The Chart of Needlepoint


“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’
What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.
That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Design by Erin

In earlier, er, tutorial posts, we created various simple DIY needlepoint designs using Gimp.

The last of these was the Blue-eyed Florida Panther.

In this mini “lesson,” I’ll quickly go over how to (more or less) represent on needlepoint canvas that particular design, which I have chosen for its relative ease of charting.

Notice I’ve changed the color of my Voodoo panther — which originally was black, to better see it against the “looking glass” (or computer monitor) grid we’ll be using.

Tracing a design directly on canvas is often impractical — if your goal is to produce an exact replica. It’s particularly unhelpful on 18m and / or if your design is complex. However, using a software tool such as Gimp, it’s possible to (mostly) automate or at least greatly reduce the pain-in-the-neck aspect of “stair-stepping” a design.

You’ll also need to use of another piece of software — a free application known as Crosti — to carry out this essentially mechanical but extremely detailed task.

You can find Crosti here.

One way to create a representation of your design is to chart it using software that automatically produces a stair-step diagram.  Software eliminates the tedium of manual stair-stepping and is a more accurate approach to charting a needlepoint design.

In a previous post,  I briefly mentioned a free tool called Crosti.  This can produce a cross stitch schematic charts from, say, a PNG file containing your design. PNG is the format I recommend for creating designs in Gimp, since it allows for the use of layers and transparencies.

A stitcher who has a basic working knowledge of both Gimp and Crosti can successfully use both applications to create the desired “Lego map” that can then be transferred to canvas via drawing or stitch painting. This post will demonstrate how.  Caveat emptor:  the simple procedure described here is not perfect, and in some respects is a little kludgy, but it will  get you 95 per cent of the way there — for that last 5 per cent, you’ll simply have to rely on wetware.

Producing a needlepoint stitching chart involves a four-stage, bottom-up process.

Painted Canvas Process

The subject of this post are Layers 2, 3 & 4 — Gimp Design, Crosti Stair Step, Canvas Trace.

Crosti will  automatically produce a chart that’s composed of whole squares (not squares or cells that are crisscrossed through by the design lines of your sketch).

Here’s what you do.

First, draw your design on paper and take a picture then open it in Gimp.

The Gimp source design you see here is an 8″ x  9″ image — in pixels, that is 576 x 650. I created it by tracing a picture of a panther that I found on the miracle that is the Internet, then I greatly greatly greatly simplified it so that it would be nice and easy to stitch. If you really want to know, I only traced half of the pic, then flipped it horizontally so both sides would match up.

You can download the picure you see in the box above, then follow these steps.  (Ahem, I still retain the copyright to this magnificent design, though,  which I know one day will pay for that villa in the South of France!).

Then you do this:

1.  Download Crosti from Sourceforge.  You should also have Gimp on your system. Both are free.

2.  Launch Crosti

3.  Open the file (“Blue Eyed Voodoo Panther.png”) using the Crosti Wizard.

Crosti Wizard4.  The Wizard will tell you the file size is something like 100 x 112.  Ignore this, and press the Convert button.

5.  Hit Next and Finish.  You now have an automatically stairstepped image, which you are now looking at in Crosti’s Scheme window.  Don’t worry about the image being gigantic.

6.  Choose the Export option under File.  Call it “Charted Panther.”  Make sure it’s saved in a Pictures format.  This will produce a useful bitmap that looks like this.  (I converted the bmp file to jpeg using Paint, since WP does not allow bmp files to be uploaded.)

Charted Panther

7.  Close Crosti.

8.  Edit/Open this file using Gimp.

9. Scale the image back to 576 x 650 px.

10.  Set the grid to 18 mesh (go to Image -> Configure Grid -> and set inches spacing to 0.055)

11. Check Show Grid off the View menu option.

12.  Set the bottom left thingie on the bottom of Gimp to inches.

13.  Enlarge the picture to 400 per cent.  Now you can verify the stair stepped design against an 18m grid.

Charted Panther

14. Print out different sections of this grid, or work directly using the image on the monitor to mark off your stair step on the canvas.    A water erasable pen works real nice for the purpose.

Water Erasable Pen

So if you make a mistake like this.


Panther’s Right Ear with Tracing Error

You can always do this.


You are now officially a Gimp/Crosti needlepoint tracing Guru!

In closing, I’d like to point out that this method will greatly reduce the amount of corrections you may have to make by simply tracing a design.  In effect, you can pretty much chart the entire canvas though this process and decide in advance where you want your stitches to go without have to do workarounds down the line (as we had to do in free hand line tracing).

Following this process, you can then color it as we saw before, or paint it more professionally using acrylic.  I plan to stitch this design in its original black, on black mono, and will definitely  let you know how it turns out!

ps Many thanks to Sergey, the developer of Crosti, for patiently answering questions from my “tech help” crew.


Late breaking addition!  Sergey Levin. Crosti’s developer, suggested an alternative method to getting the job done.  In his own (technical) words and pics:

1. For this task, I propose not to use wizard. Use “Picture” window and calculate design size by hand to achieve nice fit pixels to canvas. If you have 8″x9″ image and 18 canvas, you should use 8*18=144 width and 9*18=162 height in “Picture” window.

2. You can turn off showing the color icons on the scheme, as follows:

3.  You can reduce resulting design image size by lowering grid size. So you mignt not want to reduce image size in GIMP and therefore not to loose image sharpness.


Thank you Sergey!  And great job on Crosti.

Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016


About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

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