cross-stitching on linen

Marian Parsonscrafts, Popular, Sewing, Tutorials69 Comments

I have fallen in love with an old-school craft…cross-stitching.

I know it has a reputation for being dated, but that has a lot more to do with the patterns and the cross-stitch kits available than it does the craft itself.

So, this renewed interest in needlework came about when I noticed that my favorite antique textiles were those that were monogrammed.  And then I noticed that most of those monograms were simple cross-stitching, using the natural “grid” pattern in linen to make the X’s.

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And then I had the thought that I usually have before tackling a DIY project…

“I can do that!”

So, I did…

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…and the results looked so authentic that it had me giddy with excitement to stitch some more.

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I have been looking around at various cross-stitch letters online to find the style that will look original on antique linen.  I found a “P” that I liked and marked it out.  Now, I think graph paper would be best for this, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I just worked with what I had.  The boxes in the sketch are empty squares.  I drew them in where I thought I might need help counting.

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…and I’m cross-stitching the “P” on a linen tea towel.  It already has a cross-stitch border, so the monogram is going to look perfect on this particular piece.

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Here’s a video showing the stitching in action for those “visual learners”…

Jeff was my camera man and he flinched when I nicked him with the needle as I was pulling it back!  Poor guy.  He puts up with a lot!

In fact, I was working on this while on vacation.  If you’re going to cross-stitch, why not do it on a balcony overlooking the ocean?  I told Kriste I was going to work on it while at the beach and she said, “Oh, you’re going to be one of those people.”

Yes, yes I am.

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And now I’m noticing cross-stitch on linen everywhere and I can’t wait to draw up some more patterns (which I’ll share) and work on some more projects.

Here are a few pieces I found as inspiration…

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Yes, that’s dated 1813!

mms-8210 mms-6317 mms-6737 mms-7044

I’ll turn some of these inspiration pieces into patterns as well, when I have the time.

A few tips for cross-stitching on linen…

  • Select a linen with a larger weave, so your “grid” is larger and easier to count.  I bought some linen napkins from World Market and, while it’s doable, it’s definitely going to be a challenge to add a monogram to them, because the weave is so small.
  • Start with a simple pattern that you can complete in an hour or two.  It’s nice to have something accomplished quickly, so you’re motivated to work on another project.  Something that’s too complicated might end up languishing at the bottom of a drawer and you’ll abandon cross-stitching altogether.
  • Cross-stitch floss comes in six-ply, which is generally too thick to get through the linen.  Pull apart the floss and use two threads at a time.  That’s usually the perfect thickness.
  • Make sure you have a needle that is the right size for cross-stitching/embroidery.  All needles are not the same and having the right tool will make the job easier.
  • And, speaking of tools, you definitely want an embroidery hoop.  It makes your fabric taut and steady, so it’s easier to work on.

And, before I sign off for the night, I had to share where the ottoman above ended up…

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I sold it at Lucketts to a woman who thought her cat (Marmalade, I think) would like it as a bed.  She brought it home and the cat climbed right up and slept on it.  I am definitely a cat person, so I appreciated getting a picture of the new owner enjoying it!

cross-stitching on linen

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69 Comments on “cross-stitching on linen”

  1. I learned to cross-stitch as a young girl. I’m 54 now and still love hand-stitching and really, any type of hand work. I recently learned how to tat. Now there is a lost art! The “M” turned out beautifully! And the cat on the bench/stool is adorable!!

  2. Thanks Marian for the tips:-) I can’t wait to try this with out a pattern. I have not done counted cross stitch in years. I am really excited. Hope you were able to relax on your mini vacation.

  3. Anything with a monogram I just love. Funny when I saw ur tea towel, my first thought was I should monogram some ! Your inspiring as usual . Thanks

  4. Marian, This is absolutely beautiful. Even though I am old enough to be your mother, I hope that some day I grow up to be just like you!! You are amazing. I’m sharing your blog (generally) with my readers on my blog tomorrow as #onetofollow and one of my all-time favorite blogs! Thanks for all your inspiration! Alexis – decoratedmantel.com

  5. I learned to cRoss stitch when I was eight. I still love doing it. So glad you are helping bring back a lost art. I think I will try my hand at making some of those lovely tea towels. And I too am “one of those people.!”

