Before we get into the nitty-gritty of cross stitch terms, let's have a look at our pattern difficulty rating system!
On this website you may see a series of embroidery hoops under pattern descriptions. This is the rating system we have devised to help you judge how challenging a pattern is. Please bear in mind that this system is not comparable to other difficulty gauges used by the big needlework companies, or even other indie companies, but is specific to us. We try to judge each pattern accurately and fairly, and most of our patterns will be a 2 1/2 hoop rating or below. If you need any clarification about the difficulty of a pattern, just get in touch and we'll be happy to help.
Have a look below to see what each stage on the system means.
: pattern will be stitched in simple full cross stitches only and will consist of one colour or large areas of 2 or 3 colours. It will be small in size, quick to complete and easy to read.
:pattern will be stitched in simple cross stitches, in several colours and may include specialist floss types, such as metallics, OR a large pattern which consists of simple crosses in 1 or 2 colours only.
:pattern will have a moderate amount of colours, may feature specialist floss and/or a small amount of backstitching and will be small or medium in size.
:pattern will have a moderate amount of colours, may feature specialist floss and/or a small amount of backstitching, fractional cross stitches and/or French knots and will be small or medium in size.
:pattern will have a large amount of colours, may feature specialist floss and/or a moderate amount of backstitching, fractional cross stitches and/or French knots and will be small to medium in size.
:pattern will be large in size, may feature specialist floss and/or a moderate amount of backstitching,fractional cross stitches and/or French knots and consist of a large amount of colours.
From 3 1/2 hoops to 5 hoop ratings, patterns will continue to increase in complexity with increasing amounts of colours, backstitches, French knots and fractional stitches and increasing density of stitches. 5 hoop rated patterns will be the most challenging patterns we offer (though as of yet, none of our patterns have reached this level!)
Aida: The fabric used for cross stitching. It has holes evenly spaced, through which you pass your needle. Aida comes in different counts, ranging from 6 to 24, with 14 count being the one used most often and what our patterns are designed for. It is also available in a variety of colours. Can be pronounced eye-ee-dah or ay-dah.
Back stitch: A stitch used to form solid lines of stitching, by bringing the needle up one stitch away from the previous formed stitch, and then moving backwards and bringing the needle back down through the same hole as the first stitch (how to backstitch guide coming soon!) Used for outlines, highlights and lettering, and usually only uses one strand of floss.
Carrying: Moving from one area of a specific colour to another, crossing some distance on the back of your work with the floss. Useful to avoid cutting the floss and starting again in another spot. Recommended over small areas of no stitching (3 or 4 squares) so as the floss is not visible through the fabric. You can carry over larger areas of existing stitching as long as you weave in the carried floss at the back of the stitches and the colour doesn't show through.
Confetti stitches: Scattered, single stitches. Often go hand in hand with parking (see below.)
Count: The number of holes per inch in cross stitch fabrics. 14 count aida will have 14 holes per inch, while 22 count will have 22 holes per inch. The larger the count, the smaller your finished pattern will come out, and vice versa. Higher counts can be trickier to stitch on for people with eyesight problems, but are softer and more closely resemble normal fabrics.
Evenweave: A term referring to cross stitch fabrics such as linen and hardanger. The fabric will have the same number of threads from left to right as top to bottom. Usually only applied to finer cross stitch fabrics, but can also be used to describe aida (aida can also be called openweave or blockweave.)
Floss: The cotton thread used for cross stitch. It comes in skeins and each shade is assigned a number. Typically they consist of 6 strands loosely twisted together. The number of strands used for stitching depends on the count of aida - 14 count typically uses 2 or 3 strands, whereas a low count may use more, and a very high count might only need 1 strand.
Fractional stitches: The term used to describe the quarter stitch, half stitch and three quarter stitch. Also called partial stitches. Help to create a rounded, smooth look to shapes. (How to guide coming soon!)
French Knot: An embroidery stitch in which a knot is formed by wrapping the thread around the needle before stitching back through the fabric to create a dot. Useful for eyes and small details. Not as tricky as you think!
Frogging: Unpicking stitches that are incorrect!
Full stitch: A normal cross stitch, consisting of two diagonal stitches crossing over each other to form an x.
Half stitch: One leg of a cross stitch, going diagonally from one corner to another.
Parking: Parking is a method which makes stitching small areas of numerous colours or confetti stitches much quicker. Rather than anchoring and rethreading after each few stitches of a colour in an area, the thread is parked, often on the needle, in the first hole of the next instance of the that colour, while you continue to work using the next colour that occurs in the row or column. For more help understanding parking, have a look at this tutorial.
Quarter stitch: A quarter stitch is made from one corner to the middle where the floss usually crosses. You will need to push your needle through the strands of the aida to do this.
Skein: The term for a bundle of floss.
Tapestry needle: A needle with a blunt end and a large eye suitable for cross stitching. Comes in various sizes (we recommend size 24 needles for 14 count aida.)
Three quarter stitch: A half stitch plus a quarter stitch. The stitch forms a triangular shape in one of the four corners, as shown.
UFO: Unfinished object! That pattern that's been languishing in a cupboard or drawer, half done. We all have them!
Waste Canvas: A temporary canvas used to sttich onto other fabrics. It often has blue threads to help keep count of stitches, and when stitching is complete, the canvas is dampened and the threads can be carefully pulled out leaving the stitched motif behind.
WIP: Stands for work in progress. Used by many crafters, not just by cross stitchers.
Still confused? Is there a stitching term that you've never quite understood, or something that you wish had been made clearer when you were starting out? Get in touch and let us know, and we'll add it to the list!