One of my guiding principles in life is the six "P's" - "Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance".
Before you start stitching:
Choose a ground fabric that you comfortable with and you are not obligated to stick with the recommended 25 count but you do want the image to maintain the delicate integrity of the original artwork. We usually recommend, 28, 25, or 22 count but even Aida 14 can be used if you like (depending on the chart size of course).
When cutting your fabric to size, don't forget to add plenty of space for the border. end the standard three inches all around.
Whip the edges to prevent fraying. I used to use blanket stitch but found that whipping achieved the same result, and is much, much quicker, as long as you don't pull the thread too tight. I think pinking sheers is cheating and don't forget, this project is going to take you a long time and I am yet to see pinked edges that can stand up to even moderate projects, let alone a large one.
Grid your fabric by basting out each page of the chart onto your fabric. One page equals one grid.
Use a standard cotton thread, slightly darker than your fabric, and loosely baste the external lines of each page according to the thread count per page.
Not every page has the same number of stitches across so count each page first! For example, page 1 is 81 stitches across whereas page two is 78 stitches across. The grid lines on your fabric need to match the external grid lines on your chart. To ensure I didn't sabotage myself before I even started I used pins to count out the stitches within each grid. I placed my first pin three inches in from the outside edge, then placed another pin every ten stitches apart. It's much easier to count to ten than to 81 if you lose count and believe me, those threads have a way of jumping around when you are trying to count them. Sometimes even when there are only four or five to count!
Double check the count for each block within your pin range before moving on to your next pin.
When you have pinned out the exact count across the page, run a basting stitch down the length of the fabric. Simply repeat the process for each page. The same goes for the horizontal lines too of course. Gridding is time consuming but well worth it when you think of the size of the finished piece.
I recall that it took me about two hours, which is s small investment when you think about it. Gridding makes working on your project sooo much easier on a number of levels. First, you can start stitching in the top left hand corner and just move across as each page is competed. If you inadvertently add or lose a stitch you will know it and can adjust your stitches within one page, rather than having the problem follow you for the life of the project and I defy anybody who has worked a very large project to say they have never boggied up a few stitches here and there. Anyway, if you can see where my 'edits' to the original are I'll send you a minty J.
Make sure you have a stock of very strong, very fine needles. I have used two strands of floss, again as recommended by Michele in her chart. By the time you are ready to cross your stitches, on 25 count fabric it is physically impossible to get anything larger than a size 28 needle through the fabric.
Treat yourself with a pair of good quality scissors, again very strong. If a disaster occurs and you need to unpick a block of stitching, you can forget about just unpicking it. The work is just too tight. In fact it comes up like a solid piece of almost inflexible tapestry. Instead of undoing the work, you may have to cut the threads. This happened to me at the very outset of the project. My glasses weren't strong enough and nightmare of nightmares I realized, way too late, that I had misread the colour number. I spent as many hours unpicking as I had spent stitching. Believe me when I say if this ever happens to you, you will need a pair of very sharp, very fine scissors without creating your worst nightmare… a hole in the fabric. This has never happened to me but the very thought… well it just doesn't bear thinking about. It was easier to get a new pair of glasses.
This brings me to my next tip. Unless you have perfect vision, get yourself a swiveling magnifying lens. Mine attaches to a table next to my seat but you may prefer one that attaches to your frame. My lens is equipped with a light. For this I use a blue globe, specially designed for craft work. These globes do not cast a shadow and the light they cast is very similar to daylight.
Use a tapestry frame. Hoops damage the stitching and leave marks. I prefer a lap frame but this is your choice. I simply tape the piece top and bottom using packaging tape. You have to roll it around the cross bars anyway and tape works fine. Roll the work towards you rather than away from you so that you can nestle your chart board on the bottom rung. The frame keeps the work taut and makes stitching much, much easier and much, much faster. You simply poke down with one hand and poke back up with the other.
I use a metal board to hold my chart. My board has been made for me with loving hands by my younger son. The chart is adhered to the board with magnets. I prefer a magnifying plastic ruler. The kind that contains magnets to hold the chart to the board. The ruler component helps me to keep my place on the chart. Get yourself a range of highlighters to mark missed stitches. There is nothing more painful than having to hunt and peck to find the place in your chart that matches the missing stitches. There has been reams written about this by others who have worked on large projects. Some tout parking the threads as the solution. Parking involves halting your stitching and leaving the floss intact in the corner of the next stich the f loss is required for. This leaves a smooth finish and holes are never left for a necessary hunt and peck later.
It also requires a huge amount of threading and unthreading which I personally can't stand. Even with all of my magnifying lens, stronger glasses and bright lights I still have a powerful awful time threading my needle. I much prefer to work in logical blocks of colour and stitch any holes of a different colour as soon as I have finished any given length of floss. Hence the need for highlighters. You knew it was there once. No sense having to go back and find that lone stitch or little smattering of same two times running. I have heard and read many times not to work from the original chart. Folks this chart has 36 pages with perforated edges. Photocopying would require doing so one page at a time. Useful if you want to blow up the image but magnifying place holders work just as well. I suggest you also take a look at Michele's copyright conditions. No reproduction without asking Michelle first. Besides, there are only four reasons I can think of to work from a copy.
You can go back to the original if you spill red wine all over it. Solutions. (a) Don't drink red wine anywhere near your cross stitch unless you have a death wish. (b) Sponge it off (c) Send Michele an e-mail and cry a lot. She will probably send you a duplicate page. You want to do work the same chart again as a gift for Great Aunt Maude Solutions: (a) Lets face it. Great Aunt Maude is 95 years old. As they say in many sitcoms these days, you do the math. (b) Refer back to Heaven and earth designs website. They have more than one design to choose from. Your best friend wants to borrow your chart. Solutions: (a) Refer to copyright conditions (b) Tell them that not to be so ikey. Michelle's charts only cost $15.00.to $21.00 Personally I don't know how she does it for the price.
You need an enlarged version of the chart. Solution: Seek permission from Michele or refer to my own solution of a magnifying chart holder.
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