  6. Marian, the “M” is beautiful! Looking forward to the “reveal” of the “P”.

    I “learned” how to knit, crochet, and embroider from my grandmother. I put “learned” in quotation marks because I haven’t done any of those for years and don’t remember how! I want to re-learn, perhaps this winter, when I plan to be less busy than I am now
    .
    My grandmother also knew how to tat, and that is, as Karen commented, truly a lost art! I’ll bet, if you said that to most people, they would think, “tattoo”!:-) One more thing that Grandma could do, that I re-taught myself how to do a few years ago: make a knot in the thread with just the fingers and thumb of one hand. May not sound like a big deal, but I was always impressed to see my grandmother do it, and being able to do that brings those lovely memories close.

    1. “My grandmother also knew how to tat, and that is, as Karen commented, truly a lost art! I’ll bet, if you said that to most people, they would think, “tattoo”!:-) One more thing that Grandma could do, that I re-taught myself how to do a few years ago: make a knot in the thread with just the fingers and thumb of one hand. May not sound like a big deal, but I was always impressed to see my grandmother do it, and being able to do that brings those lovely memories close.”

      Same here!

  7. Marian, I did a lot of cross stitching until my eyes couldn’t see the holes in the linen. I know I can use lighted, magnifying glasses, and I still might do it. I stitched many, many reproduction samplers from Chester County and The Scarlet Letter. A few suggestions for you–use one long strand of floss doubled. When you start a project, use the loop at the bottom to run the needle through. That way you don’t need a knot or spend time holding down the loose thread end with future stitches. No knots! When you finish, weave the end of the thread through stitches on the underside. When you want to stitch on an item like a pillowcase or fabric with a tight weave, use waste canvas. You baste it on your project and stitch over it and through your fabric. When you are finished, you wet the waste canvas, and it can then be pulled out one strand at a time. Your stitched design remains perfectly straight on the fabric. Best wishes, Susie.

  8. Marian,

    Cross stitch needles are blunt-tipped while embroidery needles are sharp. Much easier to cross stitch with a needle specially designed for cross stitching.

    All crosses in cross stitch go the same direction.

    In olden days, the back of a cross stitched project was as neat as the front. (RIGHT!)

    Have fun! Delightful results!
    ~Kelley

    1. I learned this about embroidery as well, and learned how to make my back as neat as the front. It is not hard; you just have to not go across long stretches of fabric; tie it off and then work on the next section, If you don’t do that, you can see the long stretches of thread underneath (which doesn’t look nice) and also risk those parts getting caught and torn.

  9. This looks so good! I haven’t tried cross stitching in years but now I can’t wait to try an easy monogram pattern again. Thanks for the gentle nudge. Have a great time at the beach with your family. Hugs, CoCo

  10. I am 75 years old and have vision problems, but if I didnt, I’d be trying this. Love your blog. Have been following you for years. Love seeing how your business has grown and look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.

  11. As an avid cross stitcher since 9 years old- it is FAB! to see you bringing it back into vogue! Love it!

  12. I stitch nothing but vintage samplers – some dating back to the 1700 and 1800’s. Just a tip, if you can see the individual threads in your linen, count then. Like make each X two or three threads. I wish I could draw a pic for you. Can you share where you found the vintage letters?

    1. A wonderful book for monograms is Cross Stitch Letter Bible by Valerie LeJeune. Has all sizes and styles already charted for cross stitch.

  13. I learned to cross stitch when I was seven and still enjoy doing it. I distinctly remember my mother telling me that the goal was to have the back look as neat as the front. I can remember always trying to accomplish that. One thing you may want to look into as well, vintage Christmas tree ornament patterns. They are beautiful and add a certain charm to a Christmas tree. Plus, they have the added bonus of also being quick projects.

  14. Marian
    I love the M monogram. it has a “mustard seed” flourish. Some of the sampler patterns have motifs that would look great on your linens.
    My mom had some gingham aprons with cross stitch done on the grid pattern.

    When you need graph paper Google “printable graph paper” and there are sites you can print many different grids. no trips to the store.

    rick

  15. You can purchase a tear a way product as a grid to cross stitch on. After cross stitching your design you pull the strands out. Hope this helps, I used it on a sweatshirt.

