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Cross stitching a baby afghan

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I'm going to make an afghan for my friend who's pregnant. She's due in a month so I'm starting pretty late. Hopefully I can finish it before the baby's first birthday!

Here's the design: http://www.simplicity.com/animal-abc-afghan-counted-cross-stitch_70-74827/70-74827.html

I like that it's stylized, most of the patterns I found were very greeting card cutesy but this one looks more like Dr. Seuss to me. The fabric that came with it is 18-count and very soft.

I've been cross stitching for 20+ years but I've never done an afghan before, and for the past 5+ years I've been doing petitpoint which is a whole different thing. I'm a little overwhelmed and nervous looking at the size of this thing. The first line in the instructions is to do a machine stitch all the way around the fabric. I have a sewing machine but never really learned how to use it, and I'm afraid to mess up the afghan. For mini projects I usually don't do anything with my raw edges and for bigger pieces I usually used masking tape even though it's frowned upon.

The afghan fabric has a large amount of slop beyond the stitching area and the blocks worked into the fabric already sort of make a finished edge, so I'm hoping I can get away with not doing the machine stitch around the edge. If it seems like it's becoming a problem I guess I can do a row of cross stitch by hand around the outer edge. I'm planning to add a fringe when it's done, possibly with knots instead of the plain fringe in the picture just because I like the look of it better. Something like this: http://www.just-crossstitch.com/newsletters/images/2015/52301315-01/07_lg.jpg

I might post progress pics here from time to time because I don't think she'd ever see them here, she's not a miniaturist...

Has anyone here stitched an afghan before? Any pointers?

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I haven't done an afghan, but I have done a fair amount of cross stitch. I wouldn't be able to finish that in a month unless I gave up something like sleeping or eating, but I am not what you can consider fast. What would concern me the most is finishing the back. I would definitely advise putting a backer fabric piece over your stitching, a nice soft flannel would be good.  Cross stitching and washing machines do not play together well :(  Have you thought of just making a wall hanging out of it?

A machine stitch is quite easy to do on any machine, and as long as you do a matching thread you shouldn't have any problems. They tell you to do it so the fabric doesn't fray apart while you are working. You could do just a basting stitch around the edges if you didn't want to use the machine or the cross stitches like you mentioned.

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I've done them. You can self-fringe, but you must add a row of machine stitching to prevent the whole thing from becoming a fringe. Also, I found 3 ply of floss just got kind of "lost" and I got better results with 6 ply. So you might need double the floss. And, this was the one and only time I needed....KNOTS. Horror, I know but it was the only way to stabilize the back. Since knots are visible, you might consider adding a light piece of co-ordinating fabric to the back, and essentially quilting in on.

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Thanks for the suggestions. For the back - I saw a tip online to use iron-on interfacing over each block's design before doing the backstitching, and then to backstitch through the interfacing. A cloth back would be prettier but I'm hesitant to try that for the same reason I'm hesitant to do the machine stitch... it's just not in my comfort zone. We'll see. I don't have to worry about that for a long time yet.

Instead of fringing, I could turn the edge under and backstitch it in place. I'm not too worried (yet) about the edges fraying while I'm working on it, since there is so much excess material around the edges to begin with, but I might change my mind on that as I'm working on it...

I do know I can't finish it in a month! Once I start on it and see how long each block takes, that should give a good indication of how long it'll take me. I'll send her a card and an IOU when the baby's born.

I don't think floss in the kit is DMC so I have to be careful not to use it up. (That's a strange concept for me, I haven't used a kit in years...) The instructions say to use 2 strands which seems a little thin. They do say I can contact them for more floss if needed.

I decided to make her an afghan instead of a wall hanging so it will be utilitarian. I hate making something for the wall and then worrying that they might not like it enough to hang it up. (Also, they live in a small apartment so initially they baby won't have her own room.) I guess I could have gone with something smaller like a bib, though...




