How to Follow a Pattern


So, you have chosen a design you love and have the PDF downloaded and open – now what !?

Well, there are 4 main types of cross stitch pattern :

  • Colour Blocks
  • Symbols on Colour
  • Symbols
  • Colour Symbols


All of my designs include all 4 types, which one you choose to follow comes down to your preference.

I will be using the Symbols on Colour Chart option for the purposes of explaining the next steps.

So we have our chart as follows:

The thicker lines are shown every 10 stitches with the count along the top line – the arrow at the top (some of my charts will have this and some will have a red line) – this is the middle of the chart and there will also be one down the side so you can find the middle of the chart easily. It is recommended to start stitching from the middle of the design and the middle of your material (fold in half each way to find the middle of the material) so that the border left around the design is equal in all directions.

You can see there are squares, with letters/symbols on – I have some letters on this chart so that I can refer to them easily, but most charts are all symbols. But what do these symbols actually mean ? Well, with each chart you will also have a Key which will look something like this:

 As you can see each square on the chart can be cross referenced to a square on the key in the first column.

So for example, for the pink ‘e’ in Hello indicated by a pink square with an F symbol in it, reading along the key line you can see it has

  • Number: DMC 603
  • Name: Pink Mauve Med
  • Strands: 2
  • Length: 0.1 skeins
  • Stitches: 31

So what does this all mean:

F symbol

This is a random symbol. There maybe more than one pink in the pattern and maybe very close in colour, so colours are also given symbols. Any pink square with the symbol F in it should be this colour; if there is another pink with, for example, an E it it then this would be a different thread indicated on the key.

Number: DMC 603
DMC is arguably the most used brand of floss, and all of my patterns provide keys on the assumption that this is the brand you are using. All DMC thread are given numbers and this pattern requires you to use number 603 for the pink ‘e’

Name: Pink Mauve Med
This is the Name associated with the DMC colour – however, be careful, whilst this is a useful guide DMC do not officially ‘name’ their thread and you should always use the number when stocking up.

Strands: 2
Floss is often known as stranded cotton. This is because although it appears to be one long strand of thread, it is actually made up of 6 individual strands. This pattern is telling you to use just 2 of those 6 strands. Top Tip: when splitting the strands cut to the length you require, and hold it vertically in one hand, then grab the number of strands needed with the other hand and pull up. Most people try to pull to the side which often causes problems.

Length: 0.1 skeins
When you buy floss, the amount purchased is known a skein ie. if you order 1 x dmc 603, you will receive 1 skein. This is typically 8m long. The software I use to design my charts ‘estimates’ how many of these you will need for each design. For this design it has estimated 0.1 of a skein will be needed ie/ approx 80cm. Now it is obvious from looking at the design that there are so few stitches that it will not take 80cm of thread, but the software only works in increments of 0.1s. But some designs may estimate that you need, for example, 3.5 skeins… it will give you an indication of how many you will need to purchase. Please note though that this is just a rough estimate as it will depend on your tension, the material count etc so please just use it as a guide.

Stitches: 31
This is the number of stitches in this colour.

So you have your threads, understand the key, now what ?

Well, Each square is one cross stitch – if you are not sure how to do the actual stitch please have a look at my Cross Stitch Instructions. So, for example, for the pink ‘e’ in 'hello' you will need 3 stitches along the top of it.

If you are still unclear about anything please contact me.