Stitch People’s Cross-Stitch Character Design Explained

In Cross Stitch, Stitch People by Lizzy27 Comments

As a young’n I was always fascinated by the idea that no two people in the world were exactly the same. I tried to think it through in my head – – certainly there could only be a finite number of individual features, and combinations of those features for all the people in the world! Certainly doppelgangers are running rampant in every country!

Of course I eventually learned about basic genetics and, well, science. And I now understand things about DNA, genes and the endless variety of features available to the human race. Thus, I was faced with quite a conundrum when compiling Do It Yourself Stitch PeopleWhere do the customizations end or begin?

To begin to illustrate the logic of why Stitch People are customized the way they are, I want you to think of looking at a family photo – or any group photo for that matter. Think critically about this. What is it – really – that you notice about everyone in the photo? What makes each individual stand out?

It is this general line of thinking that I focus on when designing Stitch People. I believe the greatest way to customize an individual for a cross-stitch portrait is with their hair color, hair style, and clothing choices, as well as with their placement and position within the portrait.

Think about it! Grandpa’s distinct bald head, or your teenage niece’s moody black hair that hangs at a steep angle across her face are distinctive traits that can be easily incorporated into a Stitch People portrait. Cousin Jenny’s wild tie-dye shirts, or your son’s beloved soccer jersey should absolutely help distinguish them from the other members of the family! And what better way to tell a family’s story than to put Grandpa next to Grandma, little Johnny next to his favorite pal (the family dog), or Mom and Dad in the center of the portrait with their mini-me daughter and and son on either side?

Stitch People Faces

Due to the size of Stitch People characters – approximately 1″ x 3″ – the features that can fit onto a little stitch-face are few. I made the executive decision to keep things simple with Stitch People, using only eyes and a simple, smiling mouth to create the face of our Stitch People friends. Noses can be so unique that it would be impossible to create just the right one for every person. And with such limited space, any type of nose – whether cross-stitched or back-stitched – could make the face appear cluttered, messy and overwhelmed.

For the eyes, I typically keep the color black, despite the fact that most people have blue, green or brown eyes. But think of it this way – when looking at a photo of a group of people, can you distinguish what color everyone’s eyes are? Not really. Usually you see the mouth, a nose, and two dark-ish eye areas. I personally like the look of the black eyes. I think it looks the most well-balanced. I occasionally use a dark, emerald green, chocolate brown, or navy blue for colored eyes but I always use dark colors. When I’ve experimented with lighter colors, I find my little people look a little alien-like. And I’m going for Stitch People, not Stitch Aliens (although that’s a really fun idea!)

Stitch People Bodies

Stitch People bodies are all the same width (with respect to the various age groups.) This is on purpose. Size and weight can be a very sensitive topic for people and I find it best to leave it alone, (especially when a Stitch People portrait is a gift).

When someone’s personality can be captured in other ways – I think it’s best to not accentuate their size, be it vertical or horizontal. Now, some folks wear their thick, thin, tall or short on their sleeve! But we don’t always know if it’s something that is truly embraced, or simply played as being embraced to protect themselves from a truer, underlying emotion. Personally? Better just to leave it alone.

The Simple-Face / Simple-Body Philosophy

A face is a face and a body is a body. We all have ’em. And it’s not easy to change ’em. Some of us love what we got and some of us don’t. Because of that, I truly believe we don’t need to see every minor detail in a face or body to be able to recognize someone in a Stitch People portrait.

So yeah – we all have a face and a body. But what we don’t all have is a killer beard, or fire-engine red, curly hair, or a beloved AC-DC t-shirt, or a favorite, lime-green, vintage, A-Line skirt (that I can’t fit into right now but I’m working on it!!) These are the things that become us. These are the things we choose to adorn ourselves with. These are the little, custom details we can include in our Stitch People portraits to make them truly special and truly unique.




What’s your favorite clothing item, hairstyle or accessory you’ve seen or have included in a Stitch People portrait? Let us know in the comments below!!

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  1. I am just starting my first project for my son and his wife’s second anniversary instead of a card. Adding the two of them, a black cat and two small dogs. Going to add a little border maybe!