  16. Oh my goodness you are SO fearless!! You just jump in & start trying some new creative thing out & boom, there ya go 🙂 I LOVE your creations & admire your fearlessness!! The cross stitching is lovely!

  17. I am on my 3rd cross stich quilt. They take a long time, but they are beautiful and will become family heirlooms. But because they take so long, I can’t work on anything else. I might have to break here soon for a while to work on some holiday crafts. Time sure passes by quickly. I love to read your blog and look forward to it everyday. Thank you. Now I have to look at the sweatshirts! See you tomorrow. ; )

  18. I was once “stuck” (in a small town in N. Germany where I lived/worked) with a knitting pattern (Christmas stocking with Santa in his sleigh, pulled by a reindeer) I desperately wanted to graph, but no graph paper. I put a sheet of paper in my little portable typewriter and typed row after row of O’s (completely across the page and from top to bottom of the page). Then I colored in the relevant O’s with a pencil to create my chart. The worst part was the typing. Otherwise, it worked like a charm.

  19. I, too, have recently found my way back to cross stitch and other embroidery. Key to my success was finding a light with a magnifier as my eyes are not as young as they once were.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  20. What a wonderful surprise to see the ottoman I purchased and my cat Marmalade (We call him Marmy)! He does love it and so do I! And I am now inspired to try cross-stitch!

  21. Hi Marion! I learned to cross stitch as a young girl and it has been my passion ever since, so much so that 10 years ago I started my own needlework design company, Summer House Stitche Workes. I love the simplicity of cross stitch and the connection to those who have come before me. I now share that love as I sell my charts and teach throughout the country. I am going to shamelessly advertise my designs… see my Facebook page for my newest ones! https://www.facebook.com/Summer-House-Stitche-Workes-234046710006859/. In fact it was your love of textiles that first drew me to your page and the cross stitch that I saw on many of them. Thanks for sharing!!

  22. Hi Marion! Can you please tell me the color name/number and brand of the blue thread you used? I was an avid cross stitcher in the early 90’s and miss it. I love this idea to bring back a relaxing hobby that works with my current style.
    Thanks for being such a great inspiration to me!

    1. Don’t most people use DMC? I used to go to a shop that sold very high end wool and silk threads for embroidery but they also sold DMC embroidery floss. I hope Marian still has the wrapper for it or good luck trying to find that color!

      1. Actually the materials for cross stitch have broaden over the years. Linen may be purchased that is over dyed giving the finished piece a vintage appearance even though it is new. Threads are available in cotton and silk also may be purchased over dyed resulting in a vintage appearance. I reproduce antique schoolgirl samplers and offer original designs as well. Believe me cross stitch is going as strong as ever difference now is the materials are so much better then they were when most of us learned.

  23. I use to do some cross stitching, i am so glad you thought to do it and let us know so we could get to do it too. Wonderful idea.

  24. I remember cross-stitching pillow cases that had the pattern stamped on the fabric as a child. Later counted cross-stitch became popular. I like the red one you showed with the + signs on it. So glad to know you are a cat person! I adopt senior cats because no senior should have to live in a shelter. Sometimes their time with me isn’t too long but I make it the best time of their life. Marmy looks very contented.

  25. Oh, how lovely!! Makes me want to dig out my floss (have a ton of it!) and get back to embroidery..My Mom did a lot of cross stitch and in fact, I just ran across a lovely tablecloth that she did for me one Christmas. I did some red-work on old linen tablecloths a few years ago and never finished…I had intended to make them into pillows, such as the one on your guest bed. I really love the idea of doing monograms and will have to pick up some linen….time to go shopping!! Thanks to Susie and all the others for the great hints….and please do share where you found the initials to use as patterns….you are such a talent!!

  26. I just had a “small world” moment about an hour ago! Upon happenstance, I just met the inventor of the rubber grip embroidery hoops…Mr. Elliot Morgan owns and operates ‘The Cotton Gin” restaurant in Cullman, AL.; as a last minute decision, we pulled in for lunch while vacationing at Smith Lake, and he explained how he has 16 patents, but most notably are the Morgan embroidery hoops sold in craft stores around the world….and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve been doing counted cross stitch since 8 years old when my Austrian mother taught me. Due to the rain a bit ago, I came back to our cabin after lunch and read your blog entry about cross stitching!!!! (Insert Twilight Zone music now ?)

