How I Grid Using Sewing Thread

In my last article I went over different items that you could use to grid your fabric. Now I am going to explain how to grid using sewing thread. You can substitute sulky sliver or R&S designs Easy Count Gridline instead if you want.

My tutorial is based on large scale cross stitch projects that span multiple pages. (Heaven and Earth designs are an excellent example of this type of design) This process can be scaled down to fit any size project.

When I grid a multiple page design I like to mark the following items in a different color thread: center lines, page breaks and 10 x 10 grids. If your pattern is only one page you will not have to mark your page breaks.

Start by folding the fabric in half lengthwise and then vertically. Then place a needle or a pin in the center of those folds to mark the center of the fabric.

Select a color thread for the center lines. I like to use threads that will contrast with my fabric as well as each other. I like to use red, brown, blue, and/or black. Some colors do not work well with others so you might have to experiment with placement.

Once the color has been selected, measure a length of thread slightly larger than the vertical measurement of the fabric. Start working a basting stitch down the center of the fabric vertically. The pattern you use is totally up to you. Here are some suggestions:

  • 5 up and 5 down
  • 2 up and 2 down
  • 8 up and 2 down
  • 6 up and 4 down
  • 10 up and 10 down
  • x up and y down (x and y are random numbers)

How your threads cross each other vertically and horizontally with determine the borders of your 10 X 10 grids. So you might want to test out on a small piece of fabric how you want your basting stitches to cross so that you can plan to make them cross that way when you do the large piece.

Measure out a length of thread slightly larger than the horizontal measurement of the fabric and start basting using the same pattern chosen for the previous basted line.

I like to precut my lengths of thread that I use to baste, so when I have used all my threads I know I am done basting. I calculate how many lengths of each color I will need. I do this by taking the size of the piece in stitches and dividing it into 10s. For this piece let us assume that it has a size of 175 stitches wide by 226 stitches high.

I have already mark the center lines on the piece of fabric, they represent line 88 vertically and 113 horizontally.

I take my project pattern and notate where the pages breaks are vertically and horizontally.

Next I take the width size of my pattern (175): starting at 10, list all of the numbers divisible by 10 between 0 and 175. This will be my vertical 10 list.

My next calculation will use the length size of my pattern (226): starting at 10, list all of the numbers divisible by 10 between 0 and 226. This will be my horizontal 10 list.

If any number in the 10 list represents a page break, I remove that number from that list. For example vertical 80 represents a page break so I will use the page break color to represent this line on my fabric and remove it from the vertical 10 list.

So now that I know how many pieces of each color I need I will cut that many lengths of thread. I tend to use the longest length of my piece as my standard and cut all of my pieces that length so I do not have to double check if it is long enough to mark the side. So for this piece I will cut 38 pieces in one color and 8 pieces in another color.

I will then start putting in the verticals listed in vertical 10 list and start with 90 because it is the easiest line to identify. I will baste that line and continue to the right till I get to the end of my list and then I will come back and do the items on the other side of the center line.

I will then start putting in the horizontals listed in horizontal 10 list and start with 110 because it is the easiest line to identify. I will baste that line and continue up till I get to the top and then I will come back and do the items on the other side of the center line.

I will then repeat this process for placing the vertical and horizontal page break lines. You can put the page break lines in as you come to them when you put the 10 by 10 lines in but make sure you use the correct color.

You might ask why you would care where the 10 by 10 lines are or where your page breaks are – it is because they are lines of demarcation. They become more or less important depending on how you stitch your piece. For full coverage designs that have a lot of confetti (lots of color changes) some stitchers find that using the parking technique is very helpful for getting through these sections where you are changing colors constantly. Your tension can vary between these vertical columns of 10 x 10 and you may be able to see the vertical lines across your piece where you made a hard stop. The same holds true if you are a cross country stitcher and you are stitching a page at a time. You want to have a consistent tension on your piece to have the best looking results. One way to minimize the hard stops in your piece at lines of demarcation is to not stop at this line. If you are stitching a color and it carries over into the next page or 10 x 10 square, keep stitching till it comes to its natural conclusion. You want to have your starting and stopping of threads staggered along these lines of demarcation.

Other bonuses of gridding are that your piece is centered on your fabric and you know that you will have enough fabric to complete your design because you have gridded the entire stitch count of your design. You don’t have to worry about miscounting – if you want to start in a different location; you just match the grid on the pattern to the grid on the fabric. If you use a standard pattern, one benefit of gridding is: your intersections will form a uniform pattern which will act as a double check — you will be able to visually see places where you did not count correctly when you gridded the fabric.