This is where you'll find animated instructions and other handy tools.
Stitch Point: Nice modern font charts that generate online. Drop her a donation!
Knitpro: another converter that changes your image into a chart.
Stitchery Tape 101: learn how to use my favorite tool.
Melanie at xmystitchesx sells her own handmade font charts.
Tricks of the Trade: short-cut stitching.
Style Yourself Vintage did a great and thorough post about what's included in our kits and how to get started.
Mobile Apps: Great post from Mr X Stitch about cross stitch design apps.
What you'll need: pattern, thread, material, needle, embroidery hoop (smaller than enclosed material) and scissors
Thread: Our kits use DMC six-strand cotton thread. If you separate the embroidery strands - you'll see that what looks like one string is actually 6 smaller strands. You will use only 2 strands at a time.
Embroidery hoop: You will probably need an embroidery hoop to hold the fabric taut while you stitch, especially if you're a beginner. It doesn't matter what material it's made of - plastic, wood, whatever. Just make sure the hoop clamps the material all the way around.
To Begin: Find the approximate center of the pattern. Then, find the approximate center of the fabric. Begin stitching something that's near the center of the pattern. Working this way (from the center out) will ensure that you don't stitch right off the material.
The stitch: Our patterns are very simple and almost always require only the basic "X" stitch. In the pattern, you may see some straight lines in the design--stitch those exactly as they are on the chart. They're like half-stitches. Remember, cross stitch is a lot like connect the dots!
To begin stitching, bring the threaded needle up from the back of the fabric leaving about a 1" tail of thread behind the fabric. Stitch the next 5 or 6 stitches over the tail. Clip off extra thread. To end off, weave your needle back through the last 5 or 6 stitches and clip the thread short so as not to leave a loose tail. Alternate method: You could also just make a knot if it's easier for you, just make sure the knot isn't too big and lumpy.
Stitching Tips: There are two methods. The first method is to work a row of half stitches (////), then work back (\\\\) to complete the "X"s. Use this method for most stitching. The second method is to complete each X as you go. Use this method for vertical rows of stitches.
The main thing is that each "X" crosses in the same direction. That is, the top thread of the "X" should always slant in the same direction (either \ or /). It doesn't matter which way they slant, but if they're mixed the finished piece will look uneven. See our link to short-cut stitching on this page (above) for more ideas. Relax as you stitch. Your stitches should lie flat on the fabric and not distort the holes or the fabric.
Changing Colors: Sometimes a color will have only a few stitches and then "jump" to another area. Most of the time you should end off and start again, other times you can carry the thread along the back. Be aware that sometimes the thread will show through the white fabric.
Finishing: It's a good idea to wash the finished piece. Just hand wash it in some cold water with Woolite or very diluted detergent. Let it dry fully, then press with an iron. I'm kind of informal about these things, just be careful not to burn the final product! If it scorches, it will wash out. A scorch looks like a light burn. Like toast. (Mmmm, toast. Not good in this instance, though.) Try to wash it out, you'll be surprised.
To finish, I swear by Stitchery Tape because it mounts your work and keeps it very flat. But you can also use a hard cardboard insert--just center the finished piece on the cardboard and sew in big zigzags on the back so that the fabric is taut on the front. Be sure it's taut both horizontally and vertically.
The main thing is to enjoy the delicious thrill of embroidering snarky messages in the last place people expect to see them. Don't worry about perfection, enjoy the ride!
Don't forget to share photos of your finished work and your original creations in the Subversive Cross Stitch group on Flickr!
Animated illustrations provided by my favorite illustrator, Matt Hinrichs. Hire him - he's grrreat!
Photos: Jeff Nicholson for anezka handmade
Model: Lenore from Suicide Girls