  27. I cross stitched back in the 80’s and I really enjoyed it. I often find framed cross stitch when out picking for my antique booth. I came across one signed and dated in the early 60’s. I went back to the same store a few days later and found another piece by the same person dated in the early 90’s. I bought them both and felt sad that this person’s family didn’t want them.

  28. One last thing: have you heard of Sashiko? It is a traditional Japanese embroidery, very geometric and typically done with white thread on dark blue cloth. It is decribed as very simple but very elegant that creates repeating patterns of varying complexity. Your post has reminded me that I want to try it!

  29. God bless you. I hate cross stitching. I always get my counts off and it ends up looking all wonky. I stick to embroidery-no counting involved.

  30. So glad to see cross stitch on your blog. Love cross stitch on linen. In my mind it never goes out of style.
    Where did you get the “M”. I need it!!
    ‘M’arilyn Shannon

  31. I would like to encourage you to research cross stitch…it’s very old and usually young girls would learn how to stitch by doing cross stitch alphabets or Bible verses…many cross stitch pieces had religious Christian symbols in them…I would also encourage you to get some small scale graph paper to make your designs on, it makes it easier…I used to play with patterns years ago…so much fun and relaxing !…linda

  32. There are so many kinds of linen. What weight for a pillow for instance?? Do I buy 100% linen?

  33. I have been a cross stitcher for years . . . My Grandmother got me into sewing and other handi crafts . . . I love all types of crafts and DIY! Your project came out beautiful!

  34. Well, I’ll be darned! I tho’t cross stitching was entirely out of vogue. But, if Miss Mustard Seed is doing it, then it could be coming back! I did a lot of cross stitching back in the mid-to-late ’70’s and really enjoyed it. I designed some of my own patterns and loved working with the different colored threads. In fact, I cross stitched so much of the time that one day my three-yr-old daughter said to me with a frown on her little face, “Mommy, all you do is …” and at that point she crossed her two pointer fingers and gave me a hard stare! Quite funny and a story often told at her expense! She is now forty and has two little boys so has no time to stitch anything!

    I have tho’t of trying some cross stitching again, but I don’t have such good eyesight now as I’ve entered my 70’s so I don’t know if I can see those little squares well enough. I might give it a try anyway. Might have to get one of those large magnifying glasses that sit up by themselves to work under.

    I’m happy you have found an old type of needlework to practice and enjoy.

  35. i have “old eyes” and have problems seeing the threads. i find a really bright light over my left shoulder helps tons, especially like the ones by ott that have natural light. makes it easier to distinguish colors. i unwrap each package of floss and wind it around a kleenex box and cut it into individual strands. i make a looped knot over a strip of plastic from a notebook and write the color number with permanent marker (sharpie). it’s easy to pull out one individual strand to fold in half. catch the loop in the first stitch. no knots allowed! : ) all stitches should cross the same way. finish a thread by weaving under on the back side. i clip my pattern to a clipboard and use a few tools: a magnetic needle keeper, sharp scissors and a needle threader. i watched my mom do ukrainian counted cross stitch and started my own stitching when i was very young. many years later, i have stitched santas and names on my family’s christmas stockings. make sure you leave your initials and the date on your projects. it’s fun.

  36. As an avid cross-stitcher for years, I’m so happy to see you pick it up. It really does add charm and is the perfect finishing touch to fabrics.

  37. My mom and grandmother both cross stitch (I never bothered to learn-silly me). Each year my grandma would have all of her grandchildren pick out a pattern and she would make us Christmas ornaments. My Christmas tree now is nearly entirely made up of cross-stitched ornaments she and my mom have made over the years.

  38. When I was still teaching, I taught Grade 6 and 7 students to cross stitch on gingham fabric – I used diaper flannel on the back to stabilize it – they stitched their name and 5 rows of other stitches , such as the herring bone, and then they stitched a frame around it. It was a lesson in so much more than the hand sewing itself. I taught all my students over the years to hand stitch – we would do a sampler of all the different stitches and then they would create a project using their favourites. It was so nice and relaxing – I could stitch along with them, we could visit quietly and everyone was busy, but able to work at their own pace. I loved in when the school administrators would drop in to see what we were up to and the look of amazement on their faces!

