Making Stitch Diagrams

If you're teaching or making kits/chartpacks for retail sale, you doubtless will need stitch digrams. Here are some ideas.

Notes: I work on a PC, not a Mac. I don't know what a Mac will do.

(1) For flat stitches, queen, and so on, I highly recommend Ken Davis' Stitch Wiz. You can draw "worms" for the stitch legs (I call them "worms") of several widths, colors; use numbers or letters to show sequence of legs in a stitch; use arrows or not; and so on. Export into your word-processing document; the program trims the excess "linen" automatically.

Export the files as bitmap (.bmp). It will save in a SW folder automatically. To use, import the drawing into a Microsoft Word document and save it as a .doc file. Now work with graphic and convert it to an object. Then save again. Now you have a graphic that will not float around the page and disappear if it gets bumped to the following page. (Well, this is the way I do it, in any event.) I save all these files in a separate folder, and when I need a diagram of whatever stitch, I import one that's already formatted. Then I use the handles in the corner of the picture to change it to whatever size I need. By working with a high-resolution original (the .bmp), when you rework the diagram for your present need, you maintain crispness. (I guess it's pretty much the same procedure with any other word-processing program.)

Newest features of SW allow you to curve the lines and do other things. Ken is very responsive to consumer input, so let him know features you'd like to see in future versions. This program is $300, but it is worth every penny. It's a tax write-off, too, of course. (You are filing a Schedule E, yes? Otherwise you won't be able to claim business deductions.)

You can't use this program to diagram on Aida. Instead, use regular charting software to draw the fabric. More on this below.

The program does not draw knots, in the sense of showing how the thread is coiled to make them. More below on how I handled this problem.

Note: I have no affiliation with this company and receive no compensation for telling you how wonderful it is.

(2) Before SW was available, I used CorelDRAW!, which has a pretty steep learning curve, in my opinion. It is a very expensive program. Again, a write-off if you choose to go this way.

(3) When I need a needle only, I have done that in Microsoft Word using an oval and line. Use 200% or 500% size so you can match up the pieces exactly; also the "edit point" tool is good for fine-tuning. (Right-click on one of the white boxes and choose "edit points" from the dialoque box.) You can show the needle "stuck through fabric" by using a second line a distance from the first one so it looks as if the needle has pierced the fabric.

I have not had good luck doing the "worms" (stitch legs) using the ovals in Word. Using word for the worms is a last, last - - really last - - resort.

(4) When I taught a knots class, I had to come up with a way to digitize my drawing. I didn't want to use CorelDRAW! or even Photoshop.

In the past, I've used several systems. (a) Draw the diagram, photocopy it and then paste into the class handout. That meant I always had a "paste-up" on the copymaster, which gave me pause because I could just see the diagram falling off or getting skewed (both of which have happened to me before!) during the photocopy process. (2) Draw with the backstitch tool of charting software. As you might imagine, since charting software does not draw curved lines, this was horrendously time consuming (placing all sorts of short lines, including ones that are half as wide as a single chart grid). And the result really wasn't all that wonderful. As a drawing of curves done with charting software, it was a tour de force, but as a drawing for a class handout, I knew it could have been better. At least it was in electronic form! No more paste-ups on the copymaster.

To solve the problem of drawing curved lines and making an electronic file, I used my scanner.

First, I sketched the step-by-step diagram very large with pencil and used a photocopy of a tapestry needle (also very large), which I pasted on in the appropriate place.

I drew over the pencil lines with a Sharpie(R). Using Liquid Paper (which doesn't dissolve the Sharpie ink) I painted out the stitch lines and needle as needed to show the needle going over or under the thread and so on.

Then I scanned my drawing at 500% and saved it as a bitmap file (.bmp). Bitmap files are very large files, by the way.

I then opened the file in Adobe Photoshop and used the erase tool to clear up any gray places and irregularities in my hand-drawn lines. I filled in as needed, too. Photoshop is easier to use than CorelDRAW! but still has a steep learning curve.

Then I read the the .bmp into my text page in my word processing program (I use MS Word, so I used the "Insert" command), and, using the boxes on the corners of the drawing, I sized the drawing smaller.

Note: A jpeg (.jpg) file is not as sharp as a .bmp when you read it into the text document. Even though the .bmp is a large file, it's worth it to use the .bmp format.

