Gridding – Pen or Thread?

Tips on Gridding your Fabric

Hello, stitchers!  Donna here with a few tips, do’s and don’t on Gridding.

If you need a visual, we did a video!

Gridding is a subject that gets a lot of attention in cross stitching Facebook groups, workshops and anywhere else that stitchers gather.

There are good reasons to grid.  It certainly helps with keeping counts, especially for “cross country” stitchers like me, and if I make a mistake, I notice much sooner, so I can fix the “oops” before it becomes a “Darn drat it!”.  I can also confidently go further in my counting than without gridding, as it can be difficult to count out 40 or 50 stitches without an error without those little lines every 10 stitches to give me guidance. For stitchers who prefer the “Parking” method for big projects, it gives them a convenient layout for working their magic, and the 10×10 squares are a nice milestone every 100 stitches.

There are two main methods for gridding, Stitched Grid and Washout Pen or Marker Grid, and pros and cons for each method.  However it’s done, the basic idea is to make marks or lines every 10 stitches that correspond with the heavy lines on the pattern you are using.

The Stitched Grid is a very popular method, and can be done with a variety of types of threads.  Some people swear by “Sulky Silver” a specialty thread, some use some other polyester, very smooth thread, and some just use ordinary sewing thread. Some even use very fine fishing line, which is reported to be just dandy. (My sister uses this, and loves it!) 

The important thing is that it is easily visible, and ideally, should slide out of the fabric after being stitched over, and should be difficult to pierce with your needle.  The sewing thread might have a problem with this, but it is thin and flat enough that it may not be seen and can be left in place. Check this before doing a whole project, though, especially if you are stitching on a high-count fabric. 

You will also want to watch out for colour transfer if using “cheap” thread.  A Stitched Grid can take hours, days, even weeks to do for a really big project, which is why some people don’t like it – too eager to get going on their stitching! – but many feel it’s just a part of the project like any other stitching.

Personally, I prefer the washout pen, because it is fast, easy, and I’m ready to stitch in just a few minutes.  (I’m one of the eager ones, I guess!)  There are some things to watch out for, though. 

A close up on a needle with yellow floss being inserted into white, gridded aida fabric
A nice neat grid – so much easier and faster!

It doesn’t work well on counts above about 25, because the line drawn is wider than the space between the stitches, even with a fine-tip pen.  Also, because the ink has to be quite liquid to be laid down on fabric, sometimes it can get a bit “blobby”, so remember to wipe the tip frequently as you lay down your lines. 

Of course, you will need to be careful not to get your fabric wet, or your lines disappear!  Oh, and don’t be fooled by the “Air Erase” markers, because your lines will disappear all on their own, maybe before you get a chance to finish your project! 

The most important tip is to make sure you don’t let your project get hot. If the ink is heated, it turns brown and becomes indelible. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to erase it if that happens.  So don’t leave your project in a hot car! 

When erasing your lines, just dab with a sponge wet with cool water. It works better than a full-soak. (If using a hand-dyed fabric or over-dyed floss, use as little water as possible to avoid colours running.) Let it dry completely at room temperature, then do it again, even if you don’t see any lines.  When it is again dry, check it carefully for any residual markings, especially where the lines were heavier or if you got a blob.  If it’s all gone, it’s safe to iron your project. 

A brunette woman wearing a blue and pink plaid shirt and black glasses holding up a piece of fabric with a grid on it written in blue ink

Pens are thinner, markers make a thicker line.  https://magichourcrossstitchsupplies.com/product-category/accessories/markers-and-pens/

We would love to hear your comments on this subject, and if you have other ideas for gridding, let’s hear them!  If you have any questions about this product, don’t hesitate to contact me at Donna@MagicHourCrossStitchSupplies.com.  We’re here to help!

Happy stitching!

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