Freebies & Tutorials

How to keep your place on a Blackwork or Cross Stitch chart
{DIY Chart Marker tutorial}

How to keep your place on a Blackwork or Cross Stitch chartSome charted designs for counted-thread embroideries, especially Blackwork, are very intricate and it’s easy to lose track of stitches.

To avoid this, you can:

– make a photocopied “working copy” of the pattern and use a highlighter to mark the completed areas

– fix the original chart on a metal board, and surround the area where you are working with magnetic strips and rulers (see photo to the right)

Alternatively, here is a simple and inexpensive chart marker that you can easily create by yourself:

DIY Chart Marker

DIY chart marker - Ajisai Press

DIY chart marker 3

You will need:

  • cardstock (preferably in a dark contrasting colour)
  • ruler
  • paper cutter
  • decorative-edge scissors (optional)


Cut a strip of cardstock, about 4,5 cm wide, and about 1,5 cm longer than your chart page on each side.

If you want, you can also decorate the two lateral edges using a pair of scalloped scissors. DIY chart marker 4Then, following the template below, cut two horizontal lines with the same width of the pattern sheet.

Chart Marker template - Ajisai Press

Your chart marker is now ready to be used: insert the chart through the two openings, and slide and position the marker where you need it.

You can use it alone or combined with another marker, with single sheets or with books and magazines.

DIY chart marker for cross stitch patterns - Ajisai Press

DIY cross-stitched chart marker - Ajisai PressOf course, you can make many other markers in any size, colour and material.

You can also add a personal touch using a colorful patterned cardstock or, why not, a piece of perforated paper worked in cross stitch.


The chart marker below was stitched on 18-count burgundy perforated paper with stranded cotton threads, using a floral motif from the book “Vintage Cross Stitch Borders“.

cross-stitched chart marker - Ajisai Press7



A miniature embroidery on a small scrap of hand painted linen


Embroidering miniatures is a great way to use small scraps of fabric instead to throw them away.

keep calm cross stitch miniature

With a textile paint or dye you can also change the colour of your fabric (you can get an incredible variety of colours using just the three primary colours!).
In this case I’m going to use a red textile paint to recolour an ivory linen that has been left over from another embroidery project.

hand painted linen tutorial1

You can use a brush or a sponge to apply the paint, depending on the effect you wish to achieve.

hand painted linen tutorial2

After painting, leave to dry for a few hours. Then fix paint by ironing on the wrong side of the fabric for 5 minutes.
… Now the fabric is ready to be embroidered!

hand painted linen tutorial3 - stitching miniature

To make a really tiny cross stitch miniature, stitch over one thread of your evenweave fabric instead of two.

Here is the chart for the “KEEP CALM and CARRY ON” motif:

keep calm free cross stitch chart

Model stitched on a 32 count linen using one strand of white cotton over one thread of fabric

Blackwork embroidery: a step by step guide

wip blackwork ladybug and daisy

In this post, I’m going to share with you some useful tips and some basic techniques to follow when stitching my blackwork designs.

blackwork embroidery equipment


First of all it’s important to choose the right equipment:

blackwork fabrics and threads

– Fabric: although many embroiderers use Aida (blockweave) for their blackwork projects, for my designs I always suggest linen or evenweave fabric, because they are perfect for the partial stitches.
– Thread: traditionally, blackwork was stitched in black silk but, today, we can choose from a wide variety of threads, like cotton floss or sewing thread.
– Needle: always use a tapestry needle which has a blunt end.
– Frame: a frame is optional but helps to keep the fabric tight. I always use a scroll frame with a seat stand but, for little motifs can be helpful a smaller ring frame.


blackwork ivy front and back

People often ask me how to stitch a piece of blackwork embroidery with a perfect back. In my opinion, this is only necessary if both sides of the embroidery will be visible, also because many patterns are very intricate and not always reversible.
Anyway, in the video below, I will show you some tricks: how to start and end stitching without knots, and how to work the Holbein stitch (also known as double running stitch) correctly, for a neater back.

“Tea Party” chart:


Cross stitch monograms from the past

cross stitch monogram

Marking. — The art of Marking was carried to great perfection before the invention of the numerous modern marking inks, and during the years succeeding home weaving of linen, when the name was woven into the material as part of the design. To be able to embroider the name of the owner, and the numerals standing for the number of articles possessed, was an accomplishment that no lady of the eighteenth and earlier part of the nineteenth century was without, and the work executed then was frequently of a very beautiful description, and always conspicuous for its neatness and finish. At the present date Marking in England is almost exclusively confined to pocket handkerchiefs, bed linen, and woollen materials; but upon the continent, Initials beautifully worked often form the sole ornamentation of silk cushions, table covers,and work-basket covers. The marking of linen may be effected in a variety of stitches: in Cross Stitch, Embroidery Stitches, and Chain Stitch; but the orthodox style is after the first-named method.


Fig. 603 is a sample of the easiest kind of Marking. To work: Procure ingrain red cotton, and work upon Linen of a coarse texture, so as to be guided by the threads that are woven in it. Form the letters with Cross Stitch, and place the stitches at the distance apart shown in the illustration, counting the linen threads as squares.(…)

S.F.A Caulfeild and Blanche C. Saward, The dictionary of needlework : an encyclopædia of artistic, plain, and fancy needlework (Vol. IV), London, 1882

… Even today, cross stitched monograms are a great way to add a personal touch and a charming old-fashioned look to any household and personal items…

cross stitch purse 1

Metal-framed purse personalized with an embroidered monogram

cross stitch purse 2

The two cross stitch letters, V and S, were originally included in an old Italian booklet, and now you can find the recharted versions in the book “Vintage cross stitch alphabets


Here are a few simple rules and tips to follow:

  • Layout

The letters of a monogram can be intertwined using different colours for each of them (see photo below), or can be arranged side by side, in a specific order, using only one colour.
The following are guidelines for traditional monogram layouts:
for a single person: it can be just a single letter (first or last name initial), two letters (first and last name initials), or three letters (first name initial on the left, last name initial in the center and larger, and middle name initial on the right)
for a married couple: a three-initial monogram, with the wife’s first name initial on the left, the couple’s married surname in a larger size in the center, and the husband’s first name on the right

intertwined monogram

Monogrammed sampler, 1915

  • Colours

Cross stitched monograms had to be seen clearly, so they were usually worked in garance red, a rich and durable dye extracted from the roots of the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum), or in blue. However, this is not a rule, and you can choose the colour you wish.

monogrammed handkerchiefs

Two embroidered handkerchiefs, one with a whitework monogram, and the other with a contrasting red monogram in cross stitch and double running stitch. Charts: V and S

  • Placement

handkerchiefs and napkins: in the center of one of the corners (straight or diagonal)
tablecloths: in one corner, in all four corners, in two diagonal corners, on each side, or in the center
towels: at the bottom center (2” / 5 cm or 4” / 10 cm from the bottom hem, depending on the size of the towel)
bed sheets: at the top center (about 2” / 5 cm from the hem stitching)
coverlets and duvet covers: centered in the middle
pillow cases: centered between the open end edge and the hem stitching
pillow shams: centered in the middle

monogrammed towel

This monogrammed linen towel reproduces two cross stitch letters, M and G,  taken from “Album Italia”, an embroidery booklet published at the beginning of the twentieth century

monogrammed towel and antique cross stitch charts

The whole recharted alphabet of these letters is in the book “Vintage cross stitch alphabets”, now also available in ebook format