Sunday, February 22, 2015

Help Prevent Cross Stitch Miscounts: Gridding Tutorial

Today I want to talk a bit about fabric gridding. This is a tutorial I have been planning on doing for a long time. In my opinion, gridding is a must for stitching complex patterns and is also extremely useful if you use the parking technique.

You can find my parking tutorial here

What is Gridding?

Gridding is the process of dividing a piece of fabric into 10x10 stitch blocks corresponding to the divisions on a cross stitch pattern, which helps prevent counting errors. In patterns where there are a large number of colour changes and very compact stitches, counting errors happen often and are difficult to fix due to the size and density of the stitching.

Gridding is one of the techniques that I saw referred to a lot when I first started stitching Heaven and Earth Design (HAED) patterns. HAED patterns are large, complex charts which have high detail but are often stitched on a small count fabric, such as over 1 on 25ct or 28ct. My first attempt progressed at a snail's pace because I frequently missed stitches, requiring a lot of backtracking. When I began gridding, all that changed.

What to use to grid your fabric:

Some stitcher's sew the grid onto the fabric but I found it aggravating to try to avoid catching the gridding threads under my stitching . Instead I use a washable fabric marker, which I find quicker and easier. For this method you need; fabric cut to size, a washable fabric marker, a ruler (below is a seam gauge, but an ordinary ruler or tape measure will work) and a pin.

Griding Supplies
If you are  nervous about using a marker on fabric, here are 3 tips.

First: Make sure the marker you choose is washable. Fade over time markers generally vanish too quickly, which would lead to re-gridding your fabric multiple times. When you start gridding, please make sure the pen you are using is your WASHABLE marker.

Second: Test your chosen marker on a piece of scrap fabric and try washing it out. Some need a bit of a warm wash to remove them. If cold water doesn't work, try heating the water slightly.

Third: Do not use the fabric marker on hand dyed fabrics unless you are certain they are colour fast. Also it is difficult to know how the marker might react with the fabric dyes.

The Method:

I usually grid fabric by pattern page rather than doing the whole piece at once. I have found that over time and with repeated handling the washable marker will start to fade slightly.

Start by laying the fabric on a flat surface and make sure that you are comfortable. After a while it can be difficult count the holes in the fabric, so I often I use a pin to help me.

Step 1: Measure your fabric border. For large pieces I plan to frame, I leave 3 inches excess on all sides. Measure in 3 inches from the upper left and the same from the top and mark these points on your fabric.

Measure in three inches from the left

Mark this on your fabric

Measure 3 inches from the top

Mark this on your fabric

Step 2: Mark where the two measurements intersect.

Mark where the two measurements meet
Step 3: Count across 10 strands of fabric and draw a line on the 10th strand, marking the last column in the first 10x10 block. Just estimate how long the page is and draw this line to there, it can be made longer later if necessary. When I grid a piece I like to mark the border for the first page but this isn't necessary.

Count across 10 strands from where you marked your fabric
Draw in your page edge line and your first grid line
Step 4: Count across the next ten strands and draw the line on the 10th as above.

Count across your next 10 strands for your second grid line
Draw in your second grid line the same as the first
Step 5: Repeat this for the number of columns on the page. 

Step 6: Add an additional 1 or 2 columns to make subsequent pages easier to grid.

Continue on until you have marked in all your grid lines plus a couple extra for the next page
Step 7: Count the first 10 strands down marking the 10th as before. Carry on the line past the last of the vertical columns. Here I have inserted the line indicating the top of the page.

Count down ten strands and mark in your first horizontal grid line, mark the border at the top of the page if you wish
Draw your lines a little past the last vertical grid line to make continuing the grid for the next page easier
Step 8: Continue in the same fashion for the number of rows on the page

Here shows that my vertical lines where a bit short so I simply drew them a bit longer to finish gridding the page
Step 9: Add an additional 1 or 2 rows to make subsequent pages easier to grid.

First page is now fully gridded with some extra rows and columns to make subsequent gridding easier
As can be seen in the image above, I have continued the lines past the grid for page one. This makes gridding subsequent pages straightforward. You simply continue the lines for rows or columns, which halves the amount of counting.