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When cross stitching you can use two strands of floss on 18-count aida.  I do like to use three strands on 14-count, though.  When using two strands I double a single strand and begin with the "eye of the lark" ( old the fold of the floss below the fabric as you bring the needle up to begin stitching; as you bring the needle back down for the first stitch, draw it through the loop of the floss fold and gently pull the excess flat, but not tight.  At the end of that floss simply run the needle under the back of the last four to six stitches; no knots & no bulk)

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I Googled "eye of the lark" --- I think it's the first time Google has failed to return even one response! Tell us more, Holly -- 

From the DMC website (sorry it's so big - I did a cut and paste)




To create beautiful “bump-free” embroidery, DMC recommends starting your stitching with one the methods described below.

In line Waste Knot Method
This “beginners” starting technique is best used to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design. Knot the end of your thread and take your needle from the front to the back about 1” or so from your starting point, running the thread along the same line you plan to stitch. Bring the needle up to the front of the fabric at the starting point of your first cross stitch. Start stitching towards the knot, being sure to cross over the thread on the back with each stitch to secure it. When your stitching reaches the knot, pull the knot up and clip it off close to the fabric and continue stitching.


Away Knot Method
Another easy way to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design is the Away Knot. Knot the end of the thread and take your needle from the front side onto the back several inches away from your starting point and start stitching. When you finish stitching with that thread, pull the knot up and clip it off. Turn your work over, re-thread the needle with the remaining thread and weave the thread through several stitches on the backside to secure it.


Stitching Over Method
Pull your threaded needle up onto the front side of the fabric, leaving a 1” tail of thread on the back. Hold the tail of thread against the back of the fabric in the direction you plan to stitch and work the first 4 to 5 stitches over it to secure it into place. Be sure to check the backside to confirm that your stitches are covering the thread and clip any loose ends before continuing to stitch.

Once you have started a project, you can secure new threads by weaving the thread under several adjacent stitches on the backside. Continue stitching.


To end a thread, run your threaded needle under the last few stitches on the back of the fabric, and clip off the excess thread. After rethreading the needle to continue, simply run the needle under several stitches on the back to secure the thread and resume stitching.


Starting and Stopping on clothing, tableware & bed linens
Knotting embroidery threads are not generally recommended because they cause unsightly bumps on the fabric. The exception is when stitching on pre-finished items that will endure repeated wear and multiple washings. To assure that the stitches remain secure, small knots at the starting and stopping points are recommended.

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I've never heard the term "eye of the lark" but I'm doing exactly as Holly suggested to start the thread. It's also called the loop method or a loop start. https://www.thecrossstitchguild.com/cross-stitch-basics/cross-stitch-basics/how-to-do-a-knotless-loop-start.aspx

Luckily the threads are all single colors, not blends (it doesn't work with blends since you need two strands of different colors, rather than one long strand that can be doubled up).

I started on the afghan last night and have already stitched the ABC panel and some of the alligator panel. So far I've been able to keep my back pretty tidy. At the end of the thread I'm anchoring it by passing it under several stitches, then moving over one row and passing it under several more in the other direction. The fact that the stitches are big makes it easy to anchor the floss this way, so it shouldn't pull out easily, but I don't know if the washing machine will cause problems.

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If you have one of those mesh bags for washing delicate lingerie, they are very nice for machine washing embroidery.  You want to use cold water & very mild soap, as some flosses aren't color-fast.  I forget now where I first read the term "eye of the lark", but it was many years ago & it could have been Erica Wilson's books, as I first began to use the method when doing crewel work.

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  • 1 month later...

Good news: the baby's late, and the afghan's almost done!

Bad news: with 6 panels left to go, I ran out of the floss used for backstitching. This is Dimensions' proprietary floss so I can't just go out and buy more. I found a DMC conversion chart online but the suggested color isn't exactly right. Normally it might not matter, but my friend happens to be one of those rare people who can differentiate every existing color (she actually uses this skill in her job!), so I don't want to chance it. It would be strange if you could tell that the last six panels were different than the others... I think it would be especially noticeable in the names of the animals.

I emailed Dimensions over the weekend and was hoping for an answer today (after the holiday), but nothing yet. I'll probably call them tomorrow. This is literally a race against time!

