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How Do I Read a Counted Thread Chart?


How Do I Read a Counted Thread Chart?

Example of Charted Embroidery Stitches

© Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to About.com
Question: How Do I Read a Counted Thread Chart?

I just bought a beautiful pattern for a counted thread project, but I have no idea how to read a chart. Is this something a beginner can tackle?


While most feel a counted design is best suited for the intermediate stitcher, smaller counted thread patterns can be easily tackled by a beginner. Following a chart is actually very east once you get the hang of it.

Counted thread embroidery, such as pulled or drawn thread embroidery, blackwork, Hardanger, needlepoint and cross stitch are normally worked from a detailed charted design. The charted patterns indicate the placement of the embroidery thread over the warp and weft threads in the supporting embroidery fabric. While these charts are often a bit confusing to a beginning counted thread embroidery stitcher, the methodology is actually very simple, and the charts are eay to read.

A charted design is drawn over a grid of small squares with thin lines. Each line in the grid indicates a thread in the weave of the embroidery fabric. This means that narrow vertical lines represent warp threads and horizontal narrow lines indicate weft threads in an loosely woven evenweave embroidery fabric. The holes in the chart represent the space between the threads in the fabric weave. Darker, larger squares in the grid surround 10 small squares to make counting the threads in the design quick and easy.

Counted thread embroidery patterns are made by working an embroidery stitch over a designated number of threads in the fabric. In the example above, a row of counted straight stitch is worked over four vertical threads in the upper left quadrant, while a row of herringbone stitch is worked diagonally over four intersections of thread, with a spacing of two threads along the upper and lower edges of the row of stitches. The running stitches at the center are worked over four and under two horizontal stitches in multiple rows to make a darning pattern.

Several stitches can also share a single hole in the fabric. In the example above (lower right area of the pattern), five stitches forming a fan shape share the hole at the bottom of the grouping.

A charted embroidery pattern will also indicate the placement of decorative elements, such as beads, buttons, sequins, or charms. In the example above, round shapes show a bead placed at the intersection of a warp and weft thread (lower left), a bead placed over a single weft threads (lower left, to the upper right of th first bead), and a sequin anchored with a bead at an intersection of threads.

It's best to start a charted design at the center and work outwards, unless otherwise indicated in the pattern you are using. To follow a charted design, simple count the number of corresponding threads in the fabric to the chart and stitch as indicated by the pattern.

If you'd like to try an easy counted thread embroidery project, you can try the Northern Woods pattern, one of the free designs here on the site that you can print and stitch. This pattern is easy enough for a beginner and gives you the opportunity to work six different embroidery stitches in a counted thread format.

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