Mary Corbet

writer and founder


I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (50) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Folky Flakes for Holiday Stitching


Amazon Books

Today, let’s delve into the world of counted cross stitch, with a bit of a twist!

I’ve been recently fiddling with some folky holiday-related designs for counted work. As is pretty much always the case when I start messing with pattern development, what was originally three designs morphed into many more variations, which I’ll be sharing with you here as I finish the samples.

There’s just Something about working with repeat patterns. In the design stage, it’s fun. There are so many possibilities for developing more complex and less complex patterns, starting from just a few basic design elements.

Folky Snowflake Corner for Counted Cross Stitch

In the stitching stage, I find it exceptionally relaxing.

Stitching repeat patterns with cross stitch, in monochrome, is what I call “mindless stitching.” Once you know the structure of the repeated elements, you don’t have to refer to a pattern, you don’t have to think about what stitch to use, you don’t have to think about color or thread choices. You just stitch away.

I like this type of stitching when I need a break from more complicated handwork. A break is always a good thing, but even when I’m taking a break from my regular embroidery, I still like to have something to do with my hands – preferably, something I don’t have to think about!

This type of stitching is the perfect solution. The set-up is simple, since the project is small, and the stitching is basic.

Folky Snowflake Corner for Counted Cross Stitch

Now for the twist. The counted cross stitch I’ve been dabbling with has not actually been on counted cross stitch fabric. Normally, counted work is done on even-weave fabric, or at least something very close to even-weave fabric.

But that’s not really what I had in mind for these little designs. I wanted to use the designs to add a bit of festive folkiness to regular household linens, like cloth napkins for the table, flour sack towels (which I like to use for wrapping kitchen-related gifts or bottles of wine, or for lining gift baskets or bags), placemats, and the like.

So, for this stitching, I’m using various types of plain weave fabric, depending on what I’m embellishing.

For example, I’ve been stitching white snowflakes on Christmas-red cotton cloth napkins.

I’ve been stitching red snowflakes on white flour sack towels and white cloth napkins (frosty blue snowflakes would look great on white, too). I’ve been stitching other designs in white on oatmeal and natural linen hand towels and table toppers.

All of these will make terrific hostess gifts or personal little touches to include in gift baskets, come Christmas. And they don’t take much time to stitch!

Cross Stitch on Plain Weave Fabric

The trick here is how to work cross stitch on plain weave fabric.

There are a number of ways you can go about doing it!

For most of these samples here, I’ve been using DMC’s soluble canvas, because the original designs for this project are for a DMC article. DMC soluble canvas is neat stuff. I hadn’t used it before I started this project. It’s simple to use: you baste it onto your fabric wherever you want the design, stitch your design, and then soak the fabric until the soluble canvas disintegrates and rinses away.

The soluble canvas is kind of like a very thin plastic sheet, a little stiffish, with evenly spaced (14 count) holes in it. It works well.

The other option is waste canvas, which is a rough woven canvas that you place on top of plain weave fabric, stitch over, and then cut and pull out all the canvas threads individually. I’m not a huge fan of waste canvas. It works, but my stitches are never as tight as I like them, after using it. And I don’t like picking out the canvas threads.

And then there’s a Third Option, which I’m testing now. It involves printing your own grid and sticking to your fabric with water soluble stabilizer, and then rinsing it away. Here’s my tutorial on the process. I’m going to share the results of those tests later, once I finish a couple samples. It’s the easiest of the options for counted work on plain weave fabric, and while not as inexpensive as waste canvas, it’s less expensive than water soluble canvas. The stitching experience is different, though, which is why I need to test it thoroughly.

Folky Snowflakes on a Corner – Pattern

In the meantime, if you’d like to indulge in some relaxing stitchery and work up your own corner design of folky snowflakes, you may! Here’s the design, below, as a PDF. You’ll want to choose your printer setting that allows you to “shrink to fit” to one page. Otherwise, the chart may print on two pages, which is not necessary, since it’s not a large chart.

Folky Snowflake Corner Design for Cross Stitch (PDF)

I hope you enjoy the design and that you have a chance to add a little folky festive touch to your holiday decor!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(27) Comments

  1. I love the snowflakes. Back in the olden days when I was stitching cross stitch, there was only waste canvas. Could you give us a picture of the sewing on the disolveable ? I am also looking forward to the new secret way you have of doing it. The snowflakes will make great placemats for my daughter.

    1. Hi, Kay – Sure! I’ll write about this again, with more detailed photos, down the road. I’m also writing a more in-depth article for DMC on the soluble canvas and I’ll let you know when that article is available. It will include three new patterns for similar types of folky designs.

  2. Dear Mary

    I’m glad you found a project which isn’t to taxing, but is just the project for the time of year as we move into the Christmas season. Snowflakes on red or white fabric will look really lovely and a great idea for using in Christmas gift baskets. I’m looking forward to see the third option for the crosstitch counted work it sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing you new project with us and for the free snowflake pattern. They will make lovely gifts.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. I’m anxious to hear of your third option for doing cross stitch on regular fabric. I’ve only used waste canvas when sewing designs on sweat shirts for kids and for my mom. Yes, pulling out the canvas threads was hard on my hands.

    I can’t even begin to guess what you’ve dreamed up.

  4. Do you have suggestions for resources from which we could order flour sack towels, cloth napkins, linen hand towels and table toppers?

    1. I like All About Blanks for blank, finished items, like cloth napkins, hem stitched linen towels, and the like. That’s where I got the red cotton napkins. For flour sack towels, the best ones I’ve found are through American Chair Store, their deluxe flour sack towels. They’re just excellent for embroidering!

