Stitching Grid Lines on Fabric
by Elna Mullaley

With some ultra-complex charts, stitchers baste grid lines on their fabric. These lines correspond to the heavy lines (every 10th grid) on the chart. This is an aid to counting and to accuracy. My friend Elna Mullaley has kindly consented to allow me to post her e-mail to me here on my Web site. I always made such a hash of gridding (prior to her expert advice, that is!), and I thought perhaps some of you might have the same difficulty.

For reprint permission, please contact Elna directly.

Your chart is (almost always) a grid of 10x10 squares. Basically, you baste the same grid onto your fabric, and then you relate and check your stitches against that grid as well as to each other.

Creating the Grid

Locate the center points of your fabric: top and either side. (I'm assuming linen, and over-2 stitching).

On your chart, locate the two darker grid lines closest to the center marks on the same top and side.

Basting over-2 and under-2 threads, baste the vertical and horizontal lines closest to those markers.

I use ordinary sewing thread, and pick a color which is pleasing to the eye with enough contrast to the fabric to make it very visible. For these first two lines I generally use a different color, to identify the center visually.

Your fabric is now separated into 4 quadrants. Since you have basted over-2, under-2 you can use these lines to count stitches.

Count out from the center and mark the outside edges of your chart. Now you know the limits of the design.

This next part will be tedious, but it prevents later frogging, so is worth the time. And it takes less time than frogging! [For those of you not acquainted with this delightful process, it's also called ripping. As is "rip-it, rip-it!" mb]

Baste in the remaining chart lines, 10 stitches apart. On linen, this is 20 threads. As I baste, I put what I call a *tick* mark at each 10th stitch along the line I'm basting: ---|---------|---

The first few times I used this method I basted ALL the grid lines, so that my fabric was marked off into 10x10 squares just like the chart. Now I baste just the verticals or just the horizontals, as my eye has learned to "connect" and "see" the connecting lines from one tick mark to the next.

Using the Grid

The thing that all this does for you: each stitch you will enter is never more than 5 stitches away from a grid line, i.e. a checkpoint. You will find yourself muttering: *it's the second stitch below the line and 3 stitches to the right of the left side* -- that sort of thing. Using this kind of thinking, you can stitch ANYWHERE on the design, whether there are nearby stitches or not.

You do not have to grid the whole thing before beginning; try a quadrant at a time where you will be stitching.

Remove these basting stitches as you reach them when working so as not to catch your needle in them. Take out only the ones you will be overstitching, leave the rest in place to indicate the chart lines for counting purposes.

For ease in moving my eyes back and forth from chart to fabric, I label the rows from top to bottom A - B- C etc. and the columns from left to right: 1-2- 3 ...I also STITCH (quickly and sloppily) these labels on the fabric so that I can say "in square (cell) F6, it's ....2 over and 3 down"...or whatever.

The trick is to validate your stitches against the grid. You'll soon find yourself checking each time you reach a grid line.

Adding Fabric Gridding to an Already-Started Project

What if you've already started my design? Can you add gridding? Yes. Here's how.

Pick a reference point near what you've done, locate the position for the nearest gridline on still-unstitched fabric, and put in the basted gridline, putting the tick marks where the chart's intersecting grid lines occur.

Then, where your tick marks are, baste the lines perpendicular to the one you just put in, again using the tick stitches every 10th stitch. You will have now gridded the area adjacent to your completed stitching, and can proceed as described above, snipping and removing the basted grid just before you stitch over it.

Other Tips

Well, these are the basics of gridding. It can seem tedious; but having learned to do it (which I do while listening to music or to TV) it has paid off 1000-fold in accuracy and confidence.

Some people have posted they don't have the patience for it, but I am so used to doing it now that it's second nature.

It is also a good job for when you're not your freshest. It is restful and serene and rhythmic and can be very stress-relieving.

I volunteer one day a week in a local needlework shop (joy!) which supports womens' and children's organizations and have introduced a lot of stitchers to this procedure. Most moan and groan at the prospect of all that "non-productive" stitching but come back and thank me later when they have learned its value!

copyright 1999, Elna Mullaley. Please contact her about reprinting. She has been kind enough to let me post this on my site, but I cannot authorize other use of her work.

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