More and more stitchers are becoming interested in creating their own patterns—either to break into next-level creativity or because they cannot find exactly what they are looking for from the many designers and creators out there.
Whatever your reason, here are some helpful tips and tricks for creating a cross-stitch pattern.
If you are not a designer (or have a designer's "eye"), don't start by trying to create a full-coverage piece. It's not that you can't, it's just that it takes time to build up to a piece with lots of details. Start with some smaller pieces so you can refine your skills, reduce frustration, and reduce the chance of giving up on pattern creation altogether.
Don't snag someone else's design
You may be tempted to use elements of other designer's work to create your own. Please don't. People work very hard to come up with their original designs. If you do see a design that you think would make a great pattern, reach out to the artist to ask permission. You'd be surprised at how many artists are flattered that you want to adapt their work, especially if they are not into stitching!
If you want to try your hand at designing but you're not a good hand-drawing, consider subscribing to services that provide art, like Creative Fabrica. If there is a chance that you may be selling these patterns some day, be sure that you have a service that includes commercial use of artwork or that the art you are selecting is OK for commercial use. This may require you to read fine print (GASP!) but it's important to protect yourself and respect the artist. Different artists and art sources have different parameters for commercial use so don't assume (ass-u-me) you're OK on one site because you are OK on another.
Decide if you want to design on paper or on your computer
I can't draw. I can picture what I want to create in my head, but I can't translate that to a drawing on paper or draw from scratch in Illustrator, Procreate, or another design software.
What I am really good at is putting together elements to make a design. For that reason, I use a design program to create the art for pattern then import that art into stitching software.
Stitching software is another matter of personal preference. While I use MacStitch (the Mac companion to WinStitch), there are many others. [Note: For a run-down on cross-stitch pattern creation software, you should head over to Lord Libidan's great cross-stitch blog.]
For smaller, simpler pattern — or if you are a talented artist — gridding it out on graph paper is a great, low-tech option. And, if you are designing just for your own enjoyment, it works perfectly!
Be prepared to modify your pattern while stitching
When you start stitching your pattern, you're likely to find errors or want to tweak parts of your creation. Don't be discouraged. It's absolutely normal. That's why pattern creators generally stitch their designs before making them available to the public.
If you are planning to sell your patterns, here are some additional tips:
Be aware of the size of your design
It's easy to get caught up in the stitching part of your pattern rather than the finishing part. Consider typical frame and hoop sizes when planning your pattern. If you make an odd-sized pattern, your buyers may have a difficult time finding off-the-shelf finishing options.
Use readily avalable flosses
Sure, there are some stitchers that like to bring their own flair to any pattern, substituting floss colors and brands, using hand-dyed fabrics, and so much more. But for those who like to follow patterns to the letter, don't make it difficult for them to find the called-for colors. There are some DMC colors that are not widely available, especially in stores. Yes, people can order floss online but if you only need one skein it's difficult to justify ordering it and paying shipping (especially if it turns out to be an international shipment).
Make the pattern available in different formats
As more and more people work from tablets, phones, and laptops rather than printed pattern pages, be sure to deliver the pattern in multiple ways: People who like to work from printed patterns appreciate when patterns are broken up into sections so individual squares are clearer. Those who work from a screen prefer to have a one-page digital pattern that they can display on their tablet or phone.
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I'm teaching my husband, an engineer, how to cross stitch.
I'll admit that I'm not the most patient teacher, especially with people I know. But I am also confident that my husband is not the most patient pupil.
If you know any engineers, you'll know that most engineers think and act precisely. Why? Because, as my husband likes to remind me, when you aren't precise, people could die: airplanes can crash, bridges could buckle, our power grid could fail, medical devices could cause harm. Yeah, my husband is a very up-beat and positive person, right?
Now take that need for precision and bring it to our world of cross stitching. Sure, what we do, in most cases, follows a pattern so you'd think that would be great for someone who craves precision.
Not my husband.
I'm from the "it's art, so do what feels right" school of creativity, including cross stitch. As a student, my husband wants to know what to do, step-by-step, and doesn't want to hear any variations on the "right" way to do it.
I see similar approaches to stitching in many of the cross stitching (and general crafting) groups I belong to on Facebook. Regardless of the poster's level of stitching expertise, there is often a question of finding the "right way." It doesn't matter if it's about where to start your pattern, or the technique to start (or end) your stitches, or how to wash your finished project (if at all): stitchers are seeking THE answer.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but there isn't one correct way to do anything. There are best practices, but not clear right or wrong.
Cross stitching is your art, so don't let anyone dictate how you practice your art. Take chances. Make mistakes (and don't frog them). Sometimes your experiments will work out but, to be honest, sometimes it won't look the way you envisioned, but you may learn a new technique that you can try when stitching something else or be able to decipher where you went wrong.
Start your pattern wherever you want. Mix up the direction of your stitches for added texture. Swap out French knots for beads. Knot your thread. Never wash your fabric. Don't bother framing your finished projects. The world is at your fingertips and no one can tell you what to do.
Sure, ask for advice on the fabric you choose for a pattern, or whether you should backstitch or not, but don't let the posts you see in your stitching communities or the people who comment on your work make you question your decisions about your own projects. Heck, you may even find more people who approach stitching the way you do and build an entirely new community of like-minded, adventurous stitchers.