    2. Lyrique….This might sound strange but I just picked up some flour sacks the other day at our dollar store…yep you heard right…when ever I see them I always take a few at home to stitch on….you can also find them in Target…I really love working with them because the size is great for table toppers…..in the summer you can do fruit and flowers…and now the snowflakes…thx to Mary for sharing her pattern I can get started on one now….have a great day…Trisha

  5. This was yet once again a very timely post from you as I am busy making some similar items for the holidays. I loved your red napkins and want to try to add them to my list of projects.

    I must admit that I always have such a time trying to make the backside of my projects presentable when working on a napkin or some other project where the backside will be seen. I remember when you wrote the article about floursack towel embroidery that you had some requests to show the backside of your work. May I ask that you show the backside for this project as well?

    With this type of project I often spend a great deal of time weaving and tucking the threads on the backside throughout the stitching so that it looks as neat as possible with no “carried” threads. I am a bit fussy about this, so it adds quite a bit of time to the project. I also have such a dilemma with knots. Because these projects are meant to be laundered, and laundered a lot, I put a good strong knot(s) and then weave in the ends. The ends, often after only one time in the laundry, immediately break free and then fray. I have tried to leave a longer tail and that did seem to stay woven/hold better. Any thoughts?

    I also have been experimenting with using different threads for the cross stitch. I find that after a few washings, the stranded cotton thread starts looking a little dull and fuzzy. Is this a time for floche or other non-divisible thread?

    Thank you, as always, for such great information.

    1. Hi, Elizabeth – I do what you do, petty much. I figure the back side of embroidery is the back side. It’s bound not to look as good as the front side! But I always try to keep it as neat as possible!

  6. Mary,
    Have you shared the pattern of your big counted project? Did I miss it? I have been waiting eagerly. I always think I want to do a huge project, but I always chicken out.

    Love the little snowflakes. I like to give these kinds of gifts as hostess gifts. Thanks for all you do!


  7. Hi Mary, the snow-flake design is lovely, and just right to get us a seasonal mood! I’ve used waste canvas before, to add flowers to some plain-coloured blouses, but will look out for the soluble type now.

  8. Like the red on white the best, which leads to a question… I have some messy Holiday eaters. There are always coffee, tea or food stains on napkins. Is there a good method (besides bleach) for stain removal, particularly on color napkins? I’ve hesitated to invest time in embroidery on table linens knowing that someone’s bound to spill coffee on a table runner or get blackberry stains on napkins… Thanks for any input.

  9. Mary, I know that this in not about what you are sharing today, however, I just received my copy of of ‘Monograms The Art of Embroidered Letters’ today, and it is just as fantastic as I was hoping. I can hardly wait to sit down and read it and work from it. I shall find it difficult to stay on task with the project that I am already working on, as much as I enjoy doing Hardanger. Thank you so very much for sharing all that you do with us. God bless. Louisa

  10. Thank you! I have some towels with woven-in red stripes that would be lovely with red snowflakes on them. And I was wondering what to put on those, too!

  11. Thank you Mary – this is perfect. I’d love a ‘mindless’ stitching pattern where I could stitch something to relax but not really have to concentrate on what I was doing, and these are just great for Christmas presents. As I’ve done very minimal cross stitch, this article is very interesting and I’m looking forward to your follow-up on the third way of doing this. I’ve saved your pattern and hope to get time before this Christmas to use it! Thanks once again.

  12. Mary, you’ve summarised exactly why I like doing counted work – I’d love to know your technique for non-evenweave fabrics when you are ready to share.

  13. I’m going to be really interested to see what you’re testing. I use a lot of waste canvas in my crazy quilt applications because many of the fabrics I use do not react well to water so the soluble type doesn’t work for me. You are right in saying that waste canvas can cause your stitches to be a little looser after you remove it. I tend to just pull my stitches a little tighter than I normally would and that seems to help.

  14. Mary,
    Thanks for sharing this great info. I have been curious about the dissolvable DMC, but haven’t used them yet, since I have gotten busy with a large quilting project. And the snow flakes are perfect for some napkins I have to use as basket liners. Now I have another UFO in the bin, but they will look great my Norwegian rosmalled napkin holder. Can’t wait to hear more about this. Debbie

  15. *sigh* I LOVE folk embroidery! You’ve got me curious about the ‘third way’ – looking forward to reading about it!

  16. I enjoy playing with counted stitching on not-quite even-weave fabrics. Sometimes I stitch on skewed count, for example, over 2×3 threads to get as close to square as I can.

    Other times I use the “squash factor” of more threads per inch in one direction than the other as a design feature to compress a motif or strip along one axis. For example if there were more threads per inch horizontally rather than vertically (say 20 tpi east-west, but 18 tpi north-south), and I stitched over 2×2 threads, a design that was graphed out as a square would end up taller – sort of stretched out north-to-south – than the graphed presentation.

    Now this approach wouldn’t work for a corner piece mirrored on the diagonal axis like these snowflakes (sweet, BTW) – but for a strip pattern it can definitely be played as a design feature and not a bug.

  17. Thanks so much. You make me have many ideas for my room and for my children. I will follow your blog more frequently, thanks!

  18. Thank you for this pattern Mary,it’s perfect as I’ve been looking for a design to stitch on a black wool scarf bought from Mary Hickmott years ago. The thread is pale blue / lilac variegated as I think white may be too much contrast.

  19. Words cannot express how much I appreciate you and this site. Not only is the information helpful and the patterns perfect, but I have saved hundreds of research hours by coming here first. I have a terminally ill husband so time is not something I have alot of. And without my hobbies I would be much more of a mess. So thanks for all you contribute to this community, it is truly invaluable.

More Comments