updated March 17, 2023
Several years ago, Dim Sum, above, my canvas for an ebook cover, was my Sunday Stitching project. I enjoyed stitching it and I love it so much I used it every day for years.
But I found that I modified several stitches in order to make the stitch pattern look symmetrical.
Here’s the problem. There are many stitches that are essentially squares or rectangles. When you stitch a block of them, they line up in a grid. If they are both square and crossed, such as Smyrna Cross, you not only have the grid of the whole stitch, you have the repetition of the top stitch of the cross.
I didn’t want this to look so rigid and matchy, so I came up with some simple ways to vary square stitches so that the grid is either less obvious by breaking the rigid grid.
Make a checked stitch. By alternating one stitch with blocks of Tent Stitch, the grid becomes less clear. The smaller grain of the Tent Stitches visually makes the grid less obvious. You could also do this with any square or rectangular stitch or group of stitches.
Alternate the top stitch of a Smyrna Cross. While this keeps the grid, the second aspect. the top stitch of the cross, is broken. You can do this in a couple of ways. The more subtle one is to alternate the horizontal with the vertical stitch with the Upright Cross on top. A more obvious check is made if you alternate between the Upright and Diagonal Crosses on top.
Frame rows of stitches, but only in one direction. If you put a Tent Stitch border around each stitch or group of stitches, you just get another grid. But if you add less framing by doing it only in one direction AND by doing it every few rows, you get a subtle stripe, not a grid.
Offset each row. This is probably my favorite way to break up a grid. It looks harder to do than it is. Just start each row one stitch to the right or left (be consistent in the direction of change) from the previous row. I love this look. It keeps the blocky look of the stitch intact, but breaks up the grid.
Try one or more of these ideas the next time your box or square cross stitch looks too rigid.