    1. Hi Michele! That’s a wonderful idea! Sometimes I incorporate a border that is somehow meaningful to the couple – perhaps stringed patio lights if they spend a lot of time outdoors, or a floral border/vine in colors or flowers significant to them. Happy stitching! Can’t wait to see a finished product!

  2. I don’t have the book, but I know if I made a family portrait it would have to involve a kilt because DH rarely wears pants!

    1. That’s a fun idea! There are plaid shirt patterns in the book, and many skirt patterns. Combining the skirt shape with the plaid color recommendations, I think you could knock it out of the park with a kilt!

  3. I’m working on a portrait of my daughter and her best friend, both avid softball players. After several attempts, I came up with a design for softball bats and gloves to include in their portrait. I also added eye black to their faces which turned out great! I love stitch people!

  4. Lizzy…..we have people of different sizes……any updates on making stitch people that may be a little heavy….or people with disabilities…….wheelchairs, crutches, etc….

    1. HI Tracey! If you’re a purchaser of the book, you should have received an email from Stitch People allowing you access to a page of “extras” which include wheelchair and crutch patterns. As for people of different sizes – you’ve come to the right blog post! In the post, above, I explain why I choose to keep all stitch people the same width. If you still decide you’d like to make your stitch people wider, which I have personally never done, I suggest doing so in the arms, first (2 wide). If you need them to be wider still, go to the legs. I would recommend keeping the heads the same size no matter what.

  5. I love when I see a wedding portrait done and the bride is holding her flowers, especially when given as a gift! I think it’s a fun way (mostly for them) to remember the colors in their wedding and I think that leads them to think about other happy details.

    1. Me too! The wedding portraits are my favorite, and make for a great second-year anniversary gift, being made of 100% cotton!

  6. enjoyed this one very much, looking forward to regular updatesps love my book xxx

  7. I just love this whole idea, stitch people portraits! I just collected all of my stitch people patterns in a folder that I made so far, since I bought the book summer last year. And I love how happy people get when they get a portrait as a gift. As I said before, fantastic idea and super costumer service.Iā€™m looking forward to read more on your blog
    Victoria, Denmark

    1. Victoria! What a lovely comment. Thank you for posting. I also love the reactions to these portraits – people love them! I’m glad to hear you’re having good success with designing and creating your portraits. Happy stitching!

  8. I have received my book and starter kit but haven’t stitched a portrait yet (time issue at the moment) but I am looking forward to it! One of the things I really love is the inclusion of the pets. One portrait I plan on making is of all the pets that our family has had (some have passed on but some are still living). I think it will be great to have them all together. I also like they they are posed facing different directions and that there are more than one version of certain breeds.

    1. First of all – I love your profile picture! Spencer and I are HUGE disney fans. We recently returned from our first Disney Cruise to celebrate our 5th anniversary. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Second of all – I love the idea of a “family pets” portrait. So cute! And what i love is you’ll look at the portrait and it will force you to think about each of them – a different effect than glancing at a photo. So great!

  9. Hi Lizzy, thank you for sending my book so promptly! I love it & can’t wait to get designing my first portrait for my sister. It’s so clever how personal you can make each character & even include the cat! I’m going to get hours of enjoyment out of it,(once I’ve worked out how to get a 2 year old & 7 week old to sleep at the same time!) šŸ˜‰ Helen, UK

  10. Hi Lizzy,I’ve finished my first project…and it’s not my last šŸ˜‰
    I’m living in Brazil and we had “Feliz dia dos namorados” (Valentine`s day) last friday. I stitched a portrait of my husband and me!

    Kirsten (a German in Brazil)

  11. I just found this post and was wondering about how to cross stitch someone who looks pregnant? Is that covered in your book?

    1. Hi Chantal! Sorry for the late response on this one! When you buy the book you get access to some extra patterns that have been designed since the book was published. Included in those designs are patterns for pregnant bellies!

  12. Hi Lizzy,I just this minute got my Stitch People book from the mailbox, but when I put in the URL to get the “extras” it brought me here to this page. Where are the extra pages???
    Peggy Lang

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