My studio is finally finished, with the addition of this colorful mural of a cross stitch map of the world in flowers! Before I get into the pictures and how-to’s, let me share this quote that sums up many of my bad decisions:
“The risk I took was calculated, but man am I bad at math.”
(If you know who said this, I’d love to give credit to the person who understands me so completely.)
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If you’ve been following along, you may remember that I recently repainted my studio and added a new DIY wreath for inspiration. While I loved the changes, I still had a big blank wall that needed some attention. And by attention, I mean “Giant Statement Piece.” So I decided to paint a mural in the form of a cross stitch floral map. Sounds fun, right? I found this awesome pattern for just what I wanted on Etsy, and set about figuring out how to transfer the skills of needlework (with which I have almost no experience) to the tools I understand, like paint and brushes.
Here’s where I went awry. This pattern is 100 by 200 stitches. In my mind, I thought, “OK 2,000 stitches isn’t so bad.” It wasn’t until I was deep into the project many hours and several days later that I realized the math actually comes out to 20,000 stitches. I was only off by a factor of ten. This is why I do art and not math. This is also where my dad is allowed to laugh at me for all the times in high school I tearfully complained “I’m going to be an artist, so why do I even need to study math?”!
Luckily I was too far along to give up, and the only way to go was forward. I finally finished the mural and couldn’t be happier! Here’s how to make your own cross stitch mural, if you ever choose to do so.
Cross Stitch Mural Tutorial
First, gather your supplies. You’ll need:
- Cross Stitch Pattern
- Craft Paints – I like Americana by DecoArt
- Small Paintbrush(es)
- Level – preferably a laser level like this one
- Masking Tape, sharpie, pencil
Pick your pattern first. That’s the fun part! You can find oodles of ideas online on Pinterest and Etsy. Once you have your pattern, it will give you a chart of all the embroidery thread colors that are used in the design. You’ll need a color of paint to match each one of the thread colors. I used colors I already had in my toolkit and mixed the ones I needed, but it might be easier for a beginner to just buy one of each color in the design. You won’t need much paint for each color, so a 2 oz. bottle per color is plenty. Be sure to write down on your chart which paint color matches which thread color!
The paintbrushes should be rounded tip, about 1/8 – 1/4 inch wide. If you get a brush that’s too small, it will be difficult to load enough color on it. And too big will just be hard to manage.
Next, lay out your grid on the wall.
Cross stitch charts like this one are laid out on graph paper, with 10×10 grids. That means each grid has 100 stitches in it. This is a good thing to keep in mind when you’re deciding how big and complex of a pattern you want to try. #lessonslearned
Brace yourself: here comes some more math. Now you have to figure out how big you need each stitch to be on the wall. To keep things simple, you might want to make each stitch one inch wide, if you have enough space. I didn’t, so I had to do some fancy calculator math. It took three tries between me and my sweet, patient friend Jana to come up with our scale: 1 stitch = 5/8 inch. That meant that a 10×10 square would be 6.25 inches tall and wide. (Whew. I’m tired just writing it out.)
To mark your basic grid on your wall, attach your laser level to the wall at the first point (uppermost left) and point the laser to the right. Then, use your pencil to mark a cross or “T” at each 10×10 intersection. (For me, this was every 6.25 inches) Work your way from left to right until you’ve reached the far right side of the pattern.
Then move your laser level down to the top of the next 10×10 grid. (Again, for me this meant moving it down 6.25 inches.) Repeat the step above.
But wait, there’s more! Now you need to mark the 100 squares within each of the 10×10 grids. (Only do this for areas that actually have stitches. In mine, I had some large areas that were blank, so I skipped this step for those areas.) This is easier to do if you make yourself a ruler template. Fold a piece of copy paper to the length of your grid and divide that length into 10 equal sections. (Mine were each 5/8 inch, so I marked 10 sections of 5/8 inch.) Now you can use your personal ruler to make tiny tick marks on the wall at each mark on the page.
Hold your page vertically between the two left crosses or “T”s and make ten marks, then between the two right crosses and make ten marks. Then hold your ruler horizontally between each of the vertical marks and fill in along the ruler. This is BY FAR the most tedious part of this whole process, and I’m sure there must be a fancier way to do it, but this is what I came up with, given the tools I had to work with.
Finally, use pieces of masking tape to mark each grid along the top and side of your wall with the same numbers as you have on your chart. You’ll be looking up and down between the wall and your chart, so you want to be able to easily find which grid you’re working on.
Now, paint lots of X’s.
If you’ve ever done an actual cross stitch, this section needs no explanation. But if you’re like me, with no experience in the needle arts, let me give you a few pointers.
I found it easier to follow the chart if I did all of one color at a time. Simply pick a color, locate the symbol on the chart that matches that color, and start painting an X wherever that symbol shows up on the chart. Be sure the tips of your X reach all the way to their corners, so they’ll all look connected when you’re done.
I also found that I missed a whole bunch of stitches. Any cross stitchers out there feel my pain? No problem, I would just highlight them on my chart as I found them, to remind me to go back later and fill them in.
After many days, and 17 colors of paint, my mural was coming together and I was almost done. I went back and filled in and fixed all the missed stitches, and that was it!
Finally, for the cleanup.
The last thing to do is remove your grid from the wall. Take down all the masking tape and either erase or cover over all your leftover pencil markings. I thought I would erase them all, but in the end I found it much quicker and easier to just paint over them with the base wall paint.
Admire your artwork.
I can’t stop looking at this whenever I walk down the hall. I think it added the perfect colorful floral touch, and tied in the global map theme that I started earlier in this space. Now I’m inspired to work in here and make more pretty things!
I realized through this LOOOONG process that we creative types have a tendency to get caught up in our work, and we may have the next several ideas in our head before we finish the one we’re working on. This can make it hard to experience to joy of creating, because we have so many unfinished, unfulfilled projects weighing on our minds.