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Cross-stitch is a wonderful, rewarding hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Avoid these common beginners’ mistakes and soon you will be creating stunning pieces of cross-stitch work to treasure.

1. Choosing the wrong pattern

With the extensive range of charts on offer it is often tempting to start with something too complicated. For your first cross stitch project choose a chart with a relatively small design area and no more than 3 or 4 worked colours. You will have the satisfaction of completing it relatively quickly and can soon progress to something more challenging.

2. Tangling your threads

There’s nothing more stressful than tangled threads so always keep them organised. When starting a project, punch a line of holes in a piece of card and loosely tie each coloured skein through a separate hole. Label each hole with the appropriate thread reference number and chart symbol.

3. Not finishing your edges

Some even weave fabrics and linens fray easily. Before you start stitching, prepare your fabric properly by loosely back stitching around the edges with cotton.

4. Loosing your place on the chart

For a large piece of work it is sometimes hard to keep your place on the chart. Before you start work, divide your chart into a grid of workable areas and mark with a coloured pencil. Stitch a corresponding grid onto your fabric using brightly coloured cotton. Sew loosely so that the cotton can be removed easily on completion of the project.

5. Stitching too tightly

Keep your stitches evenly tensioned or your fabric will buckle or stretch out of shape. Many cross-stitchers find that a hoop helps to keep the fabric taut as they work.

6. Not starting in the middle

The centre of a chart is clearly marked. You should always start stitching from this point and work outwards to the edges of your design otherwise your fabric will pull out of shape.

7. Leaving the needle in your work

Always remove the needle when you finish sewing to avoid rust marks staining your fabric.

8. Getting your work dirty

Grubby work looks unattractive. Wash your hands before you stitch and store ongoing work in a sealed bag or container. Finished pieces can be washed by hand with a gentle detergent. Dry by rolling in a towel – never wring fabric.

9. Starting with a knot

Knots should never be used to start off a new thread. Instead, leave a 10mm length of thread at the back of your work. Hold it against the fabric as you work your next stitches and it will eventually be kept in place by the new stitches. Trim off any excess thread.

10. Straining your eyes

It is very important to avoid eye strain by working in a well lit room. During daylight hours, work by a window where possible. Consider buying a halogen lamp for stitching in the evenings. If your eyesight is really poor, you might need to invest in a magnifier to place in front of your work.

Louise Dop is a successful freelance writer and technical author. Her ebook, The Writer’s Secret Weapon, brings together a collection of the best free online resources for writers and gives an insight into the writing life. With over 50 direct links to resources, this straightforward guide will show you the real-life tips and tricks that – armed with an Internet connection and basic computer literacy – you can try for yourself right away. http://www.clearlywrite.co.uk

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