When I was younger and first learnt cross stitch I was taught to stitch in one particular way, and I thought that was the way everyone stitched... until I began TSK! Since then I've heard of numerous different ways people cross stitch stitch, but two stitching methods are particularly common, the English and Danish Cross Stitch Methods. You may not have heard the terms before, but I can guarantee you that you use one if not both of these cross stitch methods. It's also likely you haven't put too much thought into how you stitch before and if it's the best way for you, so I thought I would look at these two methods in more details, which is best to use and when.
What are the English and Danish Cross Stitch Methods?
This involves stitching each individual cross stitch fully before moving onto the next.
In this case, if working in rows, you will start each row at alternating ends.
This involves stitching a succession of half stitches, before turning and completing the top stitches.
In this case, if working rows, you will start each row at the same end (usually left).
Traditionally the Danish method is completed horizontally, left to right, though you can also use it vertically.
A word of warning however... the look of the stitches is different when stitched vertically vs horizontally due to differing direction of the pull on the stitches from the threads on the back, so I would suggest avoiding mixing horizontal and vertical stitching too much within the same block of colour. As you can see here, the vertical stitches are not as neat as the horizontal stitches. Also, what you can't see in a photo, is that the vertical stitches are also more pronounced and 'deeper' than the horizontal stitches.
Which method do I currently use?
I actually use both methods when stitching, as will most stitchers, dependent on the pattern. For areas of block colours I use the Danish Method 99.9% of the time, while for 'confetti' stitches (aka lone stitches) I use the English Method. For example, when stitching the Illuminations On The Wall pattern featuring Sycamore Gap, I used the Danish Method to stitch the blocks of colour in the sky, and the English Method to stitch the stars.
which method is best??
That really depends on what you mean by 'best'? Are you looking for neater stitches? A neater back? Getting more out of your threads (aka thread efficiency)? Or maybe speedier stitching? Well, I've done some samples and tests and hopefully the answer to any of those questions are here!
Which gives the neatest stitches?
No difference that I can see
I think the neatness of your stitches on the front of your work may depend more on experience levels and general level of tension you use. But I can't see much of a difference between the two stitch methods here in terms of neatness.
Which gives the neatest back?
Both when stitching a block of colour, and when stitching around a shape, I found the Danish method far tidier.
Which is more 'thread efficient'?
Using the most thread efficient stitching techniques can save both waste and money. As you can see in this test, when using the exact same length of thread (50cm), the exact same start technique (loop start), as similar tension as I could make it, and stitching the exact same number of stitches (50), there was more left-over thread when stitched using the Danish method than the English method.
When I used this extra thread up (to the point where the thread tails were roughly the same length) I had been able to complete an additional 7 half stitches and 3 full stitches when using the Danish method in comparison to the English method.
This is because when stitched with the Danish method, each stitch has two single-height straight stitches on it's back, while with the English method, each stitch has one single-height straight stitch and one diagonal stitch on it's back. As diagonal stitches are always longer than single-height straight stitches, the English Method will always use additional thread. An additional note is that if my rows had been longer, I would have actually saved even more using the Danish method. That's because there was a double length stitch on the back of the work at the start of each row, ie every 10 stitches. Had the rows been longer, let's say 80 stitches long, for example, you would only have a double length stitch on the back of the work every 80 stitches.
Which is faster to stitch?
With this test I timed myself stitching 100 stitches (in a 10x10stitch block) using each method. The timing included the loop start and all stitching but did NOT include threading the needle, or tucking the thread in at the end. I stitched non stop at my usual speed for both blocks without a break during stitching (my cuppa went cold!). The square stitched using the English method took me 17minutes and 2 seconds, while the square stitched using the Danish method took me 14minutes and 49seconds.
A point of note...
In all examples above I have specifically looked at stitching block colours as these are dominant within TSK designs. But in all cases of 'confetti stitches', the English method wins all arguments! I have also looked at single colour threads, however, if you are using variegated threads, again stick to the English method to get the correct effect.
Lastly, while this blog was to give you some more information on the two types of stitching and how they vary so you can make a more informed decision as to how you might want to use them, there is absolutely no right or wrong way to stitch. You should always work in a way that you are most comfortable and enjoy the most!
I hope this has been helpful and would love to hear your thoughts
in the comments!