Meanwhile, here are pics of what I have so far. My plan is to finish the backstitching, then (gasp) go around the edge with the sewing machine (which I never did initially), then wash, then add iron-on interfacing to the backs of each panel and do the fringe. I think the stitches will hold in the washing machine but the French knots are precarious -- the holes are so big the knots like to slip right through them. (I think I read somewhere that you should wash before adding interfacing in case of shrinkage, or I'd do the interfacing first.)


It's crazy how the animals come alive once the backstitching is in and they get their faces. I think this design is beyond cute.


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Thanks! Last night I used up the few strands I had left of the backstitching thread. I called customer service just now since they hadn't responded to my email and they said it can take 15 days for the replacement to arrive. Ooof. A few weeks late won't matter, but it would have been nice to get this done in time for the baby.

While I'm waiting I guess I'll pull out the sewing machine and brave sewing around the edge. I could do the fringe, too... I'd been planning to wait on that until after washing, but it's going to take some time so I could start it now. (Do you guys think doing the fringe before or after the first wash would make a difference?)

EDIT: I heard back from the company about washing instructions. They said to hand wash with dishwashing liquid and air dry. That sounds totally impractical for a baby blanket so I guess I'll take my chances with the washing machine, in a lingerie bag on cold/delicate. If it's going to shrink I'd rather that happen as part of my process of finishing it than after I give it to her. But I am nervous about it!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have a sad update to this story... I called customer service on Sept 7 and was told I would get replacement floss within 15 business days. They emailed a confirmation on September 9 saying it had been sent. I waited patiently for it to show up. It's now been 17 business days and no floss, so I called back to be told "Oh, that floss is out of stock, that's why we didn't send it to you." !!!!!

Meanwhile the baby was born on September 12 and I had no gift. :(

I asked why they couldn't open another kit and send me the floss out of that and the guy said they don't have the kits in the office. Then he offered to look around the office and see if they had any of that color to send to me. (Gee, wish someone could have done that when they found out the floss was out of stock instead of doing absolutely nothing...) He came back on the phone and said they only had five strands. Funny thing is five strands will be more than enough. I am literally inches away from finishing the afghan. He said he'll mail it to me, so we'll see how soon that shows up...

This has been so frustrating, especially after I worked so hard in August to try to get it done in time for the baby. I will post a blog about the experience to warn others, but not until after my friend's seen the gift because I don't want to ruin the surprise. (Although I realize she's probably not sitting around reading my blog with a newborn...)

In the meantime, I did brave the sewing machine and stitch around the edge, but I decided to wait on making the fringe until after the blanket has been washed. I bought the biggest lingerie bag I could find to wash it in. I also stitched these two baby bibs while I was waiting -- the characters are from Super Mario Brothers.



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Oh, bummer! 30 lashes with a wet noodle for the idjit who sent you the email saying the floss was in the mail! But I'm sure the beautiful blanket will be well received despite being a later than you wanted.

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Finished! The replacement floss arrived on Monday. I'm still irked that I gave them the benefit of the doubt for a month when they easily could have stuck something in the mail and had it to me the next business day. :dunno:

It's in the washing machine right now (in a lingerie bag). I figured no new mom is going to have time to hand wash something so I might as well see what happens and if it gets ruined it's my fault, and not hers. I'm a little terrified...

EDIT: Looks fine after washing! The colors didn't run! It's now in the dryer on "ultra low," a setting I've never used before...


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Thank you all! I did the fringe last night and am now ironing on interfacing to the back of each square. It's definitely necessary to protect the stitches from pulling out but it makes the blanket a bit stiff. I'm using medium weight interfacing... probably should have used the light weight (which I've used before for petitpoint) but I wanted to make sure it was strong enough to withstand use.

In the end I don't know if it's really practical for a blanket. To me it seems more like a fun thing to play with and look at when the baby gets a little older. (And if she burps up on it, I don't even want to know!)


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I would have backed it with a piece of pretty pastel outing flannel and used a bit of yarn to tie the two layers together at the corners of the blocks.  Then if Baby burps all over her blankie momma can toss it into the lingerie bag and throw it in the washing machine.

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  • 4 years later...

Thank you so much for this blog! 

Your blanket is absolutely beautiful!

I am about to start a afghan for a dear cousin who has breast cancer. I am going to use the Stoney Creek “Words to Live By” and your information will help me immensely!

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