There are a few things you might need or want to do to your cross stitch fabric before you begin working. If you are using a Q-snap frame or embroidery hoop, the first thing to do is stretch your fabric to keep it taught.
To do this, take your fabric and find the center. You want to try as best you can to center it in your hoop or frame. Take apart the inner and outer parts of your hoop by loosening the screw on the outer piece and separating the inner part from it, or remove the fabric holding clamps from the edges of your Q-snap. Center the fabric on top of the inner hoop or the frame, and press the outer hoop down on top or fold the edges of the fabric over the frame and secure with the clamps, sandwiching the fabric between the pieces. With a hoop, tighten the screw and pull the fabric out slightly at the edges to make sure it is tight enough.
This video uses embroidery fabric, but it works the same for cross stitch fabric:
And here’s a good demonstration for using the Q-snap:
If you are making a relatively simple piece, this may be all you need to do before you stretch it and get started. If you are making a more complicated piece, particularly one with many colors or an intricate pattern, you may wish to mark a grid on your fabric.
There are a few different ways to mark a grid. You can either use a water or heat erasable pen, or thread. I prefer using the pen method, just because you do not have to worry about stitching over the lines properly, but the methods are essentially the same.
Start by marking your center with a + shape, making sure to mark on the holes and not the squares if you are using pens. From that center hole, count out and mark in each direction 10 holes, using the center as hole zero. Continue on these center lines until your grid is as wide and long as you need it to be for your pattern. Once you have a marking every 10 stitches in line from the center both vertically and horizontally, follow those markings to make straight center lines each direction.
From there, make a straight line at each marking to create a full grid, including marking your outlines. You can mark the number of stitches on the edge of each line to help you keep track when working your pattern.
For a good visual tutorial, watch this video which takes you through the whole process on a 40 x 40 grid both ways:
Once you’ve finished these steps, you’re ready to start stitching your pattern!