Tues-torial: Creating your own colourwork or cross-stitch charts

Or, why loving computer games can make you a badass crafter.

If, like me, you have a habit of procrastinating by searching seemingly random and unconnected sets of things on Etsy, you’ve probably seen your fair share of patterns for creating images with fabric, whether it’s colourwork motifs or cross stitch designs. They’re everywhere!

And here’s the thing…they’re actually easy to design. Yes, even if you’re just a beginner. You just need a computer, a printer, some coloured pens, and a bit of patience.

The reason loving computer games can lead to badass crafting can be summed up in one word: PIXELS. Those little squares of colour that make up images on computer screens or in video games? They use the same principle that you’re about to to design your own images. If you’re not feeling confident, start with picking a favourite old school video game character (or buy a pre-done pattern so you can see the idea at work) to recreate.

First, we’re going to work out what size squares to use for your graph paper.

If you’re doing a cross-stitch, this is a simple process- you just need to know the count of your Aida cloth (available at most any craft store). The number on the packet (usually between 7 and 22, mostly an even number) is the number of ‘squares’ per linear inch- this is the number of crosses you will stitch per inch through the teeny holes in the Aida cloth. Go to this cross-stitch graph paper generator and pick the right number from the drop down that says ‘grid size’. Pick your paper size, click and save the paper to your computer, then print out a few sheets (to allow for messing about and mistakes).

If you’re knitting it’s a little bit more involved, and I’m about to use two words that make most knitters recoil in horror: gauge swatch. OK, if you’re English those words probably don’t make you recoil in horror, but these two mean the same thing and will do the same thing: tension square. But see, it’s actually a good thing! You get to check your gauge and get ready to chart out your design AT THE SAME TIME. See? It’s like killing two birds with one stone (how exactly are you supposed to do that, anyway? Do you just use a really big stone?…) Anyway- knit up your little square- at least 4 inches by 4 inches, ideally bigger. Measure carefully and get the number of rows and stitches per inch.

Then plug those numbers into this knitting graph paper pattern generator, click create and voila! Your own printable graph paper with squares the same size as your stitches.

Why does that matter? Simple- get the number wrong on cross stitch and your picture will end up much bigger (or smaller) than you intended on the cloth you’re using. Get it wrong with knitting and it can end up a completely different shape to what you intended (ask me how I know *coughcoughweirdshapedmapofnewzealandcoughcough*).

Now you’ve got the paper, it’s time to create the image- this is the easy bit. Take your coloured pens (or pen, depending on how many colours you’re planning on using), and fill in the squares to fit the picture. For example:

 Star chart

Yes, I know the star in Super Mario doesn’t give you an extra life. I hadn’t had quite enough tea when I drew this one (this is why you print multiple sheets of graph paper, people!)

When you’re finished, you’re ready to start stitching! Each square you’ve filled in with pen represents a colourwork stitch if knitting, or a cross in your cross stitch.

I wish you much badassery in your stitching.

And now to leave you with a little link candy, here are a few fun patterns from Etsy you could just download if doing all the above seems like way too much work: Perhaps a starter Pokemon set? Or some Super Mario power-ups. But I have to say my personal favourites are The Ghost Pirate LeChuck and Swordfighting insults from Monkey Island! I mean c’mon, MONKEY ISLAND!

Have you ever designed your own patterns? How did you find it? What are your tips? Let me know in the comments!

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2 responses to “Tues-torial: Creating your own colourwork or cross-stitch charts

  1. Hiya! I design my own patterns and just use Microsoft Excel to play around with them. Sometimes I find it being digital is really great, especially so you’re not rubbing out a couple of mistakes! At the same time though, working on a hardcopy would be really good .. So thanks for your link that website for paper! My post on designing patterns is here if you want to have a looksie 🙂 (http://crosstitchery.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/excel-cross-stitch-patterns/)

  2. Pingback: & Making Your Own Cross Stitch Pattern | crosstitchery.

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