Now you are ready to start stitching
I hope this has been helpful. If anyone has any difficulty with the tutorial, suggestions or tips please leave me a comment at the bottom of the post.


  1. Thanks for the info. I'm afraid I would still count to make sure its right. lol


  2. Thanks for this. I have 3 HAEDs, one that I'd like to start on next year. I had an idea of how to grid but I'm one of those people who need pictures!

  3. Great tutorial, thank you. It's exactly how I do it too, but it's nice to get reassurance from an expert too.
    xo Alicia

  4. An excellent tutorial.
    I've only grided one project so far as the lines on the fabric tend to annoy me! But, I agree, for HAEDs and other large complicated designs griding is an absolute must and you have clearly shown how to do it. :)

  5. Thank you for taking the time to make such a precise tutorial. Very helpful!

  6. Linda: Thanks for your comment. There is still quite a bit of counting involved even with the grid but for HAED's it just makes it a bit easier.

  7. Shelly: Thanks for your comment. I really hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions, please do mail me on and I will do my best to help.
    Good luck with the new HAED projects.

  8. Lovely tutorial. I may suck it up and give these fabric markers a try. It swill probably go a LOT faster than fishing line...

  9. I don't always grid my projects - but when I do, I use a washable marker :-D
    Great explanation, I use the same technique and it works great (even though lately I am to lazy for gridding). What may is also be useful is the fact that there are different washable markers. I first got a marker from the brand Prym in a local shop selling fabrics of all kind (for sewing and to on, Prym is quite common here in Germany when It comes to crafting supplies) and it's great, but also quite thick (like a marker your children's draw with) and then I got a marker on a fair which is much finer. The fine marker doesn't mark a good as my prym-marker, but it's very helpful when dealing with higher count fabric (my prym tends to marking two columns if you are not careful). So maybe if you are working on a high count.

    Does anyone have a solution for markings on dark fabric? All the markers I found are blue. There is a special thing called "Schneiderkreide" (translates to sewer's chalk?) here, which is a bit harder than normal chalk and it is white. It's made for sewing to you can mark your fabric and it wears off as you slightly rub the fabric or wash it, but I'm not sure about how it goes with stitching and it's not so easy to draw straight fine lines....

  10. Thanks so much for your comment and the info on pen types. The pen I use has a fairly fine tip but also makes nice clear lines so it is perfect for gridding.

    I know there are white fabric pencils available however I have never used them for gridding. I have seen them a few times in my local craft store. I think the chalk would be difficult to use as if it is the same as tailor's chalk here it comes off very easily.

  11. Hello, sweetheart!
    Nice to meet you!
    I just followed your blog via Google Friend Connect and I hope that you follow back!
    Have fun!
    Joanna (From Syros2J’s)

  12. That looks like a lot of work. I avoid large projects.


  13. Hi! I finally made it over to your blog. Great tutorial! :D

  14. Oh I've been lazy with the gridding... I only gridded the columns on my "Enchantress" piece....
    I never thought of only gridding by page though! I like that idea!! I have a mini HAED that I'm thinking of adding to my pile of WIPS....I'll definitely give the one pager method a try! Thanks for a great tut!

  15. Great Post! This is exactly how I grid my designs!!!

  16. Lovely tutorial! I have also tried the floss gridding -- hated it. Lines just got in the way, sagged over time, just... no.

    Of course, I have magical luck with markers as well. :9 The biggest problem I have (apart from making sure they're washable, hah) is the thickness of the line when using higher count fabrics. I have yet to come across an ultra-fine tip in my local shops, what's your brand to watch for?

    I also have a pen designed for dark fabrics but I have not had much luck with it showing up clearly, especially on black. I know there are chalk pencils available but haven't tried them yet.

  17. Great explanation. This is what I wanted to do for my HAEDs but could not find any washable markers with fine tips. The only ones with fine tips were the "fading" kind.

  18. I am an avid cross-stitcher but always prefer the simple patterns because of the ease, but I recently started gridding with a grey scale pattern (14 shades of greys only in the pattern) and its a LIFE CHANGER. . . I always have a few projects at once and one of mine is a large abstract piece and now that I am a gridding i look forward to getting back to that project!


Would love to read any comments you would like to leave. Thanks for brightening my day :)