There are plenty of dedicated cross-stitch softwares out there for pattern makers who want all the bells and whistles. PC Stitch, Stitch Sketch, and Stitch Fiddle to name a few.
Sometimes though, a fully loaded program can be a bit much. Maybe you’re a beginner, maybe you’re only designing the odd pattern, maybe you just want something quick and simple. Whatever the reason, it may make downloading and potentially paying for a ready made cross-stitch software too much of an investment.
Enter in a spreadsheet program!
What is a spreadsheet program?
Spreadsheet programs are those computer programs that linger at the bottom of your desktop, usually ignored for years until you occasionally click on it to find out what it is, and then become so bored with it you forget about it again.
They are typically used for any kind of number crunching such as finances, giant sets of numbers that you need to make complex mathematical equations with. That’s all great if you’re an accountant but they also have a unique feature that make them perfect for cross-stitch pattern making; a ready made and adjustable grid structure. More on that later.
Where do you find a spreadsheet program?
That’s the nice thing about them. They are virtually (haha, get it?) everywhere! Most likely you already have one on the device you’re reading this post with. They come preloaded onto most tablets, desktops and phones. You can also find them on the internet, usually on a cloud facility such as Google Drive.
OK, so how do I use them to create a pattern?
I’m glad you asked! Let’s go through the process now.
First you need to choose the program you’re using. We’ll be using Google Sheets because it is accessible to most people with a free google account. Most spreadsheet programs will have the same tools and features, so don’t worry if the one you’re using is different; you’ll still be able to follow along.
Open your program and if you don’t automatically see a spreadsheet, create a blank document. You can do this by selecting FILE > NEW > BLANK DOCUMENT or SPREADSHEET
In front of you will be a spreadsheet with rows and columns of rectangles. These rectangles are called cells. Typically a cross-stitch pattern will be rows and columns of squares. So we first need to change the cells to be square shaped.
On the far left you will see a column of numbers. At the top of the column of numbers is a blank cell. Click on this cell and you will see the whole sheet is highlighted in blue. That means that all the cells in the sheet are selected. This is a good thing because it means you can change their shape all together at the same time.
At the top of the sheet, just below the menu you will see a row of letters from A – Z. Hold your cursor at the line between A and B. You will see a little right pointing arrow appear (a right and left arrow if using Excel).
When you see that little arrow, click and hold down your cursor. You will see that you are able to drag the line between A and B. Drag it to the left until your grid looks like little squares. Then release your cursor.
Here is a video showing the process:
Now your spreadsheet looks a little more like a cross-stitch pattern grid. The squares probably won’t be exact but that’s OK as long as they look like squares to you (the process for creating exact squares is a little more involved. If this is important to you, let us know in the comments and we’ll create a separate video).
Now we need to make your spreadsheet a good size to work on. If you want a pattern that is less than 26 stitches across, you can leave it as it but you’ll probably want something bigger. We need make our spreadsheet about the same size as the sheet of Aida we are using.
Let’s say you have a sheet of Aida fabric that is 8 inches high by 10 inches wide. We decide we are using 14 count Aida fabric which means there are 14 blocks per inch in the Aida fabric (if you’re confused by what I mean, check out the Stitch People Cross-Stitch 101)
So we know that there are 14 blocks in our Aida per inch, how many cells high do we need our spreadsheet to be?
Remember our sheet of Aida is 8 inches high, so the height of our spreadsheet will need to have the same amount of cells as our Aida sheet has blocks. To find this out we multiply the count of the fabric by the height in inches.
14 (count) x 8 (inches height) = 112
Our spreadsheet needs to be at least 112 cells high! If you scroll down your spreadsheet, you will see that you have more than enough cells down to work in.
Next we need to make sure we have enough space across to work in. You use the same formula as above to work out how many cells you need across to encompass the width of your Aida sheet.
Remember your Aida sheet is 10 inches wide. We are using 14 count Aida so…
14 (count) x 10 (inches width) = 140
Our spreadsheet needs to be at least 140 cells wide!
You will probably only need to do this part for Google Sheets, Excel users will already have enough cells across and down to work within.
At the moment your spreadsheet columns go from A – Z which is only 26 cells across. We need it to be 140 cells across so we need to add some cells!
If your cells are all still highlighted blue, great! If not, go back to the blank cell above the number 1 and click on it to highlight the whole sheet.
Move your cursor to somewhere over the highlighted area and right click to bring up the cursor menu.
Go down the menu until you see the option that says “insert 26 columns”. Click on this option and you will see 26 more columns have been added to the right! That gives us 52 cells across but we need 140 so we have to add more.
Move your cursor over until it hovers over the blue highlighted area and again right click to show the cursor menu. Scroll down the menu until you see “insert 26 right”. Click on this and 26 more columns will be added.
Repeat these steps 3 more times and you will end up with 156 cells across! More than enough to cover the size of Aida we are using.
Here is a video to show you the process of adding cells to your spreadsheet
Now we have enough space to work in but the view is a little close. We probably want to zoom out so that we can see more of the spreadsheet in which we want to create our pattern.
At the top of your spreadsheet you will see the menu. Click on the word VIEW and select 50%. That should expand the view so that you can see more of the spreadsheet but not so much as to make the cells too small to see.
Here is a video showing you how to expand the view of your spreadsheet:
Step 6 – Optional
The final step for creating a cross-stitch chart to work from is to find the center of your spreadsheet.
The center will need to correspond to the center of your Aida fabric! If you’re working on a large sheet of Aida, you don’t have to worry about this as much since pretty much anywhere can be your center. But if, like most of us you only have a limited amount of fabric, it’s good to find the center so you can plot your pattern to make the best use of the space you have.
Let’s use the same example fabric that we used above. Our sheet of Aida is 8 inches high and 10 inches across. Lets first find the center of the height. To do this we use the same formula that we used above except we divide the number in half. That looks like this:
14 (count) x 8 (height in inches) = 112.
112 / 2 = 56
Using that formula, we now know that the center of our Aida will be 56 blocks down. On your spreadsheet, the center of your chart will be 56 rows down.
It is a good idea to mark that row. We’ll do that by filling in the row in a color that will stand out to us. To do that, highlight your middle row (click on the number of your middle row). Then bring your cursor up to the menu. Click on the button that looks like a paint bucket spilling over. This is your “Fill Color” button:
Choose a color to highlight your row. We chose a rougey red. Here is a video of the process:
Next we need to find the center across (the width). To do this we use the same formula as we did to find out how many cells across we needed to represent our sheet of Aida, except this time we divide that number in half. That looks like this:
14 (count) x 10 (width of Aida in inches) = 140.
140 / 2 = 70
Using that formula we know that the center of our Aida will be 70 block across. On our spreadsheet, the center will be 70 cells across. To mark the center of the width, we use the same process as above. We count the cells across to 70, highlight the 70th column and fill in the color. Where the two lines intersect will be the center of your chart. Here is a video of the process:
It’s a good idea to also mark the center of your fabric using removable ink or a stitch to mark the center. That way you’ll know which block on your fabric, corresponds to the same block on your spreadsheet.
So there you go! You’ve now created a blank cross-stitch chart/grid sheet! Save/name the file “cross-stitch chart template” or something you’ll remember.
On the next blog post, we’ll talk about how to add patterns to the spreadsheet chart you have created. Until then, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.