with black-and-white symbols and with numbered grid lines to help you find your place. Work from an enlarged photocopy if you need to.

The thread numbers listed in the first column of the key refer to the brand of cotton we used to stitch the design, for example, Anchor. Conversions are then given for two other main brands (for example, DMC and Madeira) in case you prefer these threads. But since they are not exact equivalents it's best not to mix manufacturers' threads in the same piece of stitching to avoid 'patchy' results.

1. Make a cross stitch for each symbol shown on the chart. Bring the needle up in the bottom left corner of the square and take it down in the top right. You now have a half cross. Bring your needle up again in the bottom right corner of the square and push it down in the top left. This is a cross stitch. Work each stitch in the same order each time. When you need to work a row, make a line of half crosses and turn back to complete each cross in the line. Catch the thread end on the back under your first few stitches to secure it.
2. If you see a small version of a symbol printed in the corner of a square on the chart you need to make a three-quarter stitch. This is a half cross combined with a tiny quarter stitch that runs from one corner of the square and stops in the middle. You need to pierce the aida fabric to make your own hole here. Where two different symbols share the same square, you need to make a three-quarter stitch in one colour and a quarter stitch in the other.
3. Backstitch outlines are added on top when all the other stitching is complete to create extra detail or highlight an area of the design. Bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3 and down at 1 again following the diagram. 
4. French knots provide interesting detail on a design and are shown as a dot on the chart. Bring the needle up through the fabric, hold the thread taut in your left hand, and wrap the needle around it twice. Push the needle back into the fabric close to where it came out, keeping the thread taut. Gently pull the needle and thread through the fabric until a neat knot is formed on the front. 
5. To finish off a thread, push the needle through three or four stitches on the back and snip the end close to where it emerges. 

Five ways to get ahead for Christmas

Don’t let Christmas Day sneak up on you this year – plan your festive stitching now...

  1. Early bird

    It’s time to write a list and see how many cards you need to get through each week. If you want to get going now, try one of the free card kit gifts with The World of Cross Stitching – this Margaret Sherry design that came with issue 181 is ideal.
  2. Ready for Santa

    Start stitching kids’ stockings soon to ensure they are finished in time for old St Nick’s arrival. We adore this ‘Penguin Joy Stocking’, £26.99, by Janlynn. Buy it from Sew and So.

  3. Be prepared

    Make sure you’ve got all the inspiration and stash you need by heading to a festive craft fair near you. Check out our events page regularly to make sure you don't miss out on the best ones.

  4. Personal best

    Stitch a challenging kit as a treat. ‘Merry Christmas Santa’, £18.50, Dimensions Petites Gold, would make a nice, substantial stitch for in between all those quick cards. Email for stockists.

  5. Surprise, surprise!

    Allow plenty of time to stitch in secret if you are making gifts for close family. This ‘Let it Snow’ sampler, £25, would be great for a fan of the holiday season. Buy the kit from The Historical Sampler Company.


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