Another way to insert the drawing into your text page - - and this the method I recommend because you don't have to hassle the floating probem - - is to read the drawing into a blank Word document and format as an Object and save this file as .doc document. This means the art will move around the same way as a letter of text. You can use the Enter key, select/copy/paste, whatever. Even if I'm sure I'll never again use this diagram, I still save it as a separate Word document for my ready-to-use archive.

Read the drawing into the actual text document, again sizing as necessary. Doing it this way sidesteps the "floating" problem whenever you need the diagram again.

This is the same "import and save as separate Word documents" process I use for the SW diagrams, as mentioned above.

In the heat of class prep, it's great not to have to hassle formating gremlins.

(5) Another way to do stitch diagrams (I also used this method pre-SW), is to draw fabric with backstitch feature of charting software.

Then draw the stitch legs with the software. Another option is to print out the "fabric" you drew with the software and add the stitch legs by hand.

If the former, you'll have to decide whether you want just a line, want to draw an arrow, or draw a rectangle for the stitch leg.

Add numbers to the stitch legs after you import the drawing into your word-processing document, though sometimes the symbol font will have a set of numbers and you can use those by assigning each number a weird color not in your design and plopping them in the right places using the full cross stitch setting. When you print the chart in symbol view, the numbers will appear.

Usually it's far easier to use the "text box" feature in your word-processing software to place the numbers exactly where you want them and in the size you want them. Sometimes the numbers in the charting software symbol font are really minute. Though you may be able to read them, by the time the handout is photocopied, the small pieces will be 'filled' by the photocopy ink and the numbers rendered illegible.

(6) Another method of drawing stitch diagrams has been around a long time and thus predates StitchWiz. That method is using Microsoft Excel (a spreadsheet program).

In fact, Excel was used as actual charting software (with symbols) for many years before true needlework charting software was available.

Back to stitch diagrams! First, shrink the size of the "cells" (boxes) to small squares the size you'll need.

In the Draw toolbar, choose AutoShapes and draw the worm with the oval shape. You'll have to experiment to get the right size and shape. When you're happy, copy (Control C) this worm.

Make an "extra copy" of the worm and drop it somewhere else on the margin of the page so you can go back to it in case you need a "refill." (As in "make an error" or "foul up the original worm and don't want to go back to square one.")

Paste the worm(s) (using Control V) approximately where you want the legs.

This process creates worms that are the same size and shape.

We take for granted that stitch diagrams have legs the same width and so on, but once we try to create stitch diagrams ourselves and don't have the worms the same size, we see what a big dip in clarity of the diagram results. All the eye can see is that the diagram is out of kilter!

You can move each of the worms with the four "arrow keys" on the keyboard. Rotate them using the icon that is a purple arrow with a green dot inside. You'll have to fiddle around and see what you can do.

Fill in the worms, if you like, with any of the textures/colors offered. Left-click on the edge of the shape once it's drawn. Little white boxes will appear in the corners. This tells you the shape is "selected." Now click on the "floodfill bucket." You'll have to hit the little part with the v arrow to open the color pallette.

Click on "Fill Effects." Check out the tabs marked "Texture" and "Pattern" for choices to fill your worm.

If you click the paintbrush (next to the bucket) - - again click on the little arrowhead pointing down - - you can create lines with various patterns.

Place numbers in other cells to indicate where stitch legs begin and end.

In addition to ovals, there are other shapes (such as arrows) you can use to make the worms.

Using Excel for stitch diagrams is not elegant and the diagrams have a "home-made look," but it is a very serviceable way to draw stitch diagrams if you don't wish to spring for StitchWiz and learn how to use a souped-up drawing program.

Insert the diagram into your text document, sizing it larger or smaller as needed.

(7) Designers have various ways to work around the problem, though most of them now use software in some way.

Sandy Vanosdall draws her stitch diagrams by hand (large), painting out cross-overs, etc. with Liquid Paper. She is very skilled at this, and it is almost impossible to tell her diagrams are hand-done. (I took a class from her and asked her specifically how she did her stitch diagrams because I wanted to know if she used Stitch Wiz. What a surprise to find out she does them by hand!) For those without a computer, this is an alternative to the system I used to draw knot stitches, and you might try this method.

If you draw the diagrams by hand, don't use pencil. Use black ink. Waterproof ink (Sharpie) will keep you out of smear trouble, but keep it off your clothes! It ain't called "waterproof" for nothing!

Note: Magazines use proprietary software that is not available to the general public.

For information on writing the text document ("handout") which is part of the class kit, see my stitch directions file.

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Last updated June 6, 2002.