Bermuda sloop part 1, definitions

Until now, readers have been following my efforts in creating a shirt made from silk. But when I tied off the final strings of that last week, I found myself needing to move on to a different project.

I have bragged in my biography about being able to create multiple types of crafts, which has led many of my readers to wonder what I would start working on once the silk shirt was finished. I had toyed with the idea of what to do next for a few weeks, when the idea of a cross stitch came to mind.

Creating a counted cross stitch is a matter of being able to read a chart, and having patience. The act of cross stitching is as simple as sewing tiny x’s into specially designed cloth with certain colors in certain spots.

Counted cross stitch projects come in different styles, and can be purchased in ready-to-use kits or created from scratch. Kits can be found at almost any crafting store near the cross stitch thread. Even Wal-Mart has a small supply of these. Complete kits consist of a pattern, cloth to stitch on, and the pre-cut threads for you to use.

Other styles provide crafters with the pattern only. These patterns are often sold in the form of booklets. The finished cross stitch is usually pictured on the outside of the booklet. The inside features a chart printed on the type of graph paper that people are familiar with from high school.

Inside each square is a symbol. These symbols can be whatever the creator wishes to make them, so long as the symbols are distinct from each other. The symbols in the graph correspond to the symbols on the chart at the front or back of the book.

The chart included in all booklets and kits serves a single purpose: It shows you the symbols printed on the graph, and provides a number sequence and a color name, all listed out in a neat, organized fashion. The numbers explain which type of thread to use when sewing an x across each square on the graph paper labeled with that symbol.

The thread that I use is standard DMC brand thread. This is the go-to thread for embroidery and cross stitch projects and the easiest to locate. Nearly all cross stitch charts provide colors listed by their DMC number. Simply find the corresponding number on the tiny strap of paper holding the thread bundle together and you know which color to buy.

There are hundreds of DMC colors available at crafting stores. These small bundles of thread begin their numbering around 100, and end in the 3800s. Many numbers between these two digits are arbitrarily skipped over, and it isn’t uncommon to see colors jump from the 3200s to the 3300s for no apparent reason. Most crafting stores carry the most common colors in little numbered bins.

But for me, I don’t have to bother with the bins at crafting stores very often. I inherited hundreds of skeins of DMC thread, wrapped around small plastic bobbins and carefully organized and labeled, from my grandfather, Jack Simmons, and my mother, Debbie Richards. When I need to select DMC colors, I just open the plastic containers and go to town.

For my newest project, I didn’t want to select just any pattern. I wanted to make a cross stitch of a type of pirate ship, which had been requested by a friend. After finding no existing patterns that suited my needs, I turned to the Internet.

After some amount of searching, I came across a picture of a Bermuda sloop on the ocean at sunset. It was the exact picture I had been searching for.

I took the picture to a cross stitch pattern generator and fussed around with the settings until I had the picture the way I liked it. Cross stitch pattern generators exist in many places online and can be found with a simple search. Once I had the settings the way I liked them, the generator created a four page cross stitch pattern using 53 colors. When it was finished, it would be just over 10,000 stitches.

Now that I had the pattern ready, I needed cloth to stitch it on. Cross stitch cloth has thousands of little holes woven into it, providing an evenly spaced location for the needle to pass through. A single stitch goes from the upper right hole in a square to the lower left hole, then comes back up through the upper left hole and goes down through the lower right, forming a little x. Unless the sewer left-handed like me and does everything backwards. My stitches are right over left, instead of left over right. The cloth choices for cross stitching range from rough and rigid to soft and flexible. For this project, I chose a simple bread cloth, a type that is soft and drapes like a cotton shirt. It is strong enough to withstand the abuse of the cross stitching but able to be manipulated easily.

Join me next week as I get started on the Bermuda sloop cross stitch by putting the cloth under tension inside a sewing hoop and prepare to start the first few stitches.

Gretchen Richards is a reporter at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She is a fifth-generation artisan, skilled in numerous art forms. She enjoys sewing her own clothing and custom purses, making quilts, and weaving. She is skilled in knitting, crochet, embroidery, counted-cross stitch, and working with cloth of all types. Gretchen also paints with acrylic, practices calligraphy, and is skilled in metal-working and book binding.