  39. Oh I love this post! My mother was an antiques dealer (and collector) for years. She fell in love with the old school work types of sampler but they were very pricey. She too, said “I think I can make one” and the rest was history. She made stacks and stacks of “old” samplers that my father framed and they sold them to shops and boutiques throughout the area. When she passed away my sister and I found so many unfinished pieces of work in her sewing items…many had needles of different colored thread stuck in the linen. I’m glad you shared your needlework story!

  40. I used to cross stitch in the olden days, but I can’t do counted cross stitch, the counting threads makes me cross eyed. In the sixties we used to cross stitch on gingham. We’d make a dress or skirt and stitch a pattern into the white squares of the gingham. We thought it was very chic!
    You caught on very quickly. Well done!

  41. I’ve been cross-stitching on and off since I was a girl. I recently finished a pillow pattern of daisies that my mom had started in the 70s! And I still have a few unopened patterns with thread that were bought in Denmark probably in the 1990s. Maybe I’ll open up one of those for summer vacation.

  42. Have been cross stitching for over 40 years…didn’t know it was considered out of vogue! ? To me it is very relaxing…I can totally get lost in it…not a good thing sometimes! Cross stitch aficionados can relate…”Just one more row…just let me finish this flower…I’ll stop at the next commercial…” It’s addictive! Enjoy Marian!

  43. I too love cross stitching! I learned how from my eighth grade home ec teacher in the early eighties and have been doing it ever since. I am trying to make myself blind now because I love stitching over one thread on linen!

    1. Karen,
      I love the reference to tatting, it is a type of lace made with a shuttle and tread such as # 10 crochet cotton. Some designs are done with a shuttle of thread and a second thread straight from the ball.
      My dad learned it from his grandma and taught the basics to any of us kids that were interested. I still have a basket with handle he made and some butterflies.
      My stash of vintage linens includes about 20 tatted hankies.
      Thanks for getting me off track
      rick

  44. I was wondering if you would stitch your own one day! I’m so glad you did!

    I prefer embroidery over cross stitch, but your M is so beautiful that I might reconsider! I would love it if you shared where you found that monogram, especially if they have an entire alphabet.

    I stitch a lot of monograms, though I tend to sew red ones or white ones rather than blue. I sew them on kitchen towels, pillows, and on handkerchiefs.

    My 14-year-old just sewed several handkerchiefs for herself and embroidered her initial (a “W'” on them. She took her last one to camp to do in the quiet hours, and the other girls were asking why she was initialing it. They were so surprised to see her sewing!

    I collect vintage metal embroidery hoops, and we do all of our embroidery work using those. I pick them up whenever I can find them, as I hope to give several to each of my daughters when they get older.

  45. Oh, how I love the results of your needlework. It seems that the monogram has always been there. In France, cross stitching is still appreciated, and we can find many books with country or vintage patterns. If you can find one of Anne Van Damme’s patterns, you’ll fall in love !

  46. I use to cross stitch in the 80’s and still slowly am working on a sampler. Just thought I’d share that you use to be able to buy a plastic grid that you loosely stitch to fabric that served as a grid for cross stitch. I use to use it to stitch on shirts. If you have a site to share for monogram would appreciate it ! You have me motivated!

  47. I’ve been collecting different patterns of the alphabet to do this. Still have all my cross stitch stuff from the 80’s…the eyes are not as sharp as they used to be, but it is relaxing…

    You can cross stitch over two threads instead of one, so the entire x will be over four all together, it will be larger.

    Happy Stitching!

  48. How did you get what you have on the legal pad on to your linen piece? I too am trying to teach myself to cross stitch. Thx

  49. I love the pattern u chose and have been wanting to do this! Lucky for me one of my letters is an M but I also need a B and L. I have been searching the internet for this pattern and cannot find it. Would u mind sharing the link? Thank you…Leigh Mack

  50. Oh, how I need a chart for that beautiful M! Our daughter’s name is Margaret and I would love to be able to cross stitch some things with her M on them. It is the prettiest M I have seen and would love the whole alphabet if you found it somewhere! Many thanks:)

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