Getting Started with Stitch People – Where to Start?!

So you have your Stitch People book and you’ve gathered some or all your supplies – now to tackle your first project! This can be a little intimidating for many people especially if you have never cross-stitched or haven’t done so in years. One of the biggest questions we get from first-timers is “well…where do I start?”.

Here at Stitch People, we have about a 1000 projects behind us which means we might miss some of the obvious questions someone who is just starting out might have. So instead we turned to our fabulous community for advice. Our community ranges from total beginners to professional cross-stitchers and in true Stitch People fashion they came to our aid without hesitation.

Here is some of the best advice our 4000 strong group has for your first project. Our friend Denise starts us off with one that many people skip!

Take the time and read through the whole Stitch People Book. There are so many answers to questions that you might have, that are in the book. I know you are very excited to stitch that first project, but by reading through the manual, you will save yourself a lot of time down the road.

Denise Kay Hepler-Ivy

This is so true! Lizzy wrote the book as a guide to take you through a Stitch People project from beginning to end. After our 1st edition was released, we had lots of questions that we slowly collected. We then compiled the ones that were asked most often and added the answers to our 2nd Edition book. Now the book covers pretty much every question that you may have but you do need to read the book!

On getting over the initial hump, Kristy says:

Just start. I sat and stared at my supplies and thought, thought and thought some more and the more I thought about what to do/where to start/what colors, etc, the more anxious I got. Don’t be afraid of starting and don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Some of our mistakes can actually turn into the best pieces.

Kristy McCoy

Erin added:

…my advice is “Just do it.” It’s only up from the first one. This isn’t going to be your best. It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s going to have flaws. Only you will see them. 

But once you do the first, you learn how to do it better, and it’s all up from there.

Erin Toth

We’d like to shout the next piece of advice from the rooftops!

I practiced some things on another small piece of Aida and that really helped me! Also, just jump in. It’s just thread!

Angela Roberts

Echoed by Danielle:

Before I started my first stitch I stitched myself on a scrap piece of aida just to see if I could do it. That gave me the confidence to make my first one and give it as a gift.

Danielle Jamieson

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a big project but if it’s your first, it might help to begin with a project that is small like a self-portrait or just one person and their favorite critter. This will let you practice and will take away some of the pressure of ‘getting it right’, allowing you to enjoy yourself.

As to where to physically begin, Sarah has some great advice:

Always start by drawing it out. Graph paper is your friend, so is an eraser! lol! 
Don’t get discouraged if that seems like the hardest part at first. It will start to come naturally very soon.

Sarah Grenier

This is also a great point in your first project to take Abby’s advice and take your time with spacing your characters:

I spaced my people way too far apart on my first project. I wish I would have taken more time to figure out spacing

Abby Napier

On page 29 of the DIY book, you’ll find more information about spacing your Stitch People.

One of the biggest hurdles first-timers seemed to face is choosing colors. On this Becky has some advice:

For the people stressing about colors, before I started I just went and bought all the recommended hair/skin/ denim colors in the book. Then for those first projects I would take my phone with pictures and stand in the floss aisle and find a color that worked for me with what I was trying to match.

Becky Finck

Jenny adds a great point about this with:

Also don’t worry if it’s not *exactly* the right colours – things just need to be recognisable. Don’t get too caught up in details and stuff and forget to have fun!

Jenny Chakravarty

When you’ve graphed your designs, gathered your floss and are ready to start stitching, there are some tips that will give you a little breathing room for mistakes.

Always cut extra fabric! It’s easier to take off than add back…

Lea Wright

Something I just learned from this group was using a washable fabric marker to plot out your piece. I was always so nervous about that first stitch being centered and this helped a ton.

Andi Douglas

And on the subject of centering…

Mark the middle of your project design and the middle of your Aida so your project is centered.

Sharon Siviy Triska

So you’re ready to take needle to fabric! A really important thing people sometimes don’t think about is carving out space for yourself. Lee said it best with:

Set aside time for stitching when you are least likely to be interupted. Being pulled away constantly makes it difficult to keep track of where you left off and will make it less enjoyable. Also start small and work your way up to something more elaborate.

Lee Kane

Nichola adds:

Enjoy it with a cup of tea and/or wine 😊 it’s a hobby not a chore

Nichola Murdoch

The book has you covered for how to cross-stitch but some people have trouble with the half-stitches the first time. Don’t worry, Lizzy has a video that takes you through how to make these half-stitches.

Our community has more advice for your stitching.

Have your stitches go the same way! And just keep practicing! The difference from my first to now is substantial thanks to those two tips haha.

Symone Misao Lee

Remember to let your thread unwind occasionally as you stitch so it doesn’t knot up.

Suzanne Traut Walsh

And when you do make a mistake:

It’s okay to rip something out and start over. If you start to get frustrated, it’s helpful to walk away for a while/sleep on it & try again later.

Shannon Linser

The hardest part is getting started! And sometimes the best thing to do when you’re not loving a piece is to walk away from it because you’ll look at it differently when you come back with a refreshed mind (and eyes!) 😊

Mandi Feinberg

Mandi’s right, the hardest part is getting started. If we obsess about getting it right first time we’ll never begin and all the beautiful portraits we could make for ourselves and our family and friends won’t exist, which is too tragic to even think about.

Every time you make a new stitch, you are learning and getting better. Before long, you’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. Our friend Stephanie sums it up perfectly for us. Her advice is:

To be patient with yourself. You’re making a representation/likeness, not an exact duplicate. No one will look at your piece as critically as you do! And when you’re just starting, sometimes you may feel discouraged because it seems like other stitchers are so much more talented — but know that you WILL get there, it’s just a matter of time and practice!

Stephanie Davis-Novak Deutsch

You can read more advice from our talented community by joining our Facebook Community Group which is exclusively for DIY Stitch People Book owners. If you prefer to keep it intimate, always remember the team at Stitch People have your back. You can drop us a line anytime at

Do you have advice for first-timers? What questions did/do you have when it comes to starting out? Comment